Thursday, March 29, 2012

Fine Cuts, Central (Basement)

 I've passed by this place a few times and while we've been saving our stomaches for Savour this weekend we decided the crazy week at work warranted some decent food! Apparently they serve up really cheap set lunches (like $8!!!) and even on evenings they do ~$15 set meals which is really, very affordable. But let the food speak for itself!

 Arrived rather late around 8pm on a Thursday and it was about half full. It was the kind of no frills, order / eat / leave kind of diner but they do sell meats like raw shanks and steaks by the counter. We ordered two items from the 'Fine Cuts' selection where in if you order two items you get a pork chop free! Sounded like a great deal to two famished beasts and we never say no to free food.

{ Free Pork Chop! }
 Honestly we were pleasantly (for now) surprised when the pork chop came and it was a full portion meal in itself. I'm not sure why they expect any duo to be able to finish 3 main course portions, though we did (with beer) after taking a while, haha. Pork chop itself was surprisingly good, firm and tender and the black pepper sauce spicy and generous. Fries double-fried!
It was only when my own main course arrive (and soon,   's) did we realize all the dishes use the same black pepper sauce and were plated in the exact same way. =.= The sauce and fries were both good, don't get me wrong, but it could use a little creativity! ( or at least give options as to what kind of sauce you'd like lathered on your meat... er, yeah)

{ AUST. Flown-in Grass-Fed Striploin Steak ($20) }
180gm chilled beef steak, air-flown

 The steak was actually really good! Not that I can taste the different between grass or grain-fed steak, the steak was medium-rare perfectly tender and really great natural flavour in the meat. A no-frills, good cut of steak that was well-cooked and at just $20.

{ Mixed Grill Platter ($16) }
USA Porkloin, Snail sausage and Pork patties

 As you can see the same sauce features prominently here which kinda results in everything looking rather the same! But anyway on to the dish - I chose this on the basis of variety, since you get 3 different kinds of.. stuff. Everything here was okaaay, I mean nothing really stands out. The Porkloin tasted exactly like the free serving of porkchop which is no bad thing because it was good! I liked this dish, but maybe the pepper sauce and liberal applications of mustard helped!

 Same sauce and plating! I thought the sausage and patty both tasted a little queer but   liked it.

All in all, not bad for a decently priced meal!

Fine Cuts
6 Eu Tong Sen Street
The Central B1-44/45

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HGW Link (72% recommended at time of posting) :
Rating (out of 4) : 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Zambuca, Pan Pacific (Restaurant Week)

*** Restaurant is closed or soon to close! ***

 Our second restaurant for restaurant week, we decided to check out Zambuca at Pan Pacific Hotel. HGW reviews were rather favourable but honestly it was because we couldn't get a spot at other places we wanted to check out D: It's a surprise menu as well which we tend to avoid, but oh well!

 We arrived on time 730pm on Thursday and were pleasantly surprised by the fantastical decor of the place! High ceiling and black pillars + white tables really made the place pop. Just 3 or 4 tables were occupied.

 Impressed by the decor and service but mildly disappointed at the non-too-exciting menu, we chatted up one of the waiters. She told us that Pan Pacific will be undergoing a major renovation soon (like the immediate week after) and after which Zambuca will cease to exist! We felt a little "..." since we'd be dining and reviewing a restaurant that no longer exists from next week onwards, which kind of defeats the purpose!

But of course no harm to just sit back and enjoy the dinner :)

{ Appetizer : Shaved Baby Fennel Salad Toss in Citron Vinaigrette }

 I did a double take at "shaved baby" until I read "shaved baby fennel". Honestly we picked it because we didn't want the soup of the day though. Can't say we have fennel often, so the texture and taste of fennel was a welcome sensation to our palettes. The vinaigrette was nice but got extremely salty as we neared the bottom of the bowl, but otherwise I felt it was one of the better salads I've had!

 Salad was nice, fresh and crisp. Generous amounts of pine nuts too. Ingredients aside, the salad was too salty for me and the sundried tomatoes didn't quite help to balance that out. When I mentioned this to the waiter, he took it kindly and said in cryptic humour, "They say around here, when the food is too salty the chef is going to get married." - not a clue what this could mean.. any ideas? lol

{ Main : Roasted Chicken Breast with Italian Forest Mushroom Risotto
dressed with Extra Virgin Olive Oil }

 Having cooked something almost identical just a short while ago, I had mixed feelings ordering this but felt like I needed to compare it against ours! The chicken breast was juicy with a nice crust on the skin, which was yum but otherwise lacking a wee bit of seasoning. The risotto itself was good as well, very flavourful with the olive aroma and the mushroom earthiness, but I felt it was a little too soft (ours was more al-dente!). But didn't quite disappoint.

 Simple flavours and nicely done, although I agree our home-cooked truffle risotto and roast herbed chicken pwned this, so I guess quite safe to say this wasn't tooo memorable. 

{ Main : Pan-seared Seabass with Potato Mousseline & Sauteed Summer Vegetable }

 I felt the seabass portion was a bit miniscule, but that's just a big eater lamenting :P this was quite nice overall. The fish was cooked well without being too dry, yet the skin was perfectly crispy. The veggie strips were a good accompaniment.  

 Again lovely crust on the skin but I wasn't a huge fan of seabass so I might be a little biased against it. The mousseline was nice - a really creamy mash with chives, and the fettucini-ed zucchini was nice as well, but I felt like the dish was just 'nice' and not too great or adventurous in any way.

{ Dessert : Chocolate Creme Brulée }

 Now this unappetizing cup of blackness was arguably the best dish of the night! The awesomely warm chocolate mousse was rich and not sweet at all which was great - you can really taste the flavour of the cocoa and eggs instead of being masked by sugar. And yes I did say chocolate mousse lol, while technically not the right texture the taste was still great.

 Really glad the meal ended on a high with a good dessert! Wasn't expecting much from this but I must say I enjoyed this very much. The top layer was just the right burnt-ness and it was sufficiently chocolate-y underneath. Yum!

 The surprise menu while rather conservative, was a rather pleasant surprise although taste or creativity did not stray far from a "regular" menu item at all. The fact that Zambuca will soon no longer exist is quite the downer but at least we had a good experience on one of it's last few days in operations :)

Zambuca (B)
3F Pan Pacific Hotel

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Restaurant week : Zambuca is a non "star"-ed restaurant offering $20++ set lunch or $35++ set dinners.
HGW Link (78% recommended at time of posting) :
Rating (out of 4) : 

Monday, March 19, 2012

Novus, National Museum (Restaurant Week)

 Tucked away inside the National Museum, Novus is somewhat of a hidden gem. If not for our well-timed day off and the start of Restaurant Week (aha! it is all planned well), we would probably not have been enticed to give this place a go.


 I was genuinely surprised and pleased by the interior of the restaurant. Here are high ceilings and mirrors and funky light fixtures! My kind of place, though I felt a bit under-dressed in my plain green dress and sandals (there were some other tables occupied by corporate-types and ladies-of-leisure-types).

 The Restaurant Week offering - Creations by Executive Chef Stephan Zoisl ( who previously worked at world renown The Fat Duck) - is priced at $40++ for a 3 course set lunch.

Prelude to the gastronomic wonders we would soon sample: a bread basket served with slab of Novus-'branded' butter and a small platter of olives.

 Bread was fresh and soft, the kind you could go on eating for ages! My favourite was the dark (rye?) multigrain.

 Bread was awesome shit! Four types and each great in its own right, the dark rye and mini-batard were my favourites. We weren't quite sure how to consume the olives but just eating a little along with the bread was quite the awesome pairing.

{ Amuse-Bouche }
Some molecular gastronomy

 Not long after, we were served the amuse bouche. Forgive me for not recalling what this was exactly, but this was really a tremendous and complex dish. My basic description would be some foie-gras-infused jelly with celeriac foam on top. This is unlike ANYthing I've ever had - unfamiliar flavours and textures all created excited confusion / confused excitement in my mouth. While I am impressed by the uniqueness of this - and very much appreciated the chef's style and efforts - I'm not entirely sure if I liked this much.

 Completed missed what the nice waitress said this was, but this curious food item was ... curious. Well but it did serve it's purpose of pre-empting us for what's to come!

 I really love how they have little cards detailing what you are about to put into your mouth. It's a good reference for identifying ingredients/flavours.

{ Tuna Carpaccio }
Wasabi mayonnaise, soy caviar, dill, yuzu gel, oyster leaves

 Tuna Carpaccio was plated in a very interesting way. Tuna was sliced oh-so thinly and decorated with a variety of things that boggled the mind. Soy caviar was very curious, but especially mind boggling were the oyster leaves. They really tasted like oysters! What sorcery is this?!

 Tuna was fresh, and the soy caviar - a molecular-gastronomy-feat it was - was a really curious sensation. That and the wasabi mayo really made it sorta like an alternate take at enjoying sashimi. Unfortunately for me I didn't quite taste the oyster in the oyster leaf :(

 Two words which I would never put together - duck tea - is on the menu and cannot be resisted.

{ Duck Tea }
Duck consommé, quail egg, trumpet & brown enoki mushrooms, smoked duck breast, black truffle salsa

 The waiter poured the steaming consomme from a teapot upon serving. I really loved the earthiness of the mushrooms and truffle in the broth. Every spoonful was rich and comforting. Smoked duck underneath was excellent too - tender and flavourful. I think this was executed really well.

  Good quality consomme is an inherently difficult thing to prepare, and it was indeed sweet and rich yet not cloying. Smoked duck was perfect - just a little fatty and the right texture, and beautifully sweetened by the consomme. We lapped up every ounce of black truffle we could find!

 We only had to wait a few moments before our mains arrived. Having craved mushrooms (?) just that morning, I pounced on the mushroom gnocchi without hesitation.

{ Mushroom Gnocchi }
Creamed seasonal mushrooms, potato gnocchi, thyme, parmesan cheese

 Oh wow. This blew me away! Here is a substantial plate of potato gnocchi literally avalanched by what seemed like 70 kinds of mushrooms (including a few I'd never seen before), soaking luxuriantly in an utterly creamy cheesy sauce. The smell of the mushroom and parmesan - Jesus. And so many gnocchi(s?)! I gobbled this down mercilessly until about halfway until it got a bit too good for my own good, lol. Seriously this is amazing. I'm throwing my money at the picture on screen now.

  Wow jesus christ - normally I'd stay away from ordering pastas (less bang for your buck usually!) but this was ... so so so rich. The natural earthiness of the mushrooms frolicking in the light cheese sauce just enhanced the sauce to the next realm of enlightenment. The sauce was really, that, ****ing, good. Awfully generous with the interesting mushroom selection and gnocchi at just the right texture, my only gripe was it does get too gao if you solo this, so please do share!

 Fish of the day is snow cod - not printed on menu as you'd gather this changes daily.

{ Fish of the Day }
Pan seared snow cod, squid ink fettucini, saffron sauce

 Going against my grain I ordered fish (gasp!) for once as the only other main offered was duck confit, and after two meals and donuts in Batam I felt I needed a bypass. The fish was so so so so so so so so soft - the slightest touch of my fork would cause the meat to flake. Now I LOVE cod steamed chinese style with it's natural sweetness and high oil content, but unfortunately I couldn't taste either in this and I'm not quite sure why. Fettucine while awesomely al-dente and the pretty saffron sauce, were both mild flavours so I felt the dish as a whole was pretty mild.

 I really liked this too, though not in the same intensity and manner that I enjoyed the gnocchi. This was a lot less heavy and more delicate. The cod was incredibly soft that we kept wondering aloud how this could have been mortally prepared. Fettucine was done al dente and had subtle sea-saltiness. Honestly I thought the saffron sauce went really well with the pasta and fish. While this is not really a 'remarkable' dish (was expecting a bit more at play in showcasing a little edge), as a sum of its parts this couldn't have been better.

At this point we were quite filled up, but had our Dessert Stomachs ready to go for the end of the meal. We had our eyes on the dessert trolley from the very moment we stepped in! 

{ Dessert trolley! }
 You can choose 3 different types of dessert from the trolley. By the time we ordered there were 6 kinds on the trolley - so just as well we ordered one of each to share between us. We noted with disappointment that what looked like creme brulee on a spoon was no longer available - oh well!

{ Clockwise from cookie : Double Chocolate Cookie, Lemon Cake, Chocolate Muffin, Carrot Cake, Cheese Cake, Red Velvet (centre) }

 Overall, the cakes were nice but not very memorable. Except maybe the cheese cake and lemon cake for me. Red velvet was not bad but it was lemony instead of cream-cheese-y. Chocolate cookie and muffin was okaay. Carrot cake was too creamy and not enough cake.

 Aye I too felt the best was the cheese cake and the rest weren't too memorable sadly :( 

 Not in photo is a smooth and aromatic cup of Americano which paired nicely with the cakes and ended the entire meal just right.

 Really have to give Novus brownie points for the little touches and details like this. Every diner was given a thank-you cupcake to bring home after the meal. How quaint and thoughtful! I wish more restaurants were like Novus :)

  We've heard on multiple occasions of their super-duper-awesome-imba-gobangwall Valrhona Chocolate Test - unfortunately it was only in the dinner menu and we were too full to ask if they had it ala carte :(

 I am extremely happy with my dining experience here. Food was divine, service was lovely. I would even..

All the things - GIVE NOVUS ALL THE PAWS

Novus Restaurant & Bar
National Museum of Singapore 
93 Stamford Road

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Main website :
Restaurant week : Novus is a "star"-ed restaurant offering $40++ set lunch or $55 set dinners.
HGW Link (59% recommended at time of writing) :
Rating (out of 4) : 
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