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.
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
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
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.
Hello world! It’s been a while. People have often asked me on Instagram why I don’t have a blog, and the people that have found my blog have often asked me why I don’t update my blog anymore. The reason I’ve always given is because times have changed, blogs are becoming more and more obselete. With the surge in social and online media, everything is condensed, everything is a summary of a summary of a summary. 160 characters to sum up what you want to say, to convey an idea, or a thought, or a message; the way I saw it, noone wants to read blogs anymore, noone wants to read a wall of text when you can be visually stimulated by a small square shaped picture with a short caption, straight to the point. That’s what I’ve been telling people, and while I don’ think that its untrue, the truth is, it has been my excuse to be lazy , because I know that writing a post on a blog takes considerably more effort than posting a photo on Instagram with a caption, at least if you care about what you write.
I’ve also realised over time that Instagram isn’t the right platform for certain things. Instagram has made my attention span incredibly short, if I don’t understand the crux of what a photo is trying to convey within a matter of seconds, I would have scrolled past it already. Images which, I’m sure many have put considerable effort into, I sometime scroll past in a split second, and this bothers me, but at the end of the day, that IS the way that Instagram is set up to be, isn’t it? Maybe the ‘insta’ in the name isnt referring to posting photos instantly, instead it refers to how viewers tend to react to what’s being posted. Perhaps being self aware is the first step to changing something that you dislike about yourself. I’m part of the problem, and I’m sure many others are as well, some have it much worse than me, given the number of times I’ve seen a photo being geotagged and people commenting “Where is this?”
So this is a reaction to the change that I want to see in myself, I want to read again, which means I want to write again. The content on this website prior to this moment has all been mapped from my previous blog, http://www.wishihadafoodpun.wordpress.com, I don’t quite know whether or not to call it a food blog, it started out as a place for me to archive my thoughts on meals I’ve had, and my experiments with sous vide cooking. I expect this to continue if I can force myself to make the effort to write, these posts take a considerable amount of time, especially if I don’t blog fast enough after I’ve had the meal and the memory becomes fuzzier over time(althought I do take notes). But this has never meant to be a food review blog, I’m merely recording my thoughts on the meal, sort of like taking the minutes for a meal. I’ve come to realise that everything I eat has shaped the way my brain works, whether consciously or unconsciously, the more you think about the food you eat, the more ideas you draw from the food you surround yourself with- The way the food is cooked, the way the spices and the herbs and the flavors pair with one another, the way a dish is plated, the way a dish smells, the way a restaurant table is set up, how the servers interact with the customers, the way a menu is written, the tableware used during a meal, there is a wealth of information to be had, if only we stopped to be cognizant about it. So this going to be the nerve center of the food portion of my brain, the place where I reflect on experiments I’m messing about with in the kitchen, food rants, restaurant reflections, and thoughts on food in general. I hope you’ll enjoy reading it as much as I’ll (try to) enjoy writing it
I recently got called up to fly into Norway for work, and a layover in Amsterdam gave me the opportunity to try some of what Amsterdam’s fine dining scene had to offer. I began doing my research and narrowed down my choices to 2 restaurants both of which were closed for the summer holidays. I eventually ran down my options until I decided on &samhound places, I knew nothing about the food but they had, but I tend to trust the Michelin guide as one of the more reliable guides(at least in Europe anyway). A reservation was made online and in the confirmation email that was sent, they had a nice short youtube clip of the chef introducing his philosophy of the food. A nice ‘amuse bouche’ if you will.
I was the first diner to arrive at the restaurant and I was dining alone, so I requested to be seated at the “kitchen table” which is basically a counter type seating where you can look into the kitchen, the only barrier is a piece of plastic so the heat doesnt hit you in the face. After looking through the seasonal degustation menu and deciding it was what I would go with, I enquired about the signature dishes(I had seen a picture of a foie dish online), the server explained that all signatures were not in the degustation menu and had to be ordered as an add on. This is very annoying to me, I would be pretty mad if I sent to the french laundry or Per Se and was told that I had to ‘add on’ oysters and pearls. Fine dining restaurants should understand that most of them are “once in a lifetime” experiences for a lot of diners and it is a real shame if you only had one chance to showcase what you could do with food but didn’t give the diner an opportunity to try what you are really famous for. But enough about that, how often am I in Amsterdam anyway? So I ordered the foie dish as well.
The server then proceeded to ask me if I would like something to read, I have never been asked this question before, so it didn’t register with me right away. “What do you mean?” “You know… would you like… a magazine to read?” It was in that moment that a lightbulb went on in my head and I realised, OHHHH, because Im alone! It was nice gesture and a pretty funny incident, nice that they actually offered, but I was mainly here for the food. And the food came, very quickly.
Goose liver Bonbon / Black olive/ yoghurt / pineapple
Saffron Madeleine / coquillage(scallop I think) / zucchini / tamarind
The goose liver bonbon didnt do much for me, it was a pretty big ball of liver and overpowered most of everything that came with it. Okay
‘Madeleiline’ is a bit of a misnomer because it didn’t have the crust that most madeleines have, it was more of a savory saffron cake in the shape of the madeleine. This was my favorite amuse, the sweet scallop flesh against a savory cake was a nice combination, I only wish I could’ve tasted more of the tamarind. Good
Coconut millefeuille / Sea urchin / coffee / Kombu
This was another really good amuse, the coconut millefeuille had a pretty authentic texture, basically like a coconut crisp. It worked nicely with the sea urchin was was very fun to eat, but the sea urchin was very overpowering and I couldnt really taste the coffee element in the dish. This is also the second time I’ve seen coffee and urchin paired together(Modernist cuisine paired them together as well), note to self, experiment with the combination. Good
Cocktail / Mangostan / Cachaca / Lime
This was surprisingly strong, I think the alcohol was gin. The mangostine element came a sorbet and I think they foamed the alcohol with a bit of egg white. Kind of a tropical alcoholic aperitif with the combination of mangostine, sugarcane and lime. I’m not really an alcoholic person so I’m not the best person to comment on this, I didn’t particularly like the way it was presented. Okay
Gillardeau oyster / orange / pomelo / yuzu
I felt that the amount of citrus was too overpowering and the oyster lacked the… salinity to balance the dish, it needed more of that sea flavor because the oyster was completely lost in the puddle of citrus, not very keen on how it was presented either. Bad
Quail egg / Gorgonzola Dolce / Mango / Kiwi / Celery / Star anise
This sounds like a cluster of flavors that I never thought I would see together, I really wondered how everything would come together before the dish arrived. Of all the unconventional flavor pairings that featured in the meal, this was easily the most balanced and enjoyable. The fruity sweetness of the mango, the aniseed flavors, the gorgonzola I initially tasted too weak but ended up having quite a thick texture that meant it was the last flavor on your tongue after eating the dish, and the egg had a nice firm bite as you popped the yolk in your mouth, which can be sometimes hard to get with sous vide eggs because everything is so soft. It was a complex dish whose flavors evolved as you ate it. This was very enjoyable and a bright start to the meal. Very good
Corn / Tomato / Chili / Avocado
It was explained to me that the chef picks one vegetable to highlight every season and it just so happened to be corn on this menu. I love corn so yay for me. This was basically a corn tuille piped with guacamole and salsa. Very mexican inspired and very very delicious. The corn tuille has the most perfect texture and a very intense corn flavor, remiscent of the ‘corn paper’ I had at El bulli. The sweet corn flavor just worked beautifully with the creamy, slightly acidic avocado and tomato. Very good
Corn pappardelle / Jalapeno / Cumquat / Coriander / Tequila
The corn pasta with Jalapenos were delicious, they added freeze dried corn as well which is such an intelligent way to add crunch to the dish, kind of like eating intense corn crouton with slippery smooth corn pasta. The cumquat(kumquat) jam on the side was… it was a struggle for me. I couldnt decide if I liked it or not. The orange flavor was bright, maybe a bit too bright for the corn, but it was the bitter aftertaste in the jam that I had trouble dealing with. Strange, yet interesting at the same time. Okay-good
Beef tartar / corn / sour cream
The quenelle of corn ice cream was one of the best ice creams I have ever had- strong, intense flavor. It was, of course, delicious with the beef tartar, and it would have been a much better dish if there wasn’t so much sour cream on the plate, it was a bit hard to finish given that the creaminess of the sour cream with not enough beef or corn to cut it with. The porportion of components was a bit out of balance but the flavors were beautiful. Good-Very good
Langoustine / Horseradish / Radish / Oxalis
Grape / Apple / Double cream / Walnut / Celery
That strange green thing on the left of the plate is a seaweed meringue, I’m quite sure this was made with food colouring beause it looks like it would glow in the dark if you switched off the lights. But it had the most surprising and intense seaweed flavor, quite amazing. The oyster leaf was a nice way of having an oyster/langoustine taste in your mouth without actually using oysters. The strange part about this dish is that the left side had great seafood-y flavors that went really well with the langoustine, and the right side was… absolutely terrible. Everything on the right didn’t seem to support the langoustine and the langoustine ended up tasting very bland, it might have been that the flavors on the left were more intense and I ate them in the wrong order, but this should’ve been mentioned when I was served. Okay
Salvador dali Lips (Add on)
Foie gras coated in raspberry and rose gel, yoghurt pearls, almond / lychee
This is one of the chefs signature dishes. Very beautiful I must say, but once you start eating, the flaws start to show themselves. The foie itself had 1-2 small lumps, and 1 piece had a vein in it. Its not a big deal for me really, but it is quite shocking for a 2* restaurant, passing the foie through a fine tamis should be a standard practice for a restaurant like this. It worked nicely with the raspberry gel, but if you ate it together with the rest of the components on the place, it became far too fruity and acidic. Kind of disappointing for a signature but I do like the way it is presented, quirky and fun. Okay
Green tomato / Apple / Angelica
Wild Yellow Tomato / Passion fruit / Apricot / Mango / Peach / Yoghurt / Marrowfat pea flower
Gnocchi red tomato / Basil / Burrata
The green apple fluid gel(?) was far too acidic for the tomato sorbet and completely overpowered it. Okay
This was a really bad dish as well, halfway through eating it, I started to realise that the tomatoes were just lacking in flavor, and lacking in individual seasoning, so much so that the fruits, which had a much more vibrant flavor, were starting to take the lead role in the dish. Which is obviously not the intention because this is supposed to be a three part tomato course. It didn’t make the tomato taste better, it just took away from the tomato completely. Bad
This was best of the 3 courses. The tomato water was light and refreshing, the spherified tomato juices should never be called ‘gnocchi’, but they were actually very nicely made, very nice shape and a good bite(if you’ve spherified things before you’ll know that its not as easy as it seems). The tomato seeds were a nice touch. The burrata is quite a classic combination that works, but the burrata itself had a grainy texture that was very unpleasant because the 2 other liquid components really made the grainy-ness very evident on the tongue. Okay-Good
Sea bass back to jaffo
Sea bass / Chamomile oil / Sweet sour cucumber / Hendricks gin / Raspberry
This dish sums up &samhound places for me. The seabass in confit in oil and has the most beautiful, fork tender texture. The gin is incorporated into a hollandaise and has a lovely subtle aroma, the hollandaise is also foamed so it retains a lightness which was needed at this stage of the meal. The chamomile oil was delicate, but strong enough that you could smell the pleasant flowery notes. Everything was delicious, until you reach the raspberry puree, there is no other way to describe it but to say that it just tasted vulgar with the rest of the components. No matter how I tried to eat it, it was so out of place on the plate, too strong, too acidic, too fruity for the dish. 75% of the dish was good but the raspberry ruined it for me. Bad-okay
European lobster / carrot / mascarpone / elderberry blossom / coconut rice / orange
I was starting to get a little bit disappointed at this stage and I honestly wasn’t expecting much from the rest of the meal. This was a bouillabaise inspired dish that wasn’t bad, but neither was it particularly good. The broth was nice but the flavors just ended up being a little bit too muddled. Okay
Anjou pigeon / Beetroot / Verbena / Groittes (Cherry tart) / Balsamic
I was honestly prepared to hate this dish when the server explained that the pigeon breast is served with a cherry tart, but this turned out to be one of the better dishes of the night. The tart was had more of a cake like texture and the jellied cherry on top wasn’t overpowering, and allowed the flavor of the pigeon to work with the earthiness of the pigeon. Good
It was served with a bread with pulled pigeon thigh meat, quite delicious
I didn’t write down the components in the dessert but I think you’d be able to guess by now that fruits were involved. This was quite pleasant but again, there was one component in it that I really couldn’t handle, wish I rememember what it was. Okay
&Samhound places ended up being one of the most frustrating meals I have ever had. The menu reads like a chef who is very interested in flavor pairings. In his credit, some things worked, but when they didn’t, they were really bad and ruined the dish for me. As a home cook, I love using fruits in savory cooking, its a nice way to add freshness and brighten things up, but all things, even good things, should be used in moderation. Fruits featured far too much on the menu for me, mainly because they were misused. Eric Riperts mantra is that everything you put on the plate should support the fish, and while I think you can go against that logic and still create something delicious, maybe the meal would have been better off with a ‘less is more’ consideration when the dishes were being made.
On the positive note, the area outside samhound is a nice area to reflect about how much money you just spent on the meal