Thursday, 2 April 2009

Binge – Recent Discoveries

Most of us become creatures of habit because we not only like the familiar, we also know what to expect at our usual haunts. The most annoying thing is to head to a new restaurant with great expectations following their marketing hype, only to be disappointed. And still have to pay for the disappointment! How many of us have nursed the sores of a wasted evening, especially when free evenings - without the usual routine of homework with the kids and cooking dinner - come by only occasionally?

That said, the bulk of the good restaurants here – or anywhere else for that matter – range from decent to pretty good. Spectacular finds are hard to come by – I can count on one hand the number of truly spectacular meals in all my years of ‘professional eating’ both here and abroad.

But I’ve recently discovered (or re-discovered) three nice restaurants right here at home which may not fall under ‘spectacular’ but certainly hits the higher end of ’pretty darn good’ in my books. So here goes.

Pontini at the Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel. I suspect it’s a ‘forgotten’ restaurant, not quite smack in the middle of most of our radar screens,...and in fact it had fallen off for me over the last year or so because of its ‘hit-and-miss’ cooking (read between the lines, darling…I’m not naming names here but…) until they recently acquired a new chef.

Quite a curiosity I must say – what’s a German doing cooking Italian? What were we in for? Sauerkraut with mozzarella?....But no, I was proven wrong! Must flagellate myself for such unholy narrow-mindedness!

Chef Frank Kilian’s food was most interesting and enjoyable indeed – traditional in many ways but with some refreshingly restrained elements of molecular or avant garde, whichever you want to call it. You have the airs and foams, tomato waters and agar agar, but it’s not over-the-top annoying…just little accents, not the main act. The outcome? Modern food with intriguing bits and pieces that still remains honest and genuine. (Call me Auntie, but I can’t fathom food from labs.) Scallop tartare with mascarpone cheese, oscietre caviar and essence of tomato, Cod fillet with parma ham, red endive, lentils and garlic air, beef tenderloin with enoki mushroom, green asparagus and black truffle jus were some of the dishes tasted - light yet filling, and very elegant.
I’d say it’s definitely worth going. Aside from a la carte dishes, there’s currently a four-course introductory menu at $68++. And if I may add, service there is consistently friendly and attentive as well. On the 'to go' list? Check!

392 Havelock Road
Tel: 65-6233 1133

Jade at The Fullerton Hotel. I raved about its seven-course duck menu ($58++) when we first started this blogazine. I like its fine dining environment, the tinkling china flatware, the pampering service, elegant, creative food, and excellent value – the entire meal easily costs the same as one high-end main course in superluxe places like Les Amis.

So what’s happening here again? Five more ‘themed menus’ rolled out after the success of the duck menu starting from $48++ to $68++, available for lunch and dinner. The five menus are: Oriental Wellness focusing on Chinese herbs and spices; Fruits of the Harvest themed around fruits; Aromatic Delights, an olfactory menu using lots of fragrant ingredients; Symphony of Spices highlighting chillies and other fiery flavours, and the self explanatory Mushroom Medley.

I tried the latter just two days ago – the beef brisket with enoki, black fungus with vinaigrette as part of the appetizer was most enjoyable, but what stood out was the main course of lamb in bean crumbs and pumpkin ginger rice, and the dessert – a most unusual mushroom ice cream with green tea tofu. Sounds weird, but trust me it was a dessert to remember. I plan to try the rest of the menus leisurely. Next on my 'Food to do" list: the Aromatic Delights menu. (I’d pop in the entire menus for you to see, but it’s a bit too much. But email the restaurant at - I'm sure they'll be happy to send it over.)

By the way, I’m pleased as pie to report that they have taken off the ridiculous pricing of $7 per person for Chinese tea...which makes for plenty expensive hot water! The $28++ dim sum is still ongoing, too, but be prepared for some changes to the menu…They’re booked up until May for the weekends, I am told.

1 Fullerton Square
Tel: 65-6877 8188

The French Kitchen reminds me so much of St Pierre when it first opened. Attentive, sincere service, excellent food and super-smart pricing all merge into a superlative experience for customers. Mind you, this comes not from an orchestrated tasting, but just an ordinary evening when we pottered there on our own for dins.

The chef himself, Jean Charles Dubois, scampered out like a friendly puppy to say hello, and truly that made a big difference for me, as well as for others who had eaten there and said the same thing. (In fact, he and the manager personally saw every guest out like they were best friends…which was a really charming touch. Talk about clever PR!) Through the meal, the manager stopped by to ask if things were okay, offered to advise on wine matches, always friendly – not condescending like some can be – but never imposing.

And the food? Really, really…err…really good. We had the kurobuta pork cheek and duck liver terrine ($28) and Burgundy snails ($24) for starters, roasted venison saddle with cherry, cauliflower smoothie, gratin dauphinois and civet sauce ($38) and pan seared sea bream with warm celeriac remoulade, lemon confit and creamy caper sauce ($35) for mains, all from the Winter Menu, and dessert was a traditional warm chocolate fondant with caramelised banana ice cream ($16). The meats were all tender, moist and luscious, the vegetables were full flavoured and the textures always hit a perfect balance. The wines were well priced too – which is why I say, the pricing is very clever. Not cheap, but very good value for what you are getting. Closed on Mondays, dinner-only on Saturday and no corkage on Sundays. It’s currently one of my favourites. GO.

7 Magazine Road
#01-03 Central Mall
Tel: 65-6438 1823


Anonymous said...

Yes, love the French Kitchen too. Incredibly good food, thoughtfully cooked, very good service, decent prices, in a casual setting.

Like your review too

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