Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Restaurant Ember Revisited

As you may already know, chef Sebastian Ng from Restaurant Ember has decided to call it a day, after 12 long years at the helm of this popular restaurant at Hotel 1929 located at Keong Saik Road. Hence, it was opportune that I revisit the restaurant before the head chef leaves, just to again have the chance to sample his wonderful dishes that have been perfected over the many years of experience.

To start off, my dining companion and I had an E Guigal Gigondas 2010 - which had a nose of black pepper and spice, and tasting of wood spice, a hint of liqourice, and dark fruits with a slight rustic funk and a savoury flavour. Very enjoyable and another good bottle from E Guigal, one of the kings of the Northern Rhone. (7.5/10)

I went for the 4-course set dinner where I was allowed to choose 2 starters, 1 main and 1 dessert from the ala carte menu. 

First up - I had the angel hair pasta with sakura ebi and lobster oil, and boy was this delicious and perfectly executed, the oil coating the pasta perfectly and providing great umami flavours with a slight chilli spice, and the sakura ebi being flavourful and salted just right. (8.25/10)

For the second dish, my dining companion had the Foie Gras with Poached Egg, Truffle Salt and Parma Ham Chips, which is one of my favourite things on the menu. I decided to try something different and ordered the Foie Gras with Mirin and Shoyu with Shitake, and this was no less delicious: the foie gras was melt-in-your-mouth tender with good sear, and flavourful, combining well with the mirin and shoyu glaze which was pure savoury and umami heaven, no sweetness required but the slightest touch of the mirin perhaps. The combination worked wonders especially with the shitake. (8.75/10)

For the mains, you can't go wrong with Sebastian's Chilean seabass with yuzu butter sauce and mushroom ragout - which is one of Ember's signature dishes and we ordered it for posterity's sake. Again perfectly done: flaky, meaty seabass soaking up the yuzu butter sauce and I only wished that there were more of the sauce. But I guess the highlight must have been the foie gras and after that - the seabass seemed a little more muted in comparison. Still an excellent dish, and well worth a (8.5/10).

For desserts, I had a warm banana tart - which wasn't too sweet, just the way I like it. Good but nothing to shout about. (7/10)

The night I went, I spied Hotel 1929 owner Loh Lik Peng and wife Min at a corner table - I guess they must also enjoy Chef Sebastian's cooking loads.

Anyway, Ember has been a restaurant that serves dependable classics; it may not be the most innovative and certainly I think he may want to think of reinventing some new dishes, but these classics are extremely well conceptualised and done very well. Cheers.

Friday, April 4, 2014

AOKI by Les Amis

I have heard many wonderful things about the Maze-Chirashi from AOKI, but was never fortunate enough to come for lunch to give their chirashi a try since AOKI is located in Orchard Road and I am working in Tanjong Pagar.

So when the opportunity presented itself, I decided to make a booking at AOKI to try their mazechirashi - i.e. chopped sashimi on rice.

It was rather hard to find the place at first, and my dining companion and I kept on literally trying to find the entrance to the restaurant. In the end, we entered through a non-descript door, which led us into a very pleasant restaurant, with a huge sushi counter, and some private rooms. 

We had already pre-ordered the Mazechirashi (which we had to a day before), and so that came with some appetizers - namely a light mesculin salad with a very light sesame dressing. Delicious and light; with some chopped garlic bits and dried radish.

But of course, we were not here for the appetizers, delicious as they may be. 

Rather, what was the piece de resistance was the Mazechirashi bowl, each piece of fish was prepared to perfection really. The toro was simply heavenly irresistible morsels of sublime goodness - pieces of raw fish heaven which just bursts in your mouth with some floral flavours and a great depth and complexity, and a slight sweetness that marks this as top quality toro. The salmon roe was excellent! I didn't know salmon roe could be this sweet - it was really perfumed. The tuna had a robust "iron-like" taste that comes from the iron in the tuna; the mackerel was intense without any fishy flavours, and yet somewhat "sweet"; and the uni was also sublime - creamy, sweet, tasty, yummy, and intense - especially when combined with the rice and the salmon roe. Special shoutout goes to the tamago as well which was done perfectly, almost custard-like in texture.

I would say that AOKI serves the best chirashi in Singapore, but at SGD40 per bowl not as cheap as Teppei but is still superb value for money considering the quality and quantity of fish that was provided. Yums. 

Rating for the Mazechirashi: (9.5/10)

The dessert was some yummy bread pudding like custard, with mango ice cream. Certainly quite delicious as well, bringing everything together on a sweet note (no pun intended).

Great and I'll definitely be back, whenever I have time for a long lunch. Cheers!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

63 Celsius, Asia Square

Since I work near the area (Shenton Way), I often frequent 63 Celsius for my daily coffee dose - they use beans from the top roasters in Singapore, including without limitation Nylon Coffee Roasters, Smitten Coffee, Strangers' Reunion, and behind the machine is coffee veteran Tony Tan who is renowned in the industry. Thus, the coffees here are always consistent and tasty. Today, however, was one of the rare occasions when I decided to have lunch here to try out their new offerings. Their chef used to work at a famous Barcelona restaurant Montiel (yes I visited it when I was in Barcelona) and obviously has some good street cred and chops.

My friend and I ordered a Josper grill pork ribs (it came with a half pint of Asahi under the Citibank promotion) which was amazingly tender and fall-off-the-bone, with a good porky flavour and simply succulent, although I would have preferred it to be more charred. Still good: 7.5/10

The star of the show was undoubtedly the Burrata Burger ("Hand crushed, Josper charcoal grilled 120 grams USDA beef topped with truffled burrata, fresh tomato, asparagus ketchup on brioche bun. Served with seasoned fries"). This was awesome and as good as a burger you'll find in Singapore. It had everything: the beef had a great beefy flavour, very robust and flavourful, and this was contrasted with the burrata which was slightly tangy and sour and creamy, paired up with the tomatoes - the burrata and the beef complimented each other perfectly and in fact each element seemed to bring out the best in the other elements - the combination of slightly sour and tangy burrata with the beefy patty was a joy to eat. (8.75/10)

I would certainly come back for the food here - can't wait to try the other tapas. Cheers.