Showing posts with label Singapore. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Singapore. Show all posts

Catalunya, Singapore

Sunday, 19 January 2014

The past year has seen a dramatic change in lifestyle for the two of us, for the very simple reason that two has become three. When the PigPig found she was pregnant, that limited our usual eating excursions due to a combination of pregnancy symptoms as well as dietary limitations. Now that the little one is out, we are still adapting to life, and going out for meals with him in tow is particularly challenging.

Thankfully, we employed a confinement nanny for the first two months, and 7 weeks in decided to abandon baby at home and have a date night by ourselves. Having missed out on a holiday to Barcelona recently to take care of baby, we thought we’ll have some Spanish cuisine here in Singapore. Therefore, Catalunya seemed quite appropriate.

Catalunya, Singapore

The 120 seat restaurant is located in Fullerton Pavilion, an outpouching on the waters of Marina Bay, within spitting distance of the Merlion. Internally, it was beautifully modern and sleek, unsurprising given it was conceived by an award-winning design firm. Lots of the touches inside had a distinct Spanish flair, most noticeably the big bulls head (whatever your thoughts may be on bullfighting), although subtler notes such as the predominant usage of cacti (given Spain’s large arid swathes of land). However, some people may find the ambient lighting a bit too dark, and I noticed a couple on a separate table using their iPhone to read the menu!

Catalunya, Singapore

SPHERICAL OLIVES”. Given that the executive chef has had a decade’s experience at el Bulli, it should be no surprise that these olives were not what they seemed. Instead, they were little balloons of olive-flavoured goo. While this kind of technique is nothing new, I have to say that the skin is the thinnest I’ve encountered so far. However, the usage of molecular cuisine to this doesn’t add anything particularly interesting, and I think eating qualityy “real” olives is actually much better.

Catalunya, Singapore-SPHERICAL OLIVES

AVOCADO ROLL”. Very reminiscent of a sushi maki roll, this had generous portions of lobster meat with avocado, salmon roe and caviar on top, sitting on what felt to be a soy-based-sauce. Perhaps a tad uninspired and somewhat unusual in a Spanish restaurant, but it was actually pretty good with all the flavours combining well without overshadowing the lobster taste.

Catalunya, Singapore-AVOCADO ROLL

FOIE GRAS AND EEL ESCALIBADA”. Apparently a traditional Catalan dish, it is essentially a layering with a bed of eggplant topped with pepper, foie gras and eel. The overall combination of flavours was good, and a nice touch was a slight sugary glaze giving a slight crunch as well as a little sweetness to the dish. However, I have to admit though that I didn’t taste the foie (although the PigPig said she did) so I wish they had given more.

Catalunya, Singapore-FOIE GRAS AND EEL ESCALIBADA

CROQUETAS DE JAMÓN”. However, the croquettes here were amply provisioned with ham. In fact, perhaps there was a tad too much ham, as it was a bit on the salty side. Other than that, it had a creamy interior with a mild cheesy taste. Juxtaposing that was a thin but mildly crunchy exterior (possibly made with panko?).

Catalunya, Singapore-CROQUETAS DE JAMÓN

TORTILLA DE TRAMPO”. It certainly doesn’t get more Spanish than a tortilla. However, this is anything but humble, with a creamy interior oozing egg yolk. There was also a generous application of chorizo within, giving a richer taste.

Catalunya, Singapore-TORTILLA DE TRAMPO

ROASTED MEAT CANELÓN”. In one of my favourite plates of the night, a mix of beef and chicken meat along with a hint of mushroom was wrapped in a crepe before being smothered in a luxuriously decadent cheesy sauce. The chicken flavor was a bit anonymous, but the beef and mushroom combined wonderfully for a deep and rich aroma. I was a bit worried about the cheese (can’t abide strong cheese smells) but this was just right, without overpowering the crepe.

Catalunya, Singapore-ROASTED MEAT CANELÓN

BOMBAS DE LA BARCELONETA”. Essentially, a ball of minced meat inside another ball of potato. While the potato was quite fluffy, the meat filling was a bit so-so, lacking any real feature to stand out. It says a lot that without the mayonnaise and bravas sauce on top, this would have been particularly bland. This would have been passable as a standard tapas in a typical bar, but in this surroundings for this price, I expect more.

Catalunya, Singapore-BOMBAS DE LA BARCELONETA

OCTOPUS A FEIRA”. Such as this for example. The chunky pieces of octopus had a charred surface to give extra aroma, but still remained tender and soft. Based on past experience, this really spoke volumes about the chef’s skill, as I tend to be served octopus pieces resembling chopped car tyres rather than actual food. There were also a few smaller pieces of pork belly. They were not bad, but really I wish I had more octopus. All this was inside a frothy airy sauce which may be light on substance, but heavy on the flavour.

Catalunya, Singapore-OCTOPUS A FEIRA

TORRIJA”. Apparently a traditional dish more from central Spain than Catalonia, this consists of two parts. One being some bread (brioche in this case) which have been soaked in milk (for 12 hours along with some herbs and spices too). The other (which I doubt is traditional at all) is ice cream made from smoked milk. The smokiness was very strong and the ice cream would have been difficult to eat on its own. However, paired with the sweetish bread, the combination suddenly becomes a brilliant pairing with a lot of character.

Catalunya, Singapore-TORRIJA

LEMON PIE”. Catalunya’s slightly different take on a lemon pie, this had the lemon custard sitting in the middle, with the meringue inside a cone. The lemon custard was as promised by the menu, full of zest and lemon essence, and would have been a little bit too tart if not for the sweetness of the meringue for balance. The cone served as the alternative to a tart’s pastry, but more delicate.

Catalunya, Singapore-lemon pie

I had a glass of red Malbec, which was decent if not spectacular. The PigPig meanwhile had a cocktail meanwhile, called Lola. Featuring a mixture of sherry and blue cheese syrup (!!), this was truly something unique. I personally found it abhorrent, but I cannot take blue cheese. The better half however loved it, finding the nutty cheese combining well with the sweetness of the sherry (cheese is typically eaten with a sweet preserve too so I guess this is a variant thereof). She also found the taste slightly reminiscent of durian (and I’ve had Caucasian friends comment that durian smelled a bit like cheese).

Catalunya, Singapore-lola cocktail

Altogether, the bill came up to about $230 for the two of us. Service throughout was good, if not particularly striking or noteworthy. The best interaction was with a Spanish staff, who was clearly pleased when I declared the torrija to be brilliant.

Overall, the food was of very high quality, with a few exceptional dishes sampled. A couple seemed a bit uninspired and lacking in creativity, but was still tasty. To put it another way, even the weakest dish was of above average quality. However, most of the dishes we sampled were cheese-intensive and heavy. We noted a lot of people ordering the suckling pig (which was cut into pieces by the table with a plate) and lobster rice, but we opted against ordering that to sample more tapas dishes. Perhaps next time with a bigger group.

Catalunya
The Fullerton Pavilion
82 Collyer Quay Singapore 049327
General enquiries: +6534 0188
Reservations: +6534 0886
Official website
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FoodBar DaDa Tapas Bar

Saturday, 12 January 2013

I tagged along my wife and two of her girlfriends for a semi-girl’s night out. My choice of the venue that night was Foodbar DaDa, a new place for all of us, but with pretty good reviews so far. I loved eating tapas in London, but have yet to sample the popular ones in Singapore so far, so was quite keen to break my duck here.

FoodBar DaDa Tapas Bar Singapore josper

In trendy Robertson Quay, Foodbar DaDa was quite small, but packed to the brim. We chose to sit inside as it had air conditioning, although being seated right opposite the Josper grill rather negated that. My experience so far with the Josper is mostly positive, particularly with Hawksmoor steakhouse which remains the best steak I’ve had.

The menu was really straightforward, with about 20 food items and a few dessert choices on one side, while drinks are on the other. The girls ordered a couple of cocktails, which received good reviews from them. While I was deliberating over choosing a red wine, the friendly hostess offered to let me sample a couple of wine, which seemed a really nice touch and I wish other places had this service.

For a complimentary amuse-bouche, we were all offered a spoon of tuna salad. It was not bad, but lacked any true sparkle.

FoodBar DaDa Tapas Bar Singapore scallops

Scallop with bread crumbs, girolle and soy sauce”. Probably one of the most complex dishes we sampled, lightly grilled scallops was placed atop some bread crumbs, with a smattering of mushrooms, fish eggs and diced fresh spring onions. We were instructed to eat the entire spoon in one mouthful. The overall flavour combination was fantastic, with all the components having a part to play and was very well balanced.

Baby squid with eggs”. Quite literally what it says on the tin, with a bit of garlic thrown in. Incredibly delicious, with the squid and eggs both cooked lightly. Would definitely order this every time I eat here.

FoodBar DaDa Tapas Bar Singapore octopus

Grilled Octopus “a la gallega””. I remember trying this dish for the first time in some random café by the beach in Barcelona. Since then we’ve had mixed experiences with this dish, as some serve octopi more akin to rubber than food. This version was among the better ones, being tender yet retaining a bit of chewiness while the paprika added a nice sharp aroma.

DaDa bravas”. A slightly more upmarket version of the simple patatas bravas, the potato was still light even after the roasting, with a creamy internal filling as well as a generous dollop of cream on top. Not bad, but not mind-blowing either. A little spicy tomato sauce would make it better.

FoodBar DaDa Tapas Bar Singapore

Spanish ham 5J with bread and tomato”. The 5J refers to a producer of jamón ibérico de bellota, which is a ham from black pigs fed on acorns. I find each producer of ham varies slightly, some saltier, sweeter, oilier. This particular type was quite well-rounded, with just the right level of salt and hammy essence. The tomato bread was a nice and delicate with a slight tart tinge, and a great pair to the ham.

FoodBar DaDa Tapas Bar Singapore jamon

DaDa croquettes”. Very creamy with a few pieces of ham inside. Pretty good, but Barrafina’s still set the bar.

FoodBar DaDa Tapas Bar Singapore fried

Cod puffs”. Not mentioned on the menu, and I was enjoying the wine a bit too much to ask, but I presume the cod refers to bacalao, or salted cod, a common Spanish food item. I found this a little bit too salty for my tastes, but the creaminess, texture and taste otherwise is very good. If it was indeed salt cod, it could do with a bit more unsalting.

Black Mediterranean rice”. Arroz negroz, or perhaps more commonly known as squid ink rice/paella, is a firm favourite of mine. The squid ink adds a distinct richness to the dish, and the version here does not disappoint in the least. Out of all the dishes we tried, this was the only one I chose to have second servings of.

FoodBar DaDa Tapas Bar Singapore rice

Saffron rice”. Meanwhile, this rather more simple rice dish was also tasty, but I simply didn’t find it as interesting as the squid ink version. A few pieces of seafood did try to make up for it.

Duck burger with strawberry ketchup”. As it was too small to share between four people, we ordered two of these sliders. The duck patty was very tender and juicy, but didn’t really taste much of duck. Also, while it’s a thoughtful gesture to leave extra ketchup on a spoon on the side, I simply didn’t notice it till after I finished my share. Personally, I think I would have preferred a little bit more of the sour ketchup to add more flavour. In general, found this a bit lacking, and probably wouldn’t order it again.

FoodBar DaDa Tapas Bar Singapore meat

Josper beef 150gms”. Not sure what cut this was, but it seemed to lack sufficient marbling for my tastes. There was a nice char to it from the grill, and was decently salted, but sadly the beef was a bit lacking. just as a caveat, I admit I’m a bit spoilt by wagyu lately, but even non-wagyu beef can be excellent (i.e. Hawksmoor).

Grilled seabass “a la donostiarra” 150gms”. Fresh fish, crispy skin, but a bit too plain for my tastes. This is purely for one to really taste the fish.

DaDa pig trotter with porccini”. The trotter was almost hollowed out, with more fats left than meat. The skin was incredibly crispy, and the underlying fat had a very thick gelatinous feel to it. The PigPig absolutely loved this, particularly with the gooey collagen and mushrooms, but I preferred having more meat.

FoodBar DaDa Tapas Bar Singapore foie

Grilled foie-gras with marinated shitake & green apple”. The foie gras here was really very very good with just a bit of balsamic glaze and apple to give it a sweet and sour touch to combat the richness.

Altogether, the bill came up to approximately $110 each, including a $90 bottle of wine and two cocktails. We sampled nearly the entire menu, apart from the vegetarian options I simply didn’t particularly care for, so I’m willing to bet the price will be far lower for most other diners. Service was pretty good, with the servers still keeping a friendly smile even when things got busy.

I guess some people might not be particularly pleased at the prospect of seating at the bar counter, but to be honest that’s quite typical for a tapas BAR in Spain, so I appreciate the attempt to keep things authentic. The atmosphere inside was pretty buzzing, with a cocktail bar tucked in a corner, but it did feel a little warm. There are tables outside in the open air though.

Overall, the food was rather excellent. It’s been a good few years since I last had tapas in London, but this certainly rivals some of my favourite old haunts. Perhaps its not quite as jaw-droppingly awesome as San Sebastian, but I would definitely love to come back for more.

Best bit: the baby squid, scallops and black rice were all superb and are first on my list of things to eat the next time I go back.
Worst bit: tad cramped!


Foodbar Dada
60 Robertson Quay
#01-12
238252
Singapore
Tel: +65 6735 7738
Tue to Sat: 6pm – 11pm
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Asia’s best restaurant? Iggy's, Singapore

Sunday, 11 November 2012

For my birthday this year, we decided to splurge a little, and made a reservation at Iggy’s. A regular in the San Pellegrino’s World’s Top 50 Restaurants list for 4 years running now, Iggy’s is currently ranked 26th this year. The restaurant is also rated as Asia’s best restaurant by the same people.

Housed on the third floor of the Hilton Hotel on Orchard Road, Iggy’s is next to the grand ballroom and the entrance is partly hidden; there is a sliding door activated by a touchpad, which took us a few seconds to locate. The main dining hall was quite small, with perhaps 7-8 tables, each sitting 2-4 people, although there is also a separate dining area.

As we went on a Saturday, only a set degustation menu, the Gastronomic, was available, for a mere $275. On normal weekdays, a normal dinner set will cost $195.

Iggy’s Sushi”. I always feel that the first plate carries with it the expectation of the rest of the meal. In a sense then, this was a promising start. We were informed that the left sushi was horse mackerel, while the right was sea bream, and to start from the right. The sea bream sushi felt a tad fishy though. The horse mackerel also was more interesting, as it came with a dollop of the ginger paste commonly used in chicken rice dishes. Now, more interestingly, instead of rice, the fish was wrapped around a ponzu meringue, which had a slight tart taste reminiscent of the rice vinegar, but with a crispy twist.

Iggy's-Singapore-sushi

Parmigiano Reggiano”. We were informed to eat the “ice cream” first, which I mistook for the piece at the bottom of the bowl. That turned out to be a slab of parmesan cheese, which I didn’t care much for, not being a huge cheese lover. The “ice cream” was actually the wafer-like piece on top. It had a bread-like sandwich with a cheesy ice-cream filling, thankfully sweetened slightly.

Iggy's-Singapore-cheese

Foie gras cromesquis, chawanmushi”. A normal cromesquis is a little ball of minced meat, similar to a croquette, but wrapped in batter or caul fat. However, a foie gras cromesquis was made famous by another chef, essentially being a little fried ball with an internal liquid foie gras filling. Sadly, I foolishly wanted to see the inside and spilt half the contents. There is a little bit of balsamic vinegar at the bottom, which added a nice tart tinge to the foie. Although that was nice, I much preferred the chawanmushi, which was very light and had a very aromatic truffle oil aroma wafting from it. A few strands of pickled onions helped to balance out the flavours.

Iggy's-Singapore-foie-gras

Nasi lemak”. I was looking forward to this after spotting it on the menu. At the bottom of the concoction was a fish mousse, which was perhaps thankfully, not too fishy, but it did seem to lack character if eaten on its own. Immediately above it was rice, followed by pandan foam. Scattered about on top was some cracker like bits. Truthfully, I’m uncertain if the topping was just crackers, or if some ikan bilis was added in, but there was a very aromatic bit which totally gave the impression of the peanuts and ikan bilis found in nasi lemak. Overall, the dish was very good, and one can really taste the essence of nasi lemak from it.

Iggy's-Singapore-nasi-lemak

Beside the glass was a cracker like thing, which was supposed to taste of chilli crab. Honestly though, it just tasted a little bit sweet, with the peanuts on top. Quite disappointing after the very good nasi lemak.

After the opening salvo appeared the bread. Two types were on offer: sourdough and focaccia. The sourdough felt a bit undersalted to me, but the focaccia was very good. The butter was quite rich, with what felt like flecks of cheese atop it.

Iggy's-Singapore-bread

KINMEDAI. Cucumber, pomelo, crème fraiche”. Kinmedai’s English name is Splendid Alfonsino and is related to sea bream. The slices of fish were marinated, being slightly salty. The overall plate presentation was really beautiful, with the little flowers and herbs used to great effect. In combination, all the flavours from the fish and greenery worked well together, particularly the usage of pomelo to give it a really fresh feel. Also of note is the caviar oli, basically little balls of olive oil.

Iggy's-Singapore-fish

GILLARDEAU OYSTER. Champagne foam, fava beans, Oscietra”. At the time of eating, I was unaware of it, but this wasn’t just any old oyster. A Gillardeau oyster is a specialist product, cultivated for 4 years following a tradition dating 4 generations. The oyster was really quite large, and was very juicy and flavourful. Additionally, there was a quite significant dollop of oscietra, more commonly known as sturgeon caviar, which was really smooth and silky and added further briny flavour. However, the supposedly champagne foam tastes more of cheese. The bottom layer was like a pressed rice cracker, with a few fava beans within. Personally, I found the effect of the fava beans negligible. Overall though, the taste was very good, helped in no small part from the luxury of caviar.

Iggy's-Singapore-oyster

FROM THE GARDEN. Seeds and grains, leaves and blossoms”. Consisting of over 30 types of plants, there was a veritable hodge-podge of tubers, leaves and stems. Some of them were left raw, while some looked steamed, and a couple were tempura-ed. The “soil” was made from tamba black beans , which was rather sweet. However, this was easily the least favourite dish for the both of us, partly as neither of us are keen herbivores, and also because the dish felt somewhat chaotic and random. Texture wise, it was rather mushy. Perhaps more tempura bits would have made it more enjoyable.

Iggy's-Singapore-garden-salad

SANMA. Brown rice, olives, thyme”. Essentially, it was a rolled up fillet of pacific saury, a relative of mackerel, which appeared to be partially grilled. I really enjoyed the fish itself, but the overall experience was dampened by the several tiny bones inside. The brown rice had a little bit of the crackers from the nasi lemak, which added slight crunch.

Iggy's-Singapore-fish-rice

WAGYU. Matsutake, sudachi, pink garlic”. Perhaps amongst the more anticipated items on the menu, mainly because, well, it’s wagyu beef, a much-needed meaty substance after a predominantly seafood affair. That being said, a lot of restaurants can be somewhat uninspired at times when it comes to red meat. Here however, it was quite interesting as the Kagoshima striploin was actually filleted into thin strips, then rolled into an appearance resembling a normal steak. The top side of the “steak” was seared, before the piece was put into a salamander grill to finish up cooking. The effect was a much more tender piece of meat than usual, even for wagyu, with a juicy pink interior. Very nicely done.

Iggy's-Singapore-wagyu

Iggy's-Singapore-wagyu

I was also keen on eating the matsutake mushrooms, prior to this only something seen on Iron Chef programmes. It was a very meaty piece, with a rather distinct flavour difficult to describe in words. The presence of any citrus component from the sudachi was too subtle to experience. However, the garlic mousse and crispy garlic flakes were sublime, and worked really well to complement the beef.

PEACH. Yoghurt, elderflower, dill”. The first of the dessert courses, this served as a very pleasant and refreshing palate cleanser. The little cubes of white peaches were straightforward enough, but combined very well with the relatively mild elderflower granita. The yoghurt ice cream added a little cream and depth to the plate. The dill just added a little exotic aroma to the palate.

Iggy's-Singapore-dessert

ARAGUANI CHOCOLATE. Banana, espresso, hazelnut”. If the previous dessert course was of very good quality, this was just absolutely excellent. First there was the very smooth high quality chocolate, which comes in two forms: a more straightforward mousse, and a partly frozen version. Caramelised banana is always a good partner with chocolate. Likewise is hazelnut, which also added a slight crunch. Initially, I had assumed the flowers to be merely decorative in nature, but actually it adds a subtle but interesting subtext in aroma and flavour.

Iggy's-Singapore-chocolate

HINOKI CHOCOLATE BOX. Selection of home-made chocolates and macaroons”. Starting with the two macaroons, there were calamansi and Milo versions, both distinctly locally inspired flavours. For the uninitiated, calamansi is a citrus flavour, similar to lime, while Milo is a chocolate and malt based drink. The macaroons itself were of pretty decent quality too, with a near perfect texture; not too soft or chewy but with a slight bite.

Iggy's-Singapore-petit-fours

Of the remaining chocolate based treats, there was a white chocolate truffle, a dark chocolate and a mocha chocolate. The white chocolate one was a complete surprise to me, as it was introduced as “white chocolate truffle”, and I assumed it was just a simple white chocolate dessert. Upon biting it though, there was a flood of incredibly aromatic truffle flavour. The other two desserts were not bad, but just simply overshadowed.

Overall, the bill came up to just over $700 for the two of us. That also included a glass of sparkling sake each for an aperitif, which was nice initially, but the bubbles quickly fizzled out. We also had a coffee and tea respectively. Service throughout was very good, and most of the serving staff seemed knowledgeable about the dishes and were able to answer my questions.

The food in general was pretty good, although there were a few specific negatives here and there.

Iggy's
The Hilton Hotel, Level 3
581 Orchard Road
238883 Singapore
Tel: +65 6732 2234
Official website
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Menya Musashi, Raffles City

Thursday, 9 August 2012

It feels like Singapore is crawling with ramen-ya. On our limited eating expeditions we’ve already reviewed all 6 stalls in Ramen Champion (Iluma + Changi Airport) and Tonkotsu King, and also sampled but not reviewed Ippudo and Marutama (for one reason or another). Anyway, the latest ramen stall to catch our eye was Menya Musashi.

Menya Musashi, Raffles City, Singapore

Another Japanese chain to make its way to these shores, Menya Musashi is slightly different, if only for its strong samurai motif. Miyamoto Musashi, is widely renowned to be the most famous samurai in the history of Japan, and the restaurant is full of samurai themed images.

At any rate, the ramen of Menya Musashi is also highly regarded by various blogs I’ve come across, although each outlet tends to be slightly different from the other and they each have their own characteristic. However, their traditional soup base is is made from chicken and pork bones as well as dried saury. In this outlet’s case, since they only serve tonkotsu (pork broth) style, I’m not certain how far they’ve diverged from their normal style. I guess it’s a smart choice though, seeing how popular the tonkotsu style is here.

In fact, it’s so popular that the queue here is quite ridiculous. We went quite late for lunch at about 2 pm so avoided that, but I’ve seen long queue lines during the peak dinner hours.

White Kakuni Ramen. Truthfully, I wanted to order the ‘black version’, but I really wanted to sample the ‘basic’ entry level version first. Anyway the soup itself is very tasty, but somehow feels cleaner and less oily than Tonkotsu King or Ippudo’s for example. It is still very porky in flavour nonetheless. The noodles were also quite thick and chewy, completely unlike the hakata-style ramen that uses the thinner type.

Menya Musashi, Raffles City

I personally much prefer kakuni when eating ramen as it’s usually more flavourful and I just prefer having a chunkier bite; this didn’t disappoint while it was also still tender with just the right amount of fat. The egg on the other hand was rather ordinary. I’m not a huge fan of black fungus either, although I guess it didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the ramen much.

Black Tsukemen. The PigPig meanwhile, continued with her quest to sample tsukemen everywhere; in case you’ve forgotten, tsukemen is a dry-er version of ramen whereby you dip the pre-cooked noodles into the dipping sauce. We first tried this in Ippudo NYC where we also learned that there can be both hot and cold versions (somewhat akin to eat cold soba I guess).

Anyway the black colour in the dipping sauce, again like Ippudo and Hide-Chan in NYC, comes from the black garlic oil which gives a brilliant smoky garlicky aroma. However, since this is a tsukemen, the dipping soup here is more concentrated in flavour to a regular soup. Even towards the end, when the dipping soup has been diluted from the water in the ramen, it was still a bit too salty to drink on its own. As a dip however, it had a good balance of being flavourful enough.

Menya Musashi, Raffles City

The noodles were the same as in the normal ramen bowl, which I think suited the tsukemen style better thanks to its chewiness. The cha-shu here was also, by far, the best cha-shu in ramen we’ve had so far in Singapore. Even though it’s still cut in the same thin strips that’s typical of ramen, Menya Musashi’s cha-shu had a slightly grilled charred surface which gave it a little bit more ooomph in the flavour department. Small details like that will set apart the best from the rest of the herd.

We were starving when we entered the restaurant so in our greed we also ordered a little bowl of rice with pickled and seaweed on top. It was tasty if rather unremarkable. We finished it before our ramen arrived, and in retrospect, we should have ladled some ramen soup onto it!

Menya Musashi, Raffles City

Altogether, the bill was just under $50 for the two of us. The restaurant was only ¾ full when we were there, and service was good and prompt; the waiters routinely came to top up our glasses of iced tea.

Menya Musashi, Raffles City, Singapore

I think one’s choice of a certain ramen-ya over another is a purely personal choice, depending on things like the soup broth, noodles or toppings. However, Menya Musashi has definitely got a lot of things right: the soup is great, I like the chewy noodles, and their cha-shu is the best I’ve had in a bowl of ramen. Right now, I’ll be completely happy to go to any of Menya Musashi, Tonkotsu King and Riki (from Ramen Champion @ Changi).

Menya Musashi
252 North Bridge Road,
#01-16 Raffles City Shopping Centre,
Singapore
Tel: +65 6336 6500

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Pollen at Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Jason Atherton, ex-protégé of Gordon Ramsay at Maze Restaurant, subsequently broke out on his own with the widely acclaimed Pollen Street Social in London. Sadly, we never found the time to sample that, but fate threw us a second change with Pollen in Singapore.

Pollen at Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

Opened recently, Pollen was situated in the also very recently (23 July 2012) opened Gardens by the Bay, Singapore’s attempt to create something akin to Hyde Park or Central Park, and has already cost an estimated $1 billion. I’m not going to go into details about the Gardens, but briefly speaking there are two temperature controlled conservatories: Flower Dome and Cloud Forest. Within the Flower Dome conservatory sits Pollen restaurant.

Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

Normally, visiting the Flower Dome requires a ticket, $12 for locals; non-locals have to pay $28 to visit both conservatories. However, since Pollen restaurant is sited within the conservatory and we already had a reservation, we were waived the entrance fee and allowed to traipse about the Flower Dome for free. Getting to the Flower Dome may be a bit of a trek under the hot sun, so a rather convenient buggy was arranged for customers. The pick-up point can be a bit tricky to find, but the information counter is nearby and easily pointed us to it.

Pollen at Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

As our table wasn’t quite ready when we arrived (earlier than the reserved time), we decided to tour the Flower Dome first. It was quite interesting, something like an eco-park with variety of fauna (mostly flowers, strangely enough) from the 5 Mediterranean regions of the world.

Flower dome, Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

flower dome, Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

The Flower Dome was spread over two floors, and quite intelligently, so was Pollen. The main restaurant was on the ground floor, with a little bar on the upper level. The interior of Pollen’s main dining room was truthfully, absolutely beautiful with a rock garden right by the main entrance and stretching all the way alongside the glass windows.

Pollen at Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

To start us off with, some sourdough bread and French baguette was offered. The latter was a tad cold and slightly tough, while the former was much nicer. The butter was very rich, but smooth and still not too heavy. To go with the bread and butter was some olives and a rather strange concoction of mashed potato and pureed cod. It was described to us as being rather reminiscent of fishballs to the local palate, but I felt the fish/cod flavour was lost and it just tasted of potato mainly.

Pollen at Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

Scallop carpaccio, cucumber, apple, horseradish snow”. I felt this was perhaps the most interesting out of all the dishes we had. The scallop was marinated with a light herb dressing which augmented without overpowering the naturally sweet scallops. The horseradish ‘snow’ was delightfully light, with a hint of fresh spiciness. Giving a fresh natural aura to the plate as well was the lightly pickled cucumbers, and apples and beetroot slices.

scallops-Pollen at Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

Salad of buttered lobster, pasta, seaweed, maple dressing”. This was relatively more straightforward, with the sweet and succulent lobster meat scattered about the al dente spaghetti.

Lobster, Pollen at Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

Roasted pork belly, broad beans, slow-cooked squid, chorizo”. The pork belly felt more braised than roasted to me, juicy and tender. The crispy crackling on top was very good though, simple and light without being cloying. The broad beans and squid mixture was reasonably tasty without being particularly interesting.

Pork-Pollen at Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

Marinated lamb cutlets, artichokes, asparagus, prickly ash”. The PigPig was hankering for some lamb, and was salivating when this plate showed up. The lamb cutlets were beautifully cooked, and had just enough lamb aroma without being too ‘aromatic’ (or some may say, smelly). The artichokes provided a sharp sour contrast to the slightly gamey lamb. Interestingly, the thinly shredded maroon slices by the side was dried chillies, which gave the dish a slight Asian twist.

Lamb-Pollen at Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

PB&J – Peanut butter and cherry yuzu sorbet”. The ‘peanut butter’ came in the form of the white mousse-like stick, slightly muted in peanut flavour. The ‘jam’ was the cherry yuzu sorbet, which was a bit on the tart side from the yuzu. Doing it in a sorbet form did make it slightly lighter and less creamy, but I would have preferred the richness of a more standard ice-cream format. It was admittedly very impressive plate preparation though.

Pollen at Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

PB and J Pollen at Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

Crema de chocolate, banana ice cream, frozen caramel water”. A little bit of dry ice from the caramel provided some mild theatrics during the serving. The chocolate came mainly in the form of very dark cookie-like crumbs, which provided a bitter contrast to the banana ice cream and caramel. I found the chocolate a bit too dark, although the PigPig found the overall combination very palatable.

Pollen at Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

Service throughout was very smooth, apart from the one time we wanted for more bread and had to (*gasp*) ask twice before we got served.

Overall, the food was technically pretty well done and definitely quite reminiscent of some of the one-starred London restaurants. The more adventurous dishes like the scallop carpaccio, PB&J and chocolate and banana desserts worked quite well for me, while the pork and lamb mains were pretty good, but quite straightforward really.

Best bit: The Flower Dome conservatory. It’ll be interesting to see whether the complex will last the next 2-5 years and become a good Singapore attraction.
Worst bit: the ‘fishball’ paste was probably the worst bit, and it was hardly the most important aspect.

Pollen
Flower Dome, Gardens By The Bay
18 Marina Gardens Drive #01-09
Singapore 018953
Tel: +65 6604 9988
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