Friday, November 29, 2013

District 10: Now With a Tinge of Bonta

This is an invited session

Back in the student days, Bonta has always been one of the Italian restaurants on my "To-Go" list. But when financial freedom finally came, it kept getting pushed down the list as I was taking it for granted with the "aiya won't run away one" mentality. Well, served me right that Bonta did close shop awhile ago but lady luck showed up in the form of District 10.

Located at UE Square, the revamped District 10 now features some of Owner-Chef Luca's signature dishes at Bonta which I was invited to try out on a weekday night. With a spacious alfresco area and an attractively-lit bar counter, happy hour here with bar snacks seem like a pretty good idea.

The main dining hall is furnished bistro-style, keeping that casual vibe with a certain touch of class.

Now if you have enough people for a small gathering, the private room will make a great venue with its cosiness, boasting a mini lounge area for pre-meal chats.

D10 Punch ($34.00, serves 3 to 4), Kopi Singapura ($18.00), Watermelon Gin ($20.00)

Some drinks before the meal proper, shall we? Now I was obviously the alcoholic that night as we shared the giant punch that has moscato as base with plenty of fruits and berries, and had two more cocktails by myself. The coffee one, completed with coffeeshop kopi glass, was rather strong in flavour, while I preferred the last one as it was smooth and very easy to drink with the aftertaste of watermelon lingering on the tongue.

Walnut Foccacia

And so I finally met Chef Luca's famed complimentary bread at Bonta. First welcomed by the fragrance of fresh-bakes, its fluffy texture was a joy to munch on and was made savoury by the chunks of feta cheese within. Lived up to its reputation indeed.

Burratina Cheese with Peas ($18.00), Green Asparagus with Sunny Side Up ($18.00)

The cheese made a simple appetiser with its creamy flavour balanced by sourish tomatoes, while the asparagus fan in me had me nodding in delight at the other one.

Wagyu Beef Carpaccio ($18.00), Pan-Fried Goose Liver ($20.00)

Wagyu or not, the version here had a lighter shade of pink and went well with rocket salad, cheese flakes and strong hint of truffled oil. The prized pan-fried liver is always an indulgence that I take time to savour, this time paired with wild berries sauce to reduce the greasiness.

Crispy Goose Leg Confit ($29.00), Homemade Foie Gras Ravioli ($34.00)

Duck leg confit? Plenty. Goose leg? That's a first. Alas, I thought it was a little dry beneath the crispy skin with the mind drifting off to roasting it Cantonese-style. I would imagine the rich and creamy ravioli to be a little overwhelming as main course (especially after the pan fried starter), but suited fine when shared among the table.

Signature Black Angus Beef Striploin, Fried Eggs & Black Truffle ($36.00), Homemade Angel Hair Pasta with Lobster ($38.00)

When you put two of my favourite dinner ingredients with fried eggs, it inevitably becomes a highly-desirable brunch dish. The juicy steak was perfect with runny yolk and truffle slices, while the accompanying fries cooked in goose fats had us in awe too. But I had to say the underdog for the night goes to the pasta which looked unassuming, but came nicely together with the refreshing tomato sauce coating every strand of (slightly over) moist angel hair pasta. Simple yet satisfying.

Warm Lava Chocolate Cake & Vanilla Ice Cream ($14.00), District 10 Chocolate Sundae ($12.00)

Honestly, not too much impression on the desserts with us snapping a tad too long for the lava to harden, while the sundae was too sweet for my liking.

Warm Apple Crumble & Vanilla Ice Cream ($14.00)

Another classic, being the best among the three.

With Bonta temporarily MIA, its good to see some of the old favourites being revived at District 10, alongside a new dining concept in a chic, revamped environment. Foccacia, steak with truffles and lobster pasta are awaiting!

District 10
#01-15/16/17, UE Square
81 Clemenceau Avenue
Tel: 6738 4788

Special thanks to Shasha and Cyndiana of FoodNews for the invite!

Taken with Nikon D70
Friday, November 22, 2013

Weekend's Here, Almost

Not going to write anything tonight; kinda burn out from the very hectic work week. Still, I got New Ubin Seafood (Yes again, if you have noticed my Insta) to look forward to tomorrow night with the buddies. TGIF!

Taken with HTC One
Friday, November 15, 2013

Casa Tartufo: Dive Right into Truffle Land

While some restaurants specialise in a particular ingredient such as Mad for Garlic and Everything with Fries (their names being dead giveaways), I dare say Casa Tartufo is on an entire different level by focusing on the prized fungus; Truffles. So when its the italain-cuisine-loving dad's birthday in early september, I made a table reservation to try out the unique restaurant.

Located at the sleepy-yet-surviving Forum Shopping Centre, Casa Tartufo has this oldie charm which I was told mimicks a true Italian bistro well (cos I haven't been to Italy ma). Nothing too pretentious and with friendly service, we had a rather quiet dinner on a weekday night.

Complimentary Bread, Truffle Fries ($12.00)

Served warm, the foccacia bread made a decent nibble with vinegar and oilve oil until the real nibbles came in the form of piping hot fries heavily perfumed with truffle oil, not that I'm complaining really.

Warm Tomino Cheese with Parma Ham & Truffle Honey ($21.00), Beef Carpaccio ($24.00)

A first for me, the soft and creamy cheese (almost like Camembert) was wrapped with a layer of savoury ham, drizzling sweet honey with the aftertaste (or smell rather) of truffle that worked pretty well altogether. The other is dad's all time favourite italian starter and we all liked the fresh thin slices of beef with truffle dressing.

Sea Urchin & Truffle Risotto ($36.00), Veal Chop ($49.00)

Although this sound pretty good on paper, it was rather disappointing as unlike other risotto, the texture here was too mushy for our liking while the creaminess of sea urchin was lacking and probably overpowered by truffles. The young calf, on the other hand, was a different story as the tender meat was nicely coated by a crispy batter and paired with remarkably sweet and juicy baby tomatoes.

Thin Egg Noodles with Fresh Summer Black Truffles ($34.00)

The star among the main courses, the simple pasta dish was done perfect with al dente noodles, a light cream mushroom sauce and a generous dose of sliced truffles where you could truly appreciate the robust flavours of the fungus. Definitely memorable.

Tiramisu ($14.00), Truffle Ice Cream ($14.00)

Admittedly, the birthday cake was nothing to boast about but the ice cream was yet another impression leaver as the sweet and smooth ice cream had the brilliant aftertaste of truffles without making one feel odd or out of place. Not something you will find in a tub surely.

Total bill for three was $240.15 after taxes. A pricey but worth the money experience with the indulgence of plenty of truffles and most importantly, enjoyed by pop on his birthday. My idea of a two-course meal on a return trip? Pasta and ice cream!

Casa Tartufo Ristorante
#01-17, Forum The Shopping Mall
583 Orchard Road
Tel: 6836 4647

Taken with Nikon D70
Friday, November 08, 2013

La Cantine by Bruno Menard: A Starry French Affair

This is an invited session

The CBD has no lack of fancy restaurants, not surprising given the need to impress at business meals. With the wide range of cuisines available, one could surely find a suitable place and if you're in the mood for good ol french food, then there's La Cantine by Bruno Menard to check out for.

Located at the rather new (and rather quiet) Asia Square, the place served up french fare conjured by the first three Michelin-Starred chef to be permanently based in Singapore, Bruno Menard. What strikes you first about the bistro-like restaurant is its casual vibe and playful decor, such as the upside-down roosters and french architectures. For the tasting session that night, we tried some of chef's signature creations for La Cantine.

Cevennes Onion Soup On A "Foie Gras Royale" ($28.00), "Nice" Salad ($22.00)

Now this is one really unique onion soup. For one, it doesn't even taste like the onion soup that we are accustomed to, but rather had the flavours of a rich and creamy mushroom soup, not without help from the dose of yummy foie gras.

In the past, I would have poked fun at "rabbit-food" salads but the aging body has been asking me to stay healthy, so these greens with tuna, eggs and garlic oil were actually quite refreshing as a starter.

Scottish Atlantic Salmon filet Tartare ($18.00 for Appetiser portion)

A very pretty dish, the mix of fresh salmon chunks, diced spring onions, croutons (i think) and a tangy cream sauce was much to my liking.

Pan Roasted Pacific Cod fish ($32.00), Roasted Spottail Bass ($34.00)

Two fishes for the night! The cod deserves a solid thumbs up for its smooth, solid texture and buttery taste, paired with mashed potato made from Ratte potato which gives its a unique, elastic-like texture and intensive flavour. The bass, although had a more firm texture that's not as easily accepted as the cod, was still a main course done well.

Caramelized Pork Belly ($36.00)

While I liked how the greasiness of pork belly has been neutralised by the sweetness of caramelizing, I was expecting more from the meat dish which didn't wow me too much. Also, I'm not a fan of soft bones and will pick on belly meat being served with the soft bone attached at the most inner layer, which they have done so here.

Nespresso and Caramel Sundae ($12.00), Traditional "Baba au Rhum" ($14.00)

Made with two shots of special commercial-grade Nespresso Crealto capsules, this was a indulging tiramisu-ike dessert with the layers of chantilly cream, ladyfinger biscuits, caramel sauce and topped off with crunchy Valrhona pearls. Need a really big scoop to have all the ingredients in one mouthful! A pity that the sundae was available only until the end of October and hope to see it find its way to the regular menu.

The other one satisfied the alcoholic in me as the solid shot of rum was nicely soaked up by the sponge cake, balanced with a dope of vanilla whipped cream. Wouldn't mind seconds at all.

With unpretentious ambience and food worth returning for (They also have tempting platters for two such as roasted oxtail, beef ribs and suckling pig), La Cantine by Bruno Menard is a breath of fresh air among the corporate-themed dining places in the vicinity. Reward for self after a long day at work!

La Cantine by Bruno Menard
8 Marina View
#01-01, Asia Square Tower 1
Tel: 66907567

Special thanks to Pei Shan of Deliciae for the invite!

Taken with Nikon D70
Friday, November 01, 2013

Pidgin Kitchen & Bar: Inspired Dishes, Inspiring Meal

This is an invited session

The earliest write-up I did on fusion food was Chef Willin's Wild Rocket. Back then, fusion was something up and coming as everyone hyped about the mix of SEA and European cuisines. While some did and continue to have success with such bold ideas, many failed to realise which food cultures should and should not be blended, resulting in customers sticking to tested-and-proven recipes. But over at Pidgin Kitchen & Bar, the brilliant attempts to blend the right ones had me in awe.

Nestled in Dempsey area and taking over the old space (but still ran by the same owners) of Pamplemousse, Pidgin is a chic, casual dining place that served Southeast-Asian inspired dishes. Even the name itself is kinda cheeky and relevant as it referred to two people who couldn't understand each other coming up with a third language to communicate (Go google la). With an alfresco area and a dining hall with tall, typical-Dempsey ceiling, its quite comfortable to spend a evening here.

Masala Apple Strudel with Laird's Straight Applejack, Chai, Lemon and Egg ($20.00)

Lured by the words of 'apple strudel', this didn't quite turn out as strudel as I had hoped for. Then again, I have yet to find a cocktail that I really like.

Chicken Rice Arancini ($8.00), Lamb Meatballs ($12.00)

Fancy your chicken rice deep fried with cheese? They got it right here. Served with trusty garlic chilli, the familiar fragrance erupts as you break open the ball with cheese coating the rice grains nicely.

While the firm, meaty ones were served with tulang merah sauce, it wasn't quite the same oomph as sucking on a bright red tulang. Goes pretty well with the Hay's Dairies Goat Milk Yogurt though.

Crab Otak Croquettes ($12.00)

Gonna be pretty biased here as a fan of crabcake, but I love how solid this feels with plenty of crab meat within. Not so much on the taste of otak actually, perhaps a heavier dope of the spiced fish paste will be good.

Lobster Wonton Capellini ($26.00), Uni Tagliolini ($28.00)

This one no need I say also can tell it resembled wanton mee la. That being said, I liked how al-dente the pasta was and the thin slices of Chorizo Iberico, but the wanton itself had to be either smaller or with more fillings to be better appreciated. The other one was a full thumbs up as the mix of crustacean cream and sea urchin made the pasta oh-so-enjoyable.

Bak Kwa Mac & Cheese ($20.00)

Just when I thought that the classic Mac & Cheese couldn't be spiced up, I was proven so wrong. Baked with truffled oil, the sweet bacon bits made such an excellent balance to the gooey cheese sauce that I could easily polish the entire pot of penne without feeling overstuffed. You no order this, you haven't been to Pidgin.

Razor Clams Tau Suan ($20.00), Spicy Tuna Tartare ($24.00)

Not so much because our brains were tuned to think Tau Suan as a dessert that I rejected this, but I just couldn't quite appreciate how the savoury soup come together. The tartare, on the other hand, used fresh tuna cubes and had that nice tinge of spiciness and sourness from sambal belacan oil and calamansi.

Oyster2 Egg ($19.00), Quinoa ($13.00)

Rather different from the usual Ork Luak, the use of scrambled egg gave the dish a smooth texture which went well with the creaminess of the fresh oysters. See those oyster leaves at the side? Take a nibble and you will be surprised at how they really had the the flavours of oysters.

Quinoa has also been an increasingly popular grain for vegetarian dishes, and the mix here with savoury chinese olive vegetables and almonds made me craved for a bowl of hot porridge to go with it.

Pork. Bone. Tea ($24.00), Lamb Rack ($38.00)

On to the meat dishes, the Chinese will immediately recognise the name of the first one as the familiar Bak Kut Teh, but its presentation and preparation method was complicated enough for me to heave a sigh of relief that I'm eating, and not cooking it. Think tender pork ribs with tea smoked bone marrow (that two white balls over there) and intensive garlic and pepper jus. Very fascinating on paper and thankfully, tasted really good.

While I usually have no objection on the gamey taste of lambs, this was a little too much for me to handle especially with the thick cuts of fats. Mushy eggplant jaew ain't exactly a plus point too.

Foie Gras with Rojak Sauce ($28.00)

Ah yes, another one that set us thinking. A thick slice of classic pan-fried foie gras served on top a piece of beancurd skin instead of brioche, and paired with the familiar mix of rojak fruits and sauce instead of sweet jams. Odd at first glance? Surely. But did it work? Oh yes absolutely. Then again, if you aren't a fan of shrimp paste in the first place then there's hardly a chance for you to accept this.

Bandung Panna Cotta ($12.00), "Milo Dinosaur" Version 2.1 ($15.00)

Always room for desserts. Now I was never a fan of rose syrup milk, so this was just touch and go for me. However, as a loyal drinker of milo, the other one suited me totally as the creamy, chocolatey milo ice cream was paired with a thick, intensive 72% dark chocolate flourless cake. Another one that I would gladly lap up on my own.

Kaya Bread & Butter Pudding ($15.00)

But the star of desserts got to be this; freshly baked kaya bread with plenty of raisins within, served with a scoop of refreshing Hojicha (my favourite Starbucks frappe btw) ice cream. So satisfying that it is another one that if you don't order, you haven't been to Pidgin.

Experimental Assorted Ice Cream (Black Vanilla, Goreng Pisang, Pineapple Sorbet) ($8.00 each)

We were in luck that Owner/Chef Adrian has been experimenting with new ice cream flavours, and my personal favourite goes to the banana fritters-inspired one that retained the full flavours of the deep-fried snack yet without the greasiness of it. Very impressive.

While such fusion, no, SEA-inspired dishes are not palatable to everyone (neither was I receptive to all of them) , its not easy to find a restaurant that puts so much heart and soul into understanding ingredients and finding a balance to create ones that are original yet familiar. Pidgin Kitchen & bar is very much commendable in this aspect and if you drop by with an open mind, you will very likely find a dish to be hooked on to. More Bak Kwa M&C for me please!

Pidgin Kitchen & Bar
7 Dempsey Road 01-04,
Singapore 249671
Tel: 6475 0080

Special thanks to LeRoy of FoodNews for the invite!

Taken with Nikon D70