Friday, June 25, 2010

Cafe De St Malo

There's a backload of Europe restaurant reviews, and certainly I'm not going to blog about all, because, in truth some of them I've really forgetten what they taste like, and when that happens it probably means the food's just average, and well perhaps it doesn't make much sense for me to blog about something just average.
I mean, if that's the case I could tell you about my KFC that night after a night out in London's Notting hill (opposite the notting hill arts club), but that wouldn't do it justice. the chicken was really nice, by the way.

Here's Cafe de St Malo, located in, st malo, no prizes for guessing, at the entrance of the Walled City (Intra muros) of St Malo. St Malo's a touristy town in Brittany, in the Northwest of France, where all the oysters are caught. The oysters here were selling for about 4 euros for a dozen, so you can imagine how awesome that must have been. So here's seafood city, and of course, Cafe De St Malo offers seafood, seafood, and more seafood. They had different varieties of their Plateau de Fruits de mer, which is really, seafood platter in French, but the French love their courses, and so often for lunch the "set menu" consisting of a starter, main, and dessert is usually offered, and it's called le "menu". This is, as opposed to Germany, or Austria, where such a concept is quite alien to them - they just have one course which is really so filling that you can't really have much else. But back to the menu, usually you can't choose that many things for the menu (in other Parisian restaurants), but for this one you can, i mean, they offered us quite alot of choices. So here goes.

Well, being in seafood town means eating seafood; so my friends had a famous seafood dish, "Soup de Poissons", which is basically fish soup, but it's done in such a way that all the goodness of the fish is extracted out into the soup to form a really flavourful, fish-based soup with all the nice seafood flavours. Recipes can be found online - apparently it's a Provencial soup (from Provence, south of France), and it's very similar to bouillabaisse, with saffron, white wine, etc, and it's served with croutons and gruyere cheese. Well, this one was served similarly, and it was pretty good! Very very good. I had a sip of my friend's soup and regretted not ordering it as I was sick that day and hot soup would have done much good. It was very flavourful, probably the best soup de poissons we ate. (yes we ate at two other places the same soup, which weren't as good).

For my starter though I chose the assorted seafood platter, which came with bulots (snails), which were, okay, ugh, much like eating chut chut, very nice, sweet prawns, Cancale oysters, which were pretty alright if a bit salty, and they had a special oyster which was a supplement of 1 euro, which tasted pretty much better than the ordinary oysters in that it had a more complex taste, and a longer finish. And of course, langostines - which is something very wonderful to eat because the meat's very sweet, sweeter than a prawn, and it's much easier to eat due to its thin skin. There were crab legs too, which had roe. yums. (8/10)

For my main, I ordered assorted fish on "cabbage", which turned out to be Sauerkraut. The fish was fine, salmon, haddock, and all, but I didn't care much for their version of sauerkraut, which should have been named sour-krat, it was that sour. too much vinegar! But the fish was fresh, I guess.... (6.5/10)

Dessert was Creme Brulee, which was pretty good, actually. a decent rendition. (7/10)

Pretty decent meal at Cafe de st malo!

Cafe De St Malo
St Malo (at the entrance)

Monday, June 21, 2010

Steirereck, Vienna, Austria

Steirereck is, frankly, the best dining experience I have had, in my life. It may not have such a famous name as Joel Robuchon, or Pierre Gagnaire, but to anyone in the culinary world who knows his stuff, Steirereck is definitely up there with the best. It was rated the 21th best restaurant in the world by San Pellegrino for 2010, and upon seeing the list I knew I had to try the delicious food. So I emailed the manager, and thank God we managed to get a reservation, on the 9th of June, for lunch.

The hardest part of the journey was, frankly, to find the restaurant; located in the Stadtpark, just outside the Ringstrasse, we scoured the whole of the Park before finding it behind the kindergarten's corner, after asking many a local. So here we were! The wait staff promptly ushered us to our table, on the verandah overlooking the gardens.

Instead of having the menu thrusted at us, they offered either still or sparkling - I guess we couldn't ask for "tap", since we were in a really atas restaurant - so we said still. Fine. More on this later. We were then served some crackers which were quite nice.

And then the amuse bouche came, which was brilliant - four little lovely nibbles - the first was an interesting cheese, the second, apparently some ox's tongue or something, the third was something carroty, and the fourth was something tart - sorry for the hazy descriptions, I'll just let the photos do the talking. What impressed me was the how the flavours worked together, which was quite impressive.

Everyone's looking happy - yeah they have reason to be!

The first course was called "Sturgeon with seaweed, avocado, preserved tomatoes and buddha's hand lemon"; the sturgeon is pan-fried, then confited, served with avocado creme and crunchy tempura balls. The tempura balls added delicious crunch on the top of the fish, which was fresh, delicate, and with a firm texture. the avocado creme also lent itself well into creating some excitement into the fish, without overpowering its delicate flavours. On the other side was "tomatoes preserved with riesling vinegar and olive oil" and this was quite exciting - the tomatoes were oh so delicious, sweet, and zingy at the same time, while it was a delight biting into the candied buddha's hand lemon peel. Great starter (8.5/10)

The next course was confited pike with walnut, kohlrabi, rhubarb and sorrel. In this course, the Pike was confited in walnut butter, and the chef left some walnut butter on to flavour the fish, which added some earthly notes to a delicate fish. It was very subtle, nonetheless, not to detract from the clean-tasting fish which was quite delicious. There was also preserved rhubarb with "kohlrabi pomace, liquorice" which added some sweetness to the dish. Quite good, if not as good as the first course. (8/10). Yes, I ate two fish dishes. But well, that's me!

The main course was a "Lightly smoked and pan-fried veal's liver with liquorice, grapes and radish". The veal's liver was cold smoked and then pan-fried, and served with veal jus, with verjus, liquorice, shallots and citron. The sauce was tart enough to cut through the richness of the meat, and quite sweet. But there was something - I didn't really enjoy veal's liver - I thought it would be something like chicken or duck liver, but it was more akin to pig's liver, in that while there was the flavour there, I didn't really like the texture. Still it's my fault for ordering something unknown. The jus was quite nice though. This was served with a roasted potato and white radish "croissant" with roasted hazelnuts, chervil, parsley and tarragon. It was pretty interesting biting into the roasted potato and finding the herbs inside - nice presentation. Oh well, I had expected my main course to wow, but it didn't. Still, no worries. (7.5/10).

Because the other two courses were just just brilliant. Just brilliant. Amazing. Stupendous. Magnificient. El bravo! The first of these great courses was a Cheese Platter - Usually in lesser restaurants they'd already selected the cheeses for you, but not for Steirereck, for here the waiter pushed an entire trolley of cheeses (according to an Internet source, there's about 150 varieties) all from its cellar, for me to choose. How to choose from such a selection?
So i told the waiter that I liked strong cheese - and so he recommended 5 cheeses for me - and boy, each of them were just, unfailingly great. The mildest one - top right, was pretty interesting, quite mild and delicate; the next one was the goat's cheese (top, orange), which was a bit stronger, with a nice lovely aftertaste. But the best three for me were the ones in front (in the picture); the one to the left was rich, creamy, tart, fresh, and full of intense flavour, salty, all at once.

The one in the middle was even better, this time even more powerfully rich and strong, pungent, and with a taste not unlike durians. It was just delicious, delicious, wish i could have some more. But the piece de resistance was the Blue cheese - I can't remember the name, i think it was Bleu de Casses or something - but this one was just like entering gourmet heaven. One bite of this, and suddenly, all the flavours rush out into your mouth, filling your cavity with intense heightened flavours which are too complex and magical to be described in mere words, but if I were to use words, it was rich, intense, salty, warm, overflowing, etc. A rush, I'd call it. Lovely lovely. The blue cheese deserves a (10/10); the whole cheese platter, (9.5/10)

And the last course, the dessert, was just as good. The dessert was described as 'Warm Trinatario" chocolate with pineapple-pericon sorbet and coconut macaroons. It consisted of a creamy shortcrust tart with chocolate, egg yolk, heavy cream, vanilla and rum, and garnished with coconut macaroons, and a pineapple pericon sorbet and salad. And I have to say, hands down, this is the BEST CHOCOLATE i have ever ever tasted. BY FAR. The combination of flavours was just perfect.

The chocolate was very intense and chocolatey, very smooth, while not being too bitter, too sweet - it was seriously the perfect combination of bitter and sweet. So so deliciously awesome. All my friends also agreed with me how awesomely delicious it is - it thrashes Laurent Bernard's by a mile (okay sorry - but you're the best in singapore). And the great thing was how generous they were - they gave us 3 large portions of chocolate, so I was a happy boy. Very very good. (9.75/10) i didn't really care much for the pineapple salad, but those were fine too, in contrast.

The meal came up to an exorbitant 80 euros per head, but it was well worth the money. Of note was the money we paid for the water (52 euros in all), because they kept refilling our water - but I guess one needs water to balance out the diet!

The service, as well, was impeccable, quite perfect service. The waiters and waitresses were all very well trained, always smiling, and very professional, always able to give you recommendations about what to eat, and always jolly, never intrusive; especially the waiter in charge of the bread basket, was very knowledgeable and humourous in making a joke about how he'd had to eat all the bread if you guys don't order it! Such service makes the dining experience such a pleasure.

Well, i'd highly highly recommend Steirereck if you go to Vienna, because this is a dining experience never to be missed, or forgotten. Very very good.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

L'Atelier De Joel Robuchon (London)

I'm back from my 1 month whirlwind tour of Europe, so be prepared for some heavy updating!

The first on the list is the splendid L'Atelier De Joel Robuchon in London, which was seriously very very good, well worth its 1 michelin star. Awesome. Let's start from the beginning - Joel Robuchon is located near the Seven Dials in Covent Garden, and is an offshoot of the Joel Robuchon range of restaurants (which has come to Singapore, I have heard). Anyway, it's located in a pretty lonely alley - but when we went in, we were greeted with splendid service, giving us space in the cloakroom, allowing us to sit in the comfy sofa areas while waiting for another friend to arrive. The decor, I must add, is pretty neat - Black with dark red gives a modern zen-like setting which is both minimalist and posh at the same time. There are no real tables and chairs, just modernist blocks. Being a party of six, we sat three-three in an L shape around the bar, which made for good watching, and besides we could talk to the chef as well.

The bread came in a fancy shaped dish and was quite excellent.

The first course I had was Pea Soup with Mint, and this was a revelation, much better than I had expected. There was such an intense pea flavour, of sweet vegetables coming through, a complex and rounded taste, and a long finish. It was served with bits of cheese (I'm not sure what) surrounding croutons floating on the Soup which combined beautifully. Also there was some mint which complemented perfectly. All in all, quite brilliant. (8.5/10)

The main course I had was a White fish (I can't remember the name now), with the skin lightly charred, served with leeks and white asparagus, tomatoes, onions, and olives. The fish was superbly clean-tasting - delicious! And the vegetables were superb garnishes to the delicate flavours of the fish. (8/10)

We struck up good conversation with the chefs, talking about the food, their lives, where they're from, everything - and they realised we were going to Paris, and they were really quite excited, saying that oh the food is great, etc etc etc. One of them was even from brittany, so mere mention that we were going there as well made him very excited.

The chefs gave us some of their special Mashed Potatoes to try (the famous Joel Robuchon mashed potatoes) and this was really quite awesome. The potatoes and butter combined together to create such splendid oomph in your mouth - light, buttery, and full of potatoey goodness. So good I just needed some more. The chef shared that it's done by combining half potatoes and half butter, but the butter must first be melted, and then whisked in to create a foamy texture. Oooh i'm dying to try it. (9.5/10)

A view of the neat kitchen

The dessert I had was a selection of cheeses, which were all pretty good. Nothing spectacular though (7.5/10)
(Okay maybe this is from hindsight since I did have the cheese platter from Steirereck - it was still good though!)

Overall a fantastic dining experience, at only 27 quid. Very highly recommended!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Report from Vienna

Just had one of the most amazing lunches in my short life, at Steirereck in Vienna. Rated 21 in the world by San Pellegrino, this was nothing short of an experience in food gastronomy and art, elevating cuisine to an art form in all senses of the word. Impeccable service as well. Full review once im back with the photos!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Dinard, Berlin

Had amazing oysters in Dinard, and the great thing about it was how cheap it was - think about it, 3 euros for a dozen! the best were the ones from st jacut, which were so so sweet and yet fresh, tasting of the sea. those from cancale were nice too, if a bit too salty.

Im in berlin now, and i've tried Curry36 which is really overrated! or maybe currywurst just doesn't taste special, more like putting mcdonalds nuggets with curry sauce. you get the idea. but we also tried Hasir's, which impressed me with their meat dishes, especially lamb.

more to come! full reviews coming.