Had dinner with a couple of friends at Seasons Bistro, an American styled bistro that has garnered pretty good reviews since its opening a couple of months back.
Located on the ground floor of Triple One Somerset (the former PUB building) and playing neighbour to Imperial Treasure Windows of Hong Kong and Imperial Treasure Steamboat (which I personally don't find that great), Seasons features a down to earth wooden interior with huge wall to ceiling glass panels for a view of the exterior pedestrian walkway.
Season's Poutine ($10 ) - I love my poutine and even though Season's poutine was specifically recommended in quite a few reviews, it was quite a let down in my humble opinion. Sure, the fries were moist but where was the lightly crisp skin? Also, the gravy was a tad too bland and the Stripey Jack cheese came in cubes, not mildly gooey curds, which is one of the hallmarks of poutine. I will take gladly take Triple O's version over this anytime.
Buttermilk Fried Chicken ($22 ) - After a rather disappointing start, this Southern dish of buttermilk fried chicken perked things up a little though it did look rather dry on the outside. Thankfully the meat was flavourful and juicy with a nice crunch from the skin. 3 rather small pieces, served with a side of corn salad.
Banana Split ($12 ) - Season's deconstructed banana split. Done to an almost perfect disaster. 1 rock hard scoop of vanilla bean ice cream coupled with a dash of nutella and 2 pieces of caramalised bananas (goreng pisang) that came coated with a limp layer of flour and lacked any sweetness or taste for that matter. The granola nut crumbs gave this dish a slightly chewy taste which I personally didn't like; Crushed nuts would have suited better in my humble opinion.
1 poutine, 1 chicken and 1 dessert cost me about $52 nett. Expensive? Quantitatively speaking, not really. But qualitatively, yes. General food quality was average at best and definitely not worth the price paid. Service was pretty decent though and the restaurant offers a relatively quiet place to catch up with friends in Orchard road over dinner but unfortunately that's just not enough.
The Royal Mail had been around for about 2 years but it was never on our to dine at list for one reason or another. We finally decided to give it a shot one Friday evening before the wife took off for an extended work trip to Korea.
Occupying a spot in Ascott Raffles Place, the restaurant's name is inspired by its location, where a former British post office once stood. And it serves up "modern British cuisine" of course.
The restaurant is situated on the second floor, up a flight of stairs that open up right into the oddly shaped dining area whilst the bar takes up a small corner on the first floor. If you value your privacy, it might be a good idea to request for seats further in and not along the stairway, especially on a busy night.
Complimentary Bread - Puff pastry with brie cheese - Now that's something you don't get very often. Soft and moist with a nice cheesy nuance. I did find it a wee bit too oily though.
Amuse Bouche - The amuse bouche was a classic duck rillette on toast; nice but not creamy enough with a mildly spicy kick. Still a good start nonetheless!
The Royal Mail Caesar Salad - Our quintessential greens for the evening, the humble Caesar salad. Spiced up with bacon strips, a nicely poached egg, strips of cheese and toasted bread. Nothing too fancy but it kept the positive momentum going.
Sous-Vide Half Maine Lobster - That's a pretty small lobster if you ask me but it was good. Crunchy meat cooked to a perfect consistency and served with a shard of crisp ibérico ham and a slice of mildly sweet Japanese pumpkin, sitting in a pool of rich emulsified butter sauce.
Roasted Whole Chicken - The roasted chicken needed quite a fair bit of work, coming across as bland and uninspiring. The accompanying chermoula sauce was just plan oily and we had a hard time finishing the chicken, small as it was.
Roast Prime Rib - A signature of the restaurant, we had the classic cut (280g), which came served with delicious sauteed Brussels sprouts topped with pine nuts and blue cheese, a roasted whole garlic and Yorkshire pudding. Done up medium well instead of medium as per my request, the prime rib was quite good; Thickly cut, succulent and tasty. I didn't quite fancy the Yorkshire pudding though, which was neither crisp nor hot.
Truffle Risotto - The side of truffle risotto was al dente and beautifully creamy and fragrant with chunks of mushroom in it. Delicious!
Chocolate Fondant - Nicely moist fondant with a molten chocolate center and served with a scoop of lacklustre vanilla bean ice cream and deliciously crunchy chocolate soil with freeze dried raspberries atop. I personally loved the texture and tartness that the chocolate soil, dried raspberries combination brought to this dessert.
Banoffee Tart - A pretty decent rendition of one of my favourite western desserts (I have many by the way), the banoffee tart sported a crisp tart shell with a filling of banana, crumble and toffee, topped with a dollop of cream and dusted with cocoa powder. The salted caramel sauce could have featured a little more prominently and the bananas could have been a little more moist whilst the tart would have been better with a little more baking in my humble opinion.
With a 50% discount, the bill for the both of us came up to a mere $105, which is a rather good deal considering the very decent quality and quantity of food (with the exception of the chicken). Service was excellent; Personal without coming across as overbearing. At such a price point and quality, I'll be hard pressed to find an excuse not to revisit.
It was our monthly dinner again and we decided to have some cze char for a change. Being the pampered strawberry generation (草莓族) aka Gen Y we were, an air-conditioning prerequisite was thrown into the equation. And we finally settled on Orchid Live Seafood or OLS for short.
We opted for the outlet at Jalan Kelulut, in the sleepy Seletar estate just off Yio Chu Kang Road on a hectic weekday evening. Parking posed a problem as the parking lot in front was rather small and there were quite a fair bit of vehicles but we managed. The interior of the place is like any typical heartland Chinese restaurant with just the basic decor and pictures of the food adorning the walls.
Deep Fried Baby Squid - This was an additional order on top of our set menu and got us off to a decent start. A rather miniscule portion of extremely crispy squid mixed in with tons of onions made it more of a snack than a main in my humble opinion. And it honestly tasted very similar to the packets of dried squid snack that are sold in supermarkets.
Smoked Duck - The smoked duck was a tad too thinly sliced and rather lacking in chewy fats. The meat also lacked a certain smokiness that made this dish pale in comparison to that of Wo Peng.
Mixed Vegetables - Our quintessential greens for the evening; Decently stir fried mixed vegetables with a tinge of wok hei.
Steamed Patin Fish - The fish was fresh but the meat wasn't really sweet. Decently executed but doesn't really stand out.
Lobster Porridge - And the undisputed star of the evening, the lobster porridge. The broth was watery yet tasty with the individual grains of rice still visible. Cooking the lobster in the broth infused a crustacean sweetness to the latter and made for a very homely and delicious porridge. Only small gripe I had was that we had 1kg of lobster to share between the 5 of us but as lobsters have pretty heavy shells, neither of us got much meat.
Dinner for 5 pax coupled with a couple of drinks cost us just shy of $230, which wasn't really expensive per se but food quality, for the most part, hovered around average (save for the lobster porridge). Service was decent but I'm not sure if I'll return, especially with other air conditioned cze char places offering better quality cooking at around the same price point. Unless I develop a craving for lobster porridge of course.
It all started with a glossy, eye catching brochure that promoted a limited time, upgraded set menu for AMEX Platinum Charge Card members (pay $120 for the $180 set). And being the ever gian png (greedy) Singaporean, I immediately called Tóng Lè to make a dinner appointment.
Perched on levels 8 and 10 of OUE Tower, just adjacent to the majestic Fullerton Bay Hotel (where Clifford is located), Tóng Lè offers a panoramic view of its surroundings via a revolving base (think Prima Restaurant and the now defunct Top of the M). 1 full revolution takes about 2 hours and unfortunately, the revolving mechanism wasn't working too smoothly during our visit and knocking sounds could be heard periodically.
Our host graciously arranged a private dining room for us on level 10, offering a nice walled up area to take in the view at our leisure. Only minor issue I had was that the rooms were separated only by partitions, which made noise level a concern. I could make out what my neighbours were talking about but admittedly, you'd have to raise your voice a fair bit for you to be overheard. Didn't seem to faze either of my neighbours though.
Chilled Australian Lobster Topped with Kaluga Queen Caviar - I'm honestly no caviar connoisseur but Kaluga Queen's farmed in China caviar did hit the right notes for me. Tiny, firm pearls that popped gently when consumed, releasing a salty and pleasantly fishy flavour; Eaten with a mother of pearl spoon, no less. Beneath the caviar sat a layer of chilled, crunchy and sweet lobster and a floor of sweet mango cubes and diced chilli. When eaten together, the sweetness of the mango provided a balance to the saltiness of the caviar whilst the diced chilli added a mild heat. Excellent start!
Doubled Boiled Superlative Shark's Fin with Bamboo Fungus in Shark Cartilage Broth - I wonder about the use of words like "superlative" in menus but nonetheless, the shark cartilage soup was flavourful yet light without leaving a layer of sediment on the tongue. Coupled with generous portions of delicate shark's fin and bamboo fungus, it made for a pretty good soup.
Braised Cave Bird's Nest with Crab Meat and Winter Melon Puree in Saffron Broth - The wife had this and it was rather interesting as I usually associate bird's nest with the sweet variation, never the savoury. Relatively generous strands of bird's nest floating atop a thick, mildly sweet saffron broth with hints of winter melon and bountiful shreds of crab meat. Savoury yet sweet.
Steamed Wild Ocean Fish with Ginger and Tangerine Peel - Portions were really small for this but the fish was very fresh and came served on a piece of beancurd skin in a pool of soya sauce. Simple and nothing too fancy.
Chef's Homemade Sorbet - An interlude with a roselle sorbet taking center stage. Sweet yet mildly sourish and topped with pop rocks for that burst of sensation.
Braised Live South African Abalone & 48 Hrs Braised 'Dong Po' Pork with Vintage 'HuaDiao' Wine - The abalone was quite a size (I reckon at least a 3 or 4 head); Firm and crunchy, drizzled in a mildly savoury sauce and sitting prettily on a bed of vegetables. The accompanying block of dong po pork was beautifully braised with a thick, moist chunk of meat capped by a firm layer of fat; Mildly sweet with a hint of 花雕酒. Excellent!
Hokkaido Scallops with Organic Millet - The wife doesn't take beef so she got the Hokkaido scallops in lieu of the wagyu. And it was a seriously bad choice. The scallops were huge but tasted like they were coated in flour and pan fried, which gave it that icky elastic surface and took away the natural sweetness of the sallop. The organic millet and rice crisp was decent though; crisp with a hint of capsicum. Could do with a little less salt though.
Claypot Emperor Rice with Pan Seared Kagoshima Wagyu, Foie Gras and Poached Quail Egg - I had the wagyu and it came in the form of a patty (sadly). Crisp on the outside, the patty was overcooked but a little too soft on the inside. And the overcooking extended to the foie gras as well. Disappointing to say the least.
Hazelnut Chocolate Bar Topped with Yam Paste & Gingko Nuts - And finally, desserts. Aesthetically impressive but lacked the flavours to end the meal off on a positive note. The chocolate bar sported bits of hazelnut entrenched within its smooth and creamy texture that had a mild bitterness to it whilst the the yam swirls were more for show than anything. Special mention goes to the gingko nuts, which seemed to have been deep fried, giving it a fleeting crisp, shrivelled exterior. All form, no substance.
With a singular mocktail and an upgrade discount, the total bill for 2 pax came just shy of $300. Definitely not mind-blowingly expensive but while the quality of ingredients is undeniable, the execution for a couple of the dishes leave much to be desired. Service, however, was excellent and I'll definitely be happy to return if something is done about the quality of execution.
It was a public holiday lunch at East Ocean Teochew Restaurant with the family; A much vaunted restaurant where we usually purchase our supply of deep fried fish skin from (only available during Chinese New Year). And after so many years, we finally got down to trying their dim sum.
Situated on the fifth floor of the upclass Ngee Ann City at Orchard Road, East Ocean had a large crowd of people milling outside, waiting for a table. Thankfully we had reservations but even then, we had to get in line to approach the wait staff for our table. The place was rather noisy which definitely isn't great for conversation.
Crispy Roasted Pork Belly - Sporting a crackling crisp skin and a good fat to meat ratio, the roasted pork belly did seem a little wobbly and lacked finesse. But still pretty good in my humble opinion.
Steamed Har Gao - Crunchy prawns enveloped in relatively thin, translucent skin. Pretty decent as well.
Steamed BBQ Pork Rice Rolls - The cheong fun was average; Relatively thin skin but lacked silkiness. Chunks of BBQ pork evident.
Steamed Siew Mai - Topped with a smattering of roe and a green pea, the siew mai didn't overwhelm with its porkiness, probably due to the low fatty meat ratio.
Pan Fried Carrot Cake - The pan fried carrot cake was awfully soft and mushy; Almost gross. No wonders it didn't have many takers.
Steamed Carrot Cake - Now the steamed rendition came out slightly better. Soft sans the silkiness with the topping of dried shrimp, dried sausages, onion etc failing to boost the inherently bland flavours. Palatable but not great.
Mini Steamed Glutinous Rice - Great consistency in the rice but sorely lacking in flavour. Need I say more?
Deep Fried Beancurd Skin - The beancurd skin wasn't crisp enough and the prawn paste lacked flavour. Starting to see the trend?
Deep Fried Silver Fish With Salt - This dish was a serious joke. The layer of flour amassed around a single silver fish was so dense that all I could taste was flour. I certainly didn't order deep fried flour!
Century Egg Congee - Starchy yet flavourful, the porridge had bits of meat and a rather generous serving of century egg. Pretty nice considering how terrible the previous few items were.
Steamed Custard Bun - This was probably one of the best dishes that afternoon; Runny custard that wasn't cloyingly sweet with a hint of egg yolk sediment. Only gripe I had was that the salty contrast wasn't evident enough.
Baked BBQ Pork Bun - Think polo bun (菠萝包) with BBQ pork. Crusty, semi sweet top with bits of BBQ pork filling. Pretty decent but would have appreciated more pork and a little more viscosity in the filling.
Steamed Custard Layered Cake - I've never had this at a dim sum restaurant before and honestly, I found it rather insipid. Dry layers of cake sandwiching dried, overly sweet custard that just made me give up after my third mouthful.
Baked BBQ Pork Pie - Though the BBQ pork filling was chunky, it could have done with a little more gooeyness (as with the BBQ pork bun) whilst a little more butter would have helped the pastry.
Mini Egg Tart - The egg tarts showcased a flaky pastry with a smooth and semi sweet custard center. A pity the pastry just wasn't buttery enough. Still a decent eat nonetheless.
5 of us racked up a bill of about $142, which isn't too expensive given the quantity of food we had. Compare that however, to the quality of food that Wah Lok offers at a similar price point and the result is clear; East Ocean just doesn't measure up. There are more misses than hits and I'll probably just stop by for my yearly fish skin purchases, nothing more.