Business Times – 11 Apr 2008
As the World Gourmet Summit kicks off, JAIME EE and CHEAH UI-HOON get a taste of what to expect.
THE high-profile chefs may not have arrived yet, but the World Gourmet Summit kicked off this week with a series of dining events showcasing the best of what local restaurants have to offer.
Saint Pierre – Evolution The first question was: So what culinary ground is Emmanuel Stroobant going to break this year? After all, in 2006, he released balloons filled with herb-scented air in Saint Pierre’s dining room in his homage to molecular gastronomy. Last year, he turned nasi lemak and chicken rice into deconstructed works of art. Having set the bar so high, it’s only natural that some fireworks were expected at his Evolution dinner on Monday, but what the mostly corporate crowd got was a lot of fancy champagne and dependable Saint Pierre cuisine, but sans the wow factor.
The one-night partnership with former Guy Savoy pastry chef Hugues Poguet would have been fun if the dessert element had run through the entire menu. The first course of wild salmon gravlax with kalamansi sorbet and a streak of vanilla chantilly cream worked very well – salmon and vanilla have always made surprisingly compatible partners and with the sorbet, had a successful sweet-savoury effect.
But the rest of the menu was typical degustation fare – yummy poilane toast round topped with lobster and Japanese mushrooms; deep fried cod on a stick topped with savoury sago pearls and crisp bacon, served with leek terrine; and a divine kobe beef square stuffed with foie gras and accompanied by a sweet potato cake.
Hugues Pouget’s thin chocolate tart was a classic hit, although he did do some quirky sweets like diced tofu creme brulee with berries, chocolate and pepper in a parfait glass. But chocolate covered asparagus? Let’s say we won’t be buying a box of them anytime soon.
Still, with champagne such as Dom Perignon, Bollinger and Pol Roger – all 1996 – and more, there was no reason to complain but to hope that next year, we’ll see some real fireworks.
Tung Lok Signatures Central – Up Close with Abalone
It’s hard to resist abalone, even more so if your pocket allows it. Sure, you can cut corners and order the cheaper South African variety but sadly, there is no such thing as a bargain-priced abalone. Not if you want to enjoy the dense, smooth and gently resilient texture of a fine grade abalone. And if you’re obsessive about abalone texture, then you have until tomorrow to bite into the unctuous delight that is a Koh Yong abalone.
Named after its founder, Singapore-born, Australian entrepreneur Simon Koh Yong, this Aussie abalone is processed in a way that when it’s braised, it cuts with a satisfying stickiness, very much like the Chinese New Year rice cake, nian gao. A measure of the abalone’s quality is the way it sticks to your knife, as Mr Koh himself will tell you. He is part of the attraction at Tung Lok Signatures Central, where if you order the WGS Celebratory menu, he will personally serve you your lovingly braised 10 or 12 head abalone.
It’s the second consecutive year that Tung Lok has hosted Mr Koh for the WGS, but there’s no danger of abalone fatigue in this case. At $248++ for lunch, you get a 10 head, palm-sized fella lovingly braised to yield the perfect bite. Add to that a satisfying meal which includes braised shark’s fin with crab meat in a rich orange-hued broth, deep fried battered sea perch in a white wine sauce and pan fried kurobuta pork.
If you order the abalone a la carte, it’s $198++ for the 10 head and $168++ for the 12 head. Yes, it’s a pretty penny to pay, but going by the brisk business the restaurant is enjoying, the Abalone King sure has a lot of fans.
Garibaldi’s Extra Virgin Olive Oil menu
After chef Roberto Galetti’s visually and intellectually scintillating ‘inverted menu’ last year, you’d think he’d be hard put to match his feat last year. But this year’s olive oil menu is no less interesting, if less dramatic, and targets gourmands who appreciate the use of quality base ingredients in their cuisine.
In this case, oil. People are beginning to acknowledge that oil is no longer just ‘grease’ these days, says chef Galetti. At least seven different types of extra virgin olive oil were used for this dinner, most of which were cold-pressed, such as the Cutrera oil from Sicily, which used a single variety of tomato-toned Tonda Iblea olives; and oils from Tuscany, Puglia, Liguria, Veneto, Lombardia and Molise.
The Tuscanian Santa Cristina was bitterly green and very spicy on its own, but its characteristics were submerged in the richness of the langoustine-flavoured cannelini bean soup. The buttery Le Pietre Brune oil from Liguria lovingly wrapped the olive fettucini pasta; while the Puglian Tormasresca was robust enough to be married with a burrata cheese and tomato emulsion, delicious when spread over a bar of crispy puff pastry. Despite all the oils used, you don’t feel like you need to down a teapot of pu erh tea to cleanse your palate – that’s how light and fresh the oils are. The six-course menu is available for lunch and dinner until April 12, at $118++ per person.
Exotic Seasons of India at Rang Mahal
Spring was the main season feted in the Seasons of India themed dinner this past Tuesday, which also saw a Mumbai Se fashion show. Chef Amandeep Singh created food which was light and contemporary, but it was the fashion show which provided more pizzaz and upped the luxe factor of the event rather than the cuisine itself.
What’s more amazing to the non-Indian diner is how the presentation of Rang Mahal’s cuisine constantly surprises, as the complex blend of herbs and ingredients have been prepared in such a way that it’s difficult to identify ingredients in a blind tasting. The fennel flowers and kiwi soup, for instance, tasted much like a gentle potato cream soup with a tangy base. Of course, marinated meats are obvious, but tastily done as well. Every bit of the masala marinade seems to have permeated the pores of the tender lamb morsels, for instance, and the same for the pomery mustard-marinated jumbo tiger prawn. If you’re usually a meat-eater, try going for the vegetarian option for the main course which sees innovative selections, with highlights such as bottle gourd stuffed with cottage cheese, potato and baby corn.
Lunches are buffet style at $42++ per person, while dinner is a six-course degustation menu at $88++ per person.