Firstly, I must express thanks to Panerai who gave me the dining vouchers (for soup and main course) from Absolute Haven. This little restaurant specialising in "modern European cuisine" (read "Western fare that ignores traditional rules") has garnered some loyal fans and glowing reviews, so I was happy to go try it out.
Well, we liked the contemporary, elegant and romantic decor, complete with dramatic stark incandescent lighting and red candle votives. Dark string curtains between some tables added privacy. There's even sofa-style seating at the rear. While this is no fine-dining joint, it's a tiny notch above most casual eateries.
Service was excellent right from beginning. We were asked if we preferred chilled or warm water to start with. Their water is flavoured with strawberry slices instead of the usual lemon, which makes it a nice touch. The waiters also took great pains to explain menu items.
We began with some calamari (S$8.50). This was some really crisp batter, which held their shape well. But it was also fairly greasy. The combination meant that the squid slid out easily when you took a bite. The mango flavoured dip was very subtle but I'm still not fully convinced mango pairs well with calamari. Still, it was a tasty starter.
Their mushroom soup (S$5.90) features pureed shiitake, portobello and button mushrooms with finely chopped pieces still discernible. Served very piping hot, it was a hearty, rustic bowl but severely lacking salt for flavour. Perhaps they deliberately leave it to the customers to season to taste. The other thing that I found was a slightly greasy mouthfeel. While there is no cream in this soup save for the few decorative droplets, it seems they have drizzled on a fair bit of oil.
The soup of the day was pancetta with mixed beans and minced meat. You don't see much in the photo here as it's all submerged. But it proved to be the better of the two soups with the savoury contribution from the bacon and beans. A watery but flavourful broth. Both soups I felt were so rustic, they probably belonged in rougher crockery than the contemporary sloping fine china.
Hubby chose their signature chicken roulade for his main. It's bacon-spinach in sliced chicken thigh with champagne cream sauce, and avocado salad. Chicken roulade is traditionally made with breast meat but Absolute Haven has chosen to use thigh meat (I suspect to cater to local preferences). They managed to keep the flesh moist and skin crispy. Fairly tasty but a wee bit pricey for S$20, we felt. Ah, aren't we just so hard to please!
I sometimes wish chefs would stop with the "artistic" sauce squiggles on the plates, especially when it does not add much to the presentation. Throw out your squeeze bottles, please! Oh, and the avocado salad hiding underneath the greens too. It had a most unacquirable taste.
Stay tuned for tomorrow....I will blog the other main course plus dessert!