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Fine Dining ($70 above)

food ecstasy

I didn’t know this when i stumbled upon the restaurant on my way home with steph & ben, but anatra grassa translates directly to “fat duck” – which is interesting, considering the fat duck restaurant by heston blumenthal is a three star michelin restaurant in UK. tough act to follow eh?

names aside, anatra grassa is quite the stylish restaurant located along the quiet via savoia close by to villa borghese. the interior is awash in black minimalistic furnishings with the predominant feature being a wall-to-wall wine shelf that stretches across one side of the restaurant. nice stuff, but let’s talk food eh?

appetizer – four way seafood antipasto: (from left, clockwise) tuna tartare with balsamic vinegar, octopus with cherry tomatoes and julienne of asparagus and salmon carpaccio with aioli

appetizer (continued) – mussels in tomatoes and white wine (42euro for 3 people)

i’d be first to admit that this ain’t cheap, but what with the celebratory mood of a last meal in rome with friends, it was a delicious and wholly satisfying quartet of seafood dishes. with raw seafood, the freshness of the seafood determines almost 75% of the overall taste, to which anatra grassa really excelled, with the tuna and salmon being utterly refreshing and crisp, perfectly accented by the balsamic vinegar and the aioli respectively. steph and I particularly enjoyed the octopus, finding the pieces chewy, tasty and fresh. and last but not least, you really can’t go wrong with mussels in tomatoes and white wine – and with the basket of bread used to soak up the remnants of the delicious sauce, this appetizer was literally a five course start. =)

 main – moulard duck with caramelized apples, 19euro

what with a moniker like “fat duck”, we practically had to order their duck dish. and what a great choice. the duck was well executed, but what really sold it was the harmonious way the caramelized apples complemented the duck, lending the duck meat an extra sweetness, that together with the savory flavor of the duck, made for an awesome combination.

 black truffle spaghetti, 14euro

when this dish came out and was served to steph, the smell was so heavenly that it took all my self control and manners to prevent myself from reaching over to grab some of the noodles and chow them down. the truffle is generously spread across the dish and as i said about truffles before, you really can’t go too wrong with anything cooked with truffles. yet another good dish.

dessert – creme brulee with tahiti creme (see top image, 8euro), chocolate finger (chocolate mousse with white chocolate), drizzled with pistacchio and paired with cinnamon ice cream (9euro).

dessert time came, and this was where the restaurant really won me over and created that food ecstasy experience that I rarely get nowadays – you know, the feeling of happiness just surging from within when you taste something, where an inexplicable smile spreads across your face and you literally develop tunnel vision for your food. yup that’s what happened here.

we initially each ordered one dessert, with intention to share it out – steph got the creme brulee, ben the tiramisu and me, the dessert special which was explained to me as a chocolate finger with pistachio. but when the desserts came out, i lost all intention to try the other desserts, because the chocolate finger was both a visual and gastronomic feast – so beautifully plated as though it came out from the top chef just desserts kitchen and so so good. the three flavors of the chocolate finger, pistachio and cinnamon ice cream were individually really awesome, clean flavors, but together they really melded and created harmony. =) 

and well, the creme brulee was good. (i snuck a taste after i finished my chocolate finger. =))

all in all, a great restaurant for that special meal to end of a wonderful trip in rome. this place ain’t exactly cheap, with the bill amounting to slightly under 50euros a person (complete with awesome wine – a sauvignon blanc from laimburg, sudtrol-alto adige). but methinks its kinda justified, what with a swanky ambience, great food and above that, wonderful service. the service really deserves special mention, because its one of the restaurants where the servers spoke near perfect english and made it a point to explain all the ingredients within the dish, as well as suggest proper wine pairings for the food. it is so far the only restaurant i felt comfortable enough to ask all sorts of questions (in english nonetheless) regarding the dishes, which also elevated the experience.

i’ll be back.

anatra grassa | via savoia, 68 | italian (venetian), desserts, seafood, fine dining | 9.0/10

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sometimes, you just need to take a break.

guys, i was so tired after returning from italy, so jet lagged, and realizing that i had much admin stuff to settle, i decided to apply for an urgent one day leave to really rehabilitate. and… well… take the chance to go eat some nice food with my parents – in particular, nice food that is out of my price range during dinner times but manageable for set lunches.

i think au petit salut is a pretty well known, french fine-dining spot, occupying a prominent spot along harding road that’s slight off dempsey — you can’t miss it when you travel down from holland road to orchard road as its this handsome, stately building. that being said, it’s not exactly that easily accessible as you have to make some sort of detour and enter from a side road, passing through golf courses and a beautiful, well-preserved old style church building.

ambience wise, au petit salut has this laid back colonial charm. we were seated outside at the verandah which was hmm.. tad warm considering that our table was placed at a spot where the roof was not exactly completely covered and the blazing sun rays seared inwards making my mom somewhat uncomfortable. service was pretty good otherwise, with good recommendations, polite and attentive servers and fast service.

let’s get to the food.

we ordered the set lunches. there’s two types of set lunch, the $35 one is the cheaper one with more selections whilst the $48 one is a executive set lunch that presumably contains the best dishes (foie gras, lobster ravioli etc..). we settled for the $35 one since it looked pretty decent itself.

my appetizer was homemade duck rilettes served with petit salad and toast (see picture above). the rilettes (meat that is cubed or chopped, salted heavily and cooked slowly in fat until tender enough to be easily shredded) was tasty and went well with the toast, which was fresh and crispy. i mean, its your quintessential authentic french cuisine recipe executed well — the flavors are great and tasty, but they’re a little tried and tested and lack the innovation that gives it a certain oomph. hmm.. i might be making a blasphemous statement here, but perhaps the dish could have that added pizzazz if some form of sweetness could have been incorporated into the dish? (say maybe changing the toast to a brioche?)

pan seared Onglet beef served with shallot confit, pommes frittes

so thanks to wikipedia, i found that Onglet, otherwise known as hanger steak, is a cut of beef steak prized for its flavor (but apparently not particularly tender). its kinda smallish compared to normal cuts of steak, and pardon my ignorance, but i didn’t feel that this cut was particularly flavorful or tasty. it was definitely good, and the shallot confit paired well, but it was a little too expected. pommes frittes were executed perfectly – crunchy, shoe-string style crispy and delicious. i’m not really impressed honestly.

soya cheesecake, jasmine tea sorbet and green tea sauce

yay for creativity once again! french desserts rarely disappoint (as compared to italian ones) and this was no exception. this dessert won my mom’s approval for being both utterly delicious and yet obviously healthy. the winner was the jasmine tea sorbet which was light, with faint whiffs of jasmine tea and very refreshing. the soya cheesecake was very light but still held its own because the the jasmine tea sorbet and the green tea sauce were similarly light on the palette and overall the dessert was refreshing, light and yet very yummy.

so.. all in all? if you’re searching for typical, authentic french fare, then au petit salut is your place. you get delicious french cuisine at a cheap price (if you choose set lunches) that is of an unparalleled standard. however, innovation and exciting new flavors is what this place seems to lack, except perhaps on the dessert front. perhaps its only the case for set lunches, im not too sure, but i would rather head to st pierre for a set lunch because it has really unique flavors served even during set lunches. and yeah, they serve a whole range of petit fours and amuse bouche, whereas au petit salut only gave fresh bread (which is nice also lah). 7.75/10

au petit salut | 40C Harding Road, Tanglin Village (Dempsey Road) | french, fine dining, set lunches, desserts               

i-phone shots.

im getting lazy hor? the introduction of an iphone makes toting around with a camera very leh-chey unless it’s some super major atas restaurant.. (but then those usually dim lights to such an extent that you’re pretty much taking night shots -_-) ah well, this post wasn’t pre-planned, but just that a casual lunch with my parents @ li bai was so surprisingly and pleasantly good that i felt compelled to blog about it.

so, li bai’s this cantonese restaurant located at the basement (i dont know why the address says GF) of sheraton towers – the decor and furnishings are pretty simple but echo an understated luxurious sense. mind you, the staff benefits here must be pretty awesome because some of the waitresses/captains have been working here for more than 7+ years since we first patronized this place. and as you can expect it, service is pretty darn excellent and personalized.

come here for their dim sum, which is intricately made and packs some serious nuanced flavor. the actual look of the dim sum might seem ordinary but the taste is nothing but. see above image, from top left clockwise, sui jing gao (water crystal dumpling – essentially different chopped vegetables wrapped in a crystal clear dumpling sheet), pan fried turnip cake, abalone spring roll and har gau (prawn dumpling).

i think har gau can be used as a standard to judge a dim sum restaurant’s worth since it is found everywhere, and boy does li bai come out with flying colors. the prawns are fresh and have that additional oomph and flavor locked within that really negates any need for additional chilli sauce or the likes. its also perfectly executed as the skin doesn’t flake or stick to the sides.

spring rolls are often the de facto dish of lousy american chinese food often really greasy and stuffed with semi-stale vegetables. so it came as a pleasant surprise that this humble dish was transformed at li bai to be a delicate, nuanced and utterly flavorful piece of confectionery, not the least bit oily. having abalone stuffing within didn’t hurt of course. =)

the other two dim sums similarly had such nuanced flavors locked within them and i’ll be willing to say that they taste much better than the average dim sum you can find here or even in hong kong (someone is gonna kill me.. hee).

we also ordered a noodle dish, that being a seafood crispy noodle – this is a must try at chinese zi char stalls or restaurants by the way – crispy wok-fried noodles that are immersed into a rich flavorful broth just before being served such that the noodles maintain their crispness by also soak up the broth. li bai’s rendition was well balanced, and what surprised me was how delicious the seafood ingredients within were. in particular, the cod fish was utterly flavorful and melted in your mouth – i’d seriously be willing to pay quite a bit for an entire dish of that cod. other ingredients like scallops and prawns were also juicy and well executed.

seriously, come to li bai for a great dim sum and cantonese feast. it’s not cheap, but its worth it. a small crispy noodle dish that serves 3 – 4 goes for $20, whilst the dim sum dishes are between 5 – 8 bucks for a plate of 4. (nice thing is also that they allow you to customize it to be say a plate of 3 or 5, depending on how many people you have, which removes the last piece syndrome eh?) 9.0/10

li bai restaurant | 39 scotts road, ground floor, sheraton towers, singapore | dim sum, cantonese, fine dining

atas much?

yay! back to food blogging!

ya know.. it’s a bit of a chore at times to be honest.. taking picture of food in dimly lit conditions, trying your best to get that perfect, non-shaky shot, then post-processing images, trying to salvage the blemishes introduced due to taking photos at iso-400 (yeah my cam kinda sucks.. sponsor me please, canon?) and then having to write much about food whatsoever.

yet, some restaurants are simply meant to be reviewed — to me the motivation comes from eating food so inspiring, whimsically creative, complete and every dish a literal work of art both visually and taste-wise. and yes, jaan is one of them. but don’t expect this to come cheap.

let’s talk ambience. jaan is situated at the 70th floor of swissotel hotel, meaning it commands a really spectacular view of the city-hall-marina bay area that is really magickal and the sky dims and night approaches and you get to see all the beautifully lit buildings twinkling and being reflected by the esplanade bay waters. to be honest, this one of the things that every singaporean ought to feel somewhat proud of.. we have such a beautiful skyline and harborfront nowadays..

ok the interior of jaan is somewhat disappointing to be honest, because it looks like some plain ole’ dining hall with non-descript, sparse furnishings and deco. the statement piece i suppose are the interesting glass ceiling lights but to me they look kinda ugly, almost like some twisted scrap metal that was being suspended from the ceiling. hmm.

but who cares about decor when we come here for the food? let’s start the show.. we ordered the 5 course degustation menu for $148 (without wine and without the cheese supplement of $35).. seriously this place doesn’t come cheap, but good food is what you are paying for. the chef has generously littered the degustation menu with many free servings of pre-appetizers and pre-desserts as you can see from the picture at the top. they are intricate, really yummy stuff that was described kinda quickly and in that foreign accent-style that most european waiters adopt.. so errm.. i couldn’t really catch it. but its nice la.

ossiblue prawn ceviche – lime marinade, oscietra cream, pear and radish (along with rice cracker)

first course out of the gate and i’m really genuinely impressed. the prawns are tantalizing, but what is truly impressive is the thought that has gone into determining the combination of ingredients that goes on the plate and creates this harmonious and expertly balanced dish – the limey sourness and sliminess of the prawns counterbalances perfectly both the creamy savoriness of the oscietra cream and the crunchy texture of the pear strips and rice cracker. the pear and radish also lent that vegetal note to the dish, really creating a smorgasbord of flavors that complemented each other perfectly. i craved for more.

55′ smoked organic egg – with Jerusalem artichoke, chanterelles, iberico de bellota and porcini crumb 

OMG. this was like taking a humble soft boiled egg and elevating it into taste heaven what with the perfect pairing of ingredients at the side and with perfect execution. our waiter kindly informed us that the egg had been smoked at 62 degrees for 55 minutes, hence the name. whatever the rationale, the egg was perfectly done and smelled and tasted amazing. i especially loved the crunchy savoriness of the dried chanterelles (a type of mushroom), the iberico ham strips and the procini crumbs. omg.. yet another perfect blend of ingredients. this was really the highlight of the meal.

trondheim bay hand dived scallop (rosemary smoked), with reinette apple cider, boudin noir and burnet

hmm.. the first dish i didn’t particular complete embrace. the scallop (which the waiter informed us came directly from trondheim bay, norway) smelled heavenly, having been infused with the smoky flavor from the rosemary and was once again divinely executed to be just the right amount of chewiness. what turned me slightly off was the use of boudin nour dollops (essentially sauce made from pig blood) because the blood taste was overwhelming and just not appealing to me. but i suppose i can appreciate the thought behind mixing these flavors – giving a meaty savoriness to a fresh seafood, and perhaps boudin noir fans would be ecstatic over the dish.

saddle of salt marsh welsh lamb – done three ways, with bitter caramel, violet artichokes, quinoa, preserved lemon and fresh anchovies

something i found kinda amusing was the fact that despite having the menu right next to us, we still couldn’t exactly decipher how each ingredient was incorporated into the dish. this is cheem stuff man. the waiter explained that the lamb was done 3 ways for 3 different portions (which i sadly cannot remember the names of). i absolutely loved the long strip of meat though, because it had the most delicious crispy layer of skin coupled with a juicy slab of meat below. very well executed once again. the other ingredients (quiona, artichoke sauce and preserved lemon droplets) formed the sauce to couple with the three different cuts, each presenting a delicious and different combination of flavors that was really appealing.

“victoria” pineapple – roasted spiced pineapple, coconut blanc-manger and exotic sorbet

took some points off the service because we asked what “exotic sorbet” meant but the waiter didn’t know, said he would check back and didn’t return with an answer. hmmz. but anyways we deduced it to be having a decent proportion of passionfruit. this dessert was really interesting, creative and satisfied the sweeth tooth on multiple levels – the blanc-manger at the base satisfied the sweet-vanilla creaminess, the caramelized spiced pineapple satisfied the sugary, chunky fruit craving and the sorbet satisfied the refreshing, cooling icy craving. its like the ultimate dessert! haha.

complimentary petit fours

hmm all in all, a really satisfying meal that was nothing short of creative, perfectly executed and magnificently balanced. this restaurant deserves its hype as no. 39th ranking in s.pellegrino world’s 50-best restaurants list 2010. chef julien royer is a great addition to the restaurant and is poised to take the restaurant to greater heights i say. good stuff, worth it for that once-in-a-lifetime experience, that date, that anniversary or something. watch the cost though [spent $200 per pax in the end, and that was with the 25% discount for Amex thats gonna expire after january] . =) 8.75/10

jaan |  2 Stamford Road, 70F Swissotel The Stamford | fine dining, french, expensive

the allure of the exotic orient.

something about ku de ta amazes me. i think its the notion that location, location, location (and perhaps a lil’ bit of branding) can trump any other factors, such that the restaurant can pretty much serve subpar food in ultra dim conditions and get away with it in style — throngs of people crowd the place even on a thursday night, most of them well heeled expatriates and socialites that would willingly blow a wad of cash unintelligently on this so called fusion chinese food. -_- are people willingly getting duped here? or is the allure of the exotic orient, the immaculately-done branding – what with the sensual reds, superb panoramic view, dim lightning, bali-fusion music, that blind people to the obvious flaws of the food?

let’s examine the curious case of ku de ta in more detail…

ambience wise, this place has it really down pat. the restaurant/bar exudes a sense of exclusive luxury infused with asian undertones. its like how the west would view the rich exotic orient essentially. being up so high at mbs does really have its perks — the air is cooler, the view is magnificent at all angles, and it doesn’t take much to whisk a customer into another world. i do wonder what happens when it rains though, considering that alot of the restaurant space is located outdoors.

passion and cream ($20) – vanilla infused grey goose vodka, fresh passion fruit and passion fruit foam

i was eager to try out their cocktails since ku de ta essentially is more known for being a sky bar than a restaurant. still hankering after a passion fruit fixed, i went for the passion and cream, as recommended by the waitress. it’s decent — creamy and fruity at the same time, but doesn’t come cheap as well. and to be honest, it wasn’t anything special or outstanding unlike the cocktails i had at wolfgang puck’s cut.

ok let’s talk about the food. we were informed that the dishes are inspired from the chef’s travels across asia, and are created with the intention of being shared across the table. to be honest, after the artichoke experience of shared dining, i’m super skeptical of such a format of dining because it just gives the chef an excuse to serve up miserly small portions of food for sharing and essentially force people to order many many dishes, sending the bill skyrocketing.

and can i just spend some time commenting about the intro written on the ku de ta menu? “dining at ku de ta is a multi sensory adventure; our servers will be happy to guide you on your journey” wow.. pretentious much? and furthermore, what multi sensory?? if anything, the place was so dark u couldn’t really see the food you were eating, much less look closely at the menu. more like a gastronomic ganzfeld perhaps. (lol.. ok lame psychology joke)

soya-glazed hokkaido miso scallops ($26) – nashi pear, pickled mustard, wasabi leaves

shame on you ku de ta! the miso scallops were quite the disaster – scallops were completely overcooked, resulting in hard, plasticky, shrunken pieces of scallop that was surprisngly discordant  with the nashi pear and pickled mustard. this just didn’t work on any level, and its ridiculous to serve poorly done scallop. like c’mon! are you a fine dining establishment or what! this really fouled the mood for the night.

steamed pencil asparagus ($11), with prawn floss crumble

decent, and in fact, quite flavorful and delicious. the prawn floss was the perfect complement for the asparagus, which was nicely grilled. (i don’t know how steaming would give it the semi-grilled texture and look.. so i’m kinda confused as to whether this was steamed or grilled)

whole baby chicken teriyaki ($26), with crunchy mustard seed crust

come on lah.. its plain chicken teriyaki you can get at simple hawker stores for like $5.. so what justifies the 5 times price hike? ya’know, the issue with fusion asian food is that if the result too closely resembles a hawker stall dish, then there’s bound to be that nasty comparison with hawker food. and there’s really no way one can win against hawker food. and yeah this was a resounding blah.

pan roasted foie gras and green mango pickle, ($36), with spiced lime and puffed rice

expensive as this was, at least you weren’t able to draw comparisons with hawker food, and well, foie gras really can’t go that wrong. this was really delicious, the foie gras melted in your mouth and the puffed rice was the perfect carbohydrate base to soak up the foie gras oil. yummy. and yeah, i’ve reconciled with the fact that one has to really spend a bomb for decent foie gras in singapore.

  ‘forty flavor’ fried rice ($18) – baked in lotus leaf

this was yet another dish that received scathing reviews from all of us. from the scoffing of the purported ‘forty flavors’ when we only detected off-spicy and salty as the predominant flavors, to the irritating way the rice was served such that many bits of rice where trapped within the lotus leaf wrap and it took quite a bit of effort to extricate all the rice. furthermore, the rice actually tasted much worse than common cantonese restaurants’ lo ma kai, with the rice served here dry and somewhat tasteless at the top at somewhat soggy at the bottom. yet another dish that should have been rejected in the kitchen and not sent out. such a disgrace.

as you can surmise, i wasn’t too pleased with the mains, to the point where me and my compatriots were debating whether to sojourn to somewhere else for desserts. but somehow i felt like giving them a chance to redeem themselves. so let’s see.

‘apple and honey’ ($12) – fresh green apple, milk and honey ‘creameaux’ green apple granite, comb honey crumble, green apple jelly

wow.. color me impressed. this was a really creative, inspired dessert, drawing some inspiration from thai cuisine (what with the sliced green apple) and mixed with all the western dessert sensibilities (love comb honey crumble.. mm). this was an interesting, refreshing and well thought out dessert. delicious!

kdt ‘bounty cake’ ($16) – warm bitter chocolate, coconut filling, yuzu mashmallow

another winner in its own right. the chocolate cake was warm and had a different but equally appealing texture with the infusion of the coconut. the blend of coconut and chocolate went really well, and the yuzu marshmallows were the perfect complement to the dish. and boy.. count me in as a fanboy of yuzu infused desserts. the marshmallows tasted different but really good. i think the creativity here exceeds that which is shown in 2 am dessert bar, the their execution is infinitely better.

all in all? it’s a mixed bag to be honest, but one thing is clear – DON’T come here for mains. come for the desserts whilst enjoying the beautiful scenery and chillax ambience. the service isn’t much to be spoken off, waiters are mildly responsive and pleasant enough to be forgettable. its a decent place, but methinks they should remarket themselves as a dessert and cocktails nightbar and just ditch the restaurant concept. but well.. who am i to comment, since this placed obviously has legions of adoring fans?  5.5/10

ku de ta |10 Bayfront Avenue, Sands SkyPark, Tower 3, Marina Bay Sands Hotel | desserts, drinks, ambience

food art

mind you, i love it when food is so meticulously plated for one to be truly inspired and feel as though each dish is a work of art in itself. the combination of colors from the ingredients and placement.. it’s partly art and partly science, and when everything works together, you get quite the euphoric experience.

so i managed to snag a reservation at le saint julien during restaurant week on a coveted saturday lunch timing thanks to my dear online friend and fellow food blogger, Mr Wise Guy. and boy.. i really do have to thank him because it was really a splendid meal, but not exactly one i would venture to pay over 100 dollars per pax in a normal situation. ok let’s talk locale – le saint julien is sited inside the fullerton water boat house, a singular structure that is oddly situated at the intersection between esplanade bridge and the road leading to the padang, kinda ‘loosely’ connected to fullerton hotel. ambience wise, there is similarly an understated elegance within the restaurant that is very appealing. Wise Guy commented that the view was kinda sucky, which I agreed, considering that the restaurant had a ground-level view of the esplanade bay which was sadly obstructed by the esplanade bridge itself. this means, 40% of your visual field is the underbelly of a bridge. not very appealing imo. but ahh well, lack of view aside, the restaurant did exude a certain classy elegance.

i love the fact they sat us at a table with sufficient light that was angled in such a way that lit up the food perfectly for photography, so you’re gonna see more shots, because I was merrily snapping to the point where the manager lightly approached us and asked pleasantly whether we were professional photographers, to which we commented we were food bloggers. haha, i suspect this inspired more conversation and a better description of the food we were served, which was all the better i suppose. =) ok let’s get to the food.

appetizer: duo foie gras et poulet, terrine of foie gras and chicken with medley and mushroom and cress

LOVED THIS. this reminded me of the appetizer served in my favorite restaurant of all time, Enoteca Pitti Gola e Cantina. the dish was paired with brioche that was lightly toasted, and the combination of the sweetness from the brioche/caramelized onions along with the savory taste of the foie gras and the light crisp freshness of the mushrooms and cress worked perfectly and created a wholesome experience with every bite. i gravitated particularly to the sweet-savory pairing of the foie gras and the caramelized onions. a perfect starter. and can i comment on just how beautiful the plating is done? how can you not want to take a picture of such a dish?

appetizer #2: foie gras – pan seared duck liver with caramelized apple, glazed sauce of balsamic and honey

once again, amazing plating there. i noted that the apples came in both the caramelized darker brown chunky version and the non-caramelized shredded version, which was interesting and provided additional nuance, texture and sweetness to the dish. yet again, quite the classic pairing of sweet (the caramelized apples) with the savory (the foie gras). my initial impression upon a first sampling was that the dish was good, well.. at least, technically proficient, but not outstanding. Wise Guy likewise described it as competent. lol… that being said, i think the taste started to grow on you and the final few morsels were gulped down by me greedily. the duck foie gras did not feel any bit jelak or fatty and was tempered down with the apples and vegetables. good stuff.

mains: croustillant de canard – crispy rice with duck confit and truffle oil emulsion, with smoked duck breast sauce

delicious stuff once again – and the inclusion of the crispy rice was a nice fusion take of the traditional duck confit with dauphine potatoes. i thought the sauces in the dish blended perfectly well with the duck, whilst the vegetables added a slightly minty flavor to the dish. when taken all together, each bite was really quite the gastronomic experience. this being said, the duck confit was perhaps slightly tough and somewhat didn’t have enough flavor in itself inherently, though this was mitigated by the amazing sauce.

     dessert: clafoutis – french traditional strawberry custard cake with “signature” caramelized chocolate mousse

hmm, not a fan of the custard cake, which was kind of overwhelmed by the chocolate mousse and the strawberries (gotten from australia instead of america, so the flavors are more concentrated within the small berries, as explained by the manager). this dessert was somehow not meant to be mixed together to be eaten, as each component (less the custard cake) tasted really good by itself, especially the chocolate mousse. think the way to eat this is to sample a little of the chocolate mousse, then eat a strawberry with the lingering chocolatey taste in your mouth and eat a little of the custard etc.. haha, overall, not particularly impressive beisdes the chocolate mousse. sigh.. kinda wished that with such a superb appetizer and decent mains, the dessert would be out-of-this-world. but i suppose, lol.. too high expectations there.

overall, an excellent place for good contemporary french food in posh settings. this is the kind of place to bring your date to impress them sufficiently and then sojourn to like overeasy or lantern for some drinks. come here at least once. =) 8.0/10

le saint julien | 3 Fullerton Road, #02-02 The Fullerton Waterboat House| fine dining, french, contemporary

friday night reverie.

so after my disappointment in not being able to secure a table at absinthe during restaurant week, i decided to just screw it and head down there with my folks on our own account and try to food. apparently there was this OUB chef’s creation promotion with a 4 course dinner going for $64 per pax. it’s not exactly cheap, but its within an acceptable range depending on the food i suppose.

so absinthe is located along a kinda shabby portion of chinatown, along bukit pasoh street that has seen an injection of new life with swankified restaurants and refurbished hotels taking over old shophouses and sharing the same road with authentic chinese clan houses. this mix of traditional and noveau riche style is really quite something, and its obviously successful, judging by the many beautiful sleek cars parked by the roadside and just the general crowd within the restuarants. absinthe is right at the corner, and with an unpretentious storefront, it is easy to miss it.

once you step into the restaurant, you feel like you have walked into say a mid/high end east village french restaurant – the furnishings aren’t opulent nor as polished as that of say St Pierre, but there is a definite sense of luxury and french flair within. likewise, the service of the maitre de is topnotch, though my sis did complain that she couldn’t understand his french accent. lol. interestingly, patrons are given a glimpse into the bustling of the restaurant via a long horizontal window that well.. kinda diminished the illusion of transporting you away from singapore.. ah well.. i spied chef francois mermilliod bustling round the kitchen and he actually came out to serve patrons and recommend dishes in a warm, friendly and humble manner. i think that was really a cool gesture for someone of his stature. good job. ok let’s get to the food:-

our appetizer was this crab cake within a toasted brioche-like pastry paired with some garden greens, thai sweet sauce and melon candy at the side (see picture above). the crab cake was every bit the refreshing and went really well with the sweet sauce and garden greens to create this refreshing feel on your palette. i noticed that the pastry that contained the ingredients was shaped like that of a crab, which added a creative and playful nuance to the dish. however, methinks it was slightly difficult to break apart and made for not a very easy eating experience with me trying to taste all the flavors together. but overall, besides that mild inconvenience, the dish was fresh, tasty and a perfect way to start of the meal.

french onion soup with toasted bread covered with cheese

lol. i shall not pretend i know the cheese, but the combination of dipping the bread into the warm soup to let the cheese just slightly melt and soak up the onion soup was a stroke of genius and tasted really good. wished there was more such bread =(. found the soup otherwise nicely balanced but hmm.. somewhat not exactly out of this world. methinks soups always taste better was slurped down on a cold winter’s day.

beef cheeks with mashed potato and long beans.

the highlight of the night. the beef cheeks were absolutely tender and melted in your mouth upon eating. but what really made it work was the mixing of the beef cheek with pommery mustard (you must get this mustard when they ask which mustard you want)  and a dollop of mashed potato. the mix of flavors is really heavenly, with the meatiness blending with the smooth mashed potato and the tangy, unique flavor of the pommery mustard. i googled pommery mustard and found a website hailing it to be truly a historic gem in the culinary world and otherwise known as moutarde de meaux. someone who is making a trip to france, please buy it for me! i savored this dish for a full half an hour or so, having every portion slowly invigorate my tastebuds. =) we paired this with a 2010 canet vallete antonyme saint-chinian, a red wine that reminded me somewhat of beaujolais as it was fruity, smooth and easy to drink.

caramelized apples paired with hazlenut pastry, vanilla creme and apple creme

to be honest, i didn’t get the name of the dessert when the maitre de tried to explain it to me. he explained it was a traditional french dessert that resembled that of the mille feuille but with the creme substituted with apple-creme. hmm, judging by what actually came out, i guess i heard wrongly as well. lol. what i got was a caramelized apple slices paired with vanilla creme (bottom tier) and apple creme (top tier) separated by a hard hazlenut (i think) pastry. its.. interesting, but i think it lacked the oomph i expect with french desserts. the creme layers were really good but i didn’t get the combination of the flavors. hmm it was a pity.

overall, a nice french restaurant with a few culinary tricks up its proverbial sleeves. we noted that the restaurant was completely packed on a friday night with everyone pretty much dressed to the nines which must say something about its appeal. i found the ambience to be pleasant, service was really good, and the food to be overall pretty good. of course.. with what we paid.. hmm, i conclude that this place will work wonders if you are willing to splurge on it, because the inherent creativity of the chef can be found within the dishes. so head there if you have the cash and want some innovative culinary journey eh? 7.5/10

and sadly i didn’t ask whether they served absinthe. though i spied a few bottles on display. hee

absinthe | 48 Bukit Pasoh Road | french, fine dining, creative, contemporary