The kind folks at District 10 extended an invitation to try out a couple of their signature dishes and since I was in town, I appreciatively made my way down to their outlet @ UE Square one weekday evening.
District 10 is both a bar and a restaurant and offers both indoor and al fresco seating at a rather prominent corner of UE Square. I personally like the wooden interior and high ceilings but the vibe is actually more of a pub than a restaurant. Good for a casual dinner but probably not so much for a romantic date.
Complimentary Bread - This used to be one of the best complimentary bread in my dictionary (back in 2007 when I first tried Bonta). Unfortunately the bread now is but a shadow of its former self. The bread was burnt which gave it a slightly bitter taste whilst the feta cheese within came across as a tad sour. How the quality has deteriorated!
Green Asparagus, Fried Egg Sunny Side Up, Sage Butter - I honestly didn't know what to make of this dish. Asparagus, sunny side up and cheese? $18 ? Seriously?
Pan-fried Goose Liver, Wild Berries Sauce & Balsamic Syrup - The foie gras lacked a well seared crust and wasn't as smooth or quivery as I had expected to be. But at least the wild berry sauce did help to cut down a little on the nausea.
Wagyu Beef Carpaccio, Mustard Dressing, Sauteed Wild Mushrooms - This was a waste of wagyu beef in my humble opinion as it didn't elevate this dish past the average mark. Normal beef would have done the trick. And I personally dislike mustard.
Homemade Angel Hair Pasta with Lobster, Peperoncino, Basil & Fresh Tomatoes - I was looking forward to this but unfortunately it didn't quite pan out. The angel hair pasta was way too soft and stodgy from all the gravy that it was plain unappetising. Even the crunchy lobster pieces failed to lift this dish out of the mess. ps: the presentation needs working on as well.
Homemade Foie Gras Ravioli, Light Parmesan Sauce & Scamorza Cheese - This was probably the best dish of the evening in my humble opinion. The ravioli did come across as a tad too thick but the taste of the foie gras was noticeable and not overwhelmed by the light parmesan sauce. Just watch out for the wooziness.
Crispy Goose Leg Confit, Roasted Garlic, Soft Potato Mousse - Mildly crisp skin but overly salty and dry. Pretty much sums up the goose confit.
Signature Black Angus Beef Striploin, Fried Eggs & Black Truffle - I appreciated the black truffle but I fail to comprehend the sunny side up. Nonetheless, the beef was done to a nice medium rare but came across as rather bland and a tad tough. Average dish overall.
Roasted Atlantic Cod Medallion, Spanish Smoked Paprika & Herbs Oil - The cod was decently executed without much fanfare - tender flesh with a hint of sweetness. Lacked the oomph to elevate it past the average mark.
Cinnamon Apple Fritters with Icing Sugar - And finally, desserts. I found the cinnamon apple fritters a pretty interesting concept except that there was way too much cinnamon powder sprinkled over the fritters that it was unnerving (for me at least). I was expecting a sweet finish but it ended up slightly sourish because of the apple. Can't say I'm a fan.
Traditional Italian Tiramisu - My absolute favourite Italian dessert. Unfortunately District 10's rendition didn't quite excite. The mascarpone to sponge ratio was a little lopsided in favour of the former whilst the latter came across as a tad dry. Acceptably average.
Nuvo was offering an irresistible deal on their set lunch @ $13 (apparently until end February 2014) so we dropped by for lunch one Saturday afternoon since we were in the vicinity. Helmed by Chef Mark Richards, former chef de cuisine of Keystone Restaurant, Nuvo falls under the same management (Caerus Holdings) as that of Lady M (which I personally like) in Singapore.
Hidden from plain sight in a corner of the newly opened "The Dining Edition" in Marina Square, Nuvo's interior utilises quite a bit of wood, which gives it a more down to earth feel. The open concept kitchen offers diners an opportunity to watch their food being prepared if they so wish but honestly, it would be weird hanging around the serving counter.
Complimentary Bread - The complimentary bread was warm and crusty with hints of Parmesan. Pretty decent especially with a thin spread of the accompanying Nori butter. A pity each person was only accorded one roll.
Warm Japanese Mushroom Salad - This dish honestly didn't look like much but it sure was nice. Tossed up with pine nuts, asparagus, shallots and Japanese mushroom, the salad (baby spinach) had a pleasing, savoury sweet note to it. I have honestly never been so enamoured with a salad. And I say this from having the salad on 3 separate occasions @ Nuvo.
Angel Hair Wakame pasta with Lobster Essence and Rayu Oil - One of the signature dishes at Nuvo, the angel hair pasta had a nice firm bite to it, soaking in the mild spiciness of the rayu oil (chilli oil) and the sweet saltiness of the wakame (seaweed). Overall a very flavourful pasta dish that had me reaching for my glass of water a little more frequently due to the higher than acceptable (apparently only to me) salt content. And strangely enough, it is marked as a vegetarian pasta dish (how about the lobster essence?).
Lobster Risotto - Another signature dish and one that is close to my heart (and mouth). The lobster risotto is only available on the ala carte menu and a small serving (as per my picture) will set you back by $28 while the larger one is about $36 if my memory serves me right. It was a simple yet well executed dish. The risotto was nicely al dente, cooked in a rich lobster broth with small chunks of lobster and edamame - creamily good! Well worth the money in my humble opinion.
Pocky Ricotta Cheese Cake - This dessert was rather interesting, with the top of the cheese cake adorned with chocolate swirls and the base made from crushed Pocky (yes, the $1 box of Pocky you can get from supermarkets). But all the bells and whistles aside, it just tasted like a light, decently made cheesecake that provided a nice, sweet ending to our meal.
With a price tag of $13 for an appetiser, main and dessert of above average quality, what's not to like? Service was good as well but intervals between the dishes could have been shorter. Also, the website states opening hours from 11am to 11pm but they didn't open until 12pm during this particular visit. And such things definitely don't leave good impressions. But having said that, I'll definitely return to indulge in the lobster risotto and to sample other offerings.
It was the F1 weekend again and we didn't fancy going into town for our dim sum fix. And so we decided on Ba Xian, the flagship Chinese restaurant at Tower Club. It helped that they were offering a 50% discount on dim sum for weekends only.
The lifts take you up to the entrance of Tower Club on the 62nd floor. From there, you take an internal lift from the club's lobby to the 63rd floor where Ba Xian is located. The furnishing is plush with full length windows that look out into the South China Sea. There are capsule like seats for 2 that offer a somewhat quirky dining experience.
Crispy Cuttlefish - Nicely seasoned but the flour coating was a tad too thick for my liking and so was the oil content. Makes you sick after a while.
Pork Belly Char Siew - The BBQ pork belly had a proportionate fat to meat ratio which made for great texture. However, the meat was rather bland and lacked any sweetness that I would usually associate with char siew.
Roasted Pork Belly - Although I love my sio bak, this was honestly a little hard to stomach and both of us were struggling to finish all 12 cubes of it. Sure, the skin was crispy but it was a tad too thick and dry for my liking. Also, as with the char siew, the meat was almost tasteless. A little more salt perhaps?
Pork & Century Egg Congee - Apart from the sticky texture of porridge that I personally like, this dish was average tasting with quantity of ingredients bordering on miserly.
Prawn with Crab Meat - Generous serving of prawns and crab meat stuffed within the crispy deep fried shell but strangely enough, there was a rather strong ginger aftertaste which I didn't like. Thank god for mayonnaise.
Sweet Corn Cake - This was the first time seeing sweet corn cake on a dim sum menu so thought it would be interesting to give it a go. Alas, it tasted like normal carrot cake with sweet corn and tiny bits of Chinese sausage embedded within. Texture wasn't exactly smooth but overall still palatable.
Chee Cheong Fun -The chee cheong fun came in 3 varieties of filling - char siew, scallop and prawn. For starters, the cheong fun was a little too thick but I was impressed by the generous amounts of scallop and char siew within. This was one of the rare occasions where I could actually make out the texture and taste of the scallop wrapped within. That said, the prawn filling was rather underwhelming though.
Siew Mai - Served with a slice of topshell, the siew mai was decent without coming across as too oily.
Har Gao - Instead of the de facto prawn taste that I was expecting, the har gao tasted overwhelming of vegetables instead. And the thicker than expected skin didn't help matters.
Mini Egg Tartlets - After the repertoire of dismal dim sum items, we almost gave up but decided to give the egg tarts a shot. It was decent without the custard being cloyingly sweet whilst the pastry had a nice flaky texture but lacked the oven baked taste that I personally like.
Even with 7 items at 50% off, the two of us still managed to chalk up a bill of $94, which is terribly expensive for the quality of food. Service and ambience is great but that hardly justifies the ridiculous price tag. So much for the positive online reviews.
Dropped by HY California @ Marina Bay Sands for lunch one weekday afternoon. This visit was prompted in part due to my previous visit to Hide Yamamoto and my curiosity was piqued when I learnt of the existence of a cheaper alternative - HY California.
HY California offers indoor seating with a couple of counter seats and tables as well as al fresco dining along the pathway. Full length panels offer patrons who decide to sit indoors, a view of the pathway outside and plenty of natural light if you happen to dine during the day - a win win situation.
Chicken Bento Set - There are various bento sets available for lunch but the sirloin beef bento set that I was aiming for had only 1 portion left so I went gave it up to my colleague and went for the chicken option instead. The presentation was aesthetically pleasing with small plates of sushi, sashimi, chicken, salad and tempura neatly placed within compartments in a wooden tray. Taste wise, everything came across as average and wouldn't seem out of place at "lower end" eateries like Sakae Sushi or Ichiban Sushi.
Lunch for the 4 of us cost about $96, which isn't really expensive but the general consensus is that food quality hovers around the average mark at best. I can understand that HY California is a casual eatery but the service level, food quality and pricing somehow fails to convince me why I should choose it over the likes of Sushi Tei or Ichiban Sushi/Boshi.
Restaurant week was upon us again and we finally had the opportunity to try out Salt Grill & Sky Bar for lunch during the weekend. Having stayed at Hilton Sydney and dined at Luke Mangan's Glass Brasserie slightly over a year back, we were excited as to how his restaurant would fare in Singapore.
Perched on the 55th floor of the iconic Ion shopping mall along Orchard Road, Salt offers a panoramic view of the surrounding area through floor to ceiling windows that culminate in an arced top that allows natural sunlight to flow in, which makes the place a lot cheerier. I personally like the expanse of space that the restaurant offers, just perfect for that lazy weekend brunch.
Complimentary Bread - The complimentary raisin bread wasn't anything to shout about but it was decent - warm and crusty with a lingering aroma.
Truffle Fries - This was an additional side and boy oh boy, was it sinfully delicious. Hot crispy fries topped with a generous serving of grated Parmesan cheese and doused with truffle oil. What's not to like?
Crab Omelette, Enoki Mushroom and Herb Salad, Miso Mustard Broth - The omelette was stuffed with shreds of crab meat and topped with enoki, fried shallots and parsley whilst sitting prettily in a pool of miso mustard broth. What was nice about this dish was the oriental feel from the shallots and parsley coupled with the salty tinge from the miso broth and of course the creaminess of the omelette.
Pan Fried Gnocchi, Corn, Asparagus, Zucchini, Parmesan, Thyme, Truffle, Verjuice Dressing - This is honestly the first time I'm trying out a seemingly vegetarian gnocchi dish and it was surprisingly tasty. The corn provided a natural sweetness whilst the shaved Parmesan topped it off with a nice cheesy aftertaste and fragrance. Overall a rather light dish and only gripe I had was that the gnocchi did come across as a tad too soft for my liking.
Grass Fed Beef Tenderloin, Mash, Pumpkin, Grains and Seeds, Red Wine Jus - Contrary to what I had requested for, the beef came almost well done instead of medium well. However the meat was still relatively juicy and tender but lacked the beefy goodness that I personally like. Grains and seeds added a nice crunchy texture to the dish with the pumpkin puree providing a touch of sweetness.
Warm Hazelnut Cake, Hazelnut Biscotti, Praline Ice Cream - And finally, the finale - an excellent warm hazelnut cake that looked uncannily like Bengawan Solo's banana cake, just alot crustier and drier with hints of hazelnut. When paired with the toffee sauce, biscuit crumbs and of course a scoop of ice cream, it was comfortingly good and ended the meal on a relatively positive note.
It being Restaurant Week, prices are $40 /pax for lunch with the truffle fries contributing $13 to the bill for a total of almost $110 for 2 pax. Pretty reasonable in my humble opinion but at this price point, I still prefer Ember's food. However Salt has the distinct advantage of ambience and a great view to boot. I will probably return for lunch in the not so near future.