Platypus Kitchen

Platypus Kitchen sounded great conceptually – serving hand-made pastas without MSG, preservatives or additives, and at affordable prices (Most cost $15-20). But the execution was flawed.

We ordered the dinner set menu which was value-for-money, at $16.90 for a soup or salad, choice of selected pastas (some requiring price top-ups), and a drink.

Our soup arrived and I tried to justify that for a soup priced at $3.90 in the ala carte menu, I should not expect much. My pumpkin soup was overly sweet and tasted off. My partner’s mushroom soup was alright.

Then, the mains. First, the pastas could do with more bite. The sauces – for my squid ink tagliolini with scallops, too acidic; for my partner’s carbonara, too runny albeit authentic enough as I did not detect any cream in it.  The bay scallops in my pasta were fresh but the accompanying tomatoes were exceedingly salty (and I do mean salty, not fruity-sour).  It was all quite odd-tasting.

I have to give it to them that everything tasted made from scratch, just not by the most skilled chef.

Some food make you miss the country of origin because its taste takes you back to that place. Platypus made me miss all the pastas we ate in Italy too, but only because the difference in quality was too stark.

Platypus Kitchen
200 Victoria Street
#03-29/29A Bugis Junction

Steam Sia

Being born in the 80s, Steam Sia, a modern bistro bar which promises to be a blast from the 60s to the 90s, sounded like such a cute concept that I had to try it.

On entering the eatery, I didn’t quite get the sense of being transported back to the past. Yes, there were old-school paraphernalia on display (some of which were for sale), the tables were of the coffee-shop grey/white marble-topped and wooden-legged variety, and the food served in traditional metal crockery. But it felt like a random hodgepodge of items put together in a dimly-lit room, with nothing to unify them or draw one’s attention. The theme certainly could have come up stronger.

While customers can help themselves to childhood games and free-flow kachang puteh snacks, the waiters did not encourage us to do so. If I had not learned about it from blog reviews I’d read, I would have thought those were just another of the exhibited mementoes (for seeing, and not for touching).

The food had its hits and misses.

Our starter of seafood stuffed ‘sailing boats’ (i.e. oven-baked potatoes topped with seafood) (SGD 8.90) was creamy and delish but the deep-fried calamari with herb mayo dip (SGD 9.90) ordinary.

For the mains, the asian offerings (aka Asian Harvest) fared better than the western ones (aka Western Delight). For example, the nonya chicken curry (SGD 12.90) was quite a delight as it was tasty and thick and served with soft bread, but the signature grilled salmon with fruit salsa (SGD 18.90), while well-presented, was too dry.

A note: Steam Sia charges service charge but not GST. Also, water is not served free.

This was one of those places I think people may want to try for the novelty, but I don’t think there are strong reasons to visit again as the food was just okay and the ambience not fantastic.

Steam Sia
http://www.steamsia.com/
5 Hindoo Road
Singapore 209107
Open 12pm – 12am daily

Marche

I’m sure everyone (and their mother) has visited Marche, the Swiss market concept restaurant.

But I think many of us, myself included, have kinda forgotten about it and chosen to eat at all the other new restaurants sprouting up everywhere.

Recently I decided to pay the restaurant a visit and it brought back so much memories!

The food was just as good as before, especially the very filling savoury crepes, well-marinated roast chicken leg, and of course the crisp rosti, succulent sausages and sinful pork knuckles! The desserts were great too, including the bread and butter pudding with vanilla sauce (with specks of vanilla beans) and creamy chocolate mousse.

The open airy eating space and very friendly service also put me in a relaxed and good mood.

Want to re-live the good ol’ days when Marche’s card payment system (where you charge your purchases to a card that is handed to you at the entrance, then pay based on what your card has chalked up when you exit at the cashier) seemed super high-tech and you had your first unforgettable taste of rosti (mashed potatoes and fries, step aside!) in Singapore?

Why not pay Marche a visit? I know I’ll be back again soon!

Marche VivoCity
http://www.marche-restaurants.com/en/marche-vivocity
1 HarbourFront Walk, Sky Park
#03-14
Singapore 098585
Open Mon – Fri 11am – 11pm; Sat and Sun 10am – 11pm
Also at 313@somerset and Raffles City Shopping Centre

db Bistro Moderne

It’s been awhile – more than 9 months to be exact. In this new year, I hope to capture my food adventures more diligently!

So, I finally made it to db Bistro Moderne at Marina Bay Sands by French chef Daniel Boulud of 3-Michelin-stars fame.

One plus to highlight is the professionalism of the email reservations team as they were really prompt in responding to my queries and making the reservation.

Being named a “bistro”, you would think the place would be more casual, but almost everyone was dressed to the nines! I guess in the Singapore context, the “casual” comes from the fact that the bistro did not offer a butter knife with its complimentary bread and butter?

Speaking of the bread, we were offered three types of which one was this really yummy and soft pretzel roll! Unfortunately, that was probably the nicest thing I ate.

We started with soup as we wanted to leave our appetite for the mains. The mushroom soup (SGD 15) was pretty good as it was richly packed with mushrooms and not so much the cream filler that many restaurants use as a cheap substitute. The French onion soup with gruyere croutons (SGD 18) was alright; nothing to shout about.

Our mains were, for lack of a better word, lacklustre. I’ve eaten much better at 2/3 or even half the price. We had Boulud’s signature Original db burger (SGD 42) with its indulgent patty of sirloin, braised short ribs and foie gras, as well as the New Orleans Casserole (SGD 38).

The burger did not live up to our expectation. The combination of different meats confused us, and aside from the use of the chi chi foie gras, there was no hint of the premium tastes we had hoped to get for the price paid. The parmesan bun was dry, and the accompanying fries ordinary. (C’mon db, you can do better than that on the fries. I’ve always been amazed by the homemade fries I’ve eaten in all sorts of eateries in France, ranging from the high-end to the bistros, but these just didn’t make the mark. I don’t suppose you use frozen fries, but these sure tasted like them.)

The casserole was alright (a word I seem to use alot here), packed with generous portions of mussels, clams, sausage, mushrooms and greens in white wine and served with garlic fries, but again there was no “wow” factor.

I love my desserts, but we were too disappointed with the food and decided to take our dessert stomachs elsewhere.

There’s nothing very wrong with this place, but nothing very right either, so I guess I won’t be hurrying back anytime soon.

db Bistro Moderne
http://www.marinabaysands.com/Singapore-Restaurants/Celebrity-Chefs/DB-Bistro-Moderne/
B1-48, Galleria Level
The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands
Open
Lunch: Mon-Fri 12 – 5pm
Brunch: Sat-Sun 11am – 5pm
Dinner: Sun & Mon 530 – 10pm, Tue – Sat 530 – 11pm

Savour Singapore 2012

I attended the inaugural Savour Singapore gourmet fair held at the F1 Paddock and Pit Building near the Singapore Flyer last night.

This is how the event worked – Each admission ticket came with Savour dollars which could be used to purchase sample portions of dishes by 16 local and international celebrity chefs.  The ticket also included admission on a first-come-first-served basis to various masterclasses, cooking demonstrations and culinary workshops, which I am unable to comment on as we decided not to attend any.  There was also an exhibition of gourmet products.

The place was surprisingly less crowded than I’d expected, nowhere near the crowds at your River Hongbao Chinese New Year carnival or even perhaps your friendly heartland shopping mall during the weekends, so it was pretty easy finding a standing or sitting spot at one of the ample tables scattered around.

Before going, I’d done some research and identified a few must-tries. Naturally, those included dishes from 3 Michelin star Alain Passard’s french restaurant (with an emphasis on vegetables) L’Arpege in Paris and 2 Michelin star Alvin Leung’s innovative chinese restaurant Bo Innovation in Hong Kong.

To cut to the chase, I left the event feeling slightly disappointed about the quality of food. In all fairness, I am no gourmand so perhaps my tastes veer towards the bourgeoisie. Also, I highly suspect that the quality in the actual restaurants would be better when food is not prepared in a seemingly factory assembly line manner. To further caveat, these are really just my personal opinions and observations so I could be wrong, or just belonging to the minority.

This is what I had:

1. Alain Passard’s L’Arpege in France (3 Michelin Stars, S. Pellegrino World’s 19th Best Restaurant 2011) – Chaud Froid of Egg with maple syrup and xeres vinegar: I was hoping to be blown away (Who wouldn’t when you pay S$18 for an egg?) but found Passard’s signature dish served in half an emptied egg shell mediocre at best, tasting like an ordinary poached egg yolk topped with a sourish creme fraiche emulsion.

2. Alvin Leung’s Bo Innovation in Hong Kong (2 Michelin Stars, S. Pellegrino World’s 64th Best Restaurant 2011) – Molecular Xiao Long Bao: I popped the bite-sized Xiao Long Bao into my mouth and eagerly bit down onto the thin skinless ravioli outer coating. The juice which filled my mouth did not bear any resemblance to the Xiao Long Baos I’d eaten and tasted more like a mildly-seasoned corn starch soup.  All in all, it left me feeling bewildered.

3. Alvin Leung’s Bo Innovation in Hong Kong – Har Mei Lo Mein with har mei oil and powder: This dish of dry noodles coated with the oil and grounded powder of dried shrimp was decent and savoury enough, probably one of the better dishes I tried.

4. Gunther Hubrechsen’s Gunther’s in Singapore (S. Pellegrino Chef of the Year 2009 and S. Pellegrino World’s 84th Best Restaurant 2010) – Cold Angel Hair Pasta, with Oscietra caviar.  A self-explanatory dish which was pretty good, although I found the use of truffle oil to be a little heavy-handed.

5. Sasha Kutuzova’s Buyan in Singapore – Medovik Russian honey cake. This dessert tasted like a normal layer cake sandwiched with honey and condensed milk and didn’t leave much of an impression on me.

6. Tatiana Szeles’ BOA Bistro in Sao Paolo – Chocolate Brigadeiro Truffle candy with cupuaçu. I found Szeles’ gooey liquid take on this classic Brazilian dessert to be quite refreshing and interesting, with a topping of nuts and some kind of fruit.

Would I attend the event again if it returns next year? I’m not sure, really. Perhaps if I get a free ticket or some of my favourite chefs are present. Otherwise, I may just save the money and have a comfortable sit-down meal at a decent restaurant instead.

Savour Singapore 2012
http://www.savour.sg/

Yayoiken

My eyes literally lit up the afternoon in December when I was walking around Liang Court and discovered that Yayoiken had opened a branch in Singapore.

I have fond memories of eating at Yayoiken in Kyoto – and an especially memorable image of this one round where we watched a Japanese Daniel Radcliffe lookalike young chap wolfing down bowls of rice in pure utter delight (the Japanese really love their rice!).

With branches around Japan, Yayoiken is known for its western-style teishokus (set meals). I’ve tried various teishokus here and they are consistently good, although the miso soup served with each set meal is pretty unremarkable (Ootoya’s miso soup is way better!).

The dish I would like to highlight today is not a teishoku though, but your basic oyako don ($9.90++). As background, oyako don literally means parent-and-child-bowl, drawing from the rather cute/tragic fact that the rice bowl contains both ‘parent’ chicken and ‘child’ egg (or parent egg and child chicken – depending on which school of thought you subscribe to in the chicken-or-egg-first debate) simmered in a dashi stock.

The oyako don at Yayoiken could be one of the best I’ve eaten. The goodness is all in the egg – perfectly cooked, moist omelette interspersed with ribbons of runny half-cooked yolk.

It is a simple dish, but in the chaos of life there is beauty in simplicity.

Rice lovers will rejoice to know that the Yayoiken in Singapore follows the Japanese model of offering free flow of rice.

A few differences aside (i.e. the absence of vending machine for ordering food, the normal operating hours  – Yayoiken in Japan is opened 24/7, and the slightly annoying overly polite Singaporean waitstaff here that greet you in high-pitched voices and bow incessantly), the Singapore branch is pretty darn authentic.

So, do give Yayoiken a try the next round you crave for authentic affordable Japanese food!

Yayoiken
www.yayoiken.sg
Meidi-ya Supermarket
177 River Valley Road
#B1-50 Liang Court Shopping Centre
Singapore 179030
Open 10am – 10pm

The Black Sheep Cafe

We arrived at The Black Sheep Cafe at 7pm on a quiet rainy evening and had the entire place to ourselves for the first half of our meal before the tables started filling up.

This Indian-owned/run cafe supposedly serves one of the best duck confit in Singapore, or so says Epicure Asia: http://epicureasia.com/food/top-10/duck-confit. Unfortunately, I found the dish did not live up to its hype.  It was far from a lousy rendition but a little overcooked, with the duck skin charred in many places and the meat a tad dry in some.

But the lamb shank, oh the lamb shank, was a different story.  It was fall-off-the-bone tender, with a red wine reduction that was flavourful yet not overpowering, and accompanied by mashed potatoes that had real potato bits in them – bearing testament to the fact that these potatoes did not come from a box.

Sadly, the passionfruit soufflé that ended our meal neither impressed nor went well with the coffee ice cream pairing.

So, I won’t be back for the duck confit or the soufflé, but I will return for the lamb shank and maybe to try the crispy pork cheeks.

As an aside, I’ve come across several comments on the internet along the lines of the cafe being so nice for not charging GST! Some tax 101 – it is only compulsory for businesses to charge GST when their annual turnover are more than a million SGD, so it is really not that uncommon for eating places not to do so. That said, I do very much appreciate the fact that service charge is not included in the bill, given that the waiters provide the basic services of taking orders, pouring water and bringing the bill.

As a final point: Take note that the menu at The Black Sheep Cafe is quite limited so don’t go expecting too much variety, but do consider a visit if you would like a taste of decent, affordable French food.

The Black Sheep Cafe
www.theblacksheepcafe.net
35 Mayo Street
Open Mon – Sat 12-3pm and 6-11pm