Justin Quek is arguably one of Singapore's most celebrated chefs and his restaurant, Sky On 57, opened with much fanfare as Singapore celebrated the return of one of its prodigal sons. 5 years on, we were excited to be part of the after party on the occasion of my good friend's visit to Singapore.
As the name suggests, Sky On 57 is perched on the 57th level (top floor) of the iconic Marina Bay Sands and plays neighbour to the infinity pool (accessible to hotel guests). The view is naturally awesome, boasting a birds eye view of the marina bay area but only if you are seated in the alfresco area where the bar is. Still, you do get a limited view of the surroundings if you manage to snag a window seat.
Complimentary Bread - There were a few different flavours of bread but all came across as average. Well, at least it helps you tide over the hunger pangs until the real food is served.
JQ's Signature ( $5) - Chef Justin Quek's signature Foie Gras Xiao Long Bao (小笼包) required a top up of $5 for a total of five pieces. The skin was a wee bit too thick but I loved the richness of flavours in the soup and filling; a hint of truffle starts off before the taste of foie gras kicks in together with a mild porkiness from the meat, which had bits of chewy fat for that added texture. A beautifully concocted and excellent dish in my humble opinion. Caveat - you must like foie gras to really enjoy this dish.
Jerusalem Artichoke Velouté - The velouté proved to be a great follow up to the xiao long bao; Creamy and rich without coming across as too heavy on the palate. Coupled with mild saltiness from the bacon bits, a crispiness from the croutons and crunchiness of the diced artichoke, it was a delight to consume. I hear the other soup option on the lunch menu, the Pumpkin Infused Superior Broth, was very good as well.
Wagyu Beef ( $5) - I'm not sure this was worth the additional $5 top up. Granted, the boneless wagyu beef was very tender with a tinge of red in the center and a light sweetness from being marinated in hoisin sauce. Finished off with a light sprinkle of salt and two miserable stalks of vegetable. Decent but definitely not wow and rather nauseating after the second piece.
Singapore "Sakura" Chicken Rice - Singapore's national dish, the ubiquitous chicken rice. Sky On 57's rendition boasted succulent meat with mildly crunchy skin and very little fat (through the use of sakura chicken, which is a local product by the way). Coupled with a bowl of fragrant, not overly oily rice that hinted strongly of ginger, this was one of the best chicken rice I've had thus far.
Comparisons with the famous Tian Tian Chicken Rice @ Maxwell are inevitable and although Tian Tian loses out quite a fair bit on the quality of meat, its rice actually tastes better but only if slathered with their "special sauce". In itself, Tian Tian's rice comes across as bland and rather flat. Then there is the comparison of price which is at least a 6x differential but I'm happy to fork out the extra dough for Sky On 57's offering, which also comes with a bowl of delicious corn soup, if that's any consolation.
De Sicilia - The cannoli came across as rather hard and reminded me a little of the crackers you eat with yusheng during Chinese New Year. Smoothly sweet from the mascarpone filling with a nutty finish courtesy of the pistachio topping. No great shakes honestly.
Churros - Fluffy but coated with way too much sugar, the churros came served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a dish of viscous chocolate sauce. Very palatable but nothing out of the ordinary.
The 3 course set lunch stands at $55 /head and the 4 course at $65 (before any optional adders), which is honestly a tad expensive given the overall hit and miss quality of the food (local/Asian fare tend to excel but the western dishes/desserts seem to falter). However, having said that, Sky On 57 does offer a great, albeit very pricey introduction to local cuisine in an uplifting environment with good service. I'll be happy to drop by again, if only for the chicken rice and the foie gras xiao long bao.
We were craving steak but didn't fancy splurging at Morton's so dropped by Bedrock Bar & Grill for their steak set lunch since we happened to be in town during the weekend.
The interior isn't anything too fancy and sports wooden furniture, halogen lamps and a partially open concept kitchen with an island top and lots of overhanging pots and pans where you can view your bread being kneaded and baked. Window blinds provide cover from the adjacent pedestrian walkway. Overall a pretty cosy place if you happen to secure one of the booth seats.
Complimentary Flat Bread - Served with a clove of roasted garlic and butter, the piping hot flat bread came fresh out of the oven; warm, chewy and reminiscent of naan.
Classic Lobster Bisque - Relatively rich but salty even with the rather amount of chive cream, the lobster bisque boasted no lobster meat and the dubious honour of pairing best with a glass of water.
Confit Corned Chicken - This tasted like the chicken version of duck confit (duh!), just a touch more moist and a little less salty and flavourful. Accompanied by a sunny side up and crunchy, mildly salty sausages. Overall a very palatable dish but nothing to go wow over.
Woodfire Grilled Sirloin - At $58 for the steak set lunch, this was pretty good. Relatively flavourful with a touch of salt and done medium as per my request. Meat was tender but not as juicy as I would have liked it to be. Topped with a creamy Bearnaise sauce and a side of slick and buttery mashed potato. Bread Street Kitchen, Morton's and Ruth Chris still does a meaner piece of steak but for the price, I really can't compare or complain.
Sticky Stout & Toffee Pudding - This dessert was pretty interesting - A scoop of gingernut ice cream (not a fan of ginger but this was pretty mild) plopped atop a rather sweet toffee pudding with a significant stout aftertaste. To counter the sweetness, tart red berries were placed alongside. Decent finish to our meal.
HGW happened to be running a promotion during that period so we got $10 off each set lunch ($28 for non steak and $48 for the steak variant). Food quality came across as decent (steak was a notch above that) and so did service. I'm honestly not inclined to return, given that Bistro Du Vin does a reasonably good steak for lunch as well and offers a more compelling value proposition in my humble opinion.
Met up with some friends for dinner at Benjamin Browns for dinner one weekday evening after seeing how over the top shakes seem to be the rage nowadays.
Benjamin Browns, or BB for short, sits on the first floor of the relatively quiet Forum The Shopping Mall and by virtue of an earlier reservation, we managed to snag a corner table. Seating is rather limited (probably ~ 20-30 pax) and there was a queue to get in after we were done with dinner.
Carbonara - This wasn't my first choice but since they were apparently out of their "Benjamin Burger", I had to make do with this. And it wasn't a great choice; less than al dente pasta coupled with creamy but a tad watery base. Only consolation was the generous serving of bacon slices. Nothing like La Strada's.
Nutella Banana Milkshake - And the primary reason behind our choice to dine at BB, their over the top milkshakes. Honestly it was no great shakes (pun intended) and definitely didn't look as pretty in real life as in those instagram photos (presentation came across as a little slip shod). It was essentially diluted banana milkshake topped with layer upon layer (3 to be exact) of sliced bananas, whipped cream and sugar crackers (which looked and tasted suspiciously like they were from Khong Guan), finished off with a brownie as the crowning glory and a chocolate wafer wedged by the side. Pretzels adorned the side of the glass, held together by a layer of gooey nutella. Overall this was a giant sugar rush and too much of it made me a little sick. Lesson learnt - share it, hence the 2 straws provided. Definitely not worth the $16 though.
My share came up to about $42 which wasn't quite worth the money in my humble opinion. Food was average at best and even the much vaunted shake fell flat. Service was also found wanting. One of the wait staff was obviously unsure about the menu and had to repeatedly come back to us about the food we ordered. Conclusion? Yet another run of the mill place hyped up and glorified by social media.
We were craving toasties a couple of weeks after our trip to Toastface Grillah in Perth and had heard that Melt Bar @ PasarBella purportedly served and I quote, "Singapore's best grilled sandwich". So off to Turf City it was, on a humid Saturday morning.
One of the many dining areas littered around PasarBella but the biggest and the only one on the second floor with a bird's eye view of the various stalls below. But regardless of where you sit, the fumes will get to you so be prepared to smell of food when you leave the place.
Classic ($10) Fried Chicken ($5) - This grilled sandwich evidently didn't live up to the hype. For starters, the bread, though sporting a slight crisp on the surface, came across as a tad too thick and dry. The gooey mozzarella and sharp cheddar had a nice gooey texture but failed to make much of an impact with a less than generous serving and muted tastes; which was overshadowed by the taste of the ordinary tasting fried chicken. Overall still a palatable grilled sandwich but definitely not in the league of Toastface Grillah, at least in terms of taste and price.
The wife and I were both on leave and were eager to try out Jason Atherton's (former protege of Gordon Ramsay) Pollen @ Gardens By The Bay, which is similarly named after his Michelin starred restaurant in London, Pollen Street Social. Expectations, expectations, expectations.
Situated within the world's largest glass greenhouse, Flower Dome @ Gardens By The Bay (free buggy ride and entrance), Pollen occupies two levels within the dome, with the upper level (terrace) serving up a selection of dishes in a garden like, cafe setting and the lower level boasting a proper restaurant with a dessert counter where you can choose to have your desserts and/or view them being prepared. I appreciate the novelty of dining in a chilled greenhouse surrounded by nature and sunlight but would appreciate more greenery being incorporated into the restaurant. Still cosy nonetheless.
Complimentary Bread - The homemade white sourdough bread sported a crusty surface with a lightly spongy center and came served with hummus and mustard butter; both of which I'm originally not quite a fan of. However the mustard butter surprised me; smooth and creamy with an ever so slight hint of mustard. Pretty decent.
Amuse Bouche - Our amuse bouche for the afternoon. a steamed bun with Gorgonzola and truffle oil - fluffy and chewy with a hint of truffle oil and a mild pungency of the cheese. A rather interesting and decent start to our lunch.
Cured Trout, Dill Sago, Japanese Cucumber, Ikura, Yuzu - Topped with frozen (by liquid nitrogen) cucumber (tasted like sorbet) for that smokey visual effect, the cured trout had a delicate sweetness to it coupled with firm, mildly chewy flesh. The saltiness came courtesy of the ikura (fish roe), balancing out the mild rawness from the cucumbers. Nice.
Seared Foie Gras, Poached Quince, Walnut Cream ( $12) - Though quivery, the foie gras could do with a little more searing on the surface whilst the sweetness of the walnut cream and walnuts helped to cut through the gaminess. The latter also provided a nice crunchy element. What was new to me was the quince, which tasted a little like peach to me, albeit a little tougher. It apparently belongs to the same family as apples and pears and can't be eaten raw. Most interesting.
Roasted Barramundi, Cauliflower, Grapes, Curry Cream - The roasted barramundi was pretty good; crisp skin coupled with firm, flaky flesh and drizzled over with a non spicy curry sauce, all on a bed of deliciously roasted cauliflower. I'm usually not a huge fan of fish but this was interestingly good.
Roasted Butternut Risotto, Honey Croutons - Although I liked the butternut risotto for its creamy al dente-ness, chewy honey croutons and crunchy pistachios, I couldn't quite get over the fact that there was no protein in it; a vegetarian option. Portions were quite substantial and too much proved a tad nauseating, to me at least.
Salted JAAL Chocolate - The JAAL in this dish presumably stands for Jason Atherton Andres Lara, the name of the owner and the pastry chef. Not that it had any bearing on this dessert, which featured an overly salty salted caramel fudge mixed in with chewy rice krispies, peanut powder, cocoa soil and topped with a scoop of unsweetened cocoa ice cream. The end result? Lots of drinking water required.
At ~ $143 for 2 pax, lunch was a pricier than your average set lunch affair but I guess the complimentary entry into the Flower Dome ($12 for residents) and buggy ride does make up for it. Food overall leans towards fusion and comes across as competent but not wow. I was honestly expecting a little more in terms of flavours. Service was good though and I personally like the relaxing feel of the restaurant. Will I be back? Maybe, but probably not in the near future.