Septime, Paris, France

Octopus with oxalis, green beans, anchovies and pumpkin seed puree

In the 11th arr, near Bastille, Bertrand Grébaut brings together this food training (he was trained by Alain Passard and Joël Robuchon) and his passion for design (he was a former graphic designer) to Septime.

They are meticulous about ensuring their diners have a great experience at Septime - the ambiance in the brasserie is one of friendly, super-efficiency. The decor is all concrete and bare wood, with the diners sat close together, and with a view of the open kitchen, where there is some serious cooking going on.

Pan-fried cod with a lardo and a red wine jus with cauliflower, dill and chervil 

It’s all about the freshest ingredients that Chef Grébaut can find on the day, meaning the menu changes daily, challenging them to create new dishes to delight diners. The flavours are pure, clean and fuss-free, ensuring the ingredients shine for themselves, yet work together in surprisingly harmonious combinations. Fish with lardo and a meat jus ? Totally worked.

The menu being in French, and us having no prior experience there, we left it to the restaurant and ordered the carte blanche. The meal started with a fresh veal tartare with pear and turnip, followed by octopus with oxalis (a wonderfully lemony herb) green beans, anchovies and pumpkin seed puree.

A perfectly cooked piece of cod with a slice of lardo and a red wine jus with cauliflower, dill and chervil was next, and the last savoury course – venison with toasted butternut quince puree with a meat onion jus.

Sicilian lemon cream with an almond crumble, lime and lemon verbena sorbet with marinated citron slices with thyme and lemon balm

The final dish was a refreshing Sicilian lemon cream with an almond crumble, lime and lemon verbena sorbet with marinated citron slices with thyme and lemon balm.

Adding to the wonderful food, the wines are non-sulfite made by small producers, available for sale across the street at their new Septime Cave - which is a popular neighborhood canteen for drinks & nibbles.

Septime
80 Rue de Charonne
75011 Paris, France
Tel: +33 1 43 67 38 29

Open: Monday – Friday 12.15 – 2.00pm, 7.30-10.00pm


La Table D’Aki

Restaurant kitchens in Paris are small. And La Table D’Aki is no exception, with just one man behind the kitchen. Akihiro Horikoshi (Aki) shops, preps, cooks, bakes, cleans dishes – everything – in this tiny 16 seater restaurant in the Seventh Arrondisement.

Chef Aki, a L’Ambroisie veteran, works in an open kitchen, where he prepares a prix fixe seafood meal. Japanese precision with French training – could not be a better pairing.

First course was a single seared scallop on pureed pumpkin with a cauliflower foam that teased our palettes with it’s silky textures. Entree of poached langoustine on top of roasted rhubarb was a perfect harmony of delicate langoustine served with a glossy drizzle of veal jus. The final savoury course was delicate cod fish and braised endive with a wonderfully tangy citrus sauce.

Dessert – simply described as “chocolate tarte with vanilla bean ice-cream”, made me marvel that something that delicate with contrasting crisp and velvety textures could be made by the same man who brought us the earlier three dishes, and not a patisserie chef.

Elegant dining. Delicious, clean flavours. Perfection.

La Table D’Aki
49 Rue Vanueau
Paris, France

Tel: +33 1 45 44 43 48
Bookings highly recommended
Closed Sundays and Mondays


San Choy Bau

I love san choy bau – the crisp lettuce balances out the rich pork and vegetable mix in one handy (albeit a bit messy) “cup”. It’s one of those dishes where I am sure you can substitute chicken for pork, and also add in any vegetables you have on hand, but I found water chestnuts at my grocery store and that inspired me to cook this dish – it adds another dimension to the dish with a nice crunch.

Ingredients – 6 portions as a starter or enough for 2 hungry people for lunch

  1. Iceberg lettuce – whole
  2. 1 large onion – diced
  3. 200g pork mince
  4. 100g baby corn – sliced about 1/2cm thick
  5. 50g water chestnuts – peeled and diced into small pieces
  6. 50g mushrooms – any sort, I used swiss brown
  7. 3 tbls oyster sauce
  8. 1 tbl light soya sauce

Method

  1. With the core of the lettuce facing down, bang the head of lettuce, on the core – this will make it easier to remove the leaves whole
  2. Remove any wilted outer leaves and carefully remove the inside leaves, trying to keep them as whole as possible
  3. Place in a bowl of iced water to keep them crisp
  4. Over low heat, sweat the onions until soft
  5. Increase the heat to high and brown the mince
  6. Add in the vegetables and cook for 3 minutes until vegetables are cooked through
  7. Add in the oyster and light soya sauce and stir to combine
  8. You can trim the lettuce so it makes a nice neat “cup” to hold the stir fried mixture
  9. Spoon mix into lettuce cups and enjoy hot !

Beef Short Ribs Braised in Red Wine

A much better sauce made from a reduction of the braising liquid

***UPDATE***

Third attempt – same sauce as second attempt (straining, skimming the fat and then reducing), over quinoa. Full disclosure – I served it with the smallest onions I had just so that there was *some* semblance of vegetables. And they were excellent ! Really brings out the sweetness of the onion. If you want to do this, then add the peeled onions to the mixture during the last hour of braising.

First attempt – beef short ribs braised in red wine on soft polenta

The picture above is my first attempt at beef short ribs. The second attempt was far far better. So much better, in fact, that as soon as they were out of the oven, they were eaten (ie before I could remember to take a photo – oops). But I will update this post again with the new (!) and improved (!!) version, as I want to share what I did differently, and why.

Beef short ribs are uh-mazing. I bought two large packs of Australian beef short ribs from the Barbie Girls, each containing three gorgeously meaty, English-cut ribs. Ribs need time to cook to break down the connective tissue to make them t-e-n-d-e-r, and both times the ribs were cooked with the same ingredients.

The first time I was so eager to eat, that I forgot that ribs are a fatty cut of meat, and a lot of that renders out during the long cooking process. The end result was beautifully tender meat, but in an overly oily and thin sauce.

The second time I made this dish, I spent the time and effort to strain the sauce, skim as much fat as possible, and reduce the sauce, before adding the ribs and the sauce back in the same pot, and putting them back in the oven for another hour. It’s a little more effort for a far superior end result, with a rich, gravy-like sauce coating the entire rib. Full of flavour without the oiliness from my first attempt.

I also served the ribs the first time, over soft polenta. Weirdly, unlike pork ribs, which I like to serve with something contrastingly crunchy and refreshing, like a fresh coleslaw, I want to eat beef ribs with a similarly soft texture. But I think the polenta, while texture-wise was perfect, was carb-heavy, leaving a feeling of being really very full (OK, perhaps that was also down to pure portion size). The second time, I served it with cauliflower cheese. Yes, it’s rich from the cheese, but I think it’s the lack of carbs in that pairing … that left us with space for dessert (because let’s face it, this dish isn’t for the faint-hearted or diet-conscious – it’s pure indulgence).

Looong story over. I’ll have to make it again just so I can update the photo with the improved recipe.

Beef short ribs braised in red wine

Ingredients:

  1. Beef short ribs – bone in – about 2.5kg
  2. 3 sticks celery, roughly chopped
  3. 1 large onion, roughly chopped
  4. 1 large carrot, roughly chopped
  5. Half a bottle of red wine – something heavier like a cabernet or even a shiraz I think works best
  6. 400ml beef stock
  7. *optional* Splash of brandy or port for a nice intense sweet undercurrent
  8. Sprig of rosemary
  9. Sprig of thyme
  10. 2 bay leaves

Method (the best way)

  1. In a large skillet, brown the ribs well – this will add depth of flavour from the caramelised sugars in the meat.
  2. In a large, heavy-based dutch oven or casserole dish, saute the onions, celery and carrot in some olive oil until soft
  3. Drain the oil from the skillet and transfer the meat to the dutch oven
  4. Add the wine, stock, brandy, rosemary, thyme and bay leaves to the pot. Ideally the ribs should be submerged in the liquid. Add additional stock or water if there isn’t enough
  5. Cover, and pop into your oven at 160C (320F) for 3 hours
  6. After 3 hours, take out the pot, take out the meat (it will already be tender and starting to fall off the bone) and carefully strain the liquid
  7. Discard what you’ve strained out – all those vegetables and herbs have imparted all their flavour in the sauce
  8. Return the liquid to the pot on high heat, and reduce by at least 30% – this will take about 20-30 minutes
  9. Pop the meat back in to the pot, cover, and return pot to the oven for another hour. There will be less liquid so the meat won’t be entirely covered, but don’t worry, the steam will help to cook any uncovered meat
  10. Serve with cauliflower cheese

Slow Cooker BBQ Pulled Pork

Easy peasy recipe. Massage the rub into your pork, pop in to your slow cooker, and ten hours later, amazingly tender pulled pork magically comes out ! OK there’s just one or two more steps, but honestly, it’s quick to prepare (obviously it takes a long time to actually cook, but the slow cooker does all the work for you), and delicious to eat.

Ingredients

  1. Pork butt (pork shoulder) – I had 1kg but I’d recommend as much pork as you can fit in your slow cooker, as this freezes really well. Obviously adjust the ingredients below accordingly.

For the rub:

  1. 1 tbls garlic powder
  2. 1 tbls onion powder
  3. 1 tbls sea salt
  4. black pepper (as much as you can be bothered to grind)
  5. pinch chilli flakes
  6. pinch cayenne pepper
  7. 2 tbls red wine vinegar
  8. glug of olive oil
  9. 2-3 tbls honey

Additional ingredients:

  1. 1/4 cup brown sauce (I used HP)
  2. squirt of tomato sauce

Method

  1. Mix all the dry ingredients for the rub together, add the wet ingredients, to make a paste
  2. Get your hands dirty and massage that paste all over your pork
  3. Pop into your slow cooker for an hour on high
  4. Reduce the setting to low and let the slow cooker do its magic for the next 8 hours
  5. Carefully take the pork out, removing any large pieces of fat, and shred
  6. Add back to the slow cooker with the brown sauce and tomato sauce for an hour
  7. Serve on something that can withstand and soak up the juicy pork – like a burger bun (I had a wrap), with something crunchy and fresh like a good coleslaw 

 

 

 


Truffle Gourmet, Monte Carlo, France

Fresh white truffles over fried eggs

What’s a trip to the French Riviera without a visit to Monte Carlo in Monaco ?

Living in Singapore where it costs US$60-70K to just have the right to own a car, we haven’t driven in the last seven years. So how better could I surprise D for our tenth anniversary than to book D in for a few hours of driving around the French Alps in a Ferrari ? (And yes, I scored massive brownie points as “best wife” for this one ;))

Full disclosure – I am such a non-sports person that I didn’t even know that the hotel where we would be picking up the car was the famous Fairmont Hotel, over the Monaco F1 track !

OK so I’m going off topic here.

More truffly goodness over a simple homemade pasta

The other thing that we wanted to do while in Monte Carlo was to visit a place called Truffle Gourmet. The name says it all, really, doesn’t it ?

At the tail end of the white truffle season, we figured, if we were going to get truffles, it would be there.

I had a slight case of initial confusion (happens more than I’d like to admit) when we started to chat to the chefs: why are they speaking in Italian ? Then my brain caught up and realised how close we were to the Italian border.

The best way to enjoy truffles is to let them shine. Simple food, with fresh truffles shaved over always makes me smile. So when the recommendation of “over some eggs, and maybe over some fresh pasta ?” came, we just nodded vigorously.

The eggs were a little overcooked – the yolks had almost cooked through, but the pasta was just perfect. The aroma of the generous shavings of white truffles filled the air. Bellissimo !

Truffle Gourmet has coincidentally recently opened up a branch in Singapore. It’s a restaurant more than a counter-cafe but at least we will be able to enjoy truffly goodness locally.

Truffle Gourmet
15 , place d’ Armes, 98000 Monaco
Tel: +377 97 77 19 19


La Ramade, St Tropez

 

Saint Tropez is just a short bateaux ride across the bay from quiet Sainte Maxime. We wanted somewhere to enjoy some rosé after spending the morning at the Saturday markets, and we chanced upon what has to be the prettiest place we visited during our entire trip.

I felt like I had walked into one of Wonderland’s tea parties. Each table was decorated with enormous vases of blooming flowers. Sunlight peeked through the leafy trees onto our tables. Colour. Everywhere.

We were lucky to see a delivery of edible blooms – stunning yellow zucchini flowers (in the hands of a camera-shy chef), that would later be stuffed and deep fried.

Provençal tomato tart

Even the tomato tart seemed too brightly coloured to be true.

Grilled local sardines

Amongst all of that, the food at La Ramade is simple and rustic – think grilled fresh sardines and coq au vin. A little oasis from the hustle and bustle of the outside Saint Tropez.

La Ramade
3 Rue du Temple
Saint-Tropez, France

Tel: 04 94 81 58 67


More Marvellous Sainte Maxime

The best oysters I have ever had (fine de claire No3)

OK if you are ever in Sainte Maxime, in addition to La Maison Bleue, you mustmustmust go to La Reserve, on the main stretch facing the sea.

I went specifically because I wanted oysters (tick) and also a bouillabaisse (tick), which not many cafes served (they serve mostly the more simple soupe de poisson).

La Reserve is a restaurant, rather than a cafe, although everything in this town has that wonderful seaside-relaxed feel to it.

Oysters on the menu were Fine-de-Claire. I am a huge fan of oysters and try them almost every where they are offered. These, arguably, were THE best oysters I had ever tasted (backed up by the fact that the next night we tried the same oysters at another restaurant and they simply weren’t as good). Hard to describe why they were the best – the balance of the sweetness of the oyster and the saltiness of the sea was just PERFECT. I smile just thinking about them now (and my eyes have gone into a reminiscent blurriness).

Deboning the dazzling array of fish for my bouillabaisse

So, I had pretty high expectations for my main course – the bouillabaisse, and I was certainly not disappointed. The waitress appeared with multiple pieces of crockery, and then proceeded to debone an amazing array of local fresh fish, caught that day, onto a soup plate, before ladling a rich seafood broth from a tureen over the deboned fish.

ladling the rich seafood broth over the deboned seafood

I literally ate myself into a food coma. I simply had to eat as much of that dish as I could in one seating – it was, in a word, divine.

My amazing bouillabaisse at La Reserve

We also watched as other French classics such as beef tartare was prepared tableside to each person’s liking. I think the other testimony to La Reserve is that we went probably at the tail end of “the season” – not a lot of tourists were around, yet La Reserve was at full capacity with locals. Lots of cheek kisses and friendly conversation surrounded us. Happiness !

Restaurant La Reserve
8 Place Victor Hugo, 83120 Sainte-Maxime, France
Tel:+33 4 94 96 18 32


La Maison Bleue, Sainte Maxime, Cote D’Azur

 

Moules mariniere 

Last year we spent our vacation in France – in the French Riviera and Paris. This is the first time that we have been to the South of France and we were looking forward to indulging in their famous hospitality and wonderful produce and food.

One of our favourite places to eat was in Sainte Maxime, where we were staying a quiet seaside town across the gulf from the glitz and glamour of St Tropez.

La Maison Bleue is charming and bustling at the same time, with sun-dappled seating, just behind the main street of Sainte Maxime. The few waitstaff are busybusybusy – but still are able to say “bon appetite” with a smile, and pause long enough to explain what was on their cheese plate that day (and why they loved it).

They have a limited menu of simple dishes, spectacularly made.

The standout of our visits – we loved it so much we went every few days for a light snack (and maybe a bottle or two of the local rosé wine) between meals – was the moules mariniere. A big steaming bowl of mussels in white wine, served with (what else in France) a deliciously crusty baguette to mop up the sauce at the bottom of the bowl.

I have made moules marinere before – but they have NEVER tasted this amazingly good. The mussels are much smaller than ones I am accustomed to. Around Australia and Singapore we have easy access to the much larger New Zealand mussels. And as with a lot of shellfish, I find a lot of times the smaller they are, the sweeter their flavour. Even D, who usually immediately zooms in on the meat part of the menu, favourited this dish. Each small mussel filled your mouth with their juicy sweetness.

La Maison Bleue’s fish soup, served with the traditional rouille, croutons and cheese, was also superb. Make sure you book, as this gem fills up quickly.

La Maison Bleue
48 Rue Paul Bert
Sainte Maxime, France

Tel: +33 4 94 96 51 92


Why hello again – it’s been a while…

Myohmy it’s been some time since my last post. I am so sorry I have not dropped by to visit your homes, and haven’t posted anything since October last year – and gosh I have MISSED you all !

The last few months have been nothing short of crazy and I am happy that it’s a new year (and hope you all had happy holidays and a great start to 2014), and in just nine short days we can also welcome the new lunar year (Chinese new year) – which of course means more feasting that I’ll want to share.

So don’t adjust your TV sets ! Stay tuned – regular programming is back :)


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 608 other followers