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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
All the desserts at the spanking new @restaurant.table65 seem to have a certain wow factor.
Led by Pastry Chef Jurgis (Instagram: @herbs.n.spices) who has worked with owner-chef Richard (@rvanoostenbrugge) for years in Amsterdam, the team dazzled us during the media tasting with not one but three desserts. One of them is this “Chocolate Balloon” which opens up neatly like a flower blooming, once the hot chocolate is poured over it.
Lest you think it is purely eye candy (pun intended), let me assure you the beauty here is more than skin deep. The dark chocolate which forms the balloon, is elegance on the palate, and happens to pair exceedingly well with the savoury elements of miso and ice-cream hidden inside.

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Here’s what I learned from the praise-worthy pasta that my friends Angeline and Milly ordered: Preserved lemon juice is nothing like the juice from an ordinary lemon.
The sharpness and acidity is blunted but the taste develops into something broader and wonderfully complex. It is the backbone of the luscious sauce that coats this plate of handmade spagettini, sea urchin, small cubes of clean-tasting Patagonian toothfish and shavings of “heart of palm”, festooned with shiso flowers.
In summary, a beautifully executed dish that’s light but not at all common or simple. Which makes it the ideal choice if you are after a less heavy main course in the weekday 4-course set lunch ($55++) offered at Preludio.

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M E D I A T A S T I N G
One of my favourites from the menu was this course.
It had arrived looking mysterious and enthralling because all that was visible on the plate was a single, large, ripply and shimmery “cloud”. But a couple of taps with a spoon revealed it to be a paper-thin cracker fabricated from ground jasmine rice. With the shattering of the pure white crunchiness, a jumble of colours broke free. Here was the vividly-flavoured mix of smoked eel, lampascioni bulb, heliantis, crosnes, chanterelle mushrooms, salty fingers and viola flowers that had been lying in wait to spring its deliciousness upon the unsuspecting. I loved this element of surprise but what was more unforgettable was the taste of the dish.

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Part 3 of 3.
In the Swedish tradition of “Fika” where the hustle and bustle of daily routine is paused for the enjoyment of warm cake and coffee, we too had our “Fika” moment on the top floor of Zén, where we were ushered to after finishing our meal on level two.
Once my friend Tim and I were settled into a sofa in the chic, stylish space—honestly, this floor looked like something straight out of the pages of Wallpaper magazine—Beverage Manager Aaron pushed over an overachiever of a tea trolley to serve Tim the final drink in his non-alcoholic pairing. Head Chef Tristin then appeared, bearing a piping hot Pineapple Tarte Tartine. Its dizzyingly fragrant aroma had me thinking instantly of our local pineapple tarts. Taste-wise, despite a crispy and flaky base, I felt it wasn’t far from them either. Zén’s version did come lavished with a black miso glaze which gave it a sexy look and a savoury edge.
What took us by complete surprise though was how after we had eaten only half of it, a brand new Pineapple Tarte Tartine was brought out as a replacement. But even in my gobsmacked state, I was only too eager to dig in for seconds. Because when it’s eaten fresh from the oven, the scrumptiousness was at its peak.

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Part 2.4 of 3.
White on white on white.
Freshly shaved white truffle fell like rain on the white-of-flesh Baby Ankimo (Japanese monkfish) that had been brined in a konbu-infused gentle salt solution for 8 hours. The fish and its smooth, creamy liver—this was brined for 72 hours—were served in an off-white coloured butter sauce with Vin Jaune, Ankimo, foie gras and blonde miso from Kyoto. There were also paper-thin slices of shimeji mushrooms placed on just before the truffle shavings buried everything in sight.
I was very, very pleased with this course.

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H O S T E D
With each change of the season, Chef de Cuisine Benjamin Halat reinvents his signature Soufflated Egg. Despite having had quite a few of them, I still feel a shiver of thrill run through me whenever this dish is presented.
For his present menu, Chef Benjamin has chosen to embellish the latest incarnation of this cottony cloud of egg white with a liquid yolk centre in Ossetra caviar, potato ragout, crisp potato puffs and a striking seven-herb sauce. This softly creamy green liquid named the “Frankfurter grüne sosse”, is a German version of salsa verde that’s usually eaten with potato and eggs. Composed of various herbs such as the pimpinelle and lovage that are commonly found in a German herb garden, it envelopes the light-as-air egg in a lovely fresh herbaceousness that I have not encountered before.
The good news is regardless of your choice of the 6 or 8-course Chef’s Tasting Menu ($168++ and $188++ respectively), this dish will be a part of it. I consider it a steal considering in the à la carte menu, the price for it is $48++.

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M E D I A T A S T I N G
As identical as they look, the respective wittily-named first and second courses of “Elude” and “Allude” are as different as day and night, or haha, black and white.
Created with the intention to trigger a sense of deja vu, the playfulness is not lost on diners and has even been been an ice-breaker for a solemn business dinner.
Interesting concept aside, both dishes delight the palate in completely different ways.
Served first is “Elude”, a cold dish of French white beetroot, burrata, walnut crumble, dill-marinated cucumber, yogurt foam and Primeur Sturia caviar. It’s refreshing in a gentle way, and I found the contrast of creaminess and crunch really enjoyable.
Alluding to “Elude” is “Allude” (did you get confused there? 😆), a course served warm. Composed of fermented mushroom, bone marrow, thyme croutons, preserved Almafi lemon, mushroom potato mousse and the more intense Oscetria Sturia caviar, this was richer in a deeper way.
Both are available for dinner as part of the Degustation Menu (6-course: $168++, 8-course: $218++).

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M E D I A T A S T I N G

Confession: I felt an eye roll coming on when I first heard of Preludio’s “Monochrome” concept. The word “gimmicky” leaped into mind and I thought the menu would not be the most exciting because of the limitations set.

I WAS WRONG.

Precisely due to the defined perimeters did the courses blaze with originality and a refreshing deliciousness.
Owner-chef Fernando and his team pushed themselves to come up with new expressions of “black and white”. So there were less of the obvious expensive ingredients like sea urchin and truffle (although two kinds of excellent caviar did make an appearance), and more of the elegant unexpected like French white beetroot and a 25-year-old balsamic vinegar. All of which, I think, are factors that contribute to the pretty sane prices of $168++ and $218++ for the 6-course and 8-course degustation dinner menus.

The wine list, put together by Chip the Beverage Manager, riffs on the monochrome theme with wines that come from grapes in limestone and chalk regions to represent “white”, and for “black”, those from areas rich in volcanic type soil, granite and schist.

I love that the theme was extended into the restaurant space. Amidst the very tasteful minimalist-designed interior are table centerpieces of bell jars housing intriguing mini-worlds. Each of these black and white pieces of art, crafted by @divisionhq, a husband and wife team, are one-of-a-kind.

Verdict: Highly recommended.

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M E D I A T A S T I N G
One of the courses in our 8-course Degustation Menu ($218++), this was easily the crowd favourite.
The handmade agnolotti were filled with butternut squash and amaretto, and served in a Parmesan sauce topped with a flurry of almond snow. A deep, dark almost caramelly-thick 25-year-old aged balsamic vinegar, its backstory presented to us just before the plate of agnolotti arrived, was carefully trickled over as the final touch. There seemed to be so much happening here but the deft precision in balancing all of the elements led to exceeding deliciousness.

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This is the legendary “French Toast (Grand Tradition 2008)” on the menu at Three Michelin-starred Restaurant Frantzen in Stockholm, Sweden; an unabashedly decadent creation that, until very recently, required a plane ticket if you wanted to savour it. Not anymore.
With the opening of Restaurant Zén in Singapore, you can now indulge in this 10-year-old signature item because it appears in the $450++ Tasting Menu. And as with every course served on the second floor of Zén, the final part of its preparation was carried out table-side. Head Chef Tristin Farmer did the honours when my friend Tim and I visited last Friday.
The rectangular block of sourdough, first dipped in eggs and truffle cream then fried till crunchy, was topped with a little savoury stew of onions, a lightly pungent Parmesan custard and a few drops of 100-year-old balsamic vinegar. Over all of that went loads and loads of freshly-shaved black truffle.
According to Chef Tristin, the best way to eat the “French Toast” is to hold it like we would a piece of sushi, index finger pressed on the pile of truffle, and finish it in a couple of bites. This was to be chased with sips of the mushroom and black truffle consommé served alongside. I dutifully obeyed and made sure to swallow every delicious crumb and drop.

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The first course to be presented after we had settled into our seats on the second floor of Restaurant Zén was this intricate but perfectly-calibrated edible equivalent of music's “Wall of Sound”. A complex marvellousness that was deliciously rich, the ratio of raw Red Deer to Zén’s prestige caviar was an eye-widener as I was expecting more meat than roe but was I complaining? Of course not.
Joyously interrupting the velvety soft deer meat were dozens upon dozens of slippery pops of salacious saltiness from the special caviar and the zingy sacs of Finger Lime (nicknamed the “caviar of citrus”). The purple Shiso flowers' herbaceous notes added another facet to the dish, while Argan oil’s fragrant presence smoothed everything out so sensuously.

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PART 1 of 3.
I had been looking forward to this dinner (and saving up for it!) ever since my friend Tim and I made plans to dine here, which was quite a while ago. In fact, he has the honour of being the first person ever to make a reservation at this restaurant.
When I had shared my evening on Instagram Stories (it’s now parked under my “Highlights”), quite a few people messaged me asking what I thought of it. I said Zén is worth the splurge for a few reasons but the main one, is that there is nothing like it in Singapore.
A unique dining destination housed in what must be one of the narrowest heritage buildings in Singapore, it has a menu designed to be enjoyed across the vastly different-in-design spaces of the three floors. I found the food, an amalgamation of Nordic, Swedish and Japanese cuisines, fascinating and very enjoyable. Every edible item that came our way was stunning, and revealed itself to be a highly sophisticated creation of bold yet balanced complex flavours.
Shown above is one of the five snacks Tim and I were served when seated on the first level also known as “The Kitchen”. It’s a take on råraka (hash brown) that also happens to be on the menu at “big sister” Restaurant Frantzen in Stockholm, Sweden. A crispy potato roll, it’s filled with creme fraiche and the Nordic delicacy - vendace roe.

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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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