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European Eats

European Eats

Featuring Spago by Wolfgang Puck, The Dempsey Cookhouse & Bar, Firebake - Woodfired Bakehouse & Restaurant, Iggy's, Saint Pierre, OLA Cocina del Mar, 28Wilkie, La Petite Boutique
Veronica Phua
Veronica Phua
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Think of these Pintxos as the welcome committee on the red carpet rolled out to usher a delegation of French wines and sumptuous bar bites. They shake awake sleepy tastebuds with the bold flavours of pickled kohada (a seasonal Japanese gizzard fish) and Escalivada (a traditional Spanish dish of slow-roasted vegetables) to ready you for even more good things to come. Forming the base is a crunchy piece of toast that complements the soft, savoury fish and slightly mushy, sweet, smoky vegetable component nicely.

Here's a study of delicious contrast: juicy slab of grilled pork belly with an addictively salty crackling wallows in a clear pool of garden vegetable broth.
From the side, a house-baked slice of rye casts a neutral eye over this coming together of the sinful and the saintly, the yin and the yang.
I found my happy place at their intersection 😄

If you are looking for something light but still raging with flavour, you should consider this. Cured in-house, the fish is marvelously moist and melt-in-the-mouth tender. It may be a little on the salty side due to the curing but that's where the leeks, dill and sweet pickled onions come in to balance things out. I loved getting a bit of everything in each bite as they taste best together.

So many orders of this pot of mussels ($25++) went sailing by that despite having confirmed our main courses, we decided to go with the flow and get one for ourselves.
As this place is a bakehouse, the theme of wheat was continued in this dish. So instead of the typical white wine, the plump, creamy-fleshed Norwegian blue mussels were simmered in lager. The choice of alcohol gave the broth a unique taste profile, while the plentiful sliced onions, garlic and fresh herb boosted sweetness and fragrance.
Firebake is only serving dinner from 6pm to 10pm for now but come April, they will be throwing their doors open at 7.30am for all-day dining.

The big ass smoked eggplant wasn't the lone operative in pulling off the heist on my tastebuds. This was a team effort with sly spiced hummus, slippery green tomato chunks, hard-nosed manchego and tough-guy toasted barley, all moving in as one.
Even the thought of putting up a fight was ridiculously laughable.

Ironically, the smallest item at last Friday's dinner happened to be the most expensive. But the Egg Caviar had a luxurious mouthfeel and tasted exquisite, so it did make me smile.
Under the pile of caviar (which klutzy me found tricky to eat without triggering a mini avalanche) was a warm, foamy egg sabayon. It really was an ideal base to the slippery crunch of the caviar's oceanic brightness.

For me, the most interesting dish of the night was the foie gras. And it also happens to be the one I liked best.
Not only was the goose liver of a good size but it was beautifully cooked. What fascinated me though was the pairing of it with lychees and black olives. The sweet and salty mix was surprising and brilliant. There's also a rose element which I suspect, was what the pile of silky "powder" was. The scent must have been faint but that didn't detract one bit from my enjoyment.
Even the slender piece of toast placed alongside the foie gras played an important role: using its neutrality to bring all the stronger-tasting components together.
This is a must-try in my opinion.

Of course I had to order this signature of Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. And it was everything I hoped it would be.
The crisp and light crust was the result of time spent in the cherry wood-fired oven. And smothered over it was a generous amount of black truffle from France. Not only in paste form but shaved as well. The fontina cheese was perfect in its supporting role as it added a touch of creamy saltiness. I also liked the small pile of frisée in the middle - it helped to cut the richness beautifully.
What surprised me most about this dish though was the lower-than-expected price point. Two slices are filling so I recommended ordering this to share.

What an umami-licious dish this is!
The most popular main course of OLA Cocina Del Mar's counter set lunch ($28++), the "Fiduea" squid ink noodle paella has the subtle flavours of the sea packed into every bite.
I loved how fragrant the thin strands of noodles were; some of which were a little crispy from being against the hot pan. The clams and squid tasted really fresh, and the latter was beautifully springy. They were all good on their own but became even better when smeared with a big dollop of that lusciously creamy piquillo pepper aioli.

I N V I T E D T A S T I N G
When you order caviar, chances are you'll be served blinis (small pancakes), sour cream and chives to eat it with. However, at "28 Wilkie Bar & Restaurant", I was introduced to a completely different experience of indulging in this luxurious food.
What co-owner Benjamin did was scoop the luscious black fish roe from the tin and placed them in a neat pile on the outside of my hand, on the flattish triangular area of skin where the bases of thumb and index finger meet. Following his instructions, I picked them up using my mouth, and pressed the roe spread across my tongue against the roof of my mouth (such sensuousness!) to extract the goodness from each little pearl. Ambrosial doesn't even begin to describe the taste! What's more, we started with the Amur River Caviar which was the least expensive at $180++. As we progressed to the even more premium variety of the Hybrid ($220++) and the Kaluga ($400++), the levels of pleasure soared even higher.
I never thought there would be that much difference between caviars but this opportunity to try three types at one go, opened my eyes.
The Hybrid was the most complex and creamiest. And as much as I loved that, it was the Kaluga that blew me away. There was a pristineness to this most expensive one that gave it an unrivaled edge.

Visiting Ola Cocina Del Mar for their Counter Set Lunch was a spur of the moment decision. One which, after eating my fill of it, I regret not having sooner!
After perching my butt on one of the tall chairs lining the counter, a basket of warm bread with a saucer of olive oil quite swiftly appeared. The wait staff asked if I'd like some balsamic vinegar to which I nodded in reply, before he proceeded to splash some in to the oil.
There's no choice for the starter in this Set Lunch but I couldn't be happier with what was served as it comprised of two cool components - Cuanas and a bowl of Gazpacho.
The former is essentially a Peruvian potato salad with tomato mayo, hard-boiled egg and Migas. The latter just happens to be the BEST gazpacho I have had. Chilled just right with a full mouthfeel from a smooth, creamy texture, it danced on my tastebuds with sweetness while a raspberry vinegar gave it just the right tinge of extra dimension.

I N V I T E D T A S T I N G
Let me be clear - I am not a person who likes lamb but this one from "28 Wilkie" was unlike any I have ever had.
The beautiful herb-encrusted rack pictured above, proved to be an anomaly. There was none of that smell which is the thing that turns me off every time I come face to face with this meat.
Somehow between the talented culinary skills of Chef Kenny and the discerning tastebuds of Co-owner Benjamin, some magic took place, and I found myself enjoying this piece of lamb with great satisfaction.
Fabulously tender and juicy, the rack of 6-month-old New Zealand lamb was an absolute revelation for me as to what lamb could be. The accompaniments of potato, brussel sprouts were lovely too but I have to say, it was the roasted garlic purée that stole my heart. It's so good I could have eaten it on its own.

About Veronica Phua
Veronica Phua

Veronica Phua

5002 Reviews  89727 Followers

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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