Sunday, June 28, 2015

Bread Street Kitchen - Gordon Ramsay's Very First Restaurant In Singapore

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The wife and I are quite a fan of Gordon Ramsay, having dined at his eponymous restaurant in London less than a year back. So when it was announced that Bread Street Kitchen (BSK for short), his first foray into Singapore, would open for business on 19 June 2015, we immediately made reservations for the following weekend.

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The Place

Located near a corner of the swank The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, BSK prides itself on serving up a British European menu with fresh seasonal produce and takes up 2 levels of space (B1 and L1) at the mall. From our observations, the dining area on B1 is much smaller and consists mostly of bar counter seats as well as an open concept kitchen while L1 offers a more expansive dining area with lots of natural light (from the floor to ceiling glass panels) and views of the surrounding Marina Bay area.

Although the place markets itself as an informal dining space, there is a smart casual dress code listed on the website. But enforcement probably isn't strict as I did notice quite a few people in bermudas and slippers. Note to self to wear favourite pair of slippers next time round.

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Complimentary Bread

Served barely lukewarm, the complimentary bread basket didn't quite impress and I must say that the bread roll was rather dense and compact (in a good way) but with an yeasty aftertaste.

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Traditional Fish & Chips, Crushed Peas, Tartar Sauce

I'm usually not a huge fan of fish and chips but this was pretty decent; light, crispy batter coupled with mildly sweet, tender flesh. Accompanied by a richly smooth tartar sauce and a sweetly refreshing crushed pea puree (I think there was a sprinkling of thyme in it, which explains the lingering, mild mint like cooling effect). The fries were crisp and nicely salted but having said that, I'm more of a fan of shoestring fries.

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Irish Angus Rib-eye Steak 12oz 28 Days Aged Grass Fed

Irish beef is purportedly gaining in popularity for its quality and if BSK's Irish Angus Rib-eye is anything to go by, I'm quite inclined to agree. The 12oz (~340g) piece of steak was done to an almost perfect medium rare, lightly salted, tender with bits of chewy fat and full of juicy flavour. At $68++ (definitely not casual dining prices though), this could really give the steakhouses in Singapore like Morton's and Ruth's Chris a serious run for their money.

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Macaroni Cheese with Garlic Roasted Crumbs

This was a side that was meant to be served together with our mains but unfortunately, the mac & cheese didn't show up till we were almost done. And if we hadn't asked halfway through, I'm not sure if it would even show up. The much longer than usual wait aside, the mac & cheese, though rich and cheesy with a nice crunch from the roasted crumbs, tasted more like béchamel sauce than cheese. Nothing like the mac & cheese from The White Rabbit (though I once had a nasty rendition from them ~ 2 years back)

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Banana Sticky Toffee Pudding, Muscovado Caramel, Clotted cream

And on to desserts. Our toffee pudding tasted like a more refined version of the banana cake from Bengawan Solo; moist, with a rich banana taste and a sweet finish from the caramel. Not a big fan of clotted cream though.

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Treacle Tart with Crème Fraiche Ice Cream

A traditional British dessert (and a favourite of Harry Potter), the treacle tart sported a crusty, uneven surface and a rather dry, crumbly filling on a base of rock hard pastry. I've never had a treacle tart before and this virgin exposure was somewhat pleasant although it did come across as overly sweet and a tad stodgy. Thank god for the crème fraiche ice cream, which helped to maintain a balance with its light sourish notes.

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Bill

There was an issue with the Point of Sale (POS) system so we had to wait ~ 15 minutes for our final bill (our initial bill had apparently been settled with an unknown credit card number). Boo-boos aside, at close to $172 for 2 pax, it's honestly a little pricey, especially for the quality of food and the "informal/casual" labeling of the restaurant. Service was spotty (our bottle of water never got refilled until I asked) but the staff do try to be friendly.

Overall, BSK strikes me as a decent place to have a meal if you are at Marina Bay Sands but I wouldn't see it as a specific dining destination. Having said that, if BSK can iron out the kinks and refine their pricing strategy, I'll be happy to return, if only for the steak.


Final Verdict:

Ambience: 7.5/10 (only if you get a seat by the glass panels on L1)
Service: 6.5/10 (should improve with time)
Food: 7/10 (8/10 for the steak)
Value for money: 6/10

Overall: 6.75/10

Address: Bay Level, L1-81, The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands

Contact: 6688 5665

Opening Hours:

Lunch
Daily 11:30am - 5:30pm

Dinner
Sunday - Wednesday 5:30pm - 10pm
Thursday - Saturday 5:30pm - 12am

Website: http://www.marinabaysands.com/restaurants/celebrity-chefs/bread-street-kitchen.html

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Seoul - Other Eats

왕비집 명동본점 (Wangbijib OR 王妃家) - 2 outlets in Myeongdong, 1 outlet in Jongno

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One of Seoul's popular grilled meat restaurants. The premium beef ribs are excellent, albeit expensive. It was so good that we had seconds. No reeking of smoke after the meal as well!

Cafe Bene & Baskin Robbins - Various outlets

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Caffe Bene serves up pretty nice desserts. I particularly love this from them but apparently they don't have it anymore (I last had it in Busan about a year back). 
Baskin Robbins in Seoul is just over half the price of what it would cost in Singapore so naturally we stuffed ourselves quite a bit but I did find their Banana Split a little weird.

Delivery - Kyochon Chicken & Random Jajangmyun ordered by our concierge

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The Jajangmyun was pretty decent with oodles of yellow noodles and a thick black bean sauce whilst our Kyochon chicken (2 boxes of original soy and 1 box of honey) beats alot of the fried chicken I've had in Singapore hands down. And that's eating it almost an hour after it was cooked. 

숙이네조개전골논현점 - 서울특별시 강남구 논현1동

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I don't know the English name of this place but it's in between Hak-dong and Nonhyeon stations. The seafood is very fresh (everything is still writhing) and at ~ SGD 105 for 6 pax including drinks and ramen, it's a very good deal.

열봉찜닭 (Yeolbong Andong Chicken ) - Various outlets

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Opened by the popular Korean singer Se7en, the chicken is actually pretty good. Tender meat soaking in the rich, not overly sweet gravy and served up with carrots, onions, various other vegetables and silky glass noodles which, like the chicken, had soaked in the essence of the gravy. There are 3 levels of spiciness for the stew so choose wisely!

Gwangjang Market 광장시장

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The food here is plentiful and cheap. Don't miss out on the well known deep fried mung bean pancakes (Bindaetteok or 빈대떡) and bibimbap (비빔밥)!

KongBul 콩불 - Various outlets

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This place (KongBul 콩불) serves up a pretty reasonable (~SGD 80 for 6 pax) and mean Kongbul (beansprouts + marinated meat). If you visit the Hongdae outlet during dinner, be prepared to wait.

Sulbing (설빙) - Various outlets

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This dessert chain originated in Busan and is known for their Injeolmi Bingsu (인절미빙수) and Injeolmi Toast (인절므토스트). We had the former and it had nice, chewy bits of Korean rice cake coated with powdered beans amidst finely shaved ice. Delicious!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Si Wha Dam (시화담), Seoul - Modern Korean Dining

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We were in Seoul with a couple of friends for the long weekend and decided to try out some of the "finer" cuisine Seoul had to offer. And the name Si Wha Dam (시화담) seemed to pop up quite frequently so Si Wha Dam it was. It definitely helped that pricing was relatively affordable.

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The Place

Google map doesn't quite bring you to the right place if you do a search for Si Wha Dam so trust the address on Tripadvisor. Located along a rather busy street and just opposite the Insadong outlet of Sulbing (설빙 - which serves awesome bingsu), Si Wha Dam doesn't look like much from the outside. But tread up the staircase to the second floor and be welcomed by a modernistic, zen like decor that strangely reminded me of .... Japan. 

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Lotus Root Porridge That Cured Scholar Yul-gok

Scholar Yul-gok was a prominent Korean Confucian scholar of the Joseon Dynasty but I'm not sure if there's any real history behind this dish. What I'm pretty sure of is that this was nothing spectacular; rather sticky with a crisp lotus root and a tiny sprinkling of chopped beef.

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Wild Greens Salad with Tofu and Wild Potatoes

This was rather light with the deep fried tofu coming across as smooth with a rather strong bean taste. Pretty nice but I'm biased towards all things bean.

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Carrot Flower Wrap and Sesame Leaf Wrap with Pickled Plum

Each of us was entitled to 2 beautiful pieces of artwork; carrot flower wrap and sesame leaf wrap with pickled plum. The former was, as it's name suggests, rice wrapped in carrot and topped with a flower. Hardly impressive. The latter fared slightly better, with chopped beef daintily wrapped up in a sesame leaf and topped with a pickled plum and a flower. However the sharp sweetness of the pickled plum overwhelmed any taste of the beef; a shame if you ask me.

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Buckwheat Crepe Wrap with Spring Herbs

The various vegetables were cooked in different ways and had to be manually wrapped up in a flimsy buckwheat crepe. And it was surprisingly refreshing from the crunchiness of the vegetables and the varied flavours. 

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My Mother's Jar of Dongchimi

Served up in a ceramic bowl with a wooden ladle, the dongchimi (white radish kimchi with a clear broth) came across as tart and not exactly my cup of tea. But then again, I'm no fan of kimchi.

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Korean Lunch Box

Speared with a thin branch, the Korean rice cake sandwich was soft and chewy (I had expected it to be fluffy like a normal sandwich, so surprise surprise) with a mild sweetness that went very well with the bulgogi sandwiched between; very interesting and rather delicious.

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When Kimchi Meets Pasta

A surprisingly good east meets west dish; the kimchi imparted a light tartness and spiciness to the al dente squid ink pasta, providing a perfect counterpoint to the mild creaminess of the gravy. Definitely the pièce de résistance of the entire meal.

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Scallions Grown in an Underground Cellar Dumpling

Now this was interesting, presentation wise at least. Minced beef wrapped in scallion and served on hot stones to keep them warm. The scallions had the insignia of the restaurant imprinted on it. Ditto the mushrooms that came alongside. Now that's branding! Taste wise, nothing too out of the ordinary though.

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Deep Fried Breaded Crab

For those who don't take beef, the deep fried breaded crab is an alternative to the minced beef and scallion dish. The crab is essentially deshelled above the legs and coated with batter before deep frying. The result? Crisp and sweet flesh without coming across as oily. Pretty delicious.

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Bowls of Blowing Wind from Salt Ponds, the Flower of Salt

As poetry like as the name of this dish may sound, it wasn't exactly poetry to our tastebuds. Prawn chunks, vegetable balls came ladled up in a spoon, amuse-bouche style. There were no distinct flavours and the whole concoction seemed a little mundane to say the least. 

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Pork & Kimchi Pancakes

This was very similar to oyster omelette except that there was no oyster, just pork or kimchi (2 seperate pieces). I personally preferred the pork variant over the kimchi as the former came across as more comforting and fulfilling whilst the latter was sourish (which usually has a negative connotation). However, kudos to both pancakes for not being excessively oily.

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The Old Day's Wild Field Meal

The banchan (반찬) consisted of various small dishes served with steamed rice. Pretty comprehensive with kimchi, beancurd, long bean, bamboo shoots etc and I personally loved the crispy shrimp shells; very much like crustacean crackers.   

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A Piece of Spring on the Apricot Branch

And finally, desserts. The apricot jelly was a tad too sour and limp for my liking. Accompanied by a glass of sweet yet tart plum liqueur.

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Bill

We had the ₩55,000 (~ SGD70) menu and although presentation was top notch, the quality of food, though decent, didn't quite wow any of us (save for the kimchi pasta). A classic case of form over factor but probably still worth a try, just not a revisit in my humble opinion.


Final Verdict:

Ambience: 7/10
Service: 6.5/10
Food: 6.5/10 (7.5/10 for the kimchi pasta)
Value for money: 6/10

Overall: 6.5/10

Address: 13, Insadong-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul (종로구 인사동길 13)

Contact: +82 2-738-8855

Opening Hours:


Lunch - 1130hrs ~ 2200hrs

Tea - 1400hrs ~ 1800hrs

Website: http://www.siwhadam.com/