&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

Tetsuya’s Confit trout (Salmon), homecooked

Well, this should really be a post on Quay as I had previously promised, but I figured that this would be as good a time as any to post this dish. The moment I had it at Tetsuya’s I knew I had to try to replicate this at home. I wanted to challenge myself and do it without searching for the actual recipe online.

I first took 2 sheets of dried kombu that I had bought from tsukiji market a long time ago. I braised it in dashi and soy sauce until it was fairly soft. I then did a rough dice, before dehydrating it at 60C overnight. After it got crisp, I grinded it in a coffee grinder, but I did not grind it down to a powder so it still had some uneven pieces.

The salmon, I struggled to find a cut of salmon that could exactly replicate the shape of the one I had at Tetsuya’s, but the protein was always going to be a compromise since I was using salmon instead of trout. I settled for the best looking piece I could get my hands on. I simply poached it an aromatic oil very very lightly, never letting the oil come above 45C, basically just to warm through. I then pulled it from the oil and placed it onto a plate.

I mixed a little olive oil with the kombu seasoning to make it a paste, but I kept the ratio of the olive oil low so that the kombu didnt get too wet. I then pressed the paste into the salmon, before topping it with chopped chives and sea salt.

I also made a chive oil, but only later realised that it should have been a parsley oil. (I saw the original dish was topped with chives and assumed it would be a chive oil)

It worked out pretty well, the salmon was a good texture, the kombu crust didn’t quite taste like the original but I realise now that the process they use is quite different from what I did, it was still delicious though, seaweed umami seasoning, can’t really go wrong withthat. It was pretty fun replicating a dish based on how I thought I would do it at home, something I definitely need to try more often!

 

 

 

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Tetsuyas, Sydney

It has been a long, long time since I last did a restaurant reflection, I would call it a food review but that seems rather snobbish, considering the fact that I don’t actually know if what I am saying makes sense half the time. Moving on back to Tetsuya’s, what can I say about both the man and the restaurant. Ask any foreigner to name the best restaurant in Sydney and Tetsuya’s will probably come up the most often, ask any Singaporean what the most expensive meal in Singapore is and Waku Ghin will probably come up the most often. It seems only natural that the first restaurant I had to book on my trip to Sydney would be Tetsuya’s.

We start with a bread and butter course. To call this butter would be a bit of a misnomer, this is more of a ‘spread’, and one of the best damn spreads I’ve ever had. It is butter whipped with ricotta, parmesan, and truffle. This is truly a sign of good things to come, the contrast in flavors between the parmesan and truffle were incredible, both bold flavors that didnt jostle with each other, the parmesan being the first thing you detect on the tongue, then the soothing lingering aroma of the truffles shines through as the taste of the parmesan dies down. The ricotta provides body, and the fact that the butter is slightly aerated, just makes you feel less of a fatty when you spread copious amounts of it on bread(It is partly just air after all, isn’t it?). Very good

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Savoury Custard with Avruga

I think technically this was a chawanmushi, I mean, by definition, chawanmushi is a steamed egg custard after all right? Regardless, the texture of the chawanmushi(I am going to assume I am right) was top notch, I would say it was even softer than the one I had at Ryugin, and for some reason I kept tasting scallops in the custard, but the waitress confirmed that it was mirin and soy. You start to see differences between Tetsuya and Waku Ghin within the first course. Tetsuya’s can be likened to being the older brother, more stable, reliable, traditional. Waku Ghin being the younger brother who drives a flashy sports car and constantly wants to impress. I have a feeling that the same dish at Waku would used oscietra caviar instead of Avruga, which doesn’t really matter because I did not really enjoy the texture of the warmed caviar, it lacked that ‘pop’ that I enjoy with caviar, plus there was just too little of it speckled into the cream to make a significant flavor impact. Good-Very good

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Salad of the Sea

Probably the weakest course of the night. Comprised of marinated and cured fish, sushi rice, and assorted vegetables. This was visually stunning but it just felt like a deconstructed chirashi. The rice felt incredibly out of place, especially since it was balled into one giant piece in the center of the plate. The fact that Japanese rice is sticky did not help with the ergonomics of eating the dish at all. It basically became me consuming a bunch of vegetables, then a bunch fish, then eating a ball of rice. I actually thought the meal was going to go downhill at this point. Okay

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Marinated Scampi Tail

This came served with walnut oil and a frozen egg yolk. Yes thats right, that yellow bit protruding out, thats an egg yolk that was simply frozen, then thawed. The flavors of the dish worked pretty well, the sweetness of the scampi balanced with the marinade, the yolk and cream providing richness, the oil a nuttiness. The main problem I had with the dish is that frozen egg yolk, it had the texture of a gel, but it had a very unpleasant gummy like texture that kind of stuck to the tongue and made the flavor of the egg yolk linger. Which was a shame because the taste of the Scampi was exceptionally good. Very sweet, briny, the kind of things you look for in raw seafood, then the flavor went away and the taste of the egg yolk stayed behind… Okay-good

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Confit of Petuna Trout with apple and unpasterised Ocean Trout Roe

This is the dish that defines Tetsuya’s. I actually didn’t know about any of Tetsuya’s dishes apart from this one. Let me break it down on a technical level first. I knew beforehand that the trout was cooked in a pot of aromatic oil (Grapeseed + olive + herbs and spices), what surprised me the most was the texture. This was even less cooked than mi cuit salmon, with mi cuit salmon, the fish flakes apart but the texture is very close to being raw. This, on the other hand, felt like it was completely raw, it didn’t flake apart at all, but it was soft enough to be cut with the back of the fork. I am guessing the confit process was simply to warm it through. The component that makes this dish is actually the kombu crust. The trout relies completely on the crust for seasoning, it is not brined, it is not salted, the crust supports the fish, and it does so beautifully. Its hard to describe the flavor with words because it tastes like the flavor of umami harnessed into a seasoning. It is basically dried kombu from japan, tossed with soy sauce, and pressed into the fish. There really are no more words for this, you just have to try it to understand. Superb

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Shio Koji flounder with tomato and summer greens

I wouldn’t want to be the fish dish that follows up a Tetsuya’s signature, but this dish holds its own weight incredibly well. The flounder is marinated in sake for days before being seared in a pan. You can eat the fish and tell that there are a lot of incredibly delicious, incredibly complex flavors going on, you may not understand whats happening, but you know you are enjoying it. The vegetables added a very refreshing, crunchy textural contrast, and the sauces used carried acidity to the fish. Everything about this dish came together very nicely. And it was a nice transition from the previous trout dish, the former being very rich, this one with much cleaner, calming flavors. Very Good

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Tea Smoked Quail Breast

For a restaurant that serves a menu focusing on seafood, the first non seafood main we had was exceptionally cooked. The quail breast was quite pink, which I have no problem with, because the texture of the quail was incredible. So moist and with a nice chewy bite to it. The squid was another revelation as well, I have never had squid cooked to this kind of texture, it almost resembled cheong fun(rice noodles), but with a silkier and more chewy texture, each bite reminded me of eating cheong fun, but with every bite it realses that familiar flavor of squid. Both proteins with strong flavors but they come together nicely. Pleasantly surprised by how good this was. Very good

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Wagyu beef tenderloin with soy braised tendon and wasabi leaf

Savory dishes ended on a bit of a low. The tenderloin was nicely cooked, especially on a piece of meat that thin, but the jus/sauce it was served with was over reduced and when eaten together with the tendon and bone marrow, it just got too rich too quickly. The sorrel added a little bit of acidity to cut a richness of the dish but there was simply not enough of it. Okay

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Lychee granita with strawberries and coconut

The first of two desserts, refreshing, light, and very welcome at this stage after a very rich and heavy meat course right before this. It was heavy enough to be a dessert but the flavors were reminiscent of a palate cleanser. Its hard to find fault with the dessert, it was just a little bit on the boring side. Okay-Good

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Tetsuya’s chocolate cake

This, on the other hand, was a showstopper. It actually looks very similar to Hidemi Sugino’s infamous ambroisie cake, and dare I say it, the mousse in the Tetsuya cake is even better than the one at Suginos, it is barely set and has an ethereal melt in your mouth texture. The bitter-sweetness of the dark chocolate plays well with the nuttiness of the hazelnut, the dish is inherently heavy but the lightness of that mousse just kept you going back for more. My mind is telling me that there should be some kind of berry component in the dish but my mouth is telling me to shut up and eat. A really nice way to end the meal. Very good

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Tetsuya’s seems to have fallen off the map a little in Sydney, but to the uninitiated, places like Rockpool and Sepia aren’t the first names that register when talking about food in Sydney. For me, the first two names that pop into my head are Quay(will be the next post) and Tetsuya’s. The food may not be as flashy or inventive as some of the newer restaurants, but I would say the food at Tetsuya’s is at about the level of a solid 2 Michelin star restaurant, while the service is impeccable and is easily at a 3 star level. Not only the individual dishes are impressive, but the progression of the meal as well, it is the little details that count, the pairing of heavy and light dishes, the little drops of parsley oil on the plate of the trout dish, or the service that was ever willing to accomodate every request I had., these are the things that make a great meal, and aren’t immediately obvious but do register after the meal is over.  It is definitely worth a visit if you’re in Sydney, and it ended up being the best meal of my trip.

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Homemade: Chicken rice, reimagined

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Something a little closer to home. Not a deconstruction per se, but a familiar dish, re-imagined. 

First, a chicken stock is made by pressure cooking chicken bones. It is then reduced until it tastes very close to the soup that you usually get when you order chicken rice(sans the MSG).

The broth is split into two batches, the first gets tossed with rice krispies. They crackle and pop, and soak up whatever liquid you toss them in; in my case, they take on chicken flavor. They are put into a dehydrator and dehydrated at 40C until crisp again. They take on a darker, browner color from the heat and the color of the stock. They have the flavor of chicken, but the flavor is faint. I re-introduce the same chicken broth into the rice krispies, then dehydrate them again as before. The flavor intensifies. The whole process is repeated a total of 5 times until you end up with chicken rice krispies.

The other half of the broth is further reduced until the flavor is intense, pounded garlic and ginger is added to the broth and allowed to infuse. Chicken breast is placed into a bag with this intense broth, then cooked sous vide at 61C. The breast is removed and chilled.

The dish is completed by tossing the chicken rice krispies with rendered chicken fat, this makes it easier to press it onto the chicken breast. The breast is placed in an oven to bake till the rice toasts slightly and becomes extra crisp. It is served on lines of traditional chicken rice chilli sauce and a ginger-garlic paste. It seems unusual, but when you eat a bite of all components, it tastes exactly kind chicken rice, and yet… it is not.

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Uni caviar pasta, a prologue

I recently caught a screening of ‘Pierre Gagnaire: Inventing Cuisine’, and while the movie is hardly new, it was the first time I have actually seen Gagnaire cooking.

I am admittedly not entirely familiar with Gagnaires cooking, I have skimmed through one of his cookbooks, although calling it that would be somewhat of a misnomer, the book is filled with nothing but incredibly artistic shots, usually macro, with a few words from the man himself detailing the thought or the inspiration of the dish. While I gained very little actual knowledge about food, it made me look closer at the finer things, how the membranes of a citrus can be beautiful, or the flesh of a pear that is stained by red wine.

As such, I had high expectations for the movie, and I left feeling both disappointed and satisfied. It was satisfying because he is just as artistic and creative as I thought he would be, although he has trouble at times being coherent because his mind is just constantly exploding with ideas. And it was disappointing because this is by far the most disorganized Ive ever seen a 3 star kitchen before. Pierre basically jumps in on the line and starts taking control of things he shouldn’t be doing, in the process using some very questionable food safety practices, you can view the video of this on YouTube. That, combined with the fact that it was shot by the cameraman whose resume must have included films like the Blair witch project, led to a very shaky 10 minute clip of pure mayhem in the kitchen, leaving me incredibly nauseous in the theatre.

But back to the good bits, one of my favorite scenes in the movie was when Pierre visits an art museum. The wise curator/owner of the museum offers what has got to be the best quote of the whole movie, “A craftsman is someone who does well,what they already know. An artist is someone who does things that they do not yet know.”

Okay. I’m feeling inspired. It triggered some thoughts I used to have about art and artforms. I believe all great artists start out with similar thought processes, but they all have different methods of externalizing those thoughts based on their trades. Writers write, singers sing, painters paint, cooks cook. The sources of inspiration are bound only by ones imagination, and often in time, artists inspire other artists and vice versa.

I wanted to do something with my food, the uni caviar dish had already been made, so I wondered if anyone could do anything with It. I eventually sent out a photo of the dish to a friend of mine who writes for leisure, explaining the dish to him. I told him he had no walls whatsoever and he could write whatever he felt like writing, based on what the food(well, technically the picture of the food) was telling him to write. And these are his words

When you’re up eventually you’ll come down, but that’s not always true in reverse. I will overcome, I’m stronger now… hush. Shhh, here she comes. I smelt her perfume. I’m remembering her… no, I mean us; I’m remembering us as a light shining over the ocean, immortal; undying in deep orange-red. The light is warm, but not enough… the light is just right… she gets closer and the light becomes too much. Our eyes meet and I unfold, like an umbrella being tormented by the wind.

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Homecooked: Uni caviar pasta

Uni has got to be one of my all time favorite premium ingredients, quite possibly my favorite. Caviar is right up there with it, why do the two go together so damn well? The sweet unctuous flavor of the uni, usually coming with a hint of bitterness, combined with the briny and often complex flavor of the caviar, they seem to pair perfectly together. I first saw a combination of the two on one of Anthony bourdains shows, I believe it was the aptly titled ‘Food porn’ episode, Eric Ripert prepared it in his kitchen and it was truly an eye opener. I immediately listed it down as one of the things I have to eat before I die. 

Unfortunately, I did not have the dish when I was at Le Bernardin, I really doubt that I will go back anytime soon, so late last year I set out to recreate the dish at home. It is one of the simplest dishes to make, but the cooking of the pasta and the sauce have to be absolutely spot on. The uni is first blended, then passed through a tamis, then folded into soft butter to basically make a uni compound butter. The butter is that turned into a beurre monte and the pasta is dressed in it. It is basically a uni flavored butter sauce, incredibly rich and heavy. The first time I made it, it looked a little something like this

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I used spaghetti over the linguini that was called for in the recipe, I cant remember if I did this because all I had was spaghetti, but I do remember thinking that the pasta should be thinner: More sauce, more decadence. I also did not manage to get my hands on osetra caviar because I was a pretty poor guy serving the army in Singapore, bringing home $400 a month.

Fast forward to September, I wanted to do the dish again, but do it right this time. This is my second take on the dish

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I went with angel hair this time, I personally think it works better with the dish. The breakdown is as such: Angel hair pasta dressed in an uni beurre monte, topped with osetra caviar, kissed with specks of chive and threads of parmesan, drops of lemon juice, uni-milk foam, and edible gold leaf.

This is the kind of dish I can only afford to make one a year. This is as close to the original Ripert dish as I want to go, I think the uni milk foam is a nice balance to the very heavy sauce, it is lighter, and carries a very calming sweetness to it, contrasting the heavy and very punchy flavor of the uni beurre monte. The gold leaf is there because… well, it is the kind of dish that calls for it.

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Home cooked: Modernist 汤圆 (tang yuan)

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It has been a long long time since I blogged properly, I had to look through some of my older posts because I can’t even remember the format of which I blog in. To those who still read this, I haven’t been dining out in Singapore all that much, but I have been cooking very actively. I spent about 3 months as a stagiare at Guy Savoy in Singapore(only on the weekends), although I wasn’t very involved with the actual cooking of the food, the pace was intense and I learnt a lot of techniques and skills that I am able to bring back into my home cooking. If you want to keep up to date with what I am doing, it is best to follow my on my instagram: Lennardy

Today I’ll be talking about a dish that I came up with. This is a modernist take on Tang yuan, a traditional chinese dessert usually eaten on certain festivals. A peanut/sesame/red bean paste is trapped in a sticky skin made with glutinous rice flour, it has a consistency similar to that of mochi. I personally find the skin to be the least enjoyable part of the dish because it is very heavy and starchy.

The soup it is served in varies, some serve in a sweetened soup with ginger, some serve in a sweetened soup with pandan, my family serves it with a canned peanut soup. I wanted to recreate this flavor without the chewy/starchy element.

I took the same peanut soup from the tang yuan I am familiar with, added some glutinous rice flour and cooked that down. Then dehydrated it and fried it into a crisp. For the Tang yuan, I reverse-spherified and intense black sesame liquid, before finishing the dish with a sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds.

 

 

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Home Cooked: A tale of two salads

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The first, a robust one. Greens dressed with a sesame vinaigrette, emulsified with liquid lecithin. Oranges bruleed to provide acidity and sweetness, bringing the salad to life. A ramen egg gives body and richness to the dish.

The second- light, crisp flavors. Asparagus cooked in butter with pear slices, finished with a sauce made from butter and lemon juice, and shaved white button mushrooms

 

Homemade: Earl grey tea sorbet

 

 

 

I browse through groupon everyday like a housewife in search of great deals. They have some pretty surprising items that are worth buying at times, case in point, I found them selling a cuisinart ice cream maker for S$200. I pounced on it.

This was my first creation, one of the best sorbets, and possibly best sorbet Ive ever had in my life was the earl grey tea sorbet at Guy Savoy, which I first tasted at Guy Savoy paris. There arent many things as refreshing and versatile as it, as a palate cleanser, at the end of a heavy meal, it is delicious either way. When I eventually ended up staging at Guy savoy Singapore a few months back, I used to pray that the dessert station would have extras, but alas, the only ice cream I got to try during my time there was a strawberry ice cream. Nevertheless, I wanted to attempt to replicate the sorbet at home, and the moment the Cuisinart was delivered, I knew this would be my first creation.

The sorbet failed on my first attempt, it wouldn’t set up and didn’t even get to a slushy point. I started troubleshooting and concluded that my freezer wasn’t cold enough. I reattempted the sorbet a couple of days later, churning the ice cream in my air conditioned bedroom(Singapore is incredibly hot). It worked, the question was what to serve it with.

The make up of the sorbet is simple- earl grey tea, sugar, lemon juice(I added a little leftover yuzu as well), pinch of salt. Serving it with a lemon curd seemed glaringly obvious, the curd providing a creamy mouthfeel that the sorbet would quickly wash away, as well as reinforcing the lemon flavor. It was perhaps a fortunate coincidence that just a week ago, I attempted to make Christina Tosi’s(of Momofuku) arnold palmer cake, and one of the components of the cake was an almond tea crunch(feuilletine, almond butter, powdered sugar, iced lemon tea powder, toasted almond slivers), it was truly one of the most delicious things Ive ever put in my mouth. I could spoon that tea crunch directly into my mouth over and over until I reel over from the amount of sugar. This was another obvious addition, crunchy, nutty, and backing up the tea-lemon flavor, a winning combination.

The final dish: Almond tea crunch, lemon curd, earl grey tea sorbet, toasted almonds, microwave fried mint, black pepper

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