Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Al Dante Trattoria I cooked a big pot (3 times the ingredients in this recipe) of the prawn vermicelli as staple dish for the easter gathering and guess what - nothing was left! I cooked a big pot (3 times the ingredients in this recipe) of the prawn vermicelli as staple dish for the easter gathering and guess what - nothing was left!






Visited this place for a weekday lunch last week.

The restaurant was not crowded considering it was a Friday. In fact, it was less than half filled.

My partner and I shared the rock melon with parma ham for starter. This is a straight forward dish that does not require great culinary skill to prepare. What is really important for this dish is the ingredients must be fresh. In this case, it did not disappoint. The melon was sweet and nicely chilled and the rockets fresh and crunchy. My only complaint was the quantity of the parma ham. I prefer Prego's version of this dish which comes with a more generous serving of the parma ham.

I had the lobster linguine. The pasta turned out totally different from what I had expected when I ordered the dish. It looked very much tomato based instead of the bisque version stated on the menu. Nevertheless, the lobster meat was fresh and overall a hearty dish.

My partner ordered the lobster meat ravioli. The filling was tasty although I could not really taste the lobster meat. If I were to cook this, I would pair the ravioli with a creamy sauce instead of the lemon butter version.

The chocolate and Kahlua cake was too hard for my liking and I could not really taste the coffee alcohol.

Overall, I find the pricing on the higher side for the average pasta dishes and services. We spent a total of $160 for 2 with wine (house pour).



Al Dante TrattoriaChoco

Esplanade Mall
8 Raffles Avenue
#01-13, Esplanade Mall
Singapore 039802
Tel: +65 6341 9188

Opening Hours:

Daily (12pm -3pm lunch, 6pm - 11pm dinner)



Complimentary Olive and Sun-dried Tomato Bread

Prosciutto and Rock Melon with Balsamic reduction

Linguine alla Arragosta - Char-Grilled Lobster served with Linguine in Lobster Bisque Sauce

Ravioli Arragosta - Lobster and Winter Root Vegetables stuffed in homemade Ravioli with Lemon Thyme Butter 

Chocolate and Kahlua Cake

The Restaurant Interior - Clean and neat setting with an open kitchen

Monday, March 19, 2012

Skinny Pizza






We checked into The Fairmont last weekend with CJ and Jazz for a weekend stay with all the kids. After spending the whole afternoon in the pool, everyone was hungry and strolled around the basement of Raffles City Shopping Mall looking for a dinner place and ended up at the Skinny Pizza.

The place was jam-packed crowded (so were the other restaurants in that area at that hour). This is a typical eat-and-go kind of setup – no ambience just eat and go.

For the pizzas, we had squid ink, wild truffled mushroom and ginger butter chicken. The toppings were all very yummy but I personally needed more carbohydrates to fill my tummy.

I thought the idea of serving the uncut metre-long sausage was interesting although it was really just normal sausage served with wild rockets. The kids loved the sweet potato nibblets while I found the truffle fries and the seared brie cheese just average.

Considering the ambience (or the lack of it), price and the fact that all of us, including the kids, needed to have supper that evening after the meal, I am not impressed and do not think there will be a second visit soon unless I needed pizza for snacks.


Skinny Pizza Raffles

252 North Bridge Road
#B1-63/64
Raffles City Shopping Centre
Singapore 179103

Tel: +65 6333 5069

Operating Hours:

11:00am — 10:00pm Daily


Squid Ink Pizza

Wild Truffled Mushroom Pizza

Ginger Butter Chicken Pizza

One meter long pork sausage

The sides - Sweet potato nibblets, seared brie cheese and truffle fries


The Tastings Room






We were drawn to this place because of the Palate promotion and also the restaurant name itself – The Tastings Room. Not for the spelling although I thought “The Tasting Room”  (without the ‘s’) would have sounded better. The name itself reminded us of our numerous vineyard and cellar door hopping experience. It sounds like a place to sample wine before deciding which bottle to buy - the experience to examine (sensory), explore and evaluate wine.

Last Friday evening, before our show at the Esplanade, we headed for The Tastings Room in search of that “Tasting Room” experience. First thing that caught my attention when I stepped into the establishment was the bright red walk-in wine cellar on the left. Although small, the cellar holds quite a wide collection of wine around the globe. Upon request, the Manager Jay gave a brief guided tour of the cellar and explained the concept behind the restaurant - to make food and beverage pairing a painless experience with suggestions within the menu at an affordable price – sounds good.


The Tastings Room Cellar


After settling down on our table and placed our order, my focus moved from the menu to the furniture. Usually I do not comment much on the interior design of a restaurant, but I thought the furniture used in the restaurant really pull down the score specifically on the coziness department. This is supposed to be a place for one to taste good food and wine in an ambient environment but the hard, unattractive wooden tables and chairs fail to provide that. I also observed that the 2-seaters tables were placed too close to one another that made cozy and private conversation near impossible.


Restaurant Interior


While I do not appreciate the restaurant interior, I must admit that the restaurant owner had put in a lot of effort into the menu, especially the wine menu. I find the wine educational tour a very interesting concept especially for wine novice. For just over $30, one get to sample 4 to 5 glasses of wine from the region of your choice. If you are not into the wine sampling, for every food item on the menu, there are 2-3 wine pairing suggestion - thoughtful. There are also some very attractive on-going promotion such as all-day 1-for-1 house wine and they allow BYO on Sunday without corkage charges.


The wine menu


As we were rushing for the show, we did not really have the time to sample some of the interesting wine on the menu but opted for the 1-for-1 house wine. For food,  we ordered the calamari rings and truffle cream fettuccine with wild mushroom for the kids. Wife had the Sous Vide pork belly and I opted for the Ribeye steak with truffle fries. Serving portion was good but food standard is slightly above average, at best. When it comes to proper dining, I personally think that food presentation is every bit as important as flavor and taste. In this area, I thought the plate presentation here lacks the “fine dining” element and creativity.


Calamari Ring with home made tartar sauce

Truffle Cream Fettuccine with Wild Mushroom

Steak Frites - Ribeye steak with sautéed mushroom and truffle fries served with red wine bordelaise sauce

Sous Vide pork belly planted on mash with rose wine apple sauce & finished with crackling pork skin


Overall, I have mixed reviews for The Tasting Room. The establishment scores big on the wine menu and concept but needs to fine tune the overall food quality, presentation and atmosphere.

Having said that, I truly support and really like the restaurant’s idea of offering wine pairing with food at affordable price which is lacking in Singapore. I will definitely be back to render my support.


The Tastings Room

6 Raffles Boulevard
Marina Square
#01-08 Singapore 039594

Tel: +65 6338 1829

Operating Hours:

Sun, Tue–Thu: 10am – 10pm
Fri–Sat: 10am – 12am
(Closed on Mon)

Patara Thai



It was the March school holiday last week, both wife and I took leave on Wednesday to bring the kids to the Chinese Heritage Centre at Chinatown. After an eventful morning, we went to Patara Thai at Tanglin Mall for lunch.

The restaurant was less than half filled during the peak lunch hour. Service was quite alright and expected of a fine dining restaurant. However, the food was at most average and did not live up to my expectation.

We ordered the Patara Premium which was a combination platter consisting of mango salad, soft shell crab, fish and prawn cakes, chicken wings and rice cracker dips. Like I mentioned, the fried stuff was pretty average and to me the fried soft shell crab and chicken wings were not really of Thai origin. The mango salad was slightly dry for my liking.

The fried whole garoupa in lemon grass sauce was fresh and tasty but again I felt that it lacked something that distinguishes an an outstanding dish from average ones. I had had better version (whole pomfret) at Ying Thai Palace at Purvis Street.

The yellow crab curry was interesting and a good match to go with the jasmine white rice. By the way, I seriously felt that the plain rice was too overly priced at $3 for a small bowl.

To me, the dish that stood out that day was the slow braised pork belly. The belly was fork tender and just melt in the mouth. A good combination of coriander, fresh pepper corn, cassia bark (cinnamon) and coconut juice provided the meat a good braising juice and gravy. This is a must-try!

Overall, I find the food on the average level and on the pricey side. With that, I do not think I will come back again unless it is just the wife and I to enjoy the 2-diners 50% discount (Palate dining privilege programme).



Patara Thai

163 Tanglin Road, #03-14,
Singapore 247933

Tel: +65 6737 0818


Patara Premium Platter

Pla Gao Thod Sauce Takrai - Fried whole Garoupa in lemon grass sauce

Gang Nuea Poo Bai Cha-plu - Phuket style yellow curry with Atlantic carb tulips

Moo Ob Ma Praw - Slow braised pork belly in coconut juice, coriander, cassia bark and quail eggs

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Country Terrine



I like to replicate or attempt to recreate what I have tried in restaurants. 2 weeks back I had this country terrine at db Bistro Moderne and decided to make this at home for our Tapas Sunday.

Making terrine at home is much simpler than you can imagine and very much more cost effective. A thin slice of terrine served with some salad leaves or pickles can cost you easily $20 at a restaurant (Of course you pay for the service, ambience etc). With that amount, you can make easily a big or 2 medium loaves of the terrine at home.

The meatloaf is very versatile and can be made days before. It can be served as part of a buffet gathering, as a starter course of a proper dinner or as nibbles to go with beer or wine.

Ingredients

1 large onion (finely chopped)
2 tablespoons butter
2 garlic cloves (finely chopped)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon whole allspice
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons Cognac or other brandy
250 gm chicken livers, trimmed
750 gm minced pork (combine 500gm pork shoulder and 250g pork belly)
4 sausages (your choice)
2 pcs whole chicken/duck breast (boneless and skinned) (Optional)
bacon slices


Directions

Melt butter in a frying pan and cook the chopped onion over moderately low heat until soft, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and thyme and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Transfer to a large bowl set in a bowl of ice.

While onion cools, pulse salt, peppercorns, allspice, and bay leaf in grinder until finely ground. Add to onion mixture and whisk in cream, eggs, and brandy until combined well.

Pulse chicken livers in a food processor until finely chopped, then add to onion mixture along with ground pork and sausage meat (cut and remove the sausage skin) and mix together well with your hands.

Line bottom and long sides of terrine mold crosswise with strips of bacon, arranging them close together (but not overlapping) and leaving a 1/2- to 2-inch overhang. Half-fill mold evenly with ground-meat mixture, place the breast meat before covering and filling up the mold with the remaining ground meat.

Rap terrine on counter to compact it (it will mound slightly above edge). Cover top of terrine lengthwise with 2 or 3 more bacon slices if necessary to cover completely, and fold overhanging ends of bacon back over these.

Cover terrine with plastic wrap and chill at least 8 hours to marinate meats.

Preheat oven to 165°C.

Discard plastic wrap and cover terrine tightly with a double layer of foil.
Bake terrine in a water bath for 1 3/4 to 2 hours at middle rack of oven. Remove foil and let terrine cools.

Chill terrine in the fridge for at least 24 hours before serving to allow flavors to develop.

You can serve terrine on fresh baguette topped with wild rockets and caramelized apple - The sweetness balances the saltiness of the terrine and the distinct aroma of rockets completes the taste.


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Cheese in Honey & Olive Oil Marinade



This is a very simple and yet delicious recipe. You do not need any special ingredients or long preparation time but yet the result is amazing. This can be served as starters, tapas or add the marinated cheese to your salad. I served this for our recent Tapas Sunday gathering.

You can use any left over cheese in your fridge and the cheese can be kept in the marinade and stored in fridge if you do not plan to consume immediately.

Ingredients

250g Cheese Emmental

Marinade
100ml Olive Oil
3 tbsp lemon juice
1.5 tbsp honey
1 tbsp chopped fresh herbs of your choice
1 garlic clove (finely chopped)
1 tsp chili flakes

Directions

Mix all the ingredients for the marinade.

Cut the cheese into bite-size.

Arrange the sliced cheese on serving plate and pour the marinade over.

Leave to stay for 1 hour at room temperature.

Get a good block of Emmental Cheese (Or any hard cheese)

Slice and neatly arrange the cheese on serving plate

Pour the marinade over

Done! Cheese in Honey Olive Oil Marinade - Simple, elegant and delicious

Monday, March 12, 2012

Tapas Sunday



It is now the March school holiday and the group wasted no time and met up on Sunday afternoon for a Tapas gathering at 2706. The last time the group had a Tapas-theme gathering was in April 2011 and I really do not understand why there was such a year's gap.

The thing I like about having Tapas for gathering is that you get to sample a wide variety of those lusty little bites. You do not need huge effort (usually) to prepare the bites and we proved that. With good imagination and a combination of simple but fresh ingredients, you can come out with heavenly bites that friends and guests just cannot stop gobbling over fine wine. With different bites, the same wine taste different and it elevates wine pairing and appreciation to another level.

Eat, drink and be merry... Good things come in small packages.. Now I fully understand those words.


Cheese Emmental in Honey and Olive Oil Marinade... mi contribución

Country Terrine with Caramelized Apple and Wild Rockets... I baked the terrine on Friday and left it in the fridge to allow the flavors to develop. Yummy!

Green Olive with Anchovies... Chef Jazz's contribution

Gambas al Ajillo... Popular Spanish Tapas

Pumpkin Pie Dip... Goes well with the fresh crunchy apple

Sweet Potatoes and Banana Crumble... 

Parma Ham with Rock Melon... Eeleen, you must have visited Prego recently :)

Mini pancakes with sour cream eggs and fish roe... Delicious and colourful combination... Pass me the pancake recipe, Mrs Tan.

Blue Cheese mushroom with blueberry... I always give blue cheese the pass but this is exception.

What a spread... I like Tapas Sunday!

The wine (& Port) for the Sunday (L to R):
Ashbrook Chardonay 2008
Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2010
Beaujolais Nouveau 2011
Hardys Merlot 2010
Arlewood Shiraz 2005
Salomon Estate Shiraz 2007
Le Fronde Moscato D'Asti 2009
Cockburn Special Reserve (Port)

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

db Bistro Moderne by Daniel Boulud




Wife and I got a pair of free tickets to watch the Broadway Musical WICKED at Marina Bay Sands last Saturday. Show time was 730pm and we arrived at MBS at 630pm looking for a quick dinner ahead of the show.

We ended up at db Bistro Moderne by celebrity chef Daniel Boulud. With exactly an hour to spare, we opted for the Prix Fixe Menu which is available only from 1730 – 1900hrs. My guess - this must be specially created for the theater-goers.

Service was attentive and the serving pace just nice. The staff knew that we were going for the musical and advised us to just go for the 2-course menu instead of complete 3-course version with dessert. I thought that was very thoughtful of her.

The complimentary bread basket served before the starters was fresh and very delicious. Wife had the Celery Soup and Seafood Risotto while I opted for the Country Duck Terrine and Sauteed Striploin Forestiere.

The cream based soup was refreshingly light and the crunchy roasted apples gave the soup a different dimension. The duck terrine, served with pickles, orleans mustard and toast, was delicious but rather standard.

Good portion for the mains with proportional serving of vegetable, protein and starch. The smoked paprika based risotto was tasty but I realized the seafood weas cooked separately. I personally prefer the rice to be cooked together with the ingredient – the rice will swell and absorb the seafood juice for a complete flavor and texture.

The grilled beef striploin, finished with mushroom and fine beans, was served over top of mashed potatoes. Meat was slightly too cooked for my liking but overall a very good and balanced dish.

For S$58 per person, the 2-course menu comes with a glass of white/red wine or fruit punch. No prizes for guessing our choices.

Considering the location, service and food quality, I personally think that this is good value for money and will definitely be back again. This time, for the famous original DB burger.


db Bistro Moderne

B1-48, Galleria Level,
The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands

Tel: +65 6688 8525

Operating Hours:

Lunch:
Noon TO 5:00 pm
(Monday through Friday)

Weekend Brunch:
11:00am - 5pm
(Saturday & Sunday)

Dinner:
5:30pm TO 10pm
(Sunday & Monday)

5:30pm - 11:00pm
(Tuesday through Saturday)




db Bistro Moderne

Traditional bistro and yet stylish and contemporary

Complimentary fresh bread basket - I can have this for my whole meal

Celery Soup with Parsley Cream and roasted apple

Country Duck Terrine served with pickles, orleans mustard and toasted country bread

Seafood Risotto - Trout, prawn, mussels, ratatouille with smoked paprika jus 

Sauteed Striploin "Forestiere'

Off to a good show after a happy meal...

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