Sunday, April 28, 2013

Wine and Cheese from Le Benaton

We popped by Omakase burger the other day, and a secondary school friend wanted to eat some cheese, so we swung over to Le Benaton, also located at Turf City. I've heard loads about this place, but never really had a chance to see what it's about. 

Turns out this place sells French wine and cheese, my sorta thing really. We picked a bottle of Burgundy, a Vosnee Romanee 2010, and some cheeses, to be consumed at my friend's place.

The wine wasn't anything special, really - a 2010 Vosnee Romanee that was far too young; lovely sweet aromas on the nose, but a bit too harsh and tannic on the mouth even though there were some fruit flavours. Needs far more aging. At this point - probably a rating would be undeserved.

I had alot of fun with the cheeses though. Many of my friends love Epoisses, and I haven't been able to find a place that sells Epoisses, but thankfully Le Benaton does sell Epoisses. So I bought a small round to try - and it was just sublime, sooo amazing. The king of cheeses - smelly, rotten, funky, savoury, tasty, deep, rich, full of umami, but never boring. (9.5/10). I could eat this all day. 

The other cheeses we had were really nice too - an aged Comte, which made me rekindle my love for Comte - and I realise how important aging is to the cheese. The 15 month aged Comte displayed lovely flavours which I couldn't get from the normal variety.

I guess I have to go back to Le Benaton soon!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Bacchanalia, Masonic Club Singapore

I was recommended by Adrian K of Jewel to check out this new place, Bacchanalia, which apparently boasts a really outstanding chef, Ivan Brehm - I checked up his credentials and they were really impressive - stints at Fat Duck and Per Se, among others. So it was with great anticipation that I trooped down to Bacchanalia on a Tuesday night to check out what the fuss was all about.

We were greeted with an impressive dining room that frankly felt that it belonged more to New York than Singapore - totally extravagant, luxurious, and with that classy aura. The pictures that I took - posted here - don't do it justice, you have to go there to actually experience the ambience. Beautiful beautiful lights.

The menu is divided into vegetables, seafood, meats, and desserts - and having 3 boys at the dinner table, most of the food we ordered came from the meat section - I think we ordered 4 meat dishes, and 1 vegetable and 1 seafood dish (seriously can't care for veggies that much). 

We helped ourselves to a bottle of Gevrey-Chambertin 2010 that had a delicious nose, but was far too tannic and young - which was a pity. 

The first course was actually really delicious - a prawn risotto. The sweet flavours of the prawn was expertly extracted into the stock to render the risotto a delicious mess. In fact, reading off the menu - there were strawberries and burrata as well - indeed there were some hints of other ingredients that lifted the taste in a subtle way. It was delicious, albeit just too little for all of us 5 hungry people! (8.25/10)

The second course we had was a delight as well - Cauliflower Gratin. This was deep fried cauliflower florets with white truffle and cheese foam and gremolata. Whatever gramolata is/was, I couldnt' care - the cauliflower florets were deep fried and went extremely well with the foam. Nice combination. (8/10)

Next up was the 15 hour Pork Belly - crispy pork belly, braised red cabbage, granny smith apple and giant capers. It was just lovely - the pork belly was so juicy and crisp, and what was really delicious was the vegetables coated in that fruity-sweetness from the apples. Capers were lovely as well. (8.25/10)

Duck Confit was perhaps a tad disappointing - spinach wrapped confit duck and cucumber, corn and cucumber dashi. To be honest, it tasted much like Peking Duck. But apparently the angmohs love it. Okay, let me put it another way - it's perhaps an 'elegant' Peking Duck. (7/10)

Foie Gras Satay was another interesting East-West combination - the menu states: sous-vide foie gras with lemongrass, tamarind fluid gel, grated chestnuts and peanut satay. Well, whatever it is, it was interesting; the tanginess of the lemongrass and tamarind cut through the richness of the foie gras very well - and I have to say the foie gras was expertly done, just the right amount of sear while having a good texture inside. (8.5/10)

Last savoury course was the Steak and Eggs - here, the eggs was created by Japanese yam; and the rib eye cap was just delicious - sooo flavourful and tender and beefy. No wonder everyone loves rib eye cap. (8.25/10)

Desserts came next - we had a cherry rice pudding which came with Morello Cherry Sorbet, almonds and cherries. This wasn't bad but I wasn't that impressed - seems a bit one-dimensional. (7/10)

The chocolate fondant, on the other hand, was very impressive. Very good quality chocolate, luscious and dark, paired with a granny smith sorbet. (8.25/10)

Overall, Bacchanalia makes for a great date venue. However, the portions are, unfortunately, small - for the price; it's probably in the same price range as Lolla (which is, unfortunately, more than what I can afford to it on a weekly basis). Still, the chef displays lots of creativity in the flavour pairings, constantly experimenting with new combinations instead of sticking to the tried and tested, which of course makes things fun. However, the menu is rather limited at the moment (4 of each category), and they may want to think of expanding their menu to attract return guests - since it wouldn't be long before we try all the dishes! Another thing is that the food took rather long to come - some bread at the start would have helped ease the hunger. I counted that the food came only 30 minutes after we ordered - which was a tad long.

Service was excellent and the decor sublime, it has to be said.

Worth a visit!

Masonic Club
Coleman Street

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Savour 2013 - A roundup

Sorry guys, for the lack of updates on my blog. Work has been busy, definitely. Anyway, here's my roundup of Savour 2013, probably Singapore's premier food festival. Held at the F1 pits from 12 - 14 April 2013, it was quite a spectacle, with internationally renowned chefs, many masterclasses, markets selling all kinds of food, and so on.

It was quite a last minute decision on my part, to attend the event - but well I managed to find some foodie friends and we headed down to Savour 2013 on Saturday night!

I was there early, so I headed to the Gourmet market which featured stalls from renowned local restaurants, such as Absinthe. They were selling oysters for S$10 for 3 pieces, so I figured that, I might as well have some while waiting for my friends. And these were really delicious - they were from Ireland, and they were sweet, fresh, and full of the taste of the sea - with a long lingering finish. I really enjoyed these, and at these prices, can't complain. (8/10) 

My friends soon arrived, and we made our way down to the Gourmet Village. The atmosphere was really nice, like a carnival - well, it was good, until it started raining, which meant that we had to put on our ponchos to avoid being soaked through. There was lightning too. And I was just thinking to myself - what was the wet weather plan? Evidently, there wasn't any save the ponchos.

First up, I tried Jalea de Pescado, which is a traditional fried fish with a sauce made with Peruvian spices; and paired with a dessert. This was from Astrid y Gaston, a restaurant in Peru. I was informed that a local fish was used, but all the spices were flown in from Peru. The sauce was made from an assortment of South American chillis, but tasted rather familiar - somewhat like a mix of local sambal and Thai tom yam. This was quite value for money - (7/10)

Next up, I went to Hibiscus's booth. Hibiscus is a well-renowned 2-star Michelin restaurant in London and many people have extolled its food. I tried one of the dishes - Foie Gras Ice Cream with sherry vinegar. This was really interesting - very rich and smooth foie gras inside the ice cream, and complemented by the tart sweetness of the sherry which adds some funky flavours. Good stuff, although I wish there was more 'liver' taste to it. (8/10)

We had so many dishes after that that I can't remember the actual order in which we ate them, but here's just a run-through:

Seared scallop and dill vichysoisse from the Tasting Room at Le Quartier Francais - basically one seared scallop with a dill dressing, and aerated bits of scallops. I really liked the dill vichysoisse, full of the flavour of the slightly grassy dill. It went well with the scallops, albeit that the scallops was, in my view, a tad overcooked such that it was not as soft as I would have liked. (7.25/10)

Red Quinoa Risotto, Fried Jerusalem Artichoke Skin and Parsley Sponge from Mirazur, a restaurant in France. This was interesting - the risotto had a good nutty texture, and the wild mushrooms were a delight to eat. I enjoyed the pureed artichoke as well which complemented the risotto very well. Overall a good dish - (7.75/10)

My friend was working in the kitchen of Mirazur, and hence he gave me a complementary Hibiscus soup with yoghurt sorbet - pretty good. The hibiscus soup was nicely tart (made of frozen strawberries, I heard), and the yoghurt suitably creamy and sweet. (7/10)

Next up, we visited local favourite Gunther's, and we ordered his famed angel-hair pasta with caviar, which is a dish which needs no introduction. The version here was as good as the one I had in the restaurant, perfumed with truffle oil, was just delicious - clean finish, with bits of texture from the chives and the caviar. Again excellent (8.5/10)

What really stood out to me was the gambas - that Gunther himself was preparing on a stove at the front of the stall. It was mighty pricey - S$18 for half a gambas, but it was insanely insanely good. Best dish of the night. The meat was very sweet and tasty, and the roe was just sublime, full of seafood flavours like a well-prepared bisque, full of umami and mixed with the delicious 'innards' of the gambas. Delicious. Best slurped up with a spoon, as Gunther instructed me to do, and I duly obliged. (9/10)

Next up, we ventured to Arbutus / Wild Honey, and we had their 1824 Cottage Pie with beef, with hot smoked potato. This was actually very tasty, despite its less than appetizing looks. There was a rich depth of flavour to it, reminscient of well-cooked beef stew, and a richness of it that wasn't cloying at all. Delicious, and slurp-worthy. (8.25/10)

We were on a beef home-run, and next up was another beef dish: Osia's Short Rib with balsamic burnt butter. This was an excellent rendition from a homegrown chef, Douglas Tay - the meat was tender and fell apart at the pulling of the fork; and exhibited a deep beefiness. The balsamic burnt butter was a masterstroke - the balsamic vinegar, slightly tart, yet with rich complexity, balanced perfectly with the burnt butter which gave it a smoky 'burnt' edge at the end - which complemented the beef very well. Well done. (8.5/10)

Pollen St Social's braised ox cheek, on the other hand, did not fare as well - there was a very generous portion, but I felt the meat lacked that intensity of flavour, even though it was certainly flavourful. But most of the flavour came from the sauce - when you ate the beef alone, it didn't really taste of much. Still, the texture was good - lovely 'gelatinious' bits. (7/10)

Overall, Savour 2013 was a good event, and it shows you that local restaurants such as Gunther and Osia can more than match up with the big boys from France, UK, and the like. Hopefully, for Savour 2014, we will be able to catch really top-ranking chefs display their stuff here. It would be lovely if we could get Thomas Keller, or Eric Ripert, or any of those owners of 3-star michelin restaurants, over to Savour 2014. 

See you guys!