Tag Archives: iberico ham

Gunther’s Modern French Cuisine

Cold angel hair pasta with oscietra caviar 

We all have favourite restaurants that we’d be happy to go to every week, and others that hold a special place in our hearts (and tastebuds and tummies).

Gunther’s on Purvis Street is one of them for me. And for one dish in particular, and that’s chef Gunther Hubrechsen’s signature dish of cold angel hair pasta with oscietra caviar. It’s a dish that I have not tasted in maybe two years, yet the very mention of it puts a smile on my face.

And so we ended up at Gunther’s Modern French Cuisine last Saturday. I always wonder how accurate my memory of food is and thankfully Gunther’s lived up to all my great expectations.

Japanese tomato with Iberico ham

We were shown the tray of specials for the evening, full of wonderful produce like fresh sea urchin, Maine lobster, French artichokes, wild mushrooms, Grade 9 wagyu beef and Japanese tomatoes.

I had had Japanese tomatoes before, and was blown away by the sweetness and intense flavour of it.  Here it was served (we ordered it as an appetiser) with thinly sliced Iberico ham and a balsamic reduction, and the intense saltiness of the ham seemed to bring out the sweetness of the tomato even more.  Divine pairing.

Then came the angel hair pasta. I don’t even know how to give this dish justice. From the moment it is served to you, the smell of truffles fills your nose. the pasta is served delicately chilled, tossed with chives and truffle jus and with a generous dollop of oscietra caviar on top. Perfectly seasoned, the flavour that hits your palate when you take that first bite is almost indescribable – I wish I had taken a photo of my friends’ faces instead. And I think the firm texture of the oscietra caviar, making them burst like flavour bombs in your mouth, just add the final touch to a truly magical dish.

Baked egg with Iberico ham and mushrooms

We also had what I consider to be posh ham and eggs and mushrooms, but served this way, I would be happy to eat them for breakfast every day !

Roast black pig with compote of apple and crispy potatoes

For mains I ordered black pig with compote of apple and crispy potatoes. It would be so difficult to make such a thin cut of pork not be too dry, yet Gunther nailed it and the meat was roasted to tender and succulent perfection.

Fine apple tart a la dragées with Havana rum raisin ice-cream

I finished the meal with the signature fine apple tart a la dragées with Havana rum raisin ice-cream. Certainly not what I expected, this tart came out literally wafer thin and of wafer texture, so you get a crispy mouthful of sweet apples and nuts. Lovely and light, especially after all that rich food we had consumed. I was excited about tasting the Havana rum raisin ice-cream but I found the flavour sadly lacking the punchy taste of the rum.

Gunther’s is not the sort of place you would go to every week, but this visit will keep me smiling for a few years or at least till the next time we visit.

Gunther’s Modern French Cuisine
36 Purvis Street #01-03
Tel: (65) 6338 8955

Open from Monday to Saturday
Closed on Sunday
Noon – 2.30pm
6:30pm -10:30pm


Bilbao

Iberico ham from Bilbao

Bilbao’s card says it is a restaurant, gastrobar & delicatessen featuring the cuisines of Spain.  I chanced upon Bilbao on show at the Isetan on Scotts supermarket.  Seemed strange to see Spanish produce in the middle of a Japanese supermarket, but who cares when you see a leg of Iberico ham being sliced for a customer ?

If you’ve read my blog regularly, you’ll know that Iberico ham is one of my favourite foods.  Nothing quite beats the intense sweet and salty flavour of this ham.  If it appears on a menu, you’re pretty much guaranteed it will be ordered by me.  I have only ever seen Iberico ham on offer to the lowly commoner in Burrough Markets in London, so to see it in sale in a supermarket, not sliced by machine and vacuum-packed, but hand sliced (skillfully thin as well, I might add), I was absolutely thrilled.  All other plans for dinner (I think I was planning to roast a chicken) flew out the window.

100g of the ham in my basket, I wandered over to look at the other offerings from Bilbao.  I chose the Spanish pork sausage, which wasn’t anything too dissimilar to the bratwurst sausage you can buy from the supermarket (but which we love) and a bottle of Spanish sparkling wine – the Spanish equivalent of Italian prosecco.

What was left of the Spanish pork sausage before I remembered to take a photo

The sausages were served simply grilled with various mustards and tomato sauce and home-made coleslaw.  I made the coleslaw with extra onions to cut through the richness of the sausages, and the sparkling wine was crisp and dry, which also complemented the salty dinner we had.

We were so excited I forgot to take a picture of the sausages before we ate !  Looking forward to visiting the restaurant and the deli to check out the other goodies Bilbao has to offer.

Bibao
111 Somerset Road #02-16 Singapore (formerly known as the PUB building)
Tel: 6737 0150


Brunch @ the Greenhouse @ the Ritz Carlton

Caprioskas waiting to be mixed

I’m going to attempt writing this post while trying to sober up from a food and cocktail coma from 3 hours of indulgence at the Ritz Carlton Hotel. There for a friend’s birthday, the festive atmosphere was surely enhanced with freeflow champagne and a choice of mojitos, caipirinhas, Bloody Marys and caprioskas (most of which were doubles). Aside from the drinks, the choice of food we had available was impressive.

“Buffet hack” – chawanmushi with caviar

The best thing about buffets is that you can have a little bit of a lot.  The ability to sample as many dishes as you can want appeals to someone like me who has difficulty making her mind up on what to order and often ends up with food envy for my friends and their choices.  The birthday girl added more choice with her “buffet hacks”, my favourite was her topping chawanmushi (Japanese steamed egg) with some caviar from one of the cold starters – perfect.

We all started with cold seafood.  I was focused on oysters, trying the eight varieties of freshly shucked oysters from France and New Zealand and then I spotted a tray of jamon de iberico, of which a small pile made an appearance on every plate I brought back to the table the entire meal.

The awesome roast pork with crackling

My favourite little things at the buffet were a four cheese tart with fig and walnut, the wagyu roast with the best Yorkshire puddings and gravy, the roast pork (mainly for the super good crackling I have to admit) and the very tart lemon meringue dessert.

Four cheese tart with fig and walnut

The four cheese tart came in a pastry shell that was just firm enough to not crumble and was a terrific contrast to the creamy cheese filling, which was the perfect partner to the sweet fresh fig on top.

Yorkshire pudding with wagyu roast

The wagyu roast was so tender – no matter if you sampled a more well done slice from the edge, or an almost blue slice from the middle – and the Yorkshire puddings were the perfect “mop” for the puddles of gravy that were generously ladled over them.

We finished the meal with a generous sample of the 50 cheeses on offer.  I have to admit, after a good camembert and brie, and a wonderfully tangy roquefort, the rest of the cheeses on my plate were there more for the fact that I could actually have that many varieties on one plate.

Lemon meringue

For a five-star establishment, the design and decor of the Greenhouse gives it a slight feel of a buffet in a cheap Caribbean resort – not helped by the live band playing songs like “Guantanamera” – and I think that detracts from the appeal of the whole experience, which is a slight shame, because the food is really very very good.  Perhaps I’m spoiled by the Raffles Hotel Bar & Billiard Room’s more personal serving of their food, along with the more sedate ambiance, but after all those cocktails, I’m sure no-one cared much, and also, for our boisterous birthday table, perhaps it was the best place to celebrate after all.  Happy birthday Chrissy !

The Greenhouse @ the Ritz Carlton Hotel
7 Raffles Ave
Singapore
Tel: 6337 8888

Sunday brunch: 11:30 a.m. – 3 p.m


Oyster Bar at Customs House

Salmon toast with ikura

If you want somewhere to go around the Marina Bay area that isn’t mobbed but still has a great atmosphere, head down to the Oyster Bar at Customs House.  It’s unfortunately surrounded by construction at the moment, and think once that’s completed it will be revealed in all its glory.  For now, just go to enjoy a similarly intimate atmosphere of Lantern next door at the rooftop of the Fullerton Bay Hotel, but this has the added bonus of having an indoor (read: airconditioned) area.

We went there to celebrate D’s birthday, so there was significantly more drinking done than eating, but food-wise, we ordered oysters (of course) which were freshly shucked, tasting exactly like the sea and actually shucked properly so they were detached from their shells, ready to be slurped directly from the shell.

Salmon toast and Bellota Iberico crostini

We also ordered some nibbles – I use this word loosely because they were the fanciest hors d’oeuvres I have seen in a while.  Thin slices of Bellota Iberico ham on top crostini and drizzled with truffle oil, and beautifully presented salmon toast –  salmon rosettes topped with tartare and ikura.

The staff are friendly and helpful and our only complaint was that they seemed to only have a very limited supply of champagne that cost less than $200.  If you are going to have bottles of Taittinger and Delamotte on your menu, then have enough to last a Friday night.  It just means that the evening becomes a bit pricey at the end by drinking Bollinger all night.  But after enough champagne in that place, it almost doesn’t matter.

Oyster Bar
70 Collyer Quay
01-01 Customs House
Tel: 6534 5534

Operation Hours:
Sundays through Thursdays and Public Holidays
11.00am ~ 12midnight

Fridays, Saturdays and Eve of Public Holidays
11.00am ~ 02.00am


The Moomba

Iberico ham with fresh figs and crumbed brie cheese

The last time I was in The Moomba, it was 1999 and I had a looong lunch there before being proposed to !  Needless to say I have very fond memories of the restaurant, but to be honest, have not been back since.

I guess it’s testimony that it’s still around 11 years on, especially in fickle Singapore where so many restaurants have come and gone in that same time.  And I have heard only good things from my friend Christine who does business with the owner and chef.  I even got a surprise gift of some of his home-made Christmas ham from her a few years back and it was delicious.

Another friend and I went there for dinner last Wednesday to celebrate some good news.  To be honest it was our third choice – the first two, Altitude, and Sage, were fully booked on a Wednesday night – so when we walked in to Moomba at 8.00pm to find only one couple in the restaurant, we entered with a bit of apprehension.

The good news is that my doubts were unfounded.  The food was great !

Perhaps Moomba does a roaring lunch trade or perhaps with its location so close to Boat Quay it’s the place to eat on a Friday night.  However, with its shiny new competitors with their spectacular views just around the corner around the Marina area, having only two people seated at 8.00pm isn’t doing it any favours from the street.

I started with Iberico ham with fresh figs and deep-fried brie (pictured above – the pic was from my friend’s iPhone 4 as I forgot to bring my camera).  A great combination where the sweet and salt, soft and crunchy, fresh (from the rocket) and aged worked perfectly well together.

For mains I figured I couldn’t go wrong with a good old steak.  Three types of cuts were offered – I went for the recommendation of the tenderloin and it turned out to be the best on the table – definitely the most flavoursome without being overly fatty or dry.

Even desserts were good – a pecan pie and a sticky date pudding were shared, the sticky date pudding with a creme anglais rather than butterscotch sauce which lightened up the pudding to a point where everything was cleaned from the plates.

I only found out after that the entire upstairs floor is a retail wine space where you can taste and buy a huge selection of wines.

There was the requisite “roo” offered which I think it silly in a restaurant that isn’t branded “outback tucker” because the food at Moomba is sophisticated and delicious.  Is it just poor marketing ?  Is it in need of a facelift or some rebranding ?  I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

The Moomba
52 Circular Road
Tel: 6438 0141

Opening Hours
Lunch 11am – 2.30pm, Monday to Friday
Dinner 6.30pm – 10pm, Monday to Saturday
Closed on Sunday & Public Holidays


And on to Rome…

Before I get to Tippling Club, I want to say how damn easy it was for me to move my blog from Blogger to WordPress.  And how much more user-friendly WordPress is !  And also I wanted to include our trip to Rome last September.

APART from the fact that I seem to have lost my entire post on Rome !!

OK I will persevere, and I might even put some pretty pictures in, because that reminds me of what a wonderful time we had there.

After Positano we drove to Naples and then we caught a train to Rome.  I want to remember the romantic train ride, but for some reason (which D reckons is “sleep”) I cannot !  Shame.

I do recall arriving at our hotel – which was tucked away in a very small, dark alley.  This kind of freaked me out initially but then I realised that Rome is simply made up of these sorts of alleys, and there is a thriving cafe scene, where locals go – guess the tourists stay in the light.

It was a pretty weird setup – 2 flights of stairs and then what I can only say resembled an apartment, of which they rented out the rooms.  It was so weird.  Clearly it was new, even the safe had not been secured in the cupboard but I’ll say one thing for that room we rented – the bed was a tempur mattress which made it wonderfully comfortable, especially since travelling you always end up sleeping in weird beds that you’re unused to.  I swear all hotels should have them.

But I digest…

Food-wise, Rome is somewhere where I think you have to definitely avoid the touristy places.  We went to a few places on recommendation from D’s colleagues and clients – one which was apparently at the place where Brutus stabbed Caesar, where I had suckling pig that was pretty average.  Mirabelle, which was a lovely location – overlooking the Vatican – tables were very close together and although I recall the food to be lovely, it was pretty forgettable, and I had foie gras and duck – some of my favourite things in the world !  We also went outside of Rome – I can’t remember the area but I keep thinking of Sardinia – obviously we didn’t actually go to Sardinia, but we went to a little taverna which had lovely food but unfortunately the night we went there was a major football game on so we were literally the only ones in the restaurant.  We forgot about that though, when they brought out the grappa.

Ice-cold, syrupy goodness in two flavours – one was the normal one and the other was… I want to say wheat ? Anyway, I do recall walking around the Piazza Navona near our hotel absolutely giggling girties.

I always like to wander streets and get lost when we travel.  You always seem to stumble upon some really great stuff and here we managed two places.  The first was where we spent our last night over dinner.  There was a tiiiny little restaurant near our hotel called Pietro Valentini Ristorante, and the thing which caught our attention was the fact that he boasted to be the King of Truffles.  When we walked into the restaurant, we were almost overwhelmed by the warm hospitality of Pietro and his daughter in-law, Simone, and the wondrous smell of truffles.  There is a tray full of the biggest, fattest looking black truffles and oh. my. gosh. it smelled goooood.  Before we ordered we were served a three cheese bread, cut from a gigantic loaf – this is hearty Italian food and hospitality at its best.  While we were waiting for our entrees, the other good news was the place was full of local Romans – always a good sign.  My entree was mozarella stuffed zuccini flowers, D’s was calamari – both crispy light.  Mains were steak for D and mine was a pasta which has freshly shaved truffles over it – I can’t even remember what sauce it was the truffles were so good ! In fact, it was so good that D committed a crime by ordering pasta after his carne.  Dessert was called Fantasty Ravioli which is a chocolate filled ravioli that is then deep fried, so the chocolate inside becomes smooth and molten….We were pretty drunk but last Christmas we received a Christmas card from the restaurant, so we can’t have made such a bad impression.  This meal really made my visit to Rome amazing.

The other little find was a tiny little supermarket in one of the streets near the Pantheon (I get chills just writing that word down I love that place so much).  Normal supermarket, but keep wandering around and you find a meat deli section where D and I had our first taste of Iberico ham.  I do wish the man behind the magical counter sliced it thinner but I think it just meant that you had to really work and chew at the ham, which seemed to warm and release the flavours even more.  We left with so much cured meat from there it was hilarious – lucky we weren’t flying back to Sydney where we would have had to eat it all at customs.

We had superb weather the entire time we were there – it seemed to cool down significantly in Rome from Amalfi, so we also enjoyed many walks through the Campo Di Fiori – fresh produce markets, where, again, is full of tourists but also locals.  And as we are early risers, we got to wander around in the warm morning sun watching the locals buy their produce to cool for the day – fresh borlotti beans, soup mixes, fresh salad mix.  Just wonderful.

I have always loved Rome and it’s inspired me and D to travel to the other parts of Italy to go on a gastronomic tour of the country !  ps the Vatican, you can keep.