Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Fine Dining in Malaysia and Singapore


Recommended Posts

A lot is made of hawker dining in Malaysia and Singapore, which is clearly justified. I have just returned from three weeks of happy eating in the aforementioned countries and am grinning from ear to ear as I write this, recalling the fond memories of beansprout chicken in Ipoh and wonderful roti canai in Kuala Lumpur.

No one speaks much of higher-end dining though, and I hope this thread, with the cumulative experiences of eGullet members, will provide a guide to this genre of dining, especially European options, available in Malaysia and Singapore. I hasten to add that I am NOT in any way an expert on the fine dining scenes in Malaysia and Singapore, but I would like to kickstart this thread by sharing a couple of my experiences there from my recent trip.

Villa Danieli Sheraton Imperial, Jalan Sultan Ismail, Kuala Lumpur

A fortunate accumulation of Starwood points allowed me the luxury of staying at the Sheraton Imperial, Kuala Lumpur. It is a five-star hotel in the truest sense of the description, with an excellent gymnasium and health club facilities, and the decor is discreet but classic. And if you are reluctant to brave the KL traffic, you are literally four minutes walk away from monorail and train stations.

A pity then, that the flagship restaurant, Villa Danieli, does not live up to the standards set by the rest of the hotel.

In truth, I was looking forward to having a hawker feast at Jalan Alor on Bukit Bintang when the heavens opened. Denied the opportunity to dine outdoors, I took the soft option. Having been informed that the restaurant won a few awards for best Italian restaurant etc etc, I was hopeful of an excellent meal. I hope you will forgive the brevity of this review. Given the circumstances that transpired on the day, I was not inclined to stay for more than one course.

Our waiter was a very merry character. He was also brutally and endearingly honest, though I confess that his honesty did not make me particularly optimistic about the standard of food served. When I enquired about the fish of the day cooked in a salt crust, he asked me "Do I eat saltfish?" Thinking that he was referring to ham yee, I replied yes, I like it every so often. He replied "You eat the crust on this one and it is very salty. This is a whole fish, but it is not very big and it is not very good value. I never recommend it to my customers."

Right.

Deep down in the recesses of my memory, I had come across caciocavallo before, and I saw a ravioli stuffed with caciocavallo. Not remembering the nature of the cheese, I asked what caciocavallo was. "It is a cheese, sir," came the reply. "I know, but what kind of cheese?" "An Italian cheese, sir." I gritted my teeth, this might take longer than I thought.

My partner is a light eater, so when I enquired about the pasta del giorno for two people and whether it was sufficient as a main course for two, our waiter started shaking with mirth and replied "Oh, yes, this is very big. Even I can't finish my share." To paraphrase Will Smith in Men in Black, I was half the man he was.

We finally got around to actually ordering something. I requested the signature dish of braised beef cheek with truffles and porcini mushroom, and my partner opted for the seafood risotto.

Decent breads were brought out in a baked earthenware pot; the white and brown rolls were fluff but the rolls scented with tomato and olive oil are worth an honourable mention.

This is where the debacle continued. My main course looked as expected, a homely comforting stew of slow-cooked chunks of beef cheek, crushed potato pieces and mushrooms. And the beef was perfectly tender, falling apart at the merest suggestion of a knife. Two slight problems, an absence of truffle, and an absence of porcini. All I had were button mushrooms, which tasted as if they came out from a can. In essence, I was about to be charged RM82 for beef cheeks and spuds.

I complained to another waiter that I couldn't smell or taste any truffles, and that there were no porcini mushrooms in the stew. He explained that the truffles were finely chopped and added to the sauce. He then pointed to one of the button mushrooms and said "that's a porcini." I replied "No that is not a porcini mushroom." He said "No sir, that is a porcini mushroom." I replied "I've had porcini before, that is not a porcini mushroom. It looks like something that came out of a can. He looked at me more in sorrow than in anger "No, sir, we do not use canned mushrooms in our restaurant." I said "Look, you are telling me that they are and I am saying that they are not. We aren't going to get very far, are we?"and asked to speak to the chef.

Chef was eminently reasonable. I pointed the mushrooms out and he said that those were most definitely not porcini mushrooms, but the kitchen mixed porcini and button mushrooms for the stew. Fine, but where were the porcinis? And the truffles? Chef explained that the truffles were chopped finely and sprinkled onto the potatoes (Oh, so you mean they weren't in the sauce?). The potatoes had hardly any topping on them and what there was, in the dim light, looked (and tasted) like micro-chopped parsley.

Chef took the plate away and brought it back personally, with eight giant halves of porcini mushroom and a blizzard of chopped truffle. The dish now took on a semblance of the extraordinary. Earthy and rich, with the intoxicating fragrance of porcini and truffle, mingling delightfully with the sticky beef juices.

I was not overly fond of the risotto, which I found a little stodgy, but my partner clearly did not share the same concerns and finished it off.

At this point, I did not have patience for dessert. The hotel had dropped off a little box of chocolate truffles as a welcome token that afternoon, which we decided would suffice.

Value was appalling; throw in a glass of chianti and a bottle of mineral water and my bill was around 250 ringgit.

Quite clearly, Villa Danieli has the potential to be a very good restaurant. Once the proper dish was served, I realised that the kitchen can cook food that borders on the transcendent. However, I should never have been forced to take the steps that I did in order to get a dish which had been lavished with the love and attention that its price merited.

The service was poor. The waiters were completely lacking knowledge about the food and did not make ordering any easier in the slightest. Perhaps it is my food-snobbishness showing but I could hardly forgive the second waiter's implications that he knew what a porcini mushroom looked like and I didn't. He also didn't know where the truffles were in the dish. In both cases, he was wrong, wrong, wrong. Truthfully, I was quite embarassed that Chef had to serve the dish personally to make up for his waiters' seeming incompetence, so I made sure I thanked him personally after the meal.

Perhaps the normal clientele of the hotel are too polite to take issue with these issues, or perhaps they are not foodwise to the extent that they care about what they are being served in the slightest. I normally try to avoid confrontations with service staff, as they sour the entire atmosphere of the meal, but in this case, that was simply not possible.

In contrast to my dinner a few weeks prior at Les Amis in Singapore, this was the miserable nadir of fine dining.

Edited by Julian Teoh (log)
Julian's Eating - Tales of Food and Drink
Link to post
Share on other sites

Julian,

An excellent review, and congrats on having more backbone than most of us in taking the staff to task when they try to pull a fast one.

Is it just a KL thing where they try to convince you that their dishes aren't very good? I've had a chef try to talk me out of his signature dish "No one likes this". Why is it on the menu, then?

Cheers

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for your post Julian. Not much is made of high-end dining in KL because I don't think KL is known for it. When you think of haute cuisine, KL doesn't exactly spring to mind as the destination of choice in South East Asia (probably Bangkok and Singapore offer better). Sure there are fine restaurants in KL, but in the grand scheme of things they are overshadowed by the hawker and local fare.

That said, of the high-end dining places in KL the best IMO is probably Cilantro. Food and service are very good. I had a peek at a copy of "Best Eats" a foodie guide book to KL and Cilantro was one of only 3 restaurants to get 3-stars from the writer (and deservedly so). The other two were Senses (which I've not tried) and 3rd Floor (which I have tried, it was good but I still like Cilantro better).

Link to post
Share on other sites

This is fantastic.

Nice work Julian.

I have long thought about burping on about how crap service and food generally is when it comes to so-called KL fine dining and this is the cake that needed to be cut. Bravo indeed.

To echo JC, Cilantro is definitely numero uno at the moment.

The problem however, is that trendiness and perceived fashionableness tends to prove more subtstantial in the dining public's mind in Malaysia and like, almost wholly so in KL. Gone are the days of the Grill at the Regent, now known as Regent Four Seasons, and Lafite at Shangri-la. In those days, fine dining meant a 5-star restaurant, and back then, they cared.

Some notable recent experiences include Eest at the Westin, another Starwood production number. I like the look of the place, but it soon proves to be quite un-diner friendly and the food, well, I'm still not quite sure what Pan-Asian is... a whole of Asia is left off the menu and I'm talking India, Indonesia... it reminded me more of say Longrain in Sydney and Melbourne. Apparently there is a link between David King of Westin, formerly of Begawan Giri Bali, and Martin Boetz of Longrain, but I'm not quite sure how... but i digress... a lot of flash and dollars, but I left kind of hungry.

"Coffee and cigarettes... the breakfast of champions!"

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for the responses, guys.

JC, I agree with your point. However, I'm taking the view that it is, at some level, worth discussion; the fact that it is comparatively (and maybe absolutely) poorer than the hawker offerings does not preclude it from scrutiny.

Another reason why I was motivated to start this thread was that the Malaysia International Gourmet Festival is starting soon, and its solemn promise is to bring the best of fine dining to the public and to promote Malaysia's best restaurants. At the prices being charged, bearing in mind that almost all of the restaurants are F&B outlets at 5-star hotels, the event is not that accessible to the public at all. And if they are going in for the same experience that I had, the event may not be a very good advertisement for Malaysia.

JC, PCL, if you are attending any events at the MIGF, please share your experiences on this thread. I would love to hear some good news.

The perverse thing about all this is that a place like Le Bouchon on Changkat Bukit Bintang, a self-avowed no-fuss French bistro-like place, provides service much more on par with a fine-dining experience (but casual a la Sydney), and excellent food that speaks of its heritage. I loved it, and would post a review on this thread but for the fact that it not a fine diner. Hell, I might still do it.

It is not my intention to be negative where it is not warranted. Once my roaming camera comes back, I hope to post a review of Les Amis in Singapore, the grand-daddy of independent fine dining restaurants. My meal, and a couple of others I've had there in past years, deserves superlatives that are not in my vocabulary.

Julian's Eating - Tales of Food and Drink
Link to post
Share on other sites
JC, I agree with your point.  However, I'm taking the view that it is, at some level, worth discussion; the fact that it is comparatively (and maybe absolutely) poorer than the hawker offerings does not preclude it from scrutiny.

I didn't mean to imply that fine dining in KL is precluded from scrutiny. I'm definitely for discussing it - why aren't there more or better fine dining places in KL? What do KLites expect or demand from a fine dining restaurant? How many of us really care about it anyway and if we're a small group then can we sustain a vibrant fine dining environment?

At the prices being charged, bearing in mind that almost all of the restaurants are F&B outlets at 5-star hotels, the event is not that accessible to the public at all.

One of the points I was going to raise myself. I believe that pricing plays a large part in KLites participation (or lack thereof) in high end dining. It's a small group of people who can periodically do fine dining.

I'll certainly post my impressions if I go to any MIGF event. Do post your review of Le Bouchon.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I had my doubts about posting regarding Le Bouchon in this thread. This is not a fine dining restaurant in any real sense of the word. It boasts of "homely French ambience," a decidedly anti-haute cuisine self-promotion if there ever was one. Its menu, filled with traditional French bistro fare such as duck confit and soupe a l'oignon gratinee, is a bit of a clue, if the wooden floors and deliberately rickety and cluttered cellar didn't already give it away.

I would like to leave the debate on the definition of fine dining in its context till the end of this post. I have a more urgent mission now - to recap on an excellent French meal in an unlikely venue.

Le Bouchon Nos 14 & 16, Jalan Changkat Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur

Changkat Bukit Bintang (and surrounds) is one of those former dens of the underworld which has recently become "gentrified" as Malaysia takes leaps and bounds into the developed world, and yuppies and their partners find new and exciting ways (food and wine being one of them) to spend their newly-found riches. This area is teeming with signs of this newfound prosperity, including a German pub, an Irish pub, a branch office for Babcock & Brown, and I'm sure I saw a Mexican tequila place across the road.

This dinner was a bit of a bittersweet moment, being our last dinner of the honeymoon before we caught the Nice bus (that's the name of the bus operator, but the bus was also pretty good) to Singapore and onto a Qantas flight back to Sydney. My parents had insisted on treating us to a meal here, and who am I to say no?

The dining room is appointed as one would expect of a traditional French bistro, although the non-smioking section is a little more tizzied-up with a wall feature of empty Perrier-Jouet bottles. Here is a view of the smoking section:

gallery_41540_3807_62910.jpg

And the non-smoking section:

gallery_41540_3807_50492.jpg

Le Bouchon offers two prix fixe menus at RM148 (four courses) and around RM85 (three courses), with the inevitable ++ adding 15% to your bill. My folks opted for the RM85 prix fixe, whilst my brother, the missus and I opted for a la carte.

Before the meal began in earnest, a plate of canapes was brought out. Cheese puff pastry (gruyere, perhaps?) and little toasts spread with creme fraiche and red lumpfish roe. Just a little tinge of sourness and lightness to kickstart our palates.

gallery_41540_3807_12619.jpg

Entree

As part of the prix fixe menu, chicken and mushroom in puff pastry

gallery_41540_3807_35125.jpg

Inoffensive would be the best way to put it. Creamy sauce, not too much influence of mushroom (this was not the best trip for mushrooms), moist chicken. I've had worse chicken pies. Not sure if I've had better ones, but the puff pastry ceiling of achievement is rather limited as far as chicken pies go, and this was no exception.

Again, as part of the prix fixe, onion soup. This was very competently executed version, with the crouton and smelted gruyere on top. I like onion soup, so much in fact that by the time I thought to whip out the camera, the soup was finished. Oh well...

Burgundy Snails in a Creamy Spinach Sauce

gallery_41540_3807_34712.jpg

Half a dozen of the fat little critters dripping in mozzarella and finely chopped spinach. I liked the way the slight bitterness of the greens played off against the cheese and creamy sauce. The snails were juicy, sweet and perfectly cooked.

Main Courses

As part of the prix fixe, marinated grilled chicken with fondant potatoes and wholgrain mustard sauce

gallery_41540_3807_42498.jpg

As you may have surmised by now, my folks love to order chicken, which suits me fine since I never do and it gives me a chance to taste more dishes on the menu. And the kitchen at Le Bouchon cooks its meats, poultry and fish very well; did not encounter a single instance where the meat was over- or underdone. It is often tempting to lightly undercook chicken, which one encounters often in Asian soup noodle dishes, but this was done with a kiss of juicy perfection, just like your mother used to make when chickens did not reach a hormone-pumped 2.3 kilograms in four weeks. I didn't care for the Moroccan-influenced seasoning, though.

Duck Confit with goose foie gras

gallery_41540_3807_71388.jpg

I lament the lack of fresh unpasteurised foie gras in Australia, and why goose foie gras, across the world, is so rare. The most common response is the cost and that the goose version is much more delicate, liable as it is to melt into a spluttering pool of goose fat. So explain, why is it that of the luxe restaurants in Paris and Singapore that I have come across, with their myriad of Michelin-trained chefs and a prosperous consumer base, that the only two instances of goose foie gras that I have encountered are here in KL and in Ipoh (!)

The food, yes...confit was nicely crisped on the outside, and with a sliver of seared foie gras the size of a pizza slice draped over the top, who is complaining? Not me.

Fettucine au pistou with grilled seasonal vegetables

gallery_41540_3807_67084.jpg

Perfectly cooked pasta. From the al dente bite of the pasta, it was dried, but in my books, dried pasta is as good as fresh if it is handled well. Grilled capsicum, squash, mushrooms (!!!) and zucchini sang with a light smoky sweetness from the grill, and the pistou was a subtle teasing flavour. For a chef from Brittany, this was an excellent showcase of summery Provencale flavours.

Fried seabass with a brochette of prawn and more fettucine

gallery_41540_3807_60420.jpg

The prawns were halved down the middle and curled around the skewer like a chicken satay. I found the prawns a tad overcooked and clinging to the skewer. The fish was underseasoned, but there was nothing a few good shakes of salt couldn't fix. The pasta, again, was excellent. When one has to hit a French bistro for a good fix of al dente pasta, times must be tough.

Dessert

As part of the prix fixe, Le Bouchonmissu

gallery_41540_3807_64648.jpg

Finely creamed mascarpone, perhaps more creamed and loose than I am used to, and slivers of red-wine poached pears make for a nice and light finish. The set menu is clearly a study in thoughtfulness; the heaviness of the cream sauce (entree) and generous main of chicken is counterbalanced by a lighter, acid version of the traditional coffee dessert.

Tarte Tatin

gallery_41540_3807_62416.jpg

According to my brother, this dish has evovled somewhat since his last visit some years back. Then, it was a whole cored apple, caramelised, and wrapped in puff pastry, so it was effectively a spheroid apple tart. Based on this hearsay, I had concocted my own version of it, serving it with a reduced apple and blackcurrant sauce on the side. Coming to worship at the shrine where this concept was developed, I was somewhat disappointed too see that it had transmuted into a traditional tarte. Nonetheless, let this not detract you from the nicely-baked apple, the hot-cold contrast playing out in your mouth, or the flambeed pool of Calvados doing its thing on the plate.

Conclusion

Le Bouchon is an excellent venue for authentic and completely unfussed French food. Servings are very generous, and more importantly, the food is truly delicious. Don't come here if you are looking for something to stimulate your gastronomic intelligence; Le Bouchon wears its "good hearty bistro fare" credentials on its sleeve. You might consider the price steep relative to other dining options available, (around RM460 to stuff five hungry people) but this is true for any quality European option in KL.

The View as you walk out

gallery_41540_3807_7135.jpg

Service is courteous and knowledgeable, something which other restaurants could take a hint from.

Now, is this fine dining? Yes and no, but in my view, and given context as to time and place, the answer must be yes. Tick the boxes as you go along; good food, check. Good and knowledgeable service, check. Well-timed meal delivery, check. Clean, classic (if not classy) decor, check. High-ish prices, check. While we are on traditional forms of street and accessible dining in the context of KL, Le Bouchon is not one such. If we can "drop" the bar somewhat as to what counts as "fine dining" in KL and Asian cities where dining at a place like Le Bouchon is far from the norm, then let's do so in this instance.

One aspect of the Le Bouchon meal I didn't mention before is that it periodically flies in treats from France for the enjoyment of its patrons, Cancale oysters being a case in point. Chef Philippe le Francais (yes that is his real name) insists on serving the best and freshest of these treasures raw. Its devotion to bringing in the best in esoteric and fresh produce from France is another point in my argument.

During an informal post-meal chat, our waiter tells us that the previous chef who worked with Le Francais had left, but Le Francais had taken over personally in order to maintain the quality and authenticity of the food. "You need a gweilo to control the kitchen, no offence intended, madam," he said, noticing the sole gweilo in our party. "If you let a Malaysian take over, after a while, the food will turn to char kway teow."

In the eyes of hardcore lovers of hawker food, this may not seem such a bad thing. But if that should ever happen, KL would lose one of its very few providers of truly authentic quality French fare.

Edited by Julian Teoh (log)
Julian's Eating - Tales of Food and Drink
Link to post
Share on other sites

Very good news.

Thanks Julian.

Will put Le Bouchon on my list when I get back to KL.

Another one to look out for is Neroteca... more on that later... promise... typing from airport lounges , or posting rather, is not fun...

"Coffee and cigarettes... the breakfast of champions!"

Link to post
Share on other sites

Julian,

Excellent review, and it puts Le Bouchon on my list for the next trip to KL.

Synchronicity or coincidence, but Le Bouchon in Bangkok shares much of this; location (in the second, even seedier soi of Patpong), food quality, good cook, the very "bistro" attitude......

It's funny how these things happen.

Cheers!

Peter

Link to post
Share on other sites
...the only two instances of goose foie gras that I have encountered are here in KL and in Ipoh (!)

Thanks for the review. The reference to Ipoh - is that to Indulgence?

Good guess, JC - I was actually referring to Citrus near Ipoh Garden East. Chef Simon trained in Singapore five-star hotels and won some gold medals in culinary competitions. His foie gras is seared and served on a rectangular dish as three elements: a mound of diced papaya chutney, a green salad and the foie (which is topped with a sour mango salsa). I appreciated the additions of sweet, acidic and bitter elements to the liver. Decent value too at RM30.

Citrus's food (fusion) is more aspirational than Le Bouchon's, but the service vibe, at least at lunch, is much more modern trendy cafe / restaurant than fine dining.

I haven't had the pleasure of dining at Indulgence, although I did drive past it a lot on my last trip.

Edited by Julian Teoh (log)
Julian's Eating - Tales of Food and Drink
Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for the lead. Hadn't heard of Citrus before; must try it the next time I'm in Ipoh.

Like you, I've not dined at Indulgence before (although I've had dessert there). Any thing on my 'to do' list for Ipoh.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Les Amis 1 Scotts Road, #02-16 Shaw Centre Singapore

Les Amis has always been a legend of sorts in the region. It has long been regarded as the best French restaurant in Singapore and arguably South-East Asia.

Two of the four founding partners left back in 2003, Executive Chef Justin Quek to try his luck in Taiwan and head sommelier Ignatius Chan to run his little corner of heaven in the former laundry of the Regent Hotel, named Iggy's and recently named in Restaurant Magazine's Top 100 Restaurants in the World.

In recent years, Randy See, head sommelier and Gunther Hubrechsen, formerly sous chef at Paris's L'Arpege, have now steered the good ship to more comfortable waters and media reviews are now as glowing as they have ever been. Under See's guidance, Les Amis now boasts a wine cellar of 1500+ labels and an inventory of well over 10,000 bottles.

On a more personal level, this is the restaurant that re-defined "fine dining" for me. It showed me that fine dining could also be as much about the food as the service and the wine list (an impression that I did not get too strongly when dining in Europe), and that Asians could do it as well as our European brothers.

This was the one big planned splurge during the honeymoon (unlike the Villa Danieli debacle, which was embarked upon with the spontaneity of a one-night stand and similarly regretted). I had emailed Randy See a couple of months before, telling him in no uncertain terms that I was trusting him and Hubrechsen to come up with a 5-course menu and a couple of matching wines. A challenge if you like, one that I was glad to see that he was up to.

Disclaimer: Before you read on, I will disclose that I am on friendly terms with some of the staff there, so please feel free to read this with a grain of salt. But our relationship developed only after I ate there (and paid my bill in full, thank you) and wrote a favourable review in a Malaysian newspaper a few weeks later. It was as much my enthusiasm for the food and what they were trying to achieve that gave us common ground.

DINNER!

When you enter, you walk into a narrow corridor, with the restaurant to your left and a bar to your right. Randy greets me and apologises for not being able to stay tonight as he is off to a wine-tasting event at Sheraton Towers.

The chairs are as comfortable as ever, and I appreciate the little cushioned stool on the side for the lady's handbag (and my camera).

Seated next to me were a rather vocal group of stockbrokers or bankers, so I'll punctuate the review with illuminating comments from our friends in the financial world. They went as well with the food as the wine matches, so why should I deny you the same pleasure?

Amuse Bouche Tempura cod fillet impaled on a fork and foie gras "creme brulee" with orange glaze

Sometimes, I resent eGulleteers with any modicum of self-control This amuse could also be re-tagged "five mouthfuls of wonder" as it took me five bites and about 10 seconds to work through. My partner, who detests citrus of any sort, consumed the creme brulee with aplomb. And wouldn't you know it, by the time the camera was whipped out, it was all finished.

The very helpful sommelier walked up with a bottle of Krug and whispered "Compliments of Mr Randy See, Krug Vintage 1990." Perhaps it is now time for a little Rumpole - "I caught the hint of wild strawberries again, but this was so beyond the ken of my everyday drinking that all I could do was slink away from the field of battle, muttering 'damned good stuff.'"

Stockbrokers' Quotable Quote (from one member of their party to another) - "You brought your own wines? You arrogant arsehole!"

Freebie - Mushroom Cappuccino

gallery_41540_3845_9033.jpg

There was no flash and giggle truffle oil trickery in this soup. Just a nice mushroom flavour with a velvety warmth and well-being that radiated into my body as I sipped. It's also a decent-sized serve, being served in a French cafe au lait cup, as opposed to the raging fashion of a demitasse.

Freebie No 2 - Venus clam with Italian tomatoes

gallery_41540_3845_15319.jpg

The last time I dined here in 2005, I tasted a Venus clam for the first time, cut into thick shreds after grilling in the shell with a little butter, thyme and fleur de sel. I was dumbfounded when I discovered that the clams were imported from Australia - I had never seen anything like them on sale anywhere before, fish market or restaurant. This dish has evolved with the addition of the acidic tomato topping, which drew a perfect contrast against the vivid sea-sweetness of the clam. And wouldn't you know it, the Krug provides the perfect dry finish.

Langoustine Carpaccio

gallery_41540_3845_49804.jpg

At this point, I was wondering when they would serve a dish on the menu. Lo and behold, here comes the first, and it is one of my favourites. This dish is an evolution of Passard's classic langoustine carpaccio with oscietre caviar creme, but is lifted with chives, Dandaragan extra virgin olive oil and a drizzle of reduced balsamic syrup. The serve is not large, but that's a good reason for that; there's plenty more food to come.

Foie gras a la dragee, apple turnover

gallery_41540_3845_27374.jpg

Hubrechsen is clearly an admirer of Passard but he is no slave. He has kept Passard's love of the little things, like dragee, which are essentially candied almonds. The apple turnover is a nice touch from my childhood (I don't recall having one since I turned 12); this version thankfully lacks the copious amounts of whipped cream from an aerosol can that I am accustomed to. A bitter salad and a halo of cherry confit jus rings the plate. I do find a couple of little veins in the foie, however, but they present no genuine obstacle to my enjoyment.

You may have noted that I have been gorging myself on foie gras and decry my nouveau riche obsession with these decadent livers. Please understand that I cannot obtain / purchase / grow / consume any decent foie in Sydney and therefore only have a three-week window to put away my share for the next year and a half.

I would also just pause to add that I am not "riche" by any definition of the word.

Alaskan Crab, girolle mushrooms

gallery_41540_3845_11819.jpg

This is a seasonal masterpiece. Roast crab leg (I think it is a red king crab) with the top half of the leg carapace removed for easy eating, and spread with an "Italian chilli" and scattered with grilled girolles. Hubrechsen later explained that the "chilli" was the nduja di Monte Poro, really a pork sausage from Calabria which is stuffed with chilli. The texture is almost spreadable and is definitely not what you expect from a sausage. It adds fire and a slight sourness against the fresh and sweet crab meat.

In a country where chilli crab is arguably the national dish, this simple crab dish, boosted by the best of seasonal ingredients, stands tall and proud.

Stockbrokers' Quotable Quote - "I apologise, gentlemen, we are now moving from the premiers crus to the second-growths."

Cote de boeuf of Australian wagyu

gallery_41540_3845_61469.jpg

A hunk of dying cow done medium rare. What set it aside was the little layered wedge of confit seasonal vegetables, amongst which I saw a little carrot, leek, onion, cabbage and God knows what else. I normally don't care for vegetable side dishes but this was excellent.

Like all wagyu, this one lacked the long drawn-out beefy flavour of a good grass-fed, but it makes up for that in tenderness and mouthfeel. This was perhaps the most ordinary of the dishes. It was good, perhaps even very good, but it failed to distinguish itself from the many excellent steaks you could get elsewhere. It was perfectly cooked, though, so don't get me wrong:

gallery_41540_3845_39330.jpg

The sommelier recommended a 2000 Vacqueyras from Perrin et fils, after the initially recommended Chateauneuf-du-Pape was corked (pre-empted by the apologetic sommelier who was sorry that sir's choice could not be presented as the wine is not in the best condition...). He called the Vacqueyras "a fruity mouthful with good berry flavour and smooth tannin." I couldn't have said it better myself, and it was a perfect match with my wagyu.

Stockbrokers' Quotable Quote - (on a mobile) "Ha ha, you stupid motherf*cker. I am going to make you my bitch tonight." (I could not entirely rule out that he was not talking to his wife / significant other; at this point, it was clear that the Baron de Rothschild was doing the talking).

Chocolate souffle

gallery_41540_3845_17575.jpg

Studded with a few cherries jacked with liqueur, this was fantastic, almost like a Black Forest souffle. The accompaniments were a lemongrass creme anglaise and a vanilla ice cream. We need a close-up:

gallery_41540_3845_9792.jpg

I have always loved Hubrechsen's souffles. The last time I was here, when Hubrechsen came out for a chat, I reminisced about a red fruits souffle that I had previously enjoyed, and he jumped up and said "Would you like one? I'll make you one now!" He is clearly proud of his prowess with the airy egg whites, and rightfully so. The lemongrass was hard to detect, and despite the rich chocolate, this was a suitably light finish to a meal that somehow grew from 5 courses to 7 without me looking. I think I did it justice in the end:

gallery_41540_3845_56956.jpg

Stockbrokers' Quote: "There is no question that this is the best French restaurant in this country (not from the drunk guy)."

We then retired to the bar for petits fours and coffee:

gallery_41540_3845_37788.jpg

gallery_41540_3845_25445.jpg

An offer of a Bas Armagnac 1963 as digestif was politely declined as I was reaching the end of my shelf life for the day. A canele and macaron, and a caramel thing and chocolatey cupcake which I couldn't identify, but at this stage, it didn't much matter. We said our thanks and goodbyes and asked for the bill.

The final damage was $450 SGD all told, with the wines comped. The tasting menu comes to around $185 SGD a head, with the +++ adding 16% to your bill and a little for the bottomless bottle of Evian.

Hubrechsen's food is very heavily dependent on seasonal ingredients, perhaps more so than any other chef whose food I've eaten. In October, when tuna are at their fattest, toro is dished out with abandon. Morels in May? Not a problem. The experience will obviously vary according to when you eat here; the only thing you will be guaranteed is a showcase of the finest produce at hand.

Service is faultless, waiters explain each dish before serving and wine service here almost justifies the $50 per bottle corkage charged, with pre-emptive tasting and proper decanters being utilised.

Let me get this straight - the meal here was not perfect. The foie had little veins and my partner's cote de boeuf was too tendony. But against the bigger picture, this was indeed a superlative meal.

If money is no object, I strongly recommend that you allow Hubrechsen to choose your food for you; only a couple of the dishes served at our and the stockbrokers' table were on the menu. Take your time to talk to the servers and sommeliers and you will be amply rewarded.

Like I said, feel free to take this review with a grain of salt. I won't use the old cliche of proofs and puddings etc etc, but have a go. These people are well-trained professionals and they will show you a good time whether they know you or not, as I found on my first visit. Go on, I dare you.

I tell you now that there is no restaurant in Sydney, or perhaps Australia, quite like this, that could source the wines and ingredients that these chaps have to play around with. It is quite simply, one of the most important restaurants that Singapore has. It shows the myriad possibilities of haute cuisine, and it caters well to its crowd, whether the well-heeled or the everyday couple looking for something appropriate to celebrate their special night. On its day, it bests even the Michelin three-stars that I've eaten at.

Without question, this was the finest meal I enjoyed on the trip. Against the casual and unrewarding dalliance that was the Villa Danieli, Les Amis is more a meaningful friend for life.

Edited by Julian Teoh (log)
Julian's Eating - Tales of Food and Drink
Link to post
Share on other sites

Excellent!

You've answered nagging questions I'd had about Singapore. Not just about Les Amis, which everyone at my tables at the WGS was still recommending, but also about Iggy's, which comes well recommended, too, and now I know why.

As you said, not cheap, but well within the bounds of what's fair value for a very good meal. I've spent a lot more than that for less elsewhere, and what you've described will stand up to any locale.

I'm hungry again.

Any chance of a review of Iggy's soon?

Link to post
Share on other sites
Excellent!

You've answered nagging questions I'd had about Singapore.  Not just about Les Amis, which everyone at my tables at the WGS was still recommending, but also about Iggy's, which comes well recommended, too, and now I know why.

As you said, not cheap, but well within the bounds of what's fair value for a very good meal.  I've spent a lot more than that for less elsewhere, and what you've described will stand up to any locale.

I'm hungry again. 

Any chance of a review of Iggy's soon?

Thank you for the kind comments, Peter.

I wholeheartedly agree, I'd rather pay $200 for a great meal than $50 for a bad one. And given the quality and premium nature of ingredients, such as clam, Alaskan crab, foie gras, langoustine, wagyu beef, I'm actually inclined to think of it as somewhat of a bargain.

Sadly, there won't be a review of Iggy's, at least not from me. Given our short time in Singapore, we were running around like headless chickens and it was hard enough setting aside one entire evening for a formal dinner.

Julian's Eating - Tales of Food and Drink
Link to post
Share on other sites

Had dinner at Morton's Chicago Steak House/Grill/Bar whatever at the Oriental in Marina Square, Singapore on Monday night.

Was good. The baked Maine lobster... wow, rocked. We got away having spent $384 Sing. Two cocktails, two glasses of an excellent Oregon Pinot Noir... and key lime pie... yeah....

"Coffee and cigarettes... the breakfast of champions!"

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 2 months later...

I've hesitated posting in this thread for a long time as the fine dining scene in KL is generally quite dismal....whilst there are tons of excellent hawker/tai chow places at a fraction of the price.

Standards at Oggi at The Regent Hotel which was once a favourite, has deteriorated over the past 2 years as The Regent is no longer part of the Four Seasons chain. I tried Le Bouchon when it first opened years ago and didn't like it, extremely slow service so I haven't been back - but am now tempted to go again with Julian's positive experience.

So far, Cilantro seems to be the only place which is consistently good.

A common problem with the KL fine dining scene is poorly trained wait staff and good ones are poached whenever a new restaurant opens up. It is rare that a waiter can explain to you what a dish is and mixed up/delayed courses are common.

There is a little place that's recently opened up round the corner from Le Bouchon that is promising -

Max 27 Tengkat Tong Shin, 50200 Kuala Lumpur. Tel: 603-2141 8115

I've been there a couple of times for the set lunch at RM18++ (USD4.50) for 2 courses (appetiser & main) - excellent value for money...think it'll even qualify for Tepee's Cheap & Decent Meals Thread :raz:. The menu for the set lunch changes every day and there is a choice of 2 appetisers and 2 mains.

This is what we had at my first lunch there (early Nov 2006):

Complimentary bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar

gallery_3270_3889_13755.jpg

Potato and Tomato Soup with Artichoke Hearts

gallery_3270_3889_14238.jpg

Nicely balanced soup that allowed the tomato flavours to shine through the creamy potato base.

Smoked Salmon with Mesclun Greens, Capsicum Salsa and Balsamic Reduction

gallery_3270_3889_25749.jpg

There was a fairly generous potion of salmon for a salad that was part of set lunch.

Chargrilled Minute Striploin Steak with Mashed Potatoes

gallery_3270_3889_16874.jpg

Yum - juicy, nicely grilled steak that contrasted nicely with the mashed potatoes.

Chargrilled Sole Fillet with Yabby Tails and a Sweet Vermouth Beurre Blanc gallery_3270_3889_16532.jpg

There were only 3 yabby tails but hey it was part of set lunch for RM18++ (USD4.50)!

We also ordered the Panna Cotta with Tiramisu Ice Cream and Fresh Fruits (RM12 or USD4) from the ala carte menu - meltingly creamy with just the right amount of gelatine - bouncy Panna Cotta is a major peeve.

gallery_3270_3889_12304.jpg

I was really impressed with the lunch at Max and especially so in light of the fact that it was only 1/10th the price of the disspointing dinner I had at Prego at The Westin the night before. Whatmore, that dinner at Prego's was part of The Malaysian International Gourmet Festival 2006 and they had brought in Chef Alfredo Russo from Piedmont to kick off their program for the gourmet festival...mixed-up courses, delayed wines, forgotten desserts, one dimensional flavours :angry:

Prego typifies the dismal fine dining scene in KL - a lot of hoo-hah but uninspired food and poorly trained staff. Have eaten at Prego 6 times and last night was the first time I've actually enjoyed the food there...but Faith Willinger was cooking - more on this later... :biggrin:

Edited by Shiewie (log)
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 7 months later...

Having been back in Singapore for four weeks, I thought it might be a good time to bump this thread.

Instead of doing the whole European thing, I've decided to go Chinese (well, I am ethnic Chinese and have been since birth, but you know what I mean).

Tien Court, Copthorne Kings Hotel, 403 Havelock Road Singapore

This is not the marquee property of the Copthorne chain; that honour belongs to the Orchard and Grand Copthorne Hotels. This is a pleasant 3.5 star place, but houses a Chinese restaurant worthy of any grand marque.

And lucky you, I am not going to provide a blow-by-blow summary of any meals here. I've had the fortune of eating here three times in the past month and every single time, my experience has been absolutely sensational.

You won't find too many innovative platings and sauces here, although they have made some concessions to "modernity" (I use that word cautiously) by serving some (non-soup) dishes in individual serves, European-style. But in the notoriously fickle and fashion-conscious society that is Singapore dining, this place punches well above its weight for the sheer quality of ingredients and the balance in each preparation. I never knew the true meaning of that word before I tasted Chef Ho Tien Tsai's concoction of shiitake mushrooms sliced thinly on the horizontal over lightly poached greens in an oyster sauce. The flavours were not new to me, but familiarity surprises when it takes on a new guise as perfection.

You will start your meal with a dish of braised peanuts and a changing pickle selection, perhaps soy-bean noodles in a light vinegar or baby cucumbers. And maybe follow up with the unctuous goodness of double-boiled shark bone soup with sea cucumber. In a country where a chef told me 'This is Singapore, what do we know about freshness?" referring to the fact that pretty much all foodstuffs are imported into the Republic from countries more agriculturally-inclined, simply stir-fried pea shoots refreshed my palate and restored my faith in this country.

You never hear anything about this restaurant in the mainstream press, and in my view, it is probably Singapore's most underrated restaurant. Chef Ho has a most beguiling way with ingredients both prestigious and humble. In the manner of most Chinese si fu, he lets his food do the talking.

I could go on and on about the other umpteen marvellous preparations I've sampled, but that would be self-defeating. Some things are better experienced first-hand, and if you are on the lookout for a superlative meal of traditional Cantonese cuisine, I cannot recommend this place highly enough.

PS And if you are on the lookout for some of Singapore's best Penang-style hawker food, check out the Princess Terrace buffet on the ground floor of this hotel.

Edited by Julian Teoh (log)
Julian's Eating - Tales of Food and Drink
Link to post
Share on other sites

Hua Ting, Orchard Hotel, 442 Orchard Road, Singapore

OK, I'm going to take a deep breath before posting about my recent Sunday lunch here. I will hedge it with the following observations: our party of four was on the waiting list for the waiting list, such is the popularity of Hua Ting, often proclaimed as the finest restaurant, Chinese or otherwise, in Singapore. I was hungry and narky, though that may have been due to the fact that I had to wait for 45 minutes after the time the phone wench told us to arrive, before we could finally be seated.

In the midst of our interminable wait, my dear wife walked up to the front desk and asked if she could have a table for four. The receptionist went to check, and came back and told her she could, if she would please follow this waitress. My wife said "OK, I'm with these people here." And the receptionist suddenly lost her smile and said "Oh," before turning away and impliedly retracting her previous offer. The moral of this story is quite simply this: if you are a white person in Singapore , the locals will bend over backwards to please you. If you are Chinese, or worse still, an Indian, you may as well prepare to get taken from behind (figuratively, as a literal rendition of this will land you in jail) as they stretch out your waiting times to see what greedy Singapolians you really are.

My rant is over. On with the rest of the post.

Chef Chan Kwok is the golden child of the Millenium Copthorne Group of hotels, and Hua Ting is his pride and joy. He has twice been declared the Asian Ethnic (oh the irony) Chef of the Year at the World Gourmet Summit, the annual back-slapping knees-up that recognises the efforts of the men and women in white in transforming the Republic into a dining hub. There's that word again, hub...

So we were seated at 2.30, having placed our orders whilst we were in the queue. The food arrived immediately, as they were clearly trying to get us out in time for chefs' smokos. I was unsure of the wisdom of starting a meal with (complimentary) honey-glazed deep fried pretzels and now realise there is none.

Some food here is excellent - double-boiled lotus root soup, and mango and chicken puffs. We ordered something like perch in egg white, presuming it was going to be like a puffy chiffon-y thing. They asked if we would like it to be divided into individual serves, so we said yes. Mine arrived as a souffle-like blob of egg whites with literally two 0.5cm cubes of fish. I ate away, before the taste of the dairy-mixed egg almost caused me to... Before long, one of my party was heard to say "Where's the egg in mine?" Well, bugger me, because I was looking for some fish.

A simple stir-fried dish of asparagus was good, but nowhere near the revelation of freshness as the veg at Tien Court. Deep-fried beans with deep-fried enoki mushrooms were good, but descended into an oily mush after a few minutes.

Service was abysmal. When we asked for rice, the waiter exclaimed with big eyes "What, you want your rice now?" This was when the fish came out with the beans and a dish of really good roast pork. I said "Um, yes." He said OK. No rice came out. We repeated our request to a different waiter, which was greeted with the same incredulity. Apparently, Chef Chan's dishes are too delicate and sophisticated to be enjoyed with rice. The final insult was then the rice came stone cold.

This was one of the least enjoyable meals I've had since arriving in Singapore. Ok, I'll accept the blame for being a rube and willing to wait in line, but one of our party was leaving the country the next day and we had to give her a treat before she left. And maybe the reverse racism of the early encounter gave me a sour taste, but then again, why shouldn't it?

Some of the dishes were good without being superlative, and service was absolutely appalling. If you cannot divide a dish up properly, I suggest you serve the platter and let us help ourselves, the way Chinese food is traditionally enjoyed. And if you can't bring us rice to enjoy with our main courses, you are obviously in the wrong line of work.

Even if I was being completely objective, the food here did not measure up in any way to any of my meals at Tien Court. Skip the queues and head there instead. For a country that lives off so much culinary hype, this experience might have some educational value in relation to treasuring substance over style.

Edited by Julian Teoh (log)
Julian's Eating - Tales of Food and Drink
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 1 month later...

Gunther's, 36 Purvis Street, Singapore (near City Hall MRT) www.gunthers.com.sg

A better writer once said that when a chef opens a restaurant that bears his name, not only has he arrived at his destination in terms of his professional status and aspirations, but also in the minds of his customers.

I find it funny to be saying this of Gunther Hubrechsen, whom I last wrote about in this thread over a year ago. During his lengthy and eventful tenure with the Les Amis Group, he had to endure the humiliation of closing two restaurants (Amuse Bouche and The Lighthouse, which is currently prospering under the stewardship of Emmanuel Stroobant) before settling in at the flagship Les Amis. Even the early years of his stay there were marred by harsh criticism of his Passard-esque cooking style.

I have always been an unabashed admirer of his cooking, which was subtle and emphasised the teasing-out of the essence of his ingredients, more often than not with slow-cooking. He was fond of saying that the simplicity and lack of adornment in his style made it harder to disguise any mistakes. Singaporeans did not take to this simplicity-first policy, believing his food lacked impact and flavour. For palates raised on the spicy sandblastings of Singapore laksa and the assertive flavours of other hawker fare (this is not meant as a criticism of Singaporeans, but merely an observation), this was perhaps unsurprising.

As I recounted before, the ship has steadied in recent years and at the peak of his powers, Hubrechsen has left the Les Amis Group to set up this, his eponymous restaurant, as a joint venture with the Garibaldi Group (which owns the Italian fine diner Garibaldi next door, and a couple of Italian delis and caffes, Menotti and Ricciotti - the latter serves divine pastries and coffees as bad as the pastries are good).

It does not take much to realise that Hubrechsen has settled into his groove with this first independent venture. The carefully measured cooking remains - sweet yet meaty Norwegian scallop with egg confit is signature Hubrechsen. He has also taken many of his recipes with him, such as the langoustine carpaccio with oscietre caviar, which I did not sample, and roast sucking pig with confit leeks and Bellevue Kriek sauce. The crackling on the last was as good as any you would ever see in a top Cantonese restaurant.

Lobster pasta was as much a sop to the expensive tastes of his clientele, and salt-crusted sea bass was excellent with a side serve of nutty pilaf rice perfectly complementing the fish's slight savouriness. His souffles are a treat, as usual.

A couple of remarks on the side - service here lets the team down, as is rather commonplace in Singapore. The waiters, with the usual exception of the token white guy on the floor (or maitre'd, if you wish) are uniformly mumbly, not very knowledgeable and robotically uncharismatic. One of the mumblers also tried selling me a magnum of Bordeaux at $700+ on the first go when I asked him for a light red, which was the best way to make a bad impression.

Which leads me to the wine list. There is literally nothing here beneath $130, unless you are looking at half bottles, and the wines by the glass are similarly expensive. At $130, you will find a 2005 Chateauneuf du Pape, which my waiter actively tried to dissuade me from ordering as it was too young to be enjoyed.

The flip side to this is that the food from the old Les Amis has been successfully transplanted at a significantly lower price. A tasting menu here costs $125++, as opposed to $185++. Dishes that I recognised from Les Amis may cost anywhere from 15% to 30% less. What Les Amis makes in food, perhaps Gunther's seeks to recoup in wine markups.

When Hubrechsen walked around the corner out of his kitchen and saw me, a flicker of recognition crossed his visage, though I doubt he could put a name to the face (I was dining with a group of my wife's work colleagues, and the booking was not under my name). He looked pretty worn out, wearing an uneven 7-day ginger stubble. It has been lunch and dinner 7 days a week since he opened, he told me. The place was packed out, buzzing and lively, testament to the following he has built up. He always struck me as a quiet and shy person, and at the best of times, I found it rather difficult to talk to him. Now, although clearly tired with the effort of opening a new restaurant, he seemed very happy, and spoke with a newfound sense of pride and confidence.

After the very rough start to his Asian odyssey, I can only say that Hubrechsen wholly deserves the good things that will come to him. Gunther's is a very welcome addition to the Singapore scene.

Edited by Julian Teoh (log)
Julian's Eating - Tales of Food and Drink
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 3 months later...

Indulgence, 14 Jalan Raja Di-Hilir, Ipoh Perak 30350

This is supposed to be Ipoh's most exclusive restaurant. Julie Song, the owner, purchased an old colonial mansion and converted it into a restaurant with a boutique hotel attached (from RM500 a night!). From afar, this is perhaps as close to a rural Michelin-starred restaurant as you will get in Ipoh.

How wrong my impression proved to be. For a start, this post does not belong in this thread because it is most certainly NOT fine dining. Staff are dressed in very casual shirts, the chairs and tables scream "CAFE!" at you, and the service is incompetent and uncaring. To wit, ordered cakes do not arrive for almost 23 minutes (these are shelf display cakes!) and staff are clearly overstretched.

The crowd is as much large family groups as grown-ups. Someone wrote on a blog that you will see as many gweilos in Indulgence as you will see anywhere else in Ipoh. They may be right - this is the only restaurant in Ipoh with a gweilo chef.

I came in only for a dessert, particularly their signature tiramisu. Disaster - if there is any mascarpone or alcohol here, I didn't taste it. It's topped with crumbly cheap-arse chocolate nibbles and has as much textural interest as a soggy pile of cardboard. Appalling value at RM9 a slice. A fruit-like cake my friends share is thrice as sweet and just as ordinary.

This is the kind of place that charges KL prices, but I am afraid that it just doesn't quite hack it, even at a much lower price point. As an Ipoh boy, I really hate to say this - the Emperor really has no clothes. Go to Citrus instead.

Julian's Eating - Tales of Food and Drink
Link to post
Share on other sites
Indulgence, 14 Jalan Raja Di-Hilir, Ipoh Perak 30350

I came in only for a dessert, particularly their signature tiramisu.  Disaster - if there is any mascarpone or alcohol here, I didn't taste it.  It's topped with crumbly cheap-arse chocolate nibbles and has as much textural interest as a soggy pile of cardboard.  Appalling value at RM9 a slice.  A fruit-like cake my friends share is thrice as sweet and just as ordinary.

My better half, Yoonhi, considers tiramisu as one of the standard tests of a kitchen. It sounds like this place doesn't make the grade.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 1 month later...

Nicolas le Restaurant; 35 Keong Saik Road, Singapore 089142

Peter Green had recommended the restaurant "Le Vendome" elsewhere on eGullet, and I was hoping to check it out on my coming trip to Bangkok. Then I read that Nicolas Joanny, the chef at Le Vendome, had moved back to Singapore and had opened "Nicolas le Restaurant."

He proposes two tasting menus only at dinner time, a standard menu (six courses plus tea / coffee, with a choice of main course) at $95 and a "Surprise Menu" (eight courses plus tea / coffee, with significant variation from the standard) at $125. There is no a la carte option, so eaters of rabbit food or little food should prepare to put up.

The food is really very good, and Nicolas has a light hand, very respectful of the produce he works with. Out of the six dishes on the standard tasting menu, I would rate four of them as excellent. These were the asparagus with 36-month old prosciutto di Parma and aged balsamic dressing, fried whiting with clam (amazingly fresh, sweet and clean-tasting), the lamb main course (again, a great piece of meat, perfectly cooked and well-seasoned) and dessert, a simple poached pear with chocolate sorbet. I think it may be safe to say that Nicolas' strengths do not lie so much in sweets, but working within those constraints, he is still capable of producing a very welcome finish to a meal.

The two that did not wow me were a langoustine tartare (in Nicolas' defence, I am not really one for tartare of anything) and seared foie gras, which I found to be under- or unsalted. This threw out the balance with a rather sweet tomato marmalade.

A warning for the wise: Nicolas is not a "really big night out" kind of place. This is obviously no reflection on the food, but the fact that the room and accoutrements are quite stock standard. The former is really a white box that seats 40, with the lighting turned on a little too high, and a mix of paintings which do not create much of an impression. Service is also not the most knowledgeable, they know about what's coming out of the kitchen, but not too much else - for example, only one of the three staff working the floor knew about the contents of the tempting cheese trolley near the entrance ($22 supplement). The wine list is also not the broadest in town, with quite a few entries also no longer available.

I strongly get the impression that Nicolas is striking out on his own, without any wealthy backers, and I suspect the bulk of my criticisms in the paragraph above are due simply to this fact. But what this means is that one can eat great modern French cuisine comparable in quality to the offerings at more swish and pricey places. On the night I went, the Surprise Menu included a large oyster with wakame, confit of salmon and a prawn pastilla with prawn bisque, so there's certainly enough incentive to come back and sample more of his cooking.

Joanny worked in Singapore sometime back to general acclaim, and whilst I never tasted his food then, I'm glad he's back. And I will be back as well, hopefully sooner rather than later.

Julian's Eating - Tales of Food and Drink
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...