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I'm getting the topic kicked off although my time so far has been spent in the kitchen so I have experienced much of the weekend. Chris Hennes and Misstenacity showed up almost at the same time last night. I scurried them off to the tamale/tortilla workshop while I kept prepping for the tasting dinner tonight. I heard many pics were taken so I'll let them talk about the workshop. They'll be off for the Chile Fest in just a bit. Many, many more details to com.
By Kerry Beal
And so it begins...
I arrived in Las Vegas at 10:30 or so this morning, picked up my rental car and hastened over the the Tuscany Suites to meet up with Chocolot. After a brief cruise through all the loot that she had accumulated for the workshop we headed out to do a few errands. We checked in with Melissa and Jean Marie to check that all was well for later in the week and to enjoy a little look around the facility. I also had to deliver several bottles of wonderful looking paté that Alleguede had made for Jean Marie (I kept one bottle here for snacking purposes this week). There was serious drooling going on over all the equipment they have available for us to play with.
What was to be a quick stop at Chef Rubber took a little longer than expected - there is a lot to look at there! And to buy!
We investigated a couple of thrift stores - notably the Habitat for Humanity Reuse to grab a couple of items that will show their usefulness later this week.
And for dinner we hit Lotus of Siam. We know that we are going back there this week - but it is a place I've wanted to check out since FG wrote about it a few years ago. And you can never eat too much Thai can you?
Jasmine tea for me.
Khao soi - noodles with a red thai sauce. And the condiments to go with them - some sort of pickled green (perhaps mustard), onion and of course lime.
Pepper garlic shrimp - didn't see a table without this one!
And fried rice with veg and egg.
Right now Ruth is cruising the internet reviews to see what we should order when we return there on Thursday.
By Bu Pun Su
French food is my favorite cuisine and l’Arpege is my favorite restaurant. Currently, entering the 4th year that I haven’t returned to l’Arpege (Since ’06, I usually make an effort to go there at least once every 2 years). At the very least I had a chance to savor Alain Passard’s cuisine in late ’12 when he became a guest Chef at Beaufort hotel Sentosa – the most memorable part was when Alain personally cooked 2 Brittany lobsters for me. Fortunately, Singapore has a restaurant owned and run by Passard’s apprentice & his former sous chef, Gunther Hubrechsen. Therefore, whenever I crave for (home-style) French cooking that’s light, delicate and delicious, I often come here. Similar to my Les Amis’ experience, I’ve actually been here about 4 times since 2008 but never wrote a (serious) review even once. As a matter of fact, Gunther’s is one of my favorite restaurants in Singapore
I had dinner at Gunther’s in the same week as my meal at Les Amis. On purpose, I ordered carte-blanche here with similar budget to the Les Amis’ degustation menu. I wondered how these 2 elite gastronomy restaurants (cooking nouvelle cuisine without any molecular element) would fare against each other. A short comparison in a glance,
Les Amis = 7 courses including one dessert. 2 courses with caviar and 3 courses with black truffle. There were scallop, lobster and wagyu beef
Gunther’s = 8 courses with a dessert. 1 dish with caviar and also 3 courses with black truffle. There were scallop, gambas and wagyu beef
Anyway, I ate and enjoyed very much the following stuffs at Gunther’s (my top 3 dishes):
1st: cold angel hair pasta with Oscietra caviar - the restaurant’s most well-known dish and Chef Hubrechsen should be proud of it. It’s the 3rd time I savor this dish; it’s still very delicious – the flavor, the smells, the texture and all other elements were spot on. High degree of consistency...
5th: carabinero gambas with tomato rice – given how far Spain from Singapore is, the kitchen did a good job in preparing this prawn. I tasted the gambas’ freshness and sweet flavor; it’s well-seasoned too. The Japanese rice cooked with the prawn’s stock and tomato was pleasant except I prefer rice with firmer texture (like in risotto or paella)
6th: grilled scallop with black truffle – the main highlight of my meal. The Hokkaido scallop was juicy and tender though not as tasty as the one I had at Les Amis. However, it’s well-enhanced by the sublime and sweet caramelized onion below as well as the pungent winter truffle aroma and flavor on top of it. I liked the onion very much here – a good example how Gunther brought out the essence of its ingredient; possibly the closest one (in terms of ‘deliciousness’) to the Passard’s perfect onion gratin with parmesan that looks deceptively simple
What makes Gunther’s special is that the talented Belgian chef-owner is capable of generating many different kind of ‘unassuming’ dishes and elevating them to higher level using no more than 3 fresh produce on each plate. It seems modest at times, but actually quite sophisticated. Let me describe a few more dishes I had,
4th: roasted garlic with onion essence – if I had to pick one dish I like the least, it’s probably the one. The roasted garlic had smooth texture and good smell, well-integrated with mascarpone sauce. However, I found the (garlic) portion was too big. After consuming 2/3 of them, I just swallowed the rest (almost no chewing) so that I wouldn’t be too stuffed and/or dilute my palate for the next dishes
7th: Char grilled wagyu beef in bordelaise sauce – this was the main course served in a nice portion with a right amount of “fat”. Delicate Japanese beef was generally a safe choice; the chef didn’t do too much and just allowed the natural flavor of high quality wagyu to shine. The sauce and the grilled corn were precisely executed. Nothing wow but it’s hard not to like Japanese beef J
8th: Truffle parfait – dessert. It’s a soft and light vanilla ice cream served with rich chocolate brownie and topped with aromatic smell induced by the Perigord truffle (having slight peppery taste). I hardly eat dessert with truffle in it. This one was sweet and rather delicious
There were a couple more dishes I had and you can see/read them on the picture link below. For the meal, I drank 2 glasses of wine. The first glass was 2010 Vincent girardin chassagne-Montrachet; it’s rich and creamy with buttery aromas. The second one was 2009 Black quail Pinot noir; it’s medium bodied with dark berries delicate fragrance and dry finish in slight acidity – a quite refined pinot noir that surprisingly went along nicely with my scallop dish (of course, better with the beef). Oh before I forget, this place only offers one type of bread and butter – to be exact warm mini baguette and salted butter served at room temperature – simple but good; I ate 3 baguettes if not mistaken. The meal ended with a petit four consisting of a green tea macaron and canele – both were fine.
It was a quiet evening, about half of the restaurant’s capacity was filled. Probably most people were still busy to attend reunion dinner with their friends and colleagues. The dining room decoration was minimalist dominated by dark grey color for the walls (some paintings were hung on them) and medium lighting. This way guests would not feel overwhelmed and the food took center stage. The staffs were polite and helpful without being intrusive. Besides the sommelier, one friendly “Indian” maitre d’ and the greeter, most of restaurants’ FOH staffs were relatively new. Chef Hubrechsen, usually visiting the dining room to greet guests, explained that the staffs turnover at Singapore restaurants were still very high; he even did not have any permanent sous chef assisting him in the kitchen. So the good thing is that it’s almost guaranteed Gunther himself would always be in the kitchen daily to ensure food quality.
I gave my overall meal experience at Gunther’s nearly 94 pts (a good 2 ¼* by Michelin standard) and it meant about the same level as Shinji by Kanesaka Singapore and Eric Frechon’s Le Bristol, seriously. Another lovely meal, and overall it ranked as the most memorable one I’ve ever had here. Well, there was no bad meal experience at Gunther’s. Hope I can return again sometimes next year, even better if not on my own expenses. Lastly, I prefer this place over Les Amis by a small margin. Check here for pictures, https://picasaweb.google.com/118237905546308956881/GuntherSRestaurantSingapore#
By Kerry Beal
Today we started out with a trip to the college to start getting ourselves set up for tomorrow. Then at 10 am we met at ChocolateFX and started our tour. Of course hair nets are obligatory if you are going to go into a food manufacturing facility!
Wilma and Art had the small pan set up so that we could pan some raisins.
Here's Pat (psantucc), with beard appropriately netted, applying some chocolate to the raisins.
Ava (FrogPrincesse's little one) preparing to add more chocolate, Kyle helping and FrogPrincesse awaiting her turn.
The fancy packing machine.
Listening with rapt attention to Wilma explaining the making of ganache truffles in the round silicone molds.
Gravetye Manor is a magnificent country house hotel that has been tucked away just south of East Grinstead in Sussex for over 400 years. William Robinson, who bought the property in the late 19th century, created the magnificent gardens, including the walled vegetable garden that used to supply much of the restaurants fruit and vegetables in times gone by when we actually used to have a summer.
Peter Herbert bought the house in 1958 and created one of the first and still considered amongst the best country house hotels in England. It is still privately owned, now by retired fund manager Jeremy Hosking - a founder of Marathon AM, a $46bn investment fund, who bought the hotel out of administration in 2010. Perhaps its proximity to the Bluebell Railway was a deciding factor. Mr Hosking has what might be described as a healthy love of trains, owning a not insignificant amount of steam locomotives which are loaned out to various heritage railways throughout the UK.
The house itself is in the middle of the rolling sussex hills, down a mile-long driveway which takes you through some of the 1000 acres of gardens. Inside its just what one would expect and want to find in such an establishment...faultless classical English upper-class style.
A very friendly welcome from the maitre-d introduced us to our surroundings and swaddled us in the inglenook luxury of one of the 3 drawing rooms, where we took an aperitif. Some canape's were brought along with the drinks - a perfect cylinder of duck pate with little spheres of orange balanced atop; a smoked salmon and cream cheese lasagne and a very rich camembert with some brittle pastry dippers. All very nice.
Three menu's were presented - a set 4-course table d'hote menu at £40; the a la carte and a 7-course tasting menu priced at £85.
It was my birthday.
We had the tasting menu.
Provenance and and locality are obviously very important to the chef. The 5 or 6 main suppliers are listed on a front page of the menu and all were within a 25 mile radius of the hotel.
Bread was a choice between sweet onion rolls, sourdough and focaccia, all homemade. I took rather a liking to the sweet onion rolls and took slight advantage of the generosity of the bread waitress who seemed to appear every few minutes offering more.
I thought the room itself very attractive. Perhaps 10 tables, well-spaced in the main room, and a smaller room with 4 tables adjoins this.
Longhorn Beef, jerusalen artichoke and spring truffle. Upon completing the dish I asked how the beef had been prepared and was told by a rather too enthusiastic waiter that the chef dusts the beef in icing sugar before searing. There was a slight sweetness that I had put down to the wonderful tender beef itself, and I was a little disappointed to be told the chef dusts it in bloody sugar first. Anyway, a pleasing start to the meal, the artichoke and slivers of truffle being very happy bedfellows to the beef.
Hebridean Langoustine, Carpaccio of Middle White pork brawn and parsnip. This came as a thin rectangle of brawn upon which sat a single langoustine cut in half with a frothed shellfish sauce with parsnip crisps and slivers of parsnip that had been poached in butter. The sauce was extremely rich and strikingly pink, the buttered parsnips having fantastic sweet flavour.
Spiced Rougie Fois Gras, pain d'epice and prune. A thumb-sized cycliner of fois gras parfait with some bread crisps, prune emulsion and prunes. Nice fois gras and combination of flavours. Simple dish, nicely constructed but did little to show me what they can do in the kitchen.
Ash Cured Line Caught Haddock, slow poached Gravetye egg and granola. A fantastic dish of very strong flavours. Now, I have never had a slow-cooked egg before so am not sure if the white was in fact just egg white, or had been replaced by something. It had a wonderful texture of fluffy yoghurt. The granola gave a nice crunch and sweetness to the dish, which was required to counter the incredibly strong, salty flavours of the fish, presented again as as a cyliner. Taken together, this was a fabulous plate of food.
Milk Fed Lamb, tomato, polenta and garlic. A waitress brought a gleaming miniature copper pan of fantastic...I'm going to call it gravy. Another great dish, the lamb came with a small twist of kidney, a rich and sticky garlic clove and a breadcrumbed cheesey-potato thing (is there a name for these?). Rich and satisfying, this was up there with the haddock for pure eating pleasure.
Artisan cheeses in miniature, frozen grapes and walnuts. Very nicely presented on a slate with a small glass cloche, the four cheeses were tiny slivers. I could definitely have eaten more. The frozen grapes were a nice touch. despite the punctuation on the menu, the walnuts were not frozen!
White Chocolate and Green Olives, lemon curd. A cracking desert. Another cylinder, this time of white chocolate ice cream, was held off the plate by two pyramid wafers with bits of green olive and drops of lemon curd. Another first for me, the slightly salty olives with the sweet ice cream was a great flavour combination.
Coffee & Petit Fours. Top quality coffee. A huge box of chocolates was brought to the table with a selection of truffles, white and dark chocolates.
Overall a very good meal in beautiful surroundings. Service was very good throughout. A bottle of £35 wine (as you can imagine very much at the cheaper end of the list) and the bill was £250 for the two of us.
I would return. I am not sure I would opt for the tasting menu again though. This was my first tasting menu and I do like the format. My only reservations are that for £85 I am not convinced these dishes offer great value for money. There was not a great deal of luxury ingredients included nor was I wowed by the effort involved in most of these dishes. That said, it was a very enjoyable meal.
I'm still pondering on this. I feel that I need another tasting menu or two, perhaps at the Ledbury, for comparison. Purely for educational purposes, of course.
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