Saturday, January 30, 2010

Da Valentino Magic

Loved the bread. Loved my pasta. Loved loved my dessert.


Forgive my improperness. When restaurants turn me head-over-heels, i lose formal senses and write wholly to convey my honest, sincere excitement about them like little kid meets Mickey Elaine meets Doraemon.

You know, Valentino has long been on my to-try-list and i cannot forgive myself for deferring the visit with excuses like...

(1) it's inaccessible location
(2) crazy waiting list


If there's a seduction i'm highly vulnerable to, it's bread. Valentino's fist-sized roll served with pesto dip was one of those hot vamps. Though not moist, it's got fluffy innards and is incredibly light-weight. Light as a pebble. You'll be tempted to ask for seconds.

Here's another place offering risottos cooked fresh upon order. Dad's Risotto ai Frutti di Mare ($23.80) was skillfully simmered, bearing all the qualities a good risotto should possess. The grains are not too mushy or hard, nicely blessed with an orangey tasty seafood broth. Plenty of seafood to go along too.

And how i adored & enjoyed my Fettucine al Granchio ($23.90)!

I'm officiallly adding this to my list of pasta favorites right after Otto & Cugini. Despite switching the smooth pink sauce to classic tomato (and highly warned by our waiter as a bad choice) the pasta completely delighted, more especially after the dispiriting advice. Their homemade squid ink fettuccine was springyly good to the bite, generously laced with fresh crabmeat chunks & dressed in a sauce so rustically flavorful... whooo uber DELICIOUS!

Valentino's dessert trolley rolls in steadfastly like movie credits. From the lot, Dad hit White Chantilly straight. Perla's signature is a light sponge cake paired with white chocolate chantilly cream that paints a decent finish.

I probed in deeper for recommendations.

'Panna cotta's good!' the waiter exclaimed before hushing to continue... 'How about a white truffle panna cotta? we've infused all our season's leftovers and... we've got only one left."

Predict the ending.

White Truffle Panna Cotta of course!

Let's heck the $20 pricetag for this big bang of fragrance. My finale came as a pyramid of opulent cream, tolerance-exceeding for some but easily supported by the cream-o-manic stomach of mine. The white truffle scent was so silencingly gratifying, i swooned and floated in truffle-dessert lalaland.... * floats away

While floating i turned to ask Dad, "Shall we make our next reservation already?"

That's the Valentino magic.

Ristorante Da Valentino
11 Jalan Bingka
Mayfair Park
6462 0555

Note: Reservations absolutely necessary.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Kith Cafe

the tiny tot.

Kith is a tiny hole-in-the-wall cafe.

Kith's menu is small,
but breakfast foods are always mighty.

Kith serves 4 flavours of icecreams daily.

The French Vanilla Icecream is authenticated by vanilla beans, which never fails to put a smile on my face (: Only the Chocolate Peanut Butter Milkshake was less indulgent than it sounds. Perhaps because i like my milkshakes gao gao, this was slushy but lacked the full-bodied creaminess i wanted.

Kith is a hideout; cosy & likable anytime.
I'm having a thing for cafes like these!

Kith Cafe
7 Rodyk Street
#01-33 Watermark @ Robertson Quay

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Saint Pierre

Tracking Saint Pierre's lunch series is as challenging as following scenes from Fast & Furious. Their lunch menu changes so frequently (weekly?) that it is almost impossible to encore any favourite dishes.

What makes the chase worthwhile, is the disposition of Chef Paul Froggart's brain-childs. He's a natural when it comes to food-play, meddling with shapes, colours & textures to create interesting compilations. He makes dishes fun and entertaining. To bonus that, i caught glimpses of Emmanuel Stroobant and Paul Froggart in person... ooh charmings!

Bakes clearly weren't their forte. Both the sun-dried tomato roll and baguette stirred no commotion, merely carbs to kill waiting time.

Anything cooked detaches from that fate.

The kitchen shows how an uncomplicated Mushroom Cappuccino amuse can convey reassuring flavors and be a foamy joy to bottoms up... Cheers to my funghi-ccino.

Appetizers took another step up. There's no doubt to how Saint Pierre's Confit of Ocean Trout can become elaine-pleasing material. A semi-translucent, delicate babe was aptly jazzed with herbed breadcrumbs. And everything else from the greenish quenelles, citrus compote to zesty sauce did complementary favors to it.

Swallowed every flake in im-loving-it conviction.

And even as the lunch menu blows around, 3 permanent residents stay for good. One of them is the signature Pan-fried Foie Gras which the restaurant totally prides on. They ought to.

I brightened up after a bite of creamy liver cellulite sealed under perfectly crisped crust. The skin is so well seared, it feels like a wrapper in the works. Froggart's touch is shown through tiny granny smith apple globulars, in both raw & caramelised forms to provide a play of textures. Who cares about the $8 top-up when foie gras is done so skilfully delicious!

all my fave fishes deserves 2 shots hehe

My mind was long set on having mainstay #2: White Miso Black Cod. But perhaps because i'm more etched towards the heavily miso-ed japanese cod, i thought their cod tasted kinda... weak. The miso flavor was almost indiscernible and i would have preferred stronger seasonings to justify it as a miso cod.

The other fish dish on the menu was a Flash-fried Tuna Steak, slightly asian-inclined paired with sauteed bak choy. Flash-frying gives it its unmistakable outer brown jacket and maintains the fish's rawish centre. Dad likes his tuna done this way.

Grandma Stroobant's Gateau au Chocolat with yoghurt espuma a.k.a mainstay #3, was another joy to speak of. It is a moist, densely knitted square that proved chocolately just right... you won't need extra fudge or chocolate toppings, nor complain of cocoa cloyingness from it. It's delish the way it is.

Berries stunned me with an out-of-the-ordinary appearance. First i popped soft sweeties of torched baby meringue kisses like swallowing the clouds in the sky, then went on to the baked papa meringue kisses & mama meringue sticks... surprisingly without signs of meringue overdose. Now that's the hallmark of good meringue.

There's a whole bunch of places offering competively-priced set lunches nowadays, but only the ones rendering true value & quality warrants revisit. It needs to possess a combination of exciting the eyes, tastebuds & emotions; be senses-evoking and perpetuate unpredictability. Saint Pierre clearly fits as one of them.

Update: SP has recently upped its lunch prices, from $38++ previously to $48++ for 3 courses now. Whoa a whole $10 hike!

Saint Pierre
3 Magazine Road
#01-01 Central Mall
6438 0887

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


how much i love thee.


where else but thou?

Now thy favourite place for sushi.

Tatsuya Japanese Restaurant
22 Scotts Road
Goodwood Park Hotel
6887 4598

Sunday, January 17, 2010


Days before work began, i camped in the kitchen baking. Friends tell me i'm mad to be spending my precious free time baking, despite knowing i'll be stuck with it for the next 2 years and perhaps for a lifetime. But i tell them... this is why i call it a passion.

Baking is my escape from the real world.

Here's some edibles done during NYE and 2010. Recipes & detailed entries will come in when time permits.

Strawberry Panna Cotta Verrines

vanilla bean panna cotta. korean strawberry mousse. korean strawberry gelee. meringue sticks. totally elaine's kinda thing.

Dark Chocolate Royaltine

chocolate sponge. hazelnut feuillete. 64% dark chocolate mousse. valrhona cocoa nibs. raspberry.

Raspberry Ivory

ivory white chocolate mousse. raspberry gelee. raspberry mousse. honey sponge.

Strawberry Shortcake Ver.XX

soft vanilla sponge. creme chantilly. fresh strawberries.

Dad loves strawberry shortcakes so i've been experimenting with various sponge & chantilly recipes in hope of a perfect duo. Will keep trying and trying!

Salted Caramel Chocolate Tarts

pate sucree. caramel fleur de sel ganache. roasted hazelnuts. milk chocolate chantilly. cocoa powder. valrhona pearls.

Mont Blanc Tarts

Pate sucree. chocolate coat. sponge. roasted chestnut. creme chantilly. french marron mousse.

Eeks what ugly piping! I couldn't stop laughing at the curly-wurly mess i made cos it is embarrassingly hilarious. The solution: blindfold yourself & eat it. French marrons are yum.

Cheesecake Lollipops

vanilla cheesecake. bittersweet chocolate coating. 100s & 1000s.

Homemade Bailey's Icecream

Creme Caramel Bailey's goodness lightly infused with vanilla beans. 100% hand-whisked.


After seeing the stark differences between domestic & commercial baking, i still feel more inclined to the smallish operations at home. I like producing hearty bakes at a leisure pace, and watching my loved ones savour them. Mass production can never provide the same contentment. Kinda missing it now!

Shall blog about work soon alright.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Otto Ristorante

Best Meal of 2009
Discovered: 26th December, Boxing Day.

I am absolutely in love with Otto.... Bewitched by Chef Michele's stunning culinary skills, impressed with the kitchen's quality insistence and showcase of fireworks-sparkling dishes.

The display of splendor over my 6 dinner courses was impressive. Otto's Gourmet Menu ($128++) encompasses several signature dishes, touching from foie gras to lobster to everything rewardingly luxurious. Under the hands of resident chef Michele Pavanello (previously from Pontini which i loved too), these luxuries transform into dishes of unforgettable excellence.


From the bread selection of walnut, raisin, ciabatta, plain & onion focaccia, i happily called for 4.

Take onion foccacia and take lots of it! I fell for its dense, cushiony sponge body festooned with oiled onions, and made sure i pick up every fallen slice of them. The walnut bread was another crusty babe, especially good with a sharp balsamic dip.

Oh yes you get 12-year aged balsamic vinegar to complement your breads, beat that!

Amuse Bouche of the day: Roast beef ham with tuna sauce
elaine's Amuse Bouche of the day: Crab vol-au-vent

Folly me misheard the waiter's speech on Roast BEEF ham and was about to stash that tiny spoon into my mouth when he came in the nick of time to hit STOP button.

"Mam you mentioned you couldn't take beef? Good thing i came on time! Let me get that changed for you."

Moments later a petite Crab vol-au-vent appeared. A dwarfly clump of mayonnaised crab in dry pastry case won't make the show, but the waiter's observance did. That was more worth crediting than any pre-meal teaser.

Greetings, Hokkaido Scallop Carpaccio. Fresh fork-mashable scallop circles brilliantly revitalized by hues of green. The caviar and chive snippets played important flavoring roles, while the drizzle of arugula-infused olive oil imparted moisture.

Second on the menu was Foie Gras, now a common quintessential on modern European menus. Pan-roasted glossy, with grease cut by the additions of Chianti poached pears & a condorelli liquorice dressing. The friend loved it.

Delish scrambled egg with... 3 grams of white truffle!

I opted out of FG to take a virgin jump at white truffles, via their Scrambled Egg with Blue Swimmer Crab. Avoided some unctuousness but unspared from sinfulness.

I silently observed as Chef wheeled his cart over. He carefully placed the golden baby on a weighing scale, shaved several flakes atop my dish, returned the lump onto the scale, then graciously took his leave. Leaving behind exactly 3 grams of bliss.

Chef Michele's scrambled egg is chiefly cream+milk+butter doused into egg, then meticulously cooked to Lilliputian curds... hmmm maybe even over a bain marie. It is creamy decadent, made extra scrumptious with chunks of shell-less blue swimmer crab.


People who know me should know my predictability when it comes to pasta. I've pledged my undying love for tomato-based sauces paired with seafood, and how i would assess homemade pasta with strict criteria. For years i've eaten countless renditions; satisfied at times, disappointed many times. Recollections come & go.

But when i fed myself a twirl of Otto's Homemade Tagliolini with Boston Lobster, i thought... This might just be the best ever eaten. No, it IS the bestest ever eaten!

Gawd it's heaven-sent!

Delicate, perfectly consistent strands of fine tagliolini married with a marvellous light spicy tomato sauce and juicy lobster pieces laced all around. Total stunner. I'm so having one full plate next time round!

Our fish dish was lovely too. Its a piece of European John Dory Fillet cooked in fresh tomato & basil sauce, served with thyme scented zucchini. Those strands of curly cooked zucchini were amusing... slightly crunchy, resembling noodles or way better than noodles. All seated in a light, appetizing passata.

After winning over the bread-loving, pasta-loving, white truffle-loving & fish-lovingness in me, he went on to conquer the last, not-so-pork-loving heart of mine.

I'm not usually into suckling pigs, not even at festive reunions or wedding dinners, unless forcibly offered. But right at my table, i happily mopped up the two of Otto's Crispy Suckling Pig slices lacquered with black locust honey & aged balsamic. That really says something.

My partner decided to have the Prime Beef Ribeye, which was done medium well and laced with barolo wine reduction. Good enough to silence the beef-lover for minutes.

Because our set's dessert ran out, we were open to the full list of options. #1 restaurant's recommendation: a respectable Warm Chocolate Cake oozing cocoa richness and fluffy thick lava. pretty yums. The Haitian Vanilla icecream burst full vanilla tunes, particularly reeking of extract, decadent to the max.

Again i admit, i never was a Creme Brulee fan. Given a choice i'll usually pick up a panna cotta or tiramisu but Otto's Haitian Vanilla Creme Brulee is one not to be missed.

I'm utterly impressed by its awesome balancing act.... Rich yet not cloying. Creamy yet not over-creamy. Eggy yet nowhere near egg-intolerance... You'll instinctively dig up to the very end! Along came a cup of mixed berries cooked in vincotto (a sweet dark grape must) i also loved. These dark syrupy reductions are right up my alley.

Otto executes top-notch finesse and is the best, if not, one of the best modern italian food you can get on this island. To be sampling white truffles for the first time in my life, nestled atop those creamy egg plateau, was great pleasure indeed. Chef Michele splendidly closed my 2009 with another few best discoveries.

Totally Otto-fied.

Otto Ristorante
28 Maxwell Road
#01-02 Red Dot Traffic Building
6227 6819

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


Have you ever as a child, desired to be a famous personality or pledged to pursue a particular profession?

People always say childhood interests don't sustain. And true enough, many of our aspirations switch at the frequency of wardrobe revamps.

When i was young, nothing quite lasted. My personal collections hopped from PEZ figurines to stickers, to phonecards, to character plasters, to stamps yada yada... I was a typical 3-minute hotness child. (translate please)

Only amazingly, one ambition in me never wavered...

I aspired to be a chef.

Dreams are meant for pursuing, aren't they?

2009 for me was more than just a realization year. It was a turning point. A start of my career. A preliminary foray into the industry i've long been passionate about.

The question was: culinary or pastry arts?

I gave serious thought to both, but after much contemplation chose the latter. Baking shall be my career; Culinary remains an interest.

In about 10 months time I will be in NY pursuing my 2-year Degree in Professional Studies of Baking & Pastry Arts at the prestigious Culinary Institute of America (CIA) (all by God's grace that i managed to pass their stringent admission selections!)

Next week, i'm officially diving into the real world. Slogging in a commercial kitchen decked in my new whites, prepared to be baking for a lifetime. So farewell to home-baking, leisure meals & public holidays boohoo :(

Blogging will slow down but i'll try my very best to update. Promise!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Gordon Grill

Gordon was more than i thought.

Entering Gordon Grill clueless, expectation-less & assumption-less got me leaving positively pleased.

With 3 other food passionates, i embarked on the 3-course UOB Chef's Creation Series Lunch at $68++ for 2. Two knotty choices offered per course.

If you're cynical to why restaurants would serve a stuffing truck of bread, Gordon will enlighten you. Cos you definitely need a truckload to get enough of their bakehouse's virtues... one FULL truckload of it.

Among onion rolls, olive foccacia & brown bread slices, the first two were amazing breads to boot.

Onions & foccacia form my perfect configuration. But even when they're not merged as one, Gordon manages to form 2 impressive equations...

onion + roll = fragrant goodness
olive + foccacia = cushiony goodness

There's no reason to resist Gordon's toasted onion rolls with nice clingy innards and prevalent delightful fragrance. Then sink into an olive foccacia... whooooo i was totally wowed by its incredibly soft & fine nature! Only olive bits to view, no olive pungency to kill. Excellent stuffs worth every pre-meal calorie.

onion seconds!

Cold japanese pasta, salmon confit, caviar & white truffle oil

Hokkaido scallops, pork belly & black truffle vinaigrette

See why i say knotty?

The appetizer choices got me jammed in see-saw midpoint... One's salmon, one's scallops. One's white truffle, one's black truffle. I'm stuck.

After a long mental fight, i tippled towards Hokkaido Scallops. No regrets. A tender cushy pair, sheltered by black truffle leaves and moreish apple puree nulled the salmon-loss. The only component i couldn't link was the pork belly carpet.

Roasted turkey supreme w chestnut ballotine

Mains was a straight-forward leap. Roasted Turkey for me.

Unfortunately, glitters vanished this round. The three meagre turkey slices served with mandatories of winter vegetables, brown giblet gravy & cranberry jam performed normal at best. And i cringed at that whammy chestnut ballotine.

Grilled beef tenderloin & braised cheek

Contrastingly, the beefers fell head-over-heels for their Grilled Beef Tenderloin. This is indeed a door-stopper. It's got one thick tenderloin steak AND braised beef cheek beautifully cooked & generously capped with bordeleise sauce.

For a lunch dish, the portion is unbelievably generous.

Chestnut Creme Brulee

Luck was with them as their swooning stretched over to the Chestnut Creme Brulee. Bearing festive notes of eggy custard, chestnut chunks and an OMG kickass whisky vanilla icecream dotted with strawberry cubes, this dessert spelt c-e-l-e-b-r-a-t-i-o-n.

Rhubarb trifle & vanilla sugar donut

But nothing compares to berry-magnificence in my eyes.

My feminine Rhubarb Trifle featured 3 tiers of delight; a slightly tart yogurt-ish cream, chunky strawberry mousse and strawberry jelly base. Shovel them all with the icy strawberry granite shavings and devour.... Berriliciously delish with no hint of artificiality!

Just close an eye about that dry sugar-coated donut ball and this becomes a bullseye dessert, especially for the ladies.

Lovely company and a lovely lunch. Gordon is an elegant hunk.

Gordon Grill
22 Scotts Road
Goodwood Park Hotel
6730 1744


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