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European Eats

Featuring Firebake - Woodfired Bakehouse & Restaurant, Spago by Wolfgang Puck, The Dempsey Cookhouse & Bar, Iggy's, CURATE, Maggie Joan's, SKIRT, Saint Pierre, House of MU, OLA Cocina del Mar
Veronica Phua
Veronica Phua
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I have been very much into Chef Aitor’s food ever since I encountered it at the one Michelin starred restaurant he previously headed. So it was with great excitement that I made a reservation at “Basque Kitchen by Aitor” the moment I read @bibikgourmand‘s post about this opening.
It was great to have my foodie friend @szeliang888 join me for lunch and without hesitation, we zeroed in on the Tasting Menu.
What ensued was a series of soulful Basque dishes reinterpreted by Chef Aitor’s modern vision that appeared simple but were clearly, sophisticated. Here is what we had...
Two snacks to warm us up - cured anchovies from the Bay of Biscay with tomato and olive oil “caviar”, plus crunchy croquette with Jambon de Bayon.
Then came housemade sourdough with espelette pepper butter.
This was followed by a gorgeous ruby-coloured cherry and watermelon gazpacho which Chef proceeded to shower with a flurry of cottage cheese snow.
Next, his innovative take on the classic Basque dish of “Marmitako”, a stew made with fish and potatoes. Tradition took a back seat with brined bonito replacing the cooked fish, giving extra definition to an otherwise “comfort food” profile.
I wasn’t wrong when I felt there was something familiar about the oxtail risotto with truffle and foie gras that came after. Chef confirmed it’s basically the same pasta he use to serve but done with rice here. Topped with a confit egg yolk, it’s as delicious as ever.
Course number five was a large, fresh piece of wild-caught Black Grouper plated with tiny, ridiculously sweet peas and a piquilla pepper sauce. I loved this.
Szeliang had to literally, take a moment for himself when the leek broth was brought forth. Its basic looks belied the astonishing complexity from a dashi of smoked leeks. Hence his reaction.
The final savoury item was a perfectly done, juicy piece of Australian 200days grain-fed prime rib. There’s no need for much else with a meat like that, so a silky-smooth mash sufficed.
Our lunch ended with a delectable dessert of sweet strawberries accompanied by a creamy milk and vanilla ice-cream.
At $115++, I think this is really worth it. And if you can secure a booking before 24th October 2018, the ongoing 50% discount they have till then, elevates it to a steal. A $45++ Set Menu++ is also available if something lighter is preferred.

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M E D I A T A S T I N G
This month (September) is the restaurant’s 3rd anniversary and I am embarrassed to admit today’s visit was a first for me. But I now see why it’s beloved by many.
Group Executive Chef Seumas Smith who is below thirty years of age, has an impressive resume from having started work in kitchens at the age of sixteen. He hails from Scotland’s Isle of Mey, and has cleverly tapped into his roots, working with small producers there to incorporate unique elements in his food.
Speaking of which, for me, the show-stealers at the tasting I attended, were the vegetable-centred dishes. They‘re part of “Maggie Joan’s” new menu and were all gorgeous to behold and fabulously delicious.
Even if you’re not by nature a greens-lover, you ought not to skip the following:
1) The beetroot done two ways - barbecued in the INKA charcoal oven and pickled in a mix of red wine, red wine vinegar, sugar for 2 days. They were plated with smoked creme fraiche over hickory wood chips, candied walnuts and upland cress.
2) The refreshing gazpacho of green French tomatoes finished with deep-fried artichokes and goat’s curd from Neal’s Yard Dairy in London.
3) The unbelievably beautiful carrots that were first confit in butter before being grilled in the INKA charcoal oven then tossed in brown butter, black sesame seeds, parsley and honey.
4) The salad of Japanese cucumber and English sugar snap peas dressed in a white miso sesame.

With such strong non-meat dishes, it’s great to see “Maggie Joan’s” offers a vegetarian Chef’s Selection Menu. It can also be tweaked to suit vegans.

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H O S T E D
I am always filled with immense joy when a restaurant I introduce to friends and family is extremely well received. Even more so when these folks happen to be genuine foodies whose taste I trust. Thus, when I heard Burpplers @JuliusLim @JonathanWong, @KennethLee @MurielA-vDH @DexNeo, my god-daughter and her boyfriend marvel and praise each dish presented by Chef Benjamin Halat and his team at our dinner last Saturday, it made me beam with pleasure.
And I have to say, even though I’ve enjoyed several memorable meals at CURATE over the past year (thanks to Burpple Tastemaker @blueskiescottonclouds who took me there for the first time on my birthday in 2017), this latest 8-course seasonal menu was on a completely different level.
Every creation placed in front of us was stunning in appearance and spectacular in taste. All, irrevocable proof of the remarkable evolution of Chef Benjamin’s talent and skills. There’s a finesse that has fruited since I was last there, and a sleek sophistication that wasn’t present at the beginning. They are evident in the facets of his innovative cuisine inspired by his German heritage and personal stories.
If you wish to try the dishes shown in my video, you will have to make your reservation soon as the season is changing. Very soon, it will have to make way for the Autumn/Winter menu.

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H O S T E D
This dish was truly take-me-to-heaven magnificent because rarely do you come across sweetbread in Singapore and there it was, prepared to swoon-worthy tastiness.
I love how the bodacious creaminess of the glands was held in check with a crisp finish. And providing a clever counterpoint to all that cholesterol-laden richness, a mildly acidic red wine jus.
So damn good. A must-order if you like the less conventional parts of an animal.

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M E D I A T A S T I N G
Got to be honest, based on appearance and concept alone - it is a lifestyle furniture store selling wooden timber furniture made in Myanmar, and a restaurant, as well as a bar that also retails alcohol (am I the only one who feels slightly apprehensive about multi-concept places?), I wasn’t expecting the food here to taste as good as it did.
Although “House of MU” has been operating since April, they have only done their soft launch about a month ago. This was because they wanted to perfect the menu. Designed by Chef Tyrell Joon who used to work at Michelin starred restaurants such as Iggy’s and Le Amis, it is not a complicated one. In fact, it looks quite basic but when you taste the food, the fine dining quality is ever present, both in technique and taste. So everything we were served, tasted very good. Shown above are four of the six items we ate during the hosted lunch.
In a sea of ubiquitous soups out there, the butternut squash cream, the soup of the day ($9++), was outstanding. I was told Chef insists on using only the best ingredients and it was obvious from my first sip. He even chooses to serve it with imported Spanish crystal bread.
The French scallops that followed, were pan-seared and plated with a creamy cauliflower purée and strips of refreshing green apple ($19++). I think it was another well-received dish by our whole table.
For the carbs, I found it smart that they offer a format that allows customers to mix and match to their own preference.
It begins with picking either risotto, spagetti or linguini ($14++ inclusive of garden greens). Next, the base sauce (add $6++ for this) of which the choices available are tomato, aglio olio, black ink or truffle cream. The last (optional) step is to top on ingredients that include either mixed vegetables, chicken breast or clams/vongole for an extra $5++. There’s crayfish or bacon too and these cost $6++ more.
Based on the above price structure, the linguine aglio olio with clams we tried (I loved it for the rich umami taste of clams) was $25++. And the risotto cooked in truffle cream with two pieces of crayfish cost $26++. It was just as delicious.

That’s cocktail hour right there, condensed into a quivering sphere.
With careful lifting, the caipirinha encased in the thinnest transparent skin and the slightly bitter, peppery shiso leaf upon which it rested, made it to my mouth safely (I am quite the klutz so it’s no mean feat). When the lightest pressure was applied, an explosion took place, flooding my mouth instantly in the cool, refreshing alcoholic liquid. I love how chewing the shiso leaf at the same time made this familiar drink so much more interesting.

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Sending a shiver of pleasure through me was this triumvirate of aburi Toriyama Wagyu, Kaluga Queen caviar and an ultra-light rice cracker.
Individually, the beef and caviar were formidable: the former was all melt-in-the-mouth outright sexiness while the latter pulled unsuspecting victims into the depths of creamy oceanic sensuousness. Placed together on the pristine white stage of crunch, I felt their duet drown out my surroundings with one bite. For that brief moment in time, reality fell away as my senses got pulled in. I was so very joyfully lost.
And now you know why it’s my favourite of the three marvelous snacks that preceded our Basque-inspired gastronomic menu proper.

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Slippery and springy, these thick noodles are of a different species altogether. And I mean that quite literally as they are made from the skin of swine. Thus explaining the firm gelatinous texture and porky flavour. Chef Aitor serves his “pork noodles” with a juicy chunk of abalone and kabura (a type of Japanese turnip) in a light but richly flavoured broth of Jamon bone and pepper, poured on only in front of you. Once you give things a stir, a vibrant purple rushes up, colouring the contents of the small bowl. That’s from the dried beetroot lying in wait at the bottom.
I adored this dish. It’s easily one of my top three picks from the Gastronomic Menu at Iggy’s. My only complaint would be there was not enough (but I’m greedy like that 😂😂).
Anyway, if you are keen to try, please note this menu requires a group of at least 6 pax, and a few days’ advance notice as several of its dishes need a lot of preparation time.

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This is Wagyu beef rice elevated to epic status with foie gras and a flurry of green pea snow.
I loved how rich the grains of rice tasted and although I’m not too fond of peas generally, this was an exception as the preparation style was unique, and it complemented the meatiness in the dish.
At the end of the night, quite a number in our group of diners chose this as their favourite from the multi-course Gastronomic Menu Chef Aitor had prepared for us.

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I N V I T E D T A S T I N G
When I walked into the restaurant, I was wondering why was there a patch of grass on every table. The moment Resident Head Chef Benjamin Halat appeared with a picnic basket and started unpacking, it all became clear. I was about to have a picnic! 😄 What a creative and playful way to launch a Spring/Summer menu.
After the picnic mat was spread, he and his team proceeded to bring over numerous snacks and drinks to lay over it. These were all very refined interpretations of his German heritage. That’s how with this opening course he’s named “Brotzeit” (literally it means “bread time” but figuratively, it is where one mixes and matches breads, cheese and cold cuts for a light evening meal), I got to try the following:
1) Sourdough with “obatzda” (cheese spread), “schmaltz” (a bacon fats spread) and butter.
2) “Krabben Broetchen” - the classic North German comfort food of shrimp sandwich was reborn here as a thin pastry shell filled with amaebi prawns and shrimp remoulade.
3) “Leberwurst Brot” - this single bite was composed of foie gras, house-pickled cucumber, dark beer bread chips, cucumber and cucumber flower.
4) “Radi & Rauch” - inspired by summer BBQs, this featured smoked trout with daikon.
5) “Schweinshaxe & Sauerkraut” - a little ball of collagen-rich pork knuckle with sauerkraut.
6) “Almdudler” - based on a famous lemonade made with 52 herbs that many would drink while hiking the alps, the mini bottle of liquid was concocted from scratch in-house.
7) “Radler” - Chef’s take on the popular shandy involved lemon espuma squirted onto a tiny mug of German beer. Very cute and super refreshing.
Besides the obvious photogenic qualities of this first course, I found it really interesting to experience classic German dishes redefined into elegant fine dining bites. It definitely set the tone for the rest of the meal.

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Obviously, the thought of consuming cute, twitchy-nosed fur balls isn’t an issue for me because this plate of rillettes is made with rabbit.
The meat is similar to chicken as it’s pretty fine in texture, and I didn’t encounter any strong smell or gamey taste either.
Based on what I had, it also seems like Atout prefers a light seasoning in their rillettes. So this classic French delicacy is really easy to enjoy. Unless of course, the thought of eating a rabbit is too much for you.
Oh, and do note they charge for bread (it starts at $3++ for a small basket) and butter (50 cents for 2 small swirls) here. So please proceed with caution when asking for those in case you get shocked at the end of your meal.

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M E D I A T A S T I N G
Classics held court at Friday’s hosted dinner at Tablescape, a Modern European restaurant that had its soft opening in the Grand Park Coleman late last year.
What is distinctive about dining here is that your meal is bookended by two trolleys. The first brings you a heavenly assortment of freshly-baked breads and butter. And let me just say, I love that when I chose to have salted butter, the waiter sprinkled salt flakes on the little quenelle of butter they had prepared for me. At the end of a meal, the other trolley is wheeled over. This comes laden with divine temptations in many guises. If you prefer something savoury, a platter of cheeses will be presented instead.
Regardless of your pick of the a la carte or set menus, the two trolleys are packaged within. It goes without saying the latter offers better value with a set lunch going at $32++ and $42++ for two and three courses respectively, and a set dinner at $48++ for three courses and $58++ for four.
Considering Head Chef Robert Chan’s extensive experience, and that dinner options include gems such as a Proscuitto Ham-wrapped Monkfish with Maine Lobster (I enjoyed this the most), a Beef Tartare with Tempura Poached Egg, a Veal Sweetbread in 2-minute Pea Soup with Ceps Mushroom Ragu and Milk-fed Veal stuffed with Foie Gras, Duxelles and Sage, it is apparent this restaurant understands what customers want.

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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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