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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 

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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.
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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?
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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.
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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.
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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?
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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

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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.

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www.lennardy.com and new beginnings

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

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&samhound places, Amsterdam (**)

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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Corn collection:

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

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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

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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

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Waldorf

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

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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

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Etappe tomato

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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It was served with a bread with pulled pigeon thigh meat, quite delicious

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Dessert

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

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&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

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Les Amis, Singapore

It has been quite a while since I’ve last done a review, but my recent meal at Les Amis sparked memories of why I started this blog in the first place, and why Instagram just doesn’t work as a direct substitution for a blog sometimes.

Long before it was cool to take photos of your food and post them on the internet, Les Amis was the place to go in Singapore for fine dining. This would be my first visit to Les Amis, although I have been to their more casual establishments(under the same Les Amis group) like Au Petit salut, I like Au petit salut, its casual fare done with a bit more finesse, braised beef cheeks on a smooth pommes puree, food like that, homey, comforting, but delicious.

 

The meal started off with a bread basket, one of the better ones I’ve had. Served with a salted and unsalted pyramid of Bordier butter. I’ve had a recent unhealthy obsession with Bordier butter, and I knew from previous photos that the bread is usually served with more kinds of bordier butter. When I asked the server about this, he explained that they had run out of stock, but returned 5 minutes later with another splate of chilli butter and black pepper butter, a really nice touch to the meal, especially so because the chilli is the best flavor that I’ve tasted from bordier thus far, nicely seasoned, and spicy, but not so much so that it lingers on the tongue, and you get wisps of smokiness as the salt from the butter disspates on the tongue. A nice start to the meal

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Lobster salad in classic Bolero style

What on earth is Bolero? I do not know, and a google search doesn’t seem to clear things up either. But this was basically a cold dish of Lobster, mayonnaise, and parsley puree. Cute, plating is very robuchon, and the dots pass my OCD test. Mayonnaise and lobster isn’t a very inspired flavor combination, but it is one that works, hard to fault. Okay-Good

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Foie gras custard served warm with a lightly smoked french eel and a touch of sesame

There were also cherries in the dish which played quite a big role, I’m not sure why they weren’t included in the description. I loved the combination of the foie, the eel, and the cherries. The smoke from the eel was very delicate and played off the tongue nicely with the freshness of the cherry. And the foie added body and brought all the components together. I could barely get any sesame from the dish, although there was an almond that added much needed texture. One gripe I had with the dish was the way they had served the dish on one of the most beautiful Bernardaud plates I have ever seen, and then completely ruined it with the cheapest, tackiest looking paper coasters that looks like it would actually go on sale at a $2 Daiso store. Good

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Black truffle in perfect harmony with quail egg over sweet onion tart

I have not had the original from Robuchon, but I know that this is an almost exact replica of a Robuchon dish, sans the addition of the quail egg, and the truffles being sliced much thinner(And because they were sliced so thin, they lost their shape, which to me made the tart look… not quite so appealing). I’m not particularly crazy about truffles so I was glad that the truffles weren’t too overpowering. The tart was made from phyllo and provided a nice base to hold the confit onions. The sweetness of the onions went nicely with the earthiness of the truffles. Was the egg necessary? I don’t think so, but the yolk did add an interesting element of creamy richness to the dish. Good

 

 

 

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Spring cep mushrooms in a duo with green pea in a hot soup

The soup was very intensely flavored despite having a touch too much cream, but for me it was over seasoned and became very heavy and cloying when you got to the end. The peas would’ve balanced out that richness nicely but they were not sweet enough and the dish ultimately fell flat. Okay

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French duck breast from Burgaud with cherry and Piedmont hazelnuts

I believe the duck breast was cooked sous vide, very nicely in fact, soft but still retaining a good chew. The Hazelnut is encapsualted in a hardered dark caramel, I thought the bitterness and crunch of the caramel was a nice touch to the dish, but my gripe with the dish was that the exact same almonds, cherries, and garnishing herb(sorrel?) was used in this dish as it was in the foie starter. Moreover, this was a very small portion considering that this was the only main course of the night. Again, nothing particularly bad about the dish. Good

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Fresh white peach from the Rhone valley with late season lychees and raspberry sorbet

I love ending meals off on a lighter note, something fruity, something with herbs. I was expecting to enjoy this but I thought there was too much acidity from the raspberry sorbet and the lychee granita, it needed a bit more body for me, maybe a curd or a sabayon would’ve helped. But the peaches had great flavor and the dish was beautifully presented. Okay

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Dark chocolate souffle and praline ice cream

This has actually been taken off the menu recently but a friend had told me that this was one of the highlights of her meal. Not seeing this on any of their menus, I asked the server and he responded that he would check if the kitchen was able to make one as a substitution dessert for me. They were, jackpot! This ended up being the best dish of the whole meal, its not a souffle per se, it is a whipped chocolate souffle batter(?) on a pre baked tart shell, a freeform souffle if you will. But the real kicker is the texture of the souffle, almost liquid inside, very aerated, yet still retained a lot of chocolate flavor. The tart shell was rolled thin enough so that it never took away from the souffle, although I am not entirely sure why the praline ice cream came as though it had already been sitting on the pass for some time. Very good

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It was also a birthday celebration so we got an extra cherry tart and an opera cake

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People always seem to have this misconception that if you go fine dining, you’ll end up leaving hungry and unsatisfied. While the food at Les Amis wasn’t bad, there were definitely issues with the menu. Portions were actually startlingly small, and portions sizes seemed to stagnate, instead of gradually increasing and peaking during the mains. As mentioned before, there was only 1 main on the menu that the portion of that was quite small. It is almost as if the restaurant is encouraging you to load up on bread and (very delicious) butter, otherwise you’d still be hungry at the end of the meal.

There was no amuse bouche, no palate cleanser, and if we weren’t having a birthday celebration, we might’ve only gotten a tiny cube of opera cake. For a menu that cost $220SGD, I felt that this was poor value for money. With meals like these where the chef essentially chooses what the diner eats, the meal is like having a conversation with the chef; and given the similarity of the foie and duck dishes, does that mean that the chef doesn’t have that much to say? Using the same garnishes on two dishes at a fine dining restaurant, especially one as established at Les Amis, feels a little lazy and uninspired. On top of the fact that one of the dishes essentially came from Joel Robuchon.

It sounds like a lot of criticism, but the food at its core tasted good, service was beyond excellent, and one of the most impressive plate collections I’ve seen in Singapore. But would I return? The simple answer is no, I expected more for what I was paying, and I expected more from Les Amis