Tag Archives: birthday

Birthday dinner at Restaurant André

Vanilla popcorn

***warning this is going to be a long post but as it’s about my birthday please indulge me*** I love birthdays. It’s the one time of the year that it’s completely ok for it to be all about you. Some birthdays you want them big and brassy with everyone you know and love around you, others you want something more understated. This year I was going with the latter. There was just so much going on with family visiting and work commitments that I just wanted to go somewhere stellar for dinner with close friends.

Chicken skin with marsala

I chose Restaurant André for a few reasons. First, we were lucky enough to sample André Chiang’s talent when he was running Jaan Par Andre and we were keen to see how he’d evolved with his own restaurant. Secondly D went for a friend’s 40th while I was in Sydney last and the food sounded amazing. I really love how Chef André brings his influence of his Taiwanese background and his French training and experience to his food (he worked in France for 14 years, training at some of that country’s most acclaimed restaurants, including Le Jardin de Sens, Pierre Gagnaire and L’Atelier Joel Robuchon).

From the moment you walk in, you know you’re somewhere different. Special. From the ambient light cast by smoked glass Edison bulbs to the fact that the place can seat a maximum of 30 guests, you get a sense of understated glamour that is relaxed and comfortable. Bordering on pretentious ? I would screw up my nose and reluctantly disagree. They clearly put a lot of thought and effort into this venture right down to the tiniest detail and I felt there was a fantastic try – not try-hard – effort.

I’ll reserve final judgement of the experience till later – let me share the food first.

There are eight courses in the evening, of which the minimalist menu doesn’t really help other than share the eight words that define the chef’s culinary approach – Pure, Salt, Artisan, South, Texture, Unique, Memory, Terroirs. Grateful for a wine pairing option with the courses, we settled into the start of our evening.

Onion and porcini tart

We started with four canapés – marsala chicken skin, an onion and porcini tart, vanilla popcorn and amberjack in cylinders of toast topped with shaved parmesan.

The chicken skin tasted exactly like chicken skin but the paper-thinness of it really challenged my palette and brain. The onion and porcini tart was less of a tart and more of a savoury wafer dusted with the rich, almost meaty flavour of the porcini. The amberjack cylinders were good but not all that interesting and popcorn I think let the quartet down. It had the texture of slightly chewy, stale popcorn and I just don’t think it complemented the rest of the dishes on the plate.

I did notice lots of baby herb leaves and flowers, which Chef Andre told us he grew on the restaurant premises. The baby leaves imparted a much more delicate flavour to each morsel.

Scallop ravioli with purple cauliflower consommé

Our first course was “Pure” – raw scallop with seaweed wrapped around Japanese chives in a beautiful lavender consommé made from purple cauliflower. The entire dish was unseasoned, letting the ingredients impart only their own individual flavours. It was delicate, clean and absolutely gorgeous. This was one of my favourite dishes of the evening.

Fresh oyster with seawater jelly and green apple foam

The next offering was “Salt” – a bowl dotted with tiny squares of green apple, with a raw oyster encased in seawater jelly with green apple foam. I love oysters, but I think the seawater jelly overpowered the delicate flavour of everything on the dish, including the oyster, and I’m not convinced about the green apple and oyster combination. Jury’s still out on this one.

From “South” – cured flounder sashimi with persimmon and seaweed and persimmon and tomato sorbet

Next course was “Artisan” – very fresh, very baby corn, from Chef Andre’s hometown in Taiwan, served simply steamed and with crispy chips of salsify and ground macadamia nuts, and salt and pepper. The delicate sweetness of the corn was enhanced by just a tiny dip in the salt/pepper mound.

Cured mackerel with prawns and razor clams with shellfish foam on a bed of risotto

“South” followed next, influenced by time spent in the south of France. The dish came in two parts. The first was cured flounder sashimi on persimmon with seaweed and a persimmon and tomato sorbet. It seemed more Japanese than south of France to me, but never having been there, the dish was delicious. Again, delicate flavours complemented each other well. As they did with the second part to South – a dish of cured mackerel, raw prawn and razor clams on a bed of risotto rice with shellfish foam and another sliced fish that unfortunately I can’t recall.

Cauliflower puree with risotto in black rice squid ink crackers

“Texture” came on a rectangular slate slab (I believe Chef Andre makes these as he is an avid potter) with a carefully constructed ball of cauliflower puree with risotto encased in black arborio rice squid ink crackers. The waiter told us that he would “leave it to [us] to figure this dish out”. A few chews and we discovered that the risotto grains were actually tiny pieces of squid ! So surprising and exactly the sort of dish that makes this chef stand out.

Salt-baked black chicken egg with iberico ham and truffles

Next up, “Unique” which married pretty much every delicious thing on this earth in one plate – a black chicken egg that had been baked in rock salt, toped with iberico ham and truffles. Add morel mushrooms and a veal jus and you have a truly unique way of enjoying ham, eggs and mushrooms 🙂

Foie gras jelly with black truffle coulis

“Memory” was probably my other favourite dish of the evening. Reminiscent (for me) of the incredible foie gras mousse from Jaan, this dish was a warm foie gras jelly with black truffle coulis. Again, chef André managed to combine classic flavours in remarkably innovative ways to surprise the diner’s palette.

Braised beef shortrib with fresh peppercorns, peas and celeriac mousse

The final dish was the main course or “Terroir”. I don’t eat lamb so chef prepared a similar dish to the one he showcased at the Masterclass I attended – braised beef shortrib with fresh peppercorns, served with peas, celeriac mousse and dehydrated olives.

Dessert was a birthday cake for me (awwww) that was Snickers 2011 – again, similar to the one he prepared at the Masterclass but this time just that little more sophisticated. Different textures of chocolate and hazelnut make a super rich, super delicious dessert.

The only thing that I would say let the evening down was the wine pairing which seemed sporadic and not timed very well with the dishes that came out – we had only white wine glasses on our table when the black chicken egg and iberico ham dish was served, for example. They make such a big deal out of the fact that the wines they source are from boutique vineyards, the sommelier really didn’t share as much as we would have thought other than telling us the vineyard name, the region and the year of each wine.

At a restaurant that only serves one menu that is dictated by the chef, it’s almost impossible to walk away loving every dish. I think Chef André has taken the opportunity to put his unique touch to his dishes that he may not have had when working for Jaan. It’s certainly a restaurant you reserve for special occasions – this is a truly great dining experience. Loved it. Thanks to D and K and J who kept me company !

Restaurant André
41 Bukit Pasoh Road
Singapore
Tel 6534 8880


Why Chef Valentino is a GENIUS

Truffle ice-cream with freshly shaved white truffles

Who else would shave fresh white truffles over truffle/vanilla ice-cream??

In my earlier post on Valentinos, I mentioned that D had loved it so much that he said that Valentinos was where he wanted to have his birthday dinner.  So off we went last night.

Fresh buffalo mozzarella

I had already rang ahead to check if they had any fresh buffalo mozarella that night and was delighted to find out they did.  We had a similar round of starters than we did our first time there – lightly breadcrumbed and deep-fried anchovies, the buffalo mozarella and sweet tomatoes with olive oil and basil, cow’s milk cheese wrapped in proscuitto and pan-fried, and we added a selection of cold meats to make four for the table.

Cherry tomatoes with basil

As before, the mozarella was light and chewy and stringy and milky and all the things buffalo mozarella should be.  Paired with a mouthful of tomatoes and basil and we were transported to our trip to the Amalfi Coast once again.  The cold meats didn’t look like much, but the flavour from the thinly shaved slices of proscuitto, salami and mortadella (something I’ve always wondered about but never tasted) was a perfect way to balance the other dishes on the table.

Porcini ravioli with truffle oil

For seconds we shared two pasta dishes – the porcini ravioli with truffle oil and the house speciality, squid ink pasta in a creamy crab sauce.  The ravioli was just so … mushroomy, for want of a better word.  And the squid ink pasta came in thick ribbons covered with large chunks of fresh crab leg meat, the sauce a mix of cream and tomato and with a hint of heat from chilli.  I couldn’t really taste the squid ink over the flavour of the sauce, so a good thing the sauce was so delicious.

Delicious steak

Mains we again shared two dishes – the veal saltimbocca and a 500g steak, cooked on the bone and medium rare, served thickly sliced over a bed of rocket and tomatoes. Both solidly good.

But I digress.  I am typing all of this as fast as I can just so I can tell you about the special dessert Chef Valentino served D especially for his birthday – truffle ice-cream, with freshly shaved white truffles.  The only time I have seen so many truffles was when we were in Rome at Pietros where they had a tray of fresh black truffles.  Chef Valentino showed us a square bowl full of arborio rice, with the most beautiful smelling truffles dotted on top.  This was how he stored his truffles – in order to further flavour the arborio rice for his truffle risottos.  Another stroke of genius.

White truffles perfuming a bed of arborio rice

He then gave us a martini glass with one scoop of truffle ice-cream – we ate the ice-cream on its own – a rich vanilla ice-cream that actually already tasted of truffles.  Why it works, we didn’t care.  Just trust me when I say it does.  Chef then liberally shaved the fresh white truffles over it and the four of us at our table greedily scooped out spoonfuls of ice-cream with truffles.  There was absolute silence in the room for a few seconds before the exclamations – “mmmmm !”  and “ooooh !” – started of just how good that tasted.

We left happy, full and with a parting shot of Limoncello.  For such an unassuming restaurant, this place rocks.  Apart from the food, the service is just so warm.  Not only is it clearly family run, but clearly the staff are also treated like family, and it really shows.  Add to this the fact that the Chef is an amarone fiend (ask to see his wine cellar!!), means we will definitely be going back again, hopefully very soon !

Ristorante Da Valentino
11 Jalan Bingka
Singapore 588908
Restaurant: 6462 0555

Closed Mondays


My birthday at Marque

With me being in Sydney the week after my actual birthday, and with no real desire to visit any restaurant in Singapore at the moment, I asked D if I could have my birthday dinner at Marque in Sydney. Been wanting to go there for a while now, and am glad I finally did.

Perhaps it’s the entire change in the vibe of eating out in Sydney – where in Singapore the average Singaporean has access to the local food, there are cafes and affordable restaurants all over town that are not going to break the bank so much that it becomes a once a week/month/occasion sort of thing.

Marque is unassuming and I think deserves to be voted best restaurant in Sydney last year simply because the food is amazing, and the service is absolutely top notch. EVERY ONE of the staff there are attentive, seem to know every customer in there and absolutely everything there is to know about the food without actually being in the kitchen and cooking it. They are attentive without being obtrusive and efficient and polite and friendly and just…great.

The food speaks for itself. The flavours of my entree – thinly sliced bluefin tuna, over a lightly whipped creamy mousse of foie gras on a slice of brioche was so delicately flavoured that you almost needed the “pork crackling” – crushed up pieces of crackling – sprinkled liberally over the top of the fish, to add texture and salt to the dish.

The duck I had for main has to be one of the best ducks that I have had, and I have had a lot of duck. Served medium with super crispy skin (because let’s face it, the skin’s always the best bit) and roasted jerusalem artichoke hearts and a hearty serving of thick whipped potatoes which were divine, was a wonderful meal.

It didn’t end (or start, actually) there – we were first presented with an amouse bouche, which was a warm egg yolk served in the shell with cream whipped with four spice with crostini crusted with salt.

Before dessert we were served with a sauterne custard with a caramel topping, the most posh creme caramel we have ever tasted.

Dessert was the winner for me. D ordered the chocolate mousse which was incredibly rich yet light and served with mousse “ecrase”, which was bits of a larger chocolate mousse that chef Mark Best had frozen with liquid nitrogen and then “crushed”. My “lemon tart” was served to me looking like a giant yellow egg on crushed oreo biscuits and when cracked, revealed an also liquid nitrogen treated inside of marshmallowy, icy tartness. It was incredible.

We were so full after that we were really struggling to finish the petit fours they served, but it was explained that the chef wanted us to end our meal with four flavours – sweet, sour, salt and bitter. First was an apple jelly crusted with lime sugar, second white chocolate with lemon juice encased inside, third (our favourite) was dark chocolate with a salt caramel inside and finally a sweet that had amara, an Italian herb liqueur. It was the perfect way to end a perfect evening.

Thanks D !

Marque
4/5 355 Crown Street
Surry Hills
+612 9332 2225