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Fine Dining I Favour

Fine Dining I Favour

When you feel like spoiling yourself, these are great places to try.
Veronica Phua
Veronica Phua
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H O S T E D
A few years ago, I filmed Chef-owner Han Li Guang’s signature dishes of that time for a Singapore Tourism Board video to air on CNN. I recall the chilli crab ice-cream that appeared with a softshell crab on a beach tableau and the visually playful chendol that pretended to be “xiao long bao” in a “dimsum” basket. That period of whimsy is gone. His present menu: “The New Expression Of Singapore Cuisine” seems more serious. He has now turned his focus to showcasing our local produce (they make up about 80% of the menu in fact), only venturing around the region if the ingredient isn’t available here. This approach allows him more flexibility as he draws on his memories for inspiration but it also demands nimbleness, a constant flow of ideas and flawless execution. Based on what we had during our tasting, I think he is doing a fine job.
With every course looking elegant and refined, the lighting design in the recently-renovated space is most apt. Each table is bathed in a pool of light as if to draw and keep our attention on the food.
I found my meal overall to be interesting and pleasantly delicious. As it tends to be the case, certain items resonated more with me. This time round, they would be the following:
1. Nasi Lemak Cheong Fun - This ingenious snack melded the two popular hawker food very delectably, complete with crispy chicken skin, ikan bilis and egg yolk gel.
2. “Ang Mo” Chicken Rice - The rice became a flour that became a giant dumpling filled with braised-till-tender chicken pieces - simply brilliant! Also, that chilli sauce.
3. The Labyrinth Rojak - This broke the traditional form into a million pieces and reconstructed it with Edible Garden City’s herbs, natural stingless bee honey and chempedak sorbet into something tasty but so out there, it’s only rojak in essence.
4. Kaya Toast with Crystal de Chine Caviar - The cylindrical presentation of the toast comprised of kaya ice-cream sandwiches between white bread from Sing Hong Loong Bakery. Why caviar? Well, it provides the cold, salty creaminess that butter usually does. I liked this dessert so much I wouldn’t have minded seconds.
For a one Michelin Star restaurant, prices are pretty reasonable with lunch going at $68++ and dinner at $178++. Instead of the standard 3 or 4 course structure, they do multiple courses in small portions for both meals.

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The only reason I care about seasons here in Singapore is because of food. With the change of the seasons, a number of restaurants introduce menus centred on showcasing the best produce of those few months. One restaurant that I make it a point to visit regularly for this very reason is Spago at Marina Bay Sands.
Last Friday, I indulged in the Tasting Menu for Summer by Chef Greg Bess and his team, and found it sublime. In fact, I consider it the best seasonal menu I’ve had thus far there because the courses were very considered, with execution that’s done with flair and finesse. @abbey_thebolobao who’s dined at Spago with me a few times, concurred.
Dinner was flagged off by two snacks: a tiny nugget of a corn muffin with “buah keluak” corn paste and the “one-bite kaya toast”. Both inspired gems that shone with the brilliance of a local ingredients presented in a new light.
Next came a sumptuous tomato soup with a mini ball of burrata to cream it up. It was accompanied by three snacks that tried their best to outdo each other in tasty complexity.
The course that arrived after that was an exquisite sea-sweet terrine spun together from Hokkaido scallop and king crab, then bathed in a clear tomato water vinaigrette.
This was followed by a series of stronger-flavoured dishes: the bincho-grilled baby corn with potato espuma and tendrils of black truffle, handmade agnolotti stuffed with sweet corn (my all-time weakness at Spago), and a huge butter poached California spot prawn with fregula, clams and bacon emulsion. The main meat course was dry-aged pigeon in two styles (I loved the crispy thigh especially) plated with caramelised pears, pistachio gremolata and fennel pollen.
Our meal closed with Pastry Chef Ong Ai Li’s scrumptious take on “strawberry rhubarb shortcake” that saw nitro-frozen pebbles of salted vanilla ice-cream showered over.

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M E D I A T A S T I N G
An elegant beauty to start off a meal here. It’s also sensuously multi-textural from the coming together of a luscious Ireland oyster, decadent Schrenki caviar and a soft, smooth Majestic oyster bavarois. You’ll want to close your eyes as each bite slips down your throat. All the better to savour it.

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M E D I A T A S T I N G
I was fortunate enough to spend yesterday evening in a really pleasant way - sampling the new seasonal menu at one Michelin-starred Bacchanalia.
Head Chef Luke Armstrong and his team have revamped most of it except for a few signature items (thank goodness his incredible Sicilian Pistachio Parfait still there!) to reflect their philosophy of working with quality produce, in tandem with the rhythm of the seasons in order to harness only the best for their customers.
From amongst the courses Chef Luke chose for us to try, the ones that stole my heart were the roasted morel mushrooms (they tasted incredible cooked with asparagus in Vin Jaune and plated with a foamy morel veloute), the pan roasted Hokkaido scallop (it lounged with king crab salad in a lagoon of aged Parmesan and red peppers) and the far-from-innocent caramelised white chocolate tart (this contained enough cognac to make me flush, and the loveliest accompaniments of French gariguette strawberries, Madagascar vanilla ice-cream and a sublime champagne sabayon).
There are three different ways you can indulge at this restaurant. One, go for the seasonal menu ($168++, includes tea or coffee). You pick what you like for your first, second and main courses as well as dessert from a list. An additional cheese course is available for an extra $30++ too.
Another way is to have the set daily menu ($118++).
The third is to let Chef Luke make all the decisions with the $258++ “Carte Blanche” (it’s the western way of saying “Omakase”). That’s the one to choose if you want to be surprised.

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A genuinely surprised brother (you should have seen his face 😆) and a scrumptious chocolate cake served with lychee and raspberry sorbet. Yup, the early birthday celebration I wanted to spring upon Lennard was pulled off in style by the team at Spago.
Then again, I am sure they are amazing at fulfilling every guest’s request with that winning blend of warmth, sincerity, flair and panache. Which is the kind of service that inspires many return visits in my opinion. Oh, and it doesn’t hurt that the food here is very good too.

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When I had a family dinner at “Spago” a few days ago, Chef de Cuisine Greg Bess surprised us with this yet-to-be-launched snack, the “One Bite Kaya Toast”. Scheduled to appear in their Summer Menu rolling out in mid June, his interpretation of our local favourite has it evolved into an exquisitely refined gem.
Sandwiched between two crunchy, buttery Sucre cookies is a generous amount of flawlessly smooth, creamy foie gras mousse seasoned with soya sauce and a sweetish housemade coconut egg jam. We were told to pop the whole thing in our mouths at one go, so the components could be relished altogether. I recommend following the instruction to a T because you’ll be rewarded with the remixed and amplified soul of a classic “kaya toast” reimagined as this single-bite wonder. Even my parents had only praises for it and that is an extremely rare event.
I am now eagerly waiting to return soon to feast on their new Summer Menu in its entirety.

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This is Wagyu beef rice elevated to epic status with foie gras and a flurry of green pea snow.
I loved how rich the grains of rice tasted and although I’m not too fond of peas generally, this was an exception as the preparation style was unique, and it complemented the meatiness in the dish.
At the end of the night, quite a number in our group of diners chose this as their favourite from the multi-course Gastronomic Menu Chef Aitor had prepared for us.

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Slippery and springy, these thick noodles are of a different species altogether. And I mean that quite literally as they are made from the skin of swine. Thus explaining the firm gelatinous texture and porky flavour. Chef Aitor serves his “pork noodles” with a juicy chunk of abalone and kabura (a type of Japanese turnip) in a light but richly flavoured broth of Jamon bone and pepper, poured on only in front of you. Once you give things a stir, a vibrant purple rushes up, colouring the contents of the small bowl. That’s from the dried beetroot lying in wait at the bottom.
I adored this dish. It’s easily one of my top three picks from the Gastronomic Menu at Iggy’s. My only complaint would be there was not enough (but I’m greedy like that 😂😂).
Anyway, if you are keen to try, please note this menu requires a group of at least 6 pax, and a few days’ advance notice as several of its dishes need a lot of preparation time.

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Sending a shiver of pleasure through me was this triumvirate of aburi Toriyama Wagyu, Kaluga Queen caviar and an ultra-light rice cracker.
Individually, the beef and caviar were formidable: the former was all melt-in-the-mouth outright sexiness while the latter pulled unsuspecting victims into the depths of creamy oceanic sensuousness. Placed together on the pristine white stage of crunch, I felt their duet drown out my surroundings with one bite. For that brief moment in time, reality fell away as my senses got pulled in. I was so very joyfully lost.
And now you know why it’s my favourite of the three marvelous snacks that preceded our Basque-inspired gastronomic menu proper.

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That’s cocktail hour right there, condensed into a quivering sphere.
With careful lifting, the caipirinha encased in the thinnest transparent skin and the slightly bitter, peppery shiso leaf upon which it rested, made it to my mouth safely (I am quite the klutz so it’s no mean feat). When the lightest pressure was applied, an explosion took place, flooding my mouth instantly in the cool, refreshing alcoholic liquid. I love how chewing the shiso leaf at the same time made this familiar drink so much more interesting.

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One of the dinner courses we had not too long ago was this very sizeable serving of “Foie Gras Torchon” which is something similar to a terrine but shaped and cooked slightly differently.
Woven through it were trails of coarsely-ground Kampot pepper from Cambodia, regarded by many chefs around the world as the best due to its complex and fragrant character.
I like that the thick disc of heavy, smooth foie gras was served with a slice of toasted milk bread. The lightness of it helped to offset the rich, dense creaminess of the peppery foie gras.

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These exquisite beauties were another of the delectable snacks from our dinner at CURE.
Cradled in the thin, crisp tart was beef tartare mixed with some Chinese celery mayo. Not that any of it was visible as purple sorrel was strewn across the top. The fresh herb didn’t merely prettify things but introduced a bright lemon flavour to each bite. We loved it.

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Can't cook to save my life but boy, can I eat! 😄 (I pay for all my meals unless otherwise stated)

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