The Michelin guide, Singapore edition 

So it has finally launched, after creating a huge buzz in the F&B scene here,  after everyone has casted their own opinions about the guide, it’s choices for bib gourmand, and it’s stars, what is left after all the dust has settled? Has our food scene gotten better? Will it grow?

I see the necessity for guides, I really do. I use them, and also tourists like me who are too lazy to do the groundwork on the fine dining scene, the Michelin guide gives a good overview of the scene in general. The guide in itself is fundamentally good as well, if you had a guide that everyone respects, chefs would work their asses off to get on the list, because that would be the ultimate validation for any chef, to know that beyond the numbers on an asset sheet or your reservation book, that your food, and restaurant is truly amazing. And yet, this is not the Michelin guide we have

Granted that food is incredibly subjective and thus divides opinions in general, the only rallying fact about last nights list is that- there are some very questionable restaurants on the list. Whether you choose to believe that they bought their way in- ‘sponsorships’, I think they call it, I think it is quite disappointing that this is the biggest takeaway from it all. 

There are some that absolutely deserve to be on the list, and some that I personally believe are a fair assessment as well when I compare it to my experience with the stars in America, Europe, and Tokyo. These entries I believe are spot on, and yet, when I look at the list of other restaurants within the same category, and I look at restaurants in the 2 star category, I’m thinking, surely this can’t be right. People will benchmark the stars against each other, let’s not even talk about Singaporean stars vs overseas stars, within our local list of stars, the discrepancies are huge. 

And then of course, when you look at the list and the restaurants from resorts world sentosa, you question how many of them are on the list because they deserve it. The very nature of Michelin is compromised when you are taking sponsorships from groups that own restaurants, as a guide that claims to give truly impartial reviews, that is the exact definition of a conflict of interest. And this not only diminishes the integrity of the guide as a whole, it diminishes the hard work that is put in by restaurants who really earned their star out of their own merit

So what is left after all the dust has settled? There is a huge buzz, and I’m sure everyone involved with this is patting themselves on the back. But most of what I hear on the ground are the same negative things- that restaurant doesn’t deserve be to be on the list, that restaurant bought their way onto the list, the guide is awful etc. Not just by consumers, but even by chefs- ‘THAT restaurant got a star?’ 

This just sounds like a toxic environment to me, even before the guide was out, I’ve always felt that chefs in Singapore seldom work together, it’s always a (not so friendly) competition between them, and with the guide, it looks to only worsen the situation. 

It had so much potential to do good, yet the list looks like it is veering towards what the Hong Kong guide has become, something you cannot ignore it as a chef/restaurant owner, and yet when you do have your stars, the rest of the world knows that the guide is completely unreliable when compared to the rest of the world. But I guess that is the power of the Michelin guide, everyone may laugh at it on the outside, but on the inside you’re singing and dancing to the tune that Michelin plays, simply because you cannot afford not to 


Noma, Copenhagen

Its past midnight in Copenhagen and my mind is still buzzing from the meal I had 12 hours ago. I can’t remember a meal that made my mind work like this for ages. I had all but given up on the prospect of eating at Noma until the kind people at Singapore Airlines and Visitcopenhagen offered me the chance to be in the city, and of course Noma was the first restaurant I made reservations at.


To say I was confident about the experience I was going to have would be a complete lie, it was quite the opposite. I have heard many friends, many bloggers that have criticized the food at Noma for various reasons, so I felt that I had to approach the meal with caution, not too different from a child with an innate fear of water, dipping his toes in precariously, never fully trusting it. I had an optimism for the meal that I kept inside, and if I have learnt one thing over the last few years of visiting restaurants, it is that food is extremely subjective, and I refuse to form an opinion on a restaurant based on a collection of other peoples thoughts- I had to decide on my own.


The meal starts off with a small bite of rhubarb rolled into a rosette, proving that even the top restaurants in the world are not immune to instagram fads. But this was no avocado rose; the rhubarb, although seemingly simple in flavor, was dressed in a viscous kombu oil. This dish was a necessary precursor and set the tone for the entire meal, that if you are served an infused oil in Noma, it will taste exactly as advertised. The intense umami and unmistakable sea flavor of the oil combined with the tartness of the rhubarb and sorrel to create a flavor combination that was unusual. I couldn’t decide if I truly loved it, but the dish did start to make me think, the whole table was engaged in conversation and I could tell that the dish divided opinions at the table, this was going to be a fun meal.


A little tartlet with radishes appears, “Radish pie”, a dish that looks like it would terrify anyone with trypophobia. Ground seaweed powder is folded into a tart dough and rolled ever so thinly before being baked, the same  tart used in their Tokyo popup with Uni. This time it is served with rolled radishes and an emulsion of vegetable jus and butter, a contrast of deep earthiness, and an umami laden base to bind it all together, Surf and turf with no meat, delicious. Flavors that individually you already have stored in your memory palate, yet your mind is twisted into a knot  and tied together because the flavors are being combined in ways that you have never experienced.


The last vegetable course before meat started to appear on the menu is my favorite dish of the whole meal and one of the best dishes I have ever had. White asparagus, simply steamed and pan roasted, is finished with  a barley butter sauce with greens and elderflower. The combination is astounding, everything is executed to perfection, the doneness of the asparagus, cooked until it retains just the perfect amount of crunch, and the barley butter sauce, a sauce with so many layers of flavors that you constantly keep spooning more into your mouth to make sure that this is real. Natural sweetness from the barley, richness from the butter, and acidity from a double fermentation process that we will talk about later. Superb


Whatever notions and criticisms of the food being bland were not present in my meal. A seemingly simple dish of rampson leaves, brushed with a smoked butter, then charred on the grill, afterwards brushed with a paste made of roasted scallops, was both ingenious and chock full of flavor- intense umami and sweetnessfrom the scallops, bitterness from the charred bits, and a hint of garlic from the leaves.


Another flavored packed dish was a small bowl filled with king crab legs, thickened with a rich egg yolk sauce, and seasoned with beef garum. That’s exactly what it sounds like, the same technique used to make fish sauce is applied to beef. Minced beef is salted and left to try out, the liquid that is realised is used to season the dish.. It is a huge trick on the mind because you taste the intense saltiness, and your brain is searching for that familiar fishy flavor, yet what you taste is unmistakably beefy, and that flavor in itself is so contrasting to the sweet flavor of the crab. This is one of the many dishes where your palate goes haywire because it defies everything in your flavor memories, and just in case I wasn’t clear, I loved this dish.

That being said, the meal was far from perfect. A few little details kind of showed why Noma is still a 2 star restaurant, a small piece of crab shell embedded within the crab meat, some sand that was not cleaned out from the sea greens were seemingly small issues, but these little things really separate a 2 star from a 3 star restaurant based on my experiences.


Some dishes I didn’t quite understand, a dish of lobster served with rose oil, charred onions and lavender was a bit of a floral overkill for me. The lobster itself was perfectly cooked, steamed till it had just the right amount of bite and impeccably sweet, yet none of the accompanying ingredients served to elevate the flavor of the lobster for me.


Others were on the verge of perfection but felt a little too smart for their own good. A ‘tart’ made of plum puree that had been lacto-fermentated, then dehydrated into a thin disc, sandwiching a thin layer of rose petals served as a base for the freshest and most beautiful baby Danish peas, painstakingly peeled by hand and tossed in blackcurrant wood oil and thyme flowers. Some of the best peas I have ever tasted, yet the overwhelming acidity of the plum tart really took away from those peas, I wonder what they would have tasted like without being fermented.


One simply cannot go to Noma without considering the juice or wine pairing. Noma after all, is the restaurant that made the juice pairing popular, and being a light drinker, this was right up my alley. An infused oil of blackcurrant wood floating on a juice of green strawberry gave the juice an added layer of aroma, coating the tongue for a longer flavor release, aroma for days. Yet the actual pairing of the juices with the food didn’t seem to compliment each other as much as I would have liked, there seemed to be a disconnect in flavor for some pairings. For what it’s worth, I thought that the non-alcoholic pairing(Not juice because there were infused teas) at Brae in Australia was much better, and the wines I sipped from  friends pairing seemed to suit the dishes a little better.




Desserts felt like it ended a little prematurely simply because there were only 2 courses in comparison to the multiple savories that we had, the final course being a delicious snack of moss(I believe reindeer moss), deep fried and  sprayed in a chocolate ganache, meant to be dipped into creme fraiche and a seaweed reduction. This is a dish that is hard to describe accurately in words simply because the combination of flavors are so mind blowing. Your tongue first gets hit by the sweetness of the chocolate, then as you bite, you first get the crispness of the fried moss, but it eventually turns into a chewy texture, and each time you chew into it, that natural briny flavor is released. It sounds crazy, but is the template no more crazy than the combination of say, a salted caramel? Sweet and salty, but this time with umami. Absolutely delicious.


And that was my experience with Noma, a great meal, but not without its own criticisms. I wish I had more Noma experiences to compare against, but this was my virgin trip, and on a visit to 1-michelin starred Sollerod Kro, I spoke to the chef who has been to Noma 57 times. He mentioned that his last Noma visit, 2 months prior to mine, was the best he has experienced, and it’s not hard for me to believe. I haven’t had first hand experience with what Noma’s food used to be, but from the articles that I’ve read, from the youtube videos that I’ve watched on Noma, my meal seems to be much more…. mature. The shock factor is secondary, and flavor is prioritized- dishes that used to consist of whole ants shocked diners into their perception of what should be eaten at a fine dining restaurants, but in this meal the ants were ground into a paste and spread onto grilled vegetables. The form of the ants is not important, the flavor of the ants are.

But the meal is not where the experience ends, once the bill has been settled, we were given a kitchen tour, and I (personally) believe the kitchen tour is just as important as the meal itself. The dishes throughout the meal truly set your mind ablaze- how is this dish made? Why was it done this way? Even with the dishes I did not enjoy, I had questions, and the kitchen tour is where those questions get answered.

The first thing you realise walking into the kitchen is that it is not set up like a regular kitchen, it has 4 passes, not common by any means, but think about it for a moment and it makes so much sense, having multiple passes ensures that food does not ever get bottlenecked at one location, so even with heavily staggered reservation timings, service can go incredibly smoothly(as it did).


Then you are guided to the back of the restaurant where a small grill has been set up. There was a time a few years ago where I said that I did not care if things were sous vide, as long as they tasted good, I have to admit that my sentiment is not the same now. Perhaps it is my own personal interest with cooking over fire and wood, but I do find that having ingredients cooked over charcoal does give it more personality than the monotony of edge to edge perfection; perhaps I am romanticizing this, but noone can argue with the smokiness that cooking over fire provides, and it is nice to know that noma uses fire as flavor.


Walk to the 2nd floor where they are busting out mise en place, see them punching out little radishes and rolling them into cones. Walk down back to their ‘fermentation lab’ and they explain how they are able to preserve produce for the harsh winters where vegetables are scarce. And you start thinking about what you had during your meal. That perfect barley butter sauce, it had a tinge of acidity that really gave the dish life, but neither barley nor butter have much inherent acidity. Then you learn that the barley goes through a double fermentation process, first it is a process similar to how koji is made, but with barley instead of rice, then salt is added for another lacto-fermentation.

And perhaps this exemplifies the beauty of the meal at noma, the food is just one portion of the experience, the education and inspiration from the techniques being used, the way the kitchen is run, the ideaology behind the dishes,those are just as important as what you have eaten as well. To say that everyone who enjoys eating has to have this interest would be pompous, some just simply eating food that is delicious and nothing more, but if you’re willing to look a little deeper, I have no doubt that you will have a great time at Noma


The rest of the dishes:

Sourdough and goats milk butter (Starter has been around since Noma first opened in 2003)


A Vegetable platter: Flatbread and creme fraiche with herbs, pickled and smoked quails egg, a black currant berry. Wasn’t a fan of the faux berrybut the other two, especially the egg, were both tasty


Fresh milk curds and young garlic shoots. That striped pattern is konbu cooked till translucent, and I believe there were grasshoppers in the ramp paste


Turbot grilled on the bone with sweet shrimp. This was the first in a 2 part final savory course, the Fjord shrimps are left raw, diced to a tartare and wrapped in spinach leaves like a ravioli, and the broth is made from hen of the wood mushrooms. Hard to fault the dish, execution was flawless, it just felt that apart from the raviolis, this was a dish that was not as interesting as the other dishes in the meal.


Turbot ‘ribs’, its not often that an entire table of 7 diners are having so much fun munching on a dish that not a single word is muttered, but thats what this dish did. Ribs are glazed with a turbot reduction(I think) and barbecued, the tiny sliver in the center is made from turbot roe that has been aged for a year. There’s barely any meat on the bones, but they are so much fun to nibble on, and you’d often find yourself sticking on the nooks and crannies trying to get out as much of the collagen as possible. This is such a silly but great dish.


“Gammel Dansk” bitters ice cream, milk crisps, sorrel juice. Enjoyed the use of sorrel in the dish, a perfect balance of sweet and acid, and the herbaceous notes complimenting the gammel dansk perfectlyDSC00896


Of produce, and the future

2015 was a great year of travel for me- Melbourne, Hokkaido, Vietnam for the first time ever, Tokyo, Seoul for the first time as well, and then Bangkok. Lots of great experiences, lots of new friends who really took care of me, and lots of great food was consumed. All the travelling I’ve done in Asia  has really given me a deeper understanding and greater appreciation for food, and more importantly the differences in our food, but thing that has been a constant topic in my head throughout all these locations, has been the differences in taste based on regionality. While it is perfectly normal for the food of a certain culture to be built around the produce that is readily available in a particular region, and despite the fact that in somewhere like Singapore where we share many similar aromatics used in Thai cooking, such as galangal, coriander lemongrass etc, one would never mistake Thai food from Singaporean food. So why does our food taste the way it tastes?
When you think of the strongest condiments or sauces in cooking, I’d say that a lot of them originate from Asia, specifically regions like Malaysia/Singapore/Thailand/Vietnam/ Indonesia where our food is very punchy in flavour, be it the level of spiciness or the level of acidity. Ingredients like fish sauce and fermented prawn paste aim not to offer subtle nuances of flavour, but instead give you bang for the buck in terms of pungency and taste, but I think that our food is also a result of the quality of ingredients that we have available to us.
Chicken rice from Tian tian, not my favorite chicken rice, but one of my favorite photos
We have always had meats like poultry and fish and vegetables available to us in the region, but anyone that has travelled to countries in Europe, the US, or Japan will tell you that the quality and taste of our meats will taste bland when compared side by side to their ‘further away counterparts’. Even our ‘humble’ chicken rice is cooked with heaping amounts of chicken fat, garlic and ginger, and then served up with 3 more kinds of sauces. So is this the reason why our sauces taste so strong, and often so spicy? To mask out the taste of the meat, simply because the meat doesn’t have that much inherent flavour?
Thai dish with scallops and uni, with a sauce full of assam/tamarind
These thoughts are a reflection of recent meals that I have had, one particular restaurant in Thailand I visited uses traditional recipes but pairs it with new and exciting premium ingredients. The problem is that traditional Thai recipes have strong, often acidic sauces that completely overwhelm these premium ingredients, so you end up paying a lot for Uni that you don’t really get to taste. ‘Fusion food’ often gets a bad reputation, but south East Asian fusion requires far more thought and balance than one would expect. For example, anyone can throw Wagyu beef into a beef curry, but doing it sensibly means asking yourself the right questions- can I taste the beef through the curry? If not, do I make the beef taste stronger by perhaps Aging it? Or maybe cutting down on the spices in the curry to allow the beef flavour to become more pronounced? Does the additional fat in the Wagyu make the curry taste too rich? Perhaps some acidity in the form of a pickle would round the Flavours out? Does the addition of the acidity change the footprint of the dish too much? There are a multitude of questions that can be asked if one choose to put so much thought into it, and that is also a reason why when fusion food(particularly south East Asian fusion) is done right, it is truly glorious.
L’Effervescence’s signature turnip dish, will we ever have produce that could sustain a dish similar to this?
This is also why I believe our fine dining scene to be of poor value, as more regional fine dining restaurants shift their focus to using produce from farms where they can have control over how things are grown in order to upkeep the standards required of fine dining(ie herbs and vegetables from farms in Genting Highlands), much of the meat is still shipped in from further away counties simply because we cannot match the quality from elsewhere. And so when you have fine dining in Singapore, a portion of the cost goes into the logistics of shipping produce over. A western fine dining meal easily costs upwards of $300 and a fine dining sushi restaurant costs upwards of $400, and while I truly believe that we have some of the best chefs in the world, and while I also believe that not everything that is fresh is necessarily better(ie some things taste better fermented/aged), good chefs with access to incredible, cheap(er) produce will always create a better overall meal for better value. Again, this isn’t to say that they are better chefs, it merely highlights that chefs in the region are handicapped.
Cornerhouse’s Kaya toast, definitely not the ones you grew up eating
So how have our chefs been dealing with this issue? I can’t say that I’m an expert about all things food in Singapore, but the last few meals I’ve had here, I’ve noticed that some them have started to pry away from the mould of a ‘French restaurant’ or an ‘Italian restaurant’. I remember when Julien royer was at Jaan, you could say that the entire meal was 100% French, yet at his new restaurant Odette, he serves an amuse of Chilli crab foam in kueh pie tee; at cornerhouse, Chef Jason Tan serves a modern Kaya and toast, yet the rest of the meal is predominantly Western ingredients with Western cooking techniques. Neither of these restaurants would be classified as fusion, yet they have nods to Singapore and our local flavors, and while t may not contribute to large parts of the menu, but a ripple may someday propagate into something bigger. And what about the restaurants that embrace fusion and execute it with finesse? LG Han of Labyrinth makes a Faux mee pok where the noodles are made with shaved frozen squid, a technique that was pioneered by the forerunners of modern cooking overseas, yet the dish is tied together with a truly delicious and authentic home made chilli sauce; at Candlenut, chef Malcolm Lee minces pork by hand and brushes it with buah keluak to form a ‘Peranakan tsukune’, embracing ingredients we have locally and turning it into something unique. And isn’t that essentially the direction our fine dining has to go? We will never cook French food better than the French, even if we had the best French chefs in the world, we will not have the soil, we do not have the best produce that they have in France, and same goes for Italian, or Japanese, or any other cuisine. What we do have is the best kaffir lime leaves, the best lemongrass, the best and most aromatic rempahs that result from these ingredients, and as such it makes perfect sense to use these to supplement the other produce that we have to import from overseas, and in essence create food that is truly unique to our part of the world. The Japanese did it successfully with restaurants like L’effervescence, Quintessence, Esquisse, utilizing French technique and applying it to their amazing produce, why can’t we do the same?
Home Cooked

An Omu rice obsession

I still remember the moment I became obsessed with the dish. I was having dinner at home with my sister when she tapped me on the arm and shoved her phone in my face, ‘check this out, check this out’ she said. I watched as a Japanese man with a rock star hairdo cooked an omelette and sliced it open atop a mound of fried rice. It flapped open magically to reveal the creamiest, most tender looking egg I had ever seen; then a piping hot sauce(which I have to assume is Demi glaze since Japanese love Demi glaze for some reason) is poured over. It blew my mind. It blew my mind because I didn’t know omu rice cooked with this much finesse even existed. Omurice in my mind was an often overcooked, insipid omelette served on sauce and rice. This, this was something else.

All along I was taught to believe that the French omelette was the pinnacle of egg perfection, Julia child taught me that, Jacques Pepin taught me that, Thomas Keller taught me that. And yet here in  a tiny restaurant in Kyoto was a chef cooking an omelette that I had never seen before until now. I proclaimed there and then that I would try to perfect that omelette, I knew the idea sounded incredulous, but what took me by surprise was that my sister dismissed me right away. ‘Don’t even bother, do you even know how many years you have to train to get this right’. And on hindsight, she was correct, it must have taken years to perfect, and logically I should have given up at the time, but there was something about the pessimism that made me want to perfect it even more, perhaps that was the catalyst that drove my obsession.
And obsessed I was. Every day I came home from work, I would go straight to my stove and run through 8-10 eggs until either my mom and sister would come into the kitchen and not so subtly hint that perhaps it was time to stop. It’s not like I was cooking blindly either. I scoured YouTube for every clip I could find. ‘Kichi kichi’ ‘omu rice Japanese’ ‘omurice flip’, every video taken of an omu rice made that was uploaded onto the internet, I’ve probably already watched it. I took note of everything- how much egg was being used, how hot the pan was, the material of the pan, the type of pan, the utensils used, the time taken to cook the egg. It sounds crazy to spend this much thought on something as seemingly simple as an omelette, but it’s more than just that. It is a live and ferocious beast, a beast that is uncaged the moment you drop your eggs into the hot pan(high heat is used, no 20 minute bain marie omelettes here). You act too slowly and the eggs get too cooked within seconds. You act too quickly and your eggs are too liquid to be flipped. I would run through all the steps in my head but the moment I saw the eggs start to scramble, I would blank out. What was second nature to that chef was infant nature for me, and I ate all my failures, it seemed wrong to throw them away. Perhaps this was my punishment for failure- every day I would eat egg sandwiches for lunch. I had to take breaks on some days because the rest of my family had rightfully exercised their right to refusal on those failed omelettes. By the fourth day the thought of eating eggs made me gag.
I wasn’t stagnating though, and I think knowing that there was progress was what kept me going, every time I failed I would go back to the drawing board and re-assess what I did wrong. I would re-watch videos on YouTube, try to figure out what I could have done differently. I eventually realized some things didn’t work for me, I had to use a skillet instead of a saute pan because the angled egg of the skillet somehow enabled me to flip the omelette a little bit better. I couldn’t use chopsticks to save my life, I switched to a system of first using chopsticks to scramble the eggs in the beginning, then using a spatula for the flip, eventually I just used the spatula by itself. I couldn’t find a way to make the knocking system he uses to agitate and flip his eggs either, this is probably the most difficult part of it all, the actual flip.
Another style of omurice
 So why is this damn omelette so difficult to make? First of all, you have to get your eggs  creamy, this is a given since a properly cooked French omelette has a creamy center. The main difference is that a French omelette is almost like a thin egg crepe wrapping creamy scrambled eggs, it isn’t sealed, and the unsealed portion is usually hidden because it touches the plate(presentation side), if you pick it up, it unravels itself. This omurice requires the egg to be cooked into a pouch, which means that you can pick it up and nothing would leak out. Sounds simple in theory, but a nightmare to execute.
Pepin shows you how to make an omelette
I must have been a week in before I got it right. I cooked it into a  pouch, prodded it and I could tell it was soft in the center. This must be it, this is the moment, I couldn’t contain my excitement when I carefully placed it on the fried rice. I sliced the top open and…. Nothing happened. It just sat there. That omelette cut me deeper than my knife cut into it, I felt like giving up at that point. I had done everything right and yet it didn’t flap apart like it was meant to. What went wrong this time. I eventually realized cooking it into a pouch wasn’t enough, you had to cook it into a pouch with enough mass so that the weight of its own creamy insides would tear its own skin open(mmmmm). The simple fix would be to add more eggs into the pan, but that in itself made the whole omelette a whole lot harder to flip, more trails were done, more eggs were consumed. And then, I finally got it.
I cut into that omelette and parted it like Moses parted the sea. It was glorious. Perhaps it would’ve been less glorious if I had gotten it right on my first or second attempt. But that was not the case, I was at least 60 eggs in at that stage, and it all cumulated to this moment, it was all worth it.
These days I still use the same technique to cook omelettes, simply because it’s a lot of fun to flip, but I don’t rest them on rice and slice them open, I just put it on the plate and finish it with a drizzle a bit of soy sauce and some sesame oil, they look no different from French scrambled eggs, but if you ever care to take a look on the underside, I can assure you that they are sealed.

But why acid, and pickles

Two posts ago I wrote some of my thoughts on the importance of acid in food, sometimes in the form of pickles. Acid is great, the first thing people think of when you need to cut fat, to cut richness is definitely acid. But why only acid? I think lots of flavors are able to cut through richness, an intense burst of freshness from fruit, or maybe sweetness from a vegetable, or the refreshing qualities that certain ingredients like a water chestnut can refresh the palate against something rich and cloying. And this is what I love about food, that it is dynamic, there is not only one path to achieve a certain end result. And in my opinion, there are no right or wrong answers, no right or wrong ingredients to use, the bottom line is that you have to make it delicious, not just the individual components separately, but the entire dish when eaten together, it has to make sense and taste good cohesively.

Aged pekin duck wood roasted on the bone, quandong, dried liver

Dish from Brae in australia, the dish comes together really nicely, the duck is beautifully cooked, the jus lends just enough moisture, the roasted flowers(I cant name them) add a really surprising element of spiciness, almost like eating a subtle szechuan pepper, and the dried liver powder gives the dish intense bursts of offal flavor. But the whole dish is “cut” or balanced out by the use of quandong, a fruit native to Australia, according to wikipedia, it has the flavor reminiscent of “Peach, apricot, or rhubarb”, it is this intense burst of sweetness that really awakens the palate






Corner house, Singapore

Assiette of appetizers: Toasted bread, soft shell crab with mango puree and tobiko, Fresh baby tomatoes with pine nuts and balsamic vinegar, duck rilettes, foie gras with smoked duck, yuzu jam

Nothing particularly inspiring, but the bread had a nice hard crust and just the right amount of chewy-ness left in the center. I thought the baby tomatoes weren’t particularly flavorful and it seemed strange to choose to serve it in a manner that really requires an incredible tasting tomato.

The highlight of the fancy sounding assortment of appetizers was easily the foie gras, the smokiness of the duck embedded in the center of the foie seemed to elevate the unctuousness of the foie itself, a prime example of how when you choose the right  components to support a primary ingredient, the whole is much greater than the sum of its parts. The yuzu marmalade was the perfect accompaniment to the foie, especially given that the jam was not overbearingly sweet. Okay-Good




Corner House Egg benedict: Marinated Salmon trout, tobiko, Vin Jaune hollandaise

I think its pretty gutsy for a fine dining restaurant to serve an eggs benedict, and not even the addition of Vin Jaune really made this eggs benedict particularly interesting or special. Okay


62 Degree Farm egg: Fricassee of mushroom, smoked bacon, croutons, poultry emulsion

Is anyone else tired of seeing sous vide eggs around? So many restaurants try to do avant garde variations of dishes built around a sous vide egg, and so many fail terribly. But this, this was on point. I actually preferred this to the infamous Jaan egg dish, the mushrooms were perfectly cooked, just the right amount of bite, and a much punchier flavor overall compared to the jaan dish, with  the poultry emulsion(I believe its reducued poultry stock and cream) tied everything together nicely. Not as theatrical as other egg dishes, but one built around the most important factor- taste. Good-very good


Hokkaido Scallop: Sweet corn, burnt leek, iberico chorizo (Not a full size, on the house)

This was one of the main dish choices(which I didn’t pick), so I’m not sure why this was given to me on the house, but I know better than to turn away food. The scallop was very nicely cooked, although I think the scallop at naked finn still takes the tropy for me in Singapore. The sweet corn was, unfortunately, not as sweet as I thought it was going to be and fell a litte flat against the flavor of the scallop, which was a shame. But the corn puree did add a nice big of weight and richness to a dish in need of it. I wasn’t particularly fond of the texture of the buckwheat crisp/tuile. Okay


Cappellini Pasta: Duck confit, natural jus, trompette de la mort, rocket leaves

Easily the worst dish of the meal, the duck confit was shredded yet the meat was somewhat hard and dry, the flavor of the mushroom didn’t really compliment the flavor of the duck, and it was tossed in far too much oil. Nothing really worked for me. Bad


Chefs Inspiration: Mangalitsa pork, brocolli puree, daikon, chilli puree

This was a daily special, the pork was perfectly cooked, it looked like it was cooked sous vide and seared a la plancha, I’m not complaining, the fat was jelly like and the meat had the right amount of chew to it, the brocolli puree  as smooth as you could possibly get it, and the flavors actually worked quite nicely with the pork. Good


Tiramisu <Modern>: Cafe foam, Mascarpone creme, amaretto ice cream, Kahlua

I loved this. I’m not usually a fan of tiramisu but this was very nicely done, the coffee and mascarpone both came in the form of foams, which turned the traditionally heavy tiramisu into one that is empirically light. It is there one moment and dissipates the next, leaving the intense flavor of coffee on your tongue, the lack of body is made up for by cubes of cake, slightly more dense than a sponge, and tiny, super thin shards of chocolate shavings. The proportion of ingredients, the flavors, the plating, everything came together and worked as a cohesive unit. This is what modern technique is and should be about, reinventing classics and elevating them. Very good


Salted egg yolk macaron

I wish this were a lot bigger. Slightly gritty buttercream but flavor was strong, as it should be. Good


Corner house ended up being one of my favorite fine dining restaurant experiences in Singapore, despite the fact that I spent 20 minutes searching for the place(You have to come from one particular direction to see signs to the restaurant), service was attentive, the layout of the restaurant is beautiful, and the food is not only delicious, but matches the location of the restaurant(botanical gardens). One caveat was that the server failed to mention that there was a supplement charge for choosing the daily chefs inspiration item as a main, not a big deal, but these are the things that all restaurants to be highlighting when the menu is brought out. Regardless, the flavors are pretty bold despite the plating of the food being dainty and precise, I can happily say that I can’t wait to return to try a longer menu next time




Of acid, and pickles

So here’s the thing, I never used to like pickles, gherkins, whatever you want to call them. They were the first thing I removed when my mom bought me Mcdonald’s cheeseburgers. The taste was far too acidic, the texture was strange and rubbery, it just wasn’t palatable to me as a kid. So I grew up not really appreciating pickles and acidity. Even in Chinese cooking, or to be more specific to the food that I eat, South east Asian food, I wouldn’t say that acidity is a predominant flavour profile, we use vinegar for certain dumplings, but it definitely doesn’t play as big a part when you compare it to Western cooking, where salads are often tossed with vinaigrettes, hollandaise sauces as well as many other sauces are finished with a squeeze of lemon juice or a splash of vinegar. So you tend to not understand its importance and its uses.

It was a few weeks ago when I was shopping at Phoon Huat that I stumbled upon a gigantic jar of pickled Jalapenos, I bought it without hesitation, with no intention to use them, with no idea what I would use them for. I think I was just surprised that you could even get jalapenos in Singapore, so I bought them in case no one else did and they eventually got pulled from the shelves. Fast forward to last week, I had a chunk of beef short ribs sitting in the freezer, I thawed it, seared it hard on its sides to get some Maillard going, then I bagged them simply with salt and pepper, and cooked them at 72C for about 24 hours. I wanted to make a beef sandwich so I went for a higher temperature which would yield a traditional braised texture . I removed the beef, pulled the beef apart with my fingers, tossed in some dry rub that I had lying around(I was making smoked pork ribs), a little bit of the liquid that had cooked out during the sous vide process, and immediately started to build my sandwich.

Bread, caramelized onions, beef(possibly a bit too much beef), grated cheddar, bread. But something was missing… I went foraging into my fridge, and found, of course, my forgotten jar of jalapenos. I immediately grabbed a handful of them and pressed them into the melted cheese. It worked like a match made in heaven. More than balancing out the flavour of the beef, I think the acidity of the jalapeno contrasted the intense sweetness of the caramelized onions, the bottom line was, it was fucking delicious.

The question then would be, both the Mcdonalds pickle and the pickled jalapenos are there to serve the same purpose. Why is the effect so startlingly different? The answer lies in balance. The Mcdonalds patty isn’t very rich with fat to begin with, moreover, my memory of the Mcdonalds ketchup is that it isn’t very sweet, it still has a bit of acidic tang to it. Combine this with the pickle and you get a gigantic, far too intense burst of acid when you bite into the two pickles that lie hidden within the burger like mines in a minefield. The pickled jalapenos, on the other hand, were a lot more mellow in terms of acidity, it didn’t work against the beef, instead it worked to balance out the caramelized onions, and both the onions and the jalapenos supported the flavour of the beef and allowed it to shine, which is what you want in a beef sandwich anyway.

And so the conclusion is, don’t shy away from pickles, make your own pickling brine, experiment with the acidity by controlling the amount of vinegar you put into it, control the texture of the pickle by controlling the amount of time it spends in the brine, flash pickles can take as little as 5-10 minutes, and they go great with noodles, diced up and mixed into fried rice, or anything really, let your own taste buds guide you.