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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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Trust Executive Chef Sebastian to ensure a palate cleanser at his Two Michelin Star restaurant is a completely different creature. Not content with an elegant quenelle of sorbet, he introduced an entire ice-cream trolley about four months ago. So what is usually an interim course in a fine dining meal (which doesn’t even get a mention in menus most of the time), has become a genuine treat to look forward to during lunch or dinner at Les Amis.
On the day my friend Annette and I visited, there were five flavours to choose from, all homemade of course. It doesn’t take a genius to guess how many we ended up with. We did seem to enjoy the Sicilian pistachio and the Piedmont hazelnut most. The flavour we weren’t too crazy about was the four-fruit sorbet.

I think of this as the equivalent of a brilliant spin-off from an award-winning series because in a way, it is a derivation of my all-time favourite dish on Spago’s dinner menu - the Pan Fried Red Snapper “Laksa” by Executive Chef Greg Bess. In here, he has combined that with his other favourite local food: “otah”.
Boneless chunks of locally-caught snapper are assembled with a coconut milk-rich, spicy “otah” along with clipped strands of laksa noodles that have been fried in “rempah” in a banana leaf and grilled. The package is presented as a whole first to the guests, then unwrapped table-side. Even before the rising steam clears, spanner crab curry is ladled over the tender, moist contents, followed by some foamed laksa gravy. Tiny coriander flowers from Vietnam, a few wispy strands of saffron and a sprinkle of laksa leaves are added as the finishing touches.
This elevated amalgamation of two kinds of hawker food is no namby-pamby thing that tiptoes through the daffodils when it comes to spiciness. It’s pretty robust but doesn’t raze tastebuds. Well, unless you decide to overload it with the accompanying sambal (which by the way, looks nothing like any other sambal I have seen). What’s non-negotiable for me is a squeeze of the fresh lime - a few drops of this “good juju” is integral to taking things up a notch.
If you wish to give the “Otah Stuffed Red Snapper” a try, do take note it appears on the seasonal Chef’s Tasting Menu.

Season after season, Group Pastry Chef of Les Amis, Cheryl Koh, never fails to impress everyone with her desserts. This is one of her latest creations showcasing a white peach from Rousillon since summer is when stone fruits have their moment in the sun.
Hidden within the sliced fruit (probably done by a ninja seeing how insanely perfectly those cuts are) is a core of light peach cream. The granité beneath is a lemon verbena in flavour, which explains the plant on the table (it is the verbena itself). The sweet and juicy peach becomes all the lovelier with the aromatic refreshing note and iciness it brings.

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Hand on my heart, these are the tastiest mussels I have ever eaten.
A bigger size isn’t necessarily better when it comes to this shellfish. So although they are on the smaller side, the “Bouchot Mussels” (it refers to the aquaculture technique used to rear them) are plump and creamy, and more importantly, have none of the fishiness and hard-to-chew bits.
Furthermore, this dish which is on Executive Chef Sebastien Lepinoy’s NEW Summer menu at Two MICHELIN-Starred “Les Amis”, carries a hint of curry in a sauce made from summer vegetables and raspberry vinegrette, which I think is genius.

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The newly launched Summer menu is studded with gems, of which the “Lobster Fondant” is one of the most captivating and divine-tasting in my opinion.
Delicate petals of blanched zucchini are meticulously arranged over a heart of what I call “lobster ice-cream”. Made from Blue Lobster, it has an thick mousse-like texture and is prepared with cognac, truffle and cherry vinegar to mouthwatering results. A springy piece of juicy, succulent lobster meat and a heap of extra large and creamy Oscietra caviar from Kaviari in Paris are the crowning glory on this savoury “sundae”.
Served alongside are lightly toasted slices of freshly baked sourdough which taste very good with the lobster fondant. But my friend Annette and I very happy to polish off most of this impeccably presented beauty sans carbs.

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If I had to pick one dish that I consider a must-try at Two Michelin Starred “Les Amis”, this would be it: the “La Langoustine De Loctudy”, a mesmerising marvel of exquisite presentation and utmost deliciousness.
Save for the pretty tail fanning out on the plate, the large crustacean is stripped down to pure, succulent, bodacious flesh. It is cooked to the optimal degree between bounce and tenderness, and possesses such a clean-tasting sweetness that overwhelming it with too much would be a crime. Fortunately Executive Chef Sebastien Lepinoy achieves pitch perfect execution with exacting embellishments of lightly crunchy ribbons of courgettes, an emulsion conjured using extra virgin olive oil from Provence, France, and a glistening dollop of Kaviari Paris’ extra big and creamy oscietra caviar.
I have had this dish on every single one of my last three visits to this legendary fine dining establishment and it still manages to enchant me.

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Our dinner at Eleven Madison Park started off very strong with a caviar course that’s inspired by the popular brunch item of Eggs Benedict.
Charmingly presented in a little custom-made can, the Sturgeon Caviar was heaped on green asparagus and ham gelée with pickled quail’s egg yolk beneath. Perched on the edge of the can was a big dollop of airy-light hollandaise. To accompany, two (too few if you ask me) hot-from-the-oven mini English muffins.
This course alone is reason enough to visit.

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Although there were three options for the main in the 5-course Bar Menu, TH and I zeroed in on the Aged Duck. It is after all, a signature of @elevenmadisonpark and fortunately, it was every bit as delicious as it’s reputed to be.
What I loved was how the skin, having been lavished with honey, cumin, sea salt, black pepper and Szechuan peppercorns, became a vital element in the dish, adding extra texture and flavour to every bite of the tender breast meat. The citrus duck jus and crunchy radish joined in to give a lift and brightness too.

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Like fashion that has shrugged off autumn and winter’s deep hues and the cocooning warmth of rich wools to breeze around in spring’s ethereal floatiness and pretty colours, Spago too has left the deeper, richer flavour facets of the past season to bounce into the present one with new creations such as the dish pictured above.
Found on both the 7-course dinner tasting menu ($175++ per person) and a la carte menu ($32++), this gorgeousness features seasonal white asparagus with big chunks of sweet Maine lobster, springy bamboo clams and ripe mangoes. As wondrous as the crisp clean and bright flavours of these exceedingly fresh ingredients are, cloak them in the accompanying light coconut cream and you’ll be transported via that kaffir lime oil-scented and stealthily spicy velvet sauce into a different Thai-mension (pun completely intended 😊).

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When you want to eat healthy but you #baller too.
This colourful Cobb Salad would tick both of those boxes effortlessly as it has fresh and juicy chunks of Maine lobster gracing it. Also, applewood-smoked bacon, crumbled bits of blue cheese, egg white “caviar”, egg yolk, avocado, haricot vert, salad leaves and baby tomatoes. The dressing, served in a little jug, is a thick balsamic vinaigrette.
Healthy and hearty, it is perfect for when you can’t afford a post-lunch food coma.

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So I finally deviated from my usual for my choice of main course at Spago, and opted for the Pan Roasted Organic Chicken instead.
Little did I know it was going to be huge (can you believe that’s only half a chicken on my plate?!), have freshly shaved black truffle scattered over, and be sitting in a pool of the tastiest chicken jus with wild mushrooms. As delicious and essential to the chicken as that jus was, the golden-brown skin was for me, the most gasp-worthy part of this dish. It was cooked to a sublime crisp.
I couldn’t ask for a better accompaniment than the buttery Yukon Golden potato purée finished with more black truffle that was served alongside in a separate little dish.

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Having had the excellent value-for-money set lunch menu every time we have been here, it was decided that we’d order from the a la carte menu today instead. And boy, did it leave us impressed.
The four of us picked a dish each but ended up sharing the lot so we could try all the items.
Personally I found the Pan Roasted Organic Chicken ($42++) and Grilled Iberico Pork Chop ($45++) the tastiest of the lot. The serving for the latter was huge even though it was only half a chicken, and the chicken jus served with it, was incredible.

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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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