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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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Classic French cooking done with supreme elegance and class. I had almost forgotten this level of dining existed but fortunately, a long-planned visit to “Les Amis” with my foodie friends Tim, Zee and Loo Lin, reminded me of how sublime it can be.
Our table of 4 opted for the six-course “Le Menu Automne” by Chef Sébastien Lepinoy as it had dishes we wanted to taste. Furthermore, how could we not splurge having waited for ages for this night to celebrate a milestone in Tim’s life.
Bookending our meal were two trolleys – one of bread, the other, cheese (the latter was an add-on, not part of the menu). They ranked up there as some of the most impressive I’ve seen.
To accompany the four kinds of breads displayed on the former, only Le Ponclet, a French butter so exclusive it’s supplied to twenty restaurants worldwide would do. We were told Chef Lepinoy had to submit his resume for the company to evaluate if Les Amis is worthy of it.
Equally jaw-dropping was the spread of cheese wheeled over for us to choose after our last course. We ended up going overboard with 15 kinds, savouring them plain, some with extra virgin olive oil and others, butter.
Here are what we feasted on between the breads and cheese:
1. Slow roasted Erquy scallop with a creamy sauce seasoned with autumn herbs & aromates: The sauce was incredibly delicious and the scallop, simply superb.
2. Langoustine with caviar, courgette & emulsion of extra virgin olive oil from Provence: Loo Lin’s friends had raved about this dish and rightly so. It was flawless in every single way. It was with a heavy heart that I ate my last bite of it.
3. “La Truffe Blanche d’Alba” or white truffle from Alba with seared potato gnocchi: The potato dumplings were pleasantly chewy but trust the truffle to steal my “oohs” and “aahs”.
4. Line-caught sea bass served on glazed baby leeks, grapes & verjus sauce: Fish with grapes was a combination I‘d not encountered till that point. And what a killer pairing they made. It helped that the fruit was a one-of-a-kind certified varietal.
5. Japanese Omi beef with pomme soufflé & Chef’s interpretation of a béarnaise sauce: Exquisite and playful at the same time.
6. Williams pear poached in an infusion of star anise with caramel cream: A render-the-table-speechless dessert was required. This did the job and then some.

Shoutout to Zee for arranging Tim’s surprise cake and his “special power” to make free champagne flow 😆.

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It’s not often you find quail on a set lunch menu, let alone one that is cooked and presented so perfectly it sent everyone who had a piece, into rapturous exclamations.
The petite fowl, with a brioche stuffing, was cooked till nicely tender and juicy. It was then neatly carved and plated with Swiss chard, pistachio gremolata, fennel purée, caramelised Comice pears and natural quail jus. I found the little elements of sweetness to go so well with the quail.
If you are looking for a lovely natural light-flooded restaurant with several options across all three categories in their set lunch menu, I highly recommend Spago. At $45++, the value they offer is as astonishing as the deliciousness of their food.

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A smart chef once said a birthday celebration should always involve a lobster. Burppler Jayne Tan and I were only to happy to concur. I mean, who were we to turn away this fine looking fella who showed up when we least expected it, posing on his own platform mind you. And clearly dressed to impress.
A “live” one from Maine, he schmoozed us with his taut bod, freshness and a flair for the daring - fearlessly exuding cross-border scents and flavours of Kashmiri chillies with Chinese style fermented black beans, crispy garlic, scallions and coriander. Needless to say, we succumbed to his delicious charms and shamelessly threw ourselves on him with wild abandon. It was quite an orgy.
Thanks again Chef Greg for sending this “Angry” dude our way.

I have great news.
The “Mangrove Truffle Black Nut” by Chef de Cuisine Greg Bess is back on the menu at Spago. If you‘ve never tasted it, now is your chance. I don’t have to preach to those who have because I know you guys are already aware of its unique, magnificent taste.
With a cool, light and smooth texture not unlike a luxuriant cream, this has the earthiness of the Indonesian "buah keluak" nut cleverly combined with the decadence of foie gras for a taste that has bowled over everyone I know who’s had it.
Most like it spread on the toasted slices of housemade brioche while others, prefer to go carb-less. I am very happy either way.

To say the plating here is visually captivating is an understatement.
The second of our 5-course meal, and the most Oriental in terms of taste profile in my opinion, arrived on a plate that looked like a pair of hands was carefully cradling the duck (don’t you just love a clever trompe-l’œil?). Perfectly apt seeing how delectable the braised French Challans duck revealed itself to be.
With the stringiness all but gone, the flesh was silky-smooth and soft, caressing my mouth almost, along with the voluptuous eggplant cream. Crunchy water chestnut, springy jelly mushrooms and slippery kanten noodles were the refreshing accents to each bite, multiplying the facets of texture and flavour exponentially in this slightly sweet dish.

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“Buddha” isn’t the only one willing to “Jump Over The Wall” for this.
I for one, am equally gung-ho because under the serene yin-yang scallop “cheong fun” is a riot of boisterous flavours.
Lift those silky sheets and you’ll be pulled into a group hug by the “wolf pack” of iberico pork, scallops and abalone. In an instant, these party animals will have you getting down like there’s no tomorrow not just with them but also shiitake custard, lotus seeds and shiitake mushroom cap. Things can get really intense in the pool of rich pork broth.
And then, when it’s all over, you’ll be left a little dazed and overwhelmed, changed forever by the experience.

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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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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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