Atas Good Times

Atas Good Times

When you just splurge it all ...
Xing Wei Chua
Xing Wei Chua

Hadn’t really went all out with my meals recently — but when a friend has mentioned that he has made a reservation to celebrate an occasion in advance of two months and refuses to disclose the destination, guess one would just have to show up and let the surprise unravel anyway. And that’s how I found myself being in front of the doors of a 3 Michelin Star restaurant located by the street at Shaw Centre, waiting to enter as the clock strikes 12 noon for the signage to flip from “closed” to “open” (thanks for choosing this place, anyway).

There are quite a number of menus to choose from, but we found ourselves going for the Le Menu Été Dégustation — essentially the degustation menu that comprises of a selection of dishes which best represents the restaurant’s character as a French fine-dining establishment; a little of a splurge on our part, but was a well-made decision nonetheless. The dishes served up in the Le Menu Été Dégustation are as follows (in sequence):

- Amuse Bouche (three kinds);
- Assortment of breads
- Le homard bleu de Normandie en coraline à l’hulle d’olive extra vierge
- Les oursins sur un soufflé moelleux, sauce crustacée
- Étuvée de giroles <> au foie gras
- Le turbot sauvage de I’île d’Yeu, sauce Champagne au petit caviar <
- Le filet de Canard de Vendée, navet noveaux glacés
- Pre-dessert; Fresh Herbs Sorbet, Pineapple, Rum and Vanilla Sorbet
- La pêche blanche du Roussillon, pochée et servi en entremets
- Petit Fours

Our meal started off with the Amuse Bouche; small bites that opened our palates featuring tomatoes that are in seasoned which are sourced from France done in three ways — zingy and refreshing, whilst meeting savoury elements that effectively kicked the start of the meal and setting our expectations right. The breads were also impeccable; special love for the Sea Salt Brioche Feuilletee which was like a crossover of good croissant with its layered exterior and a brioche that is just suitably savoury, and goes very well with their luscious butter. If I have to pick between the starters to just mention about one single dish, the Les oursins sur un soufflé moelleux, sauce crustacée was hands-down my favourite — Sea Urchin Soufflé with Tarragon & Dill served alongside a crustacean sauce; an item conceptualised in a manner that I would have least expected for one that included sea urchin, and was not only delicate, yet bursts of the umami and natural sweetness of the various seafood exceptionally well. The Le filet de Canard de Vendée, navet noveaux glacés; essentially Roasted Challans Duck Breast from Vendée with glazed summer turnips and duck jus was also perfect — probably the biggest portion of duck breast I have seen on my plate, not to mention how it is so incredibly tender, juicy and not particularly gamey; carried the slight savouriness of the poultry so well with a slight tang from the jus that was poured in whilst being served. Was also truly impressed with their pre-dessert; had a fun time guessing the five herbs that went into the Fresh Herbs sorbet, but it was the use of vanilla beans in a sorbet that really left the mark for me since vanilla-flavoured ice-creams typically exists only in milk-based formats. Would really like to write about every single dish given how every item seem to have continuously and constantly impressed, bringing the gastronomical experience higher as we sat through the three-hour long meal, but I would be busting Instagram caption limits that way I guess.

Have heard a lot of Les Amis before making this visit, and the impression I was often given is how Les Amis tend to be a spot that is a little more classic in its approach and execution. That being said, do not mistake Les Amis as a formal establishment that feels dated in the food that they served up. If anything, we were more than impressed with how the dishes served were nothing short of being current with the times in terms of preparation and plating, not to mention that there is an onslaught of caviar and the use of premium ingredients with most of the dishes that resonates with the price tag. Les Amis is an establishment that is very deserving of its status as a 3 Michelin Star restaurant — from its attentive service where they were able to accede to our request, to how each and every dish seems to be so perfectly done that makes it one of the most well-rounded fine dining experiences I have ever had. It’s that place I would probably be dreaming of visiting on an occasion, and one that I am likely to fulfil if my wallet ever allows for it again.

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Hadn’t been into the fine-dining game for quite a while; ended up going for Preludio only because I was free and someone else was also coincidentally available on the same day — a rarity that brought us to having lunch here on a weekday.

Being a fine-dining establishment with a theme, Preludio is now in Chapter Two of their “orchestrated chapters” with the theme being “Time”; the fine-dining establishment previously being brought to attention for their “Monochrome” concept in Chapter One which ran from November 2019 to February 2020. The Time Experience Menu is essentially a six-course affair served Omakase-style, and includes bread service, palate cleanser, and petit four — being priced at S$128++ for weekday lunch; the cuisine revolving around the theme of time where it may be “a moment, an age, a journey or passage; even exploring ancestry and lineage” — a theme that stays consistent and evident from the dishes served especially with the use of aged components and fermentation being very prominent.

A couple of my favourites from the menu which was served on the day of our visit will be the Brioche — fluffy bread that was served with a Fermented Mushroom Glaze and Caramalised Onion Butter; the glaze is almost akin to that of a satisfying cinnamon bun but provides an additional oomph of umami without being overly sweet which was an interesting flavour combination that works out exceptionally well. The King Eggplant was also another winner — savoury aged sashimi-grade Kingfish that is sliced thickly for a great mouthfeel, served with white eggplant ice-cream for a neutral note and blueberry pearls for a slight zing for some contrast of flavours. Another stunner was the π; essentially Celeriac, Squash, Vanilla Cream, Thyme and Grains on a tart pastry — a wonderful item that showcases the skill and execution of the chef through the interesting use of layers for a crispy, yet crunchy texture with a slight sweetness and nuttiness that cuts through the distinct notes of celeriac.

And of course, the crowd favourite has to be the Onion Knight — Wagyu Striploin marble score 7, Onion 5 ways; really enjoyed how smoky that slab of beef was; yet tender and succulent without being any way gamey while the interesting execution of onions here provided a variance of textures and a natural sweetness that pairs so well with the meat.

What I really enjoyed about Preludio is not just the food, but how well-rounded the experience was; the emphasis on the decor, their guests (yes, we had that birthday piñata without actually expecting one) — it was truly well-worth making the trip for. The service staff were not only hospitable and warm, but also have a good knowledge of the food they serve, the concept being behind the theme, as well as the furnishings (because someone had to ask 🤭). I have heard that the menu differs across the board for the various experience menus served on Weekday Lunch, Dinner (highly-recommended by the service staff) and Saturday Lunch; but it’s the Executive Lunch Set served on weekdays that is pretty worth the buck at S$58++ for four courses (excluding supplements) — definitely a deal for those looking to give the Preludio experience a go. Must say that we have left impressed; and would certainly keep this place in mind when the occasion calls for it!

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Another one off the checklist finally — finally tried Bistro November's chef's menu for dinner and it is really an experience of its own; from tasting things such as Frog Liver Parfait (fun fact: never had a frog in my entire life before, let alone frog innards) to Lamb Tartare and fun dishes such as the Corn Corn Corn, it's definitely a place where one needs to keep an open mind while visiting, especially with the concept of zero wastage where uncommon ingredients that otherwise usually scrapped are being used — very creative yet adventurous at the same time.

Keeping things simple here, my favourite dishes here would have to be the Lamb Tartare; a dish that I would have thought could have been a lot more gamier, the Lamb Tartare was interestingly way more manageable in terms of flavour, almost identical to a beef tartare but even lighter — the texture was also pretty similar and almost melts in the mouth without any nasty, unchewable parts that might be too tough. The use of chamomile was also interesting here, with a noticeable hint of floral flavours with every mouthful to keep things pretty uplifting to go on and on. The main course was one that was a little bit safer than most of the other items, though I pretty much enjoyed the safeness here with the tender pork belly served with burnt leek that is served with the fermented barley risotto that carried quite a good bite — the umami flavours are aptly cut by the tangy snake beans and sour cream that comes laced with a bit of cheese that made the transition of flavours pretty smooth. My absolute favourite had to be the Corn Corn Corn — a smart use of corn in different preparation techniques; smooth mousse that replicates the flavours of corn using parts of corn that is rather uncommonly found in dishes. The dessert was also a stunner with liquorice ice-cream with fermented plums; a sweet ending with a little contrast.

A meal at Bistro November may not be one that's for everyone, considering some might not be able to get past the mental barrier behind some of the ingredients used — go there with an open mind and leave it to the chef; trust the team preparing the food and it might possibly be one of the most memorable meals one might have had for a while.

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Part of the set lunch menu where 2 courses are served at $25++ and the 3 course set lunch menu costs $35++. Usually one who is not particularly wow-ed by popcorn desserts but this really worked very well — definitely enjoyed this one a lot! Served with raspberry sauce, meringue and nibs of raspberry on the side, the reason why this seemed to have carried the popcorn flavour so prominently and well was probably due to the popcorn crumbs beneath the ice-cream with the pop rocks — it's almost akin to having the real deal. The ice-cream wasn't overpowering, and that the pop rocks created an interesting popping sensation to the dish. Despite the general tartness of raspberry, the combination here worked well with a balance of sweet and berry sourness that was pretty much in harmony. This dessert also works particularly well with the Flat White — coffee/tea/soft drinks come complimentary with the set lunch menu here.

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Part of the set lunch menu where 2 courses are served at $25++ and the 3 course set lunch menu costs $35++. Opted for the barramundi as the main course and it comes with baby octopus, broth, herbs and clams. A dish that I felt was very ocean-centric — different elements of seafood here even in the broth (the staff mentioned crabs and prawns about the broth). Loved how the barramundi is delightfully flaky, but it went especially well with the umami broth which enhanced the flavour of the otherwise, usually simple flavour of the barramundi. The clams were pretty fresh, while I love the charred baby octopus which was easy to chew. Something that would work if one is into the flavours of the sea.

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Making use of the opportunity to try Salted & Hung (like finally!) since they are running a promotion only for today where the set lunch for two-courses is priced at $20++ (up: $25++) and three-courses at $28++ (up: $35++).

A starter with cod, potato and chorizo, this comes served in espuma form — cod comes together with cream and potato into the mousse atop; the result is just a whiff of cod within the creamy espuma and with the crusty cubes of potatoes and savory chorizo bits to bite on — quite the savoury dish that makes your tastebuds feel ready for what's going to come.

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Back after last year's pretty impressive set lunch that we had, and this time we decided to hit Wild Rocket for their Omakase Set Lunch; essentially an 8-course menu where we are in for surprise after surprise — no menu that states dish names and descriptions, everything only known at the point when it comes out of the kitchen. Depending on the produce that they have and what is being served, the meal would cost in between $80++ to $120++.

Being there once before, certain dishes such as the Thai Duck Salad with Red Curry Ice-Cream and the Otah on Flounder with Brussels Sprouts were reminiscent of dishes that we had during our previous visit — different flavours done in a style that distinctively carries the Wild Rocket branding in terms of execution. Other dishes showcases Chef Willin Low's signature way of mod-Sin cuisine such as the Singapore Noodles with King Prawn — a "national"dish that doesn't exist in Singapore which he had created a flavour profile for with elements such as lobster oil and prawn fat. Other dishes such as the Beef Hor Fun (Hor Fun pan-seared with 48 hours sous vide beef short ribs within served with Black Bean Sauce), Chicken Rice with Truffle and their interpretation of Bak Chor Mee (think glass vermicelli, seared tuna belly with pork lard) are simply fun and inventive creations of local fare that employs modern cooking techniques and contemporary presentation that injects a new life to something locals find familiar. Both the desserts such as the Pineapple Sorbet (which includes ingredient such as mint sugar, soya sauce salt and chili flakes) and Chendol (that Gula Melaka was phenomenal here!) all drew the perfect closing for the meal, cleansing the palate and made an impactful end with their finesse (I have relatively bad luck with desserts in fine-dining spots).

Always an adventure dining here; I love how the ingredients sound so familiar and are all fresh, and one could actually relate to the concept of the dish given how Wild Rocket is all about mod-Sin — updated local cuisine that we grew up with. Definitely enjoyed learning about different elements that I had never have before (aged soya sauce for 1.5 years anybody?), and always a great joy to be dining here.

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Desserts from the set lunch menu; Trio of Flowers is made of Osmantnus & Chrysanthemum Granita with Elderflower Jelly; a pretty refreshing palate cleanser that was not in any bit boring especially with the floral scent hitting right on the spot and the elderflower jelly providing a tasteful touch of sourness that helps to give the dessert a contrast. Strawberry Cheesecake is the signature of Wild Rocket that is absolutely luxurious; cream cheese and digestive biscuits, macerated strawberries and a really seductive Maple Walnut ice-cream — classic Strawberry cheesecake elements thrown together in a martini glass for a deconstructed form which is pretty hard to explain how good it is for they had tweaked a few of the ingredients, which makes their signature item a real signature apart from the rest.

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Everything was good here, but this was simply phenomenal for me. Not part of the set lunch menu, but part of the ala-carte menu. Cleverly serving the coconut dressing in a form of a sorbet/ice-cream, it injects a contrast in the temperature of how the dish is being served. The vegetables and prawns are fresh, but the difference was really made when you crush that dressing to spread it evenly across the bowl; it adds creamy, tangy Tom Yum-like flavour to the salad which comes full with a pretty good kick of spiciness that goes well with even the zesty pomelo chunks. If the meal was already gastronomical by itself alone, I shld probably go as far to say that this is simply a level or two above. Credits to Chef Willin whom served this complimentary to us.

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Leaning towards lighter flavours, the Baked Halibut with Curry Hollandaise is as outstanding as the more flavour-intensive dishes as well. Halibut was done just right; flaky without losing all the moisture within and baked twice; once by itself and another time after the Curry Hollandaise is applied so it actually sticks to the fish rather than being a wet drizzle. Curry flavours were evident, and it can be even said that this dish could have been inspired by Fish Curry given the root vegetables that come on the side. Despite the lack of seasoning done to the vegetables (which I felt was done intentionally), the vegetables managed to pull off their natural flavours that seemed to place emphasis on the freshness and flavour from the root vegetables themselves. Definitely a dish for those who prefer lighter flavours.

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Yet another dish that scored a goal. The instructions to enjoy this was simple; peel off the rice paper atop, squeeze the calamansi over and just dig in. Absolutely in love with the Iberico Pork; simply one of the most tender ones I have ever had for now that doesn't need a knife to cut through for the tender meat is all bouncy, juicy and all streaky coated in a layer of smoky sweetness that is pretty alluring. Quinoa was decent, but do portion it out with the Shanghai Kaocai which adds a umami factor to the Quinoa. Even the mushroom at the side deserves a little mention for the subtle sweetness that sets it apart from the usual dried mushrooms we are used to getting out there. It is said that the rice paper was added as a carb for the dish, for this was a dish inspired by the "Tau Yu Bak" and the rice paper intentionally replaces the bread, though typically the staff would advise patrons to leave it out for the texture of a half-steamed rice paper may not appeal to all (but it's been noted that some patrons do eat it anyway).

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A marriage between the Carpacio and the Chinese Yu Sheng. Fresh slices of fish that comes with a drizzle of the orange shallot oil, not only does it comes with the tangy flavours of orange, but the shallots were also crisp and roasty the same way you would expect the shallots to be on a warm bowl of porridge.

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Up, down and everywhere around for food.

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