Thursday, April 28, 2011

Joël Robuchon welcoming the media - we are the first people to have seen his restaurants here
The much awaited L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon and Joël Robuchon Restaurant opened today at Resort World Sentosa. With 26 Michelin stars in his restaurant empire, Joël Robuchon is one of the most anticipated names to enter the Singapore culinary scene. We were especially excited after he revealed in his Oct 2010 visit the exact concepts he would launch here.

Both restaurants will showcase haute French cuisine and some of Robuchon's most popular signature dishes. There may also be some new creations inspired by local ingredients and culture. There is a strong focus on the best and freshest produce available, using Robuchon-developed techniques.

Yesterday we had the privilege of taking a look at the brand new restaurants. Joël Robuchon welcomed the media to a press briefing, tour and preview lunch. We are the first to step into and eat here, he says.



A custom-built premise houses both restaurants
A custom-built premise houses both restaurants. A reception parlour leads to L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon on the left side, and Joël Robuchon Restaurant on the right. The extensive wine cellar (with some 1,200 wine labels) is in between.


Joël Robuchon Restaurant is very fine indeed
The Joël Robuchon Restaurant is very fine indeed. The 54-seater is elegantly furnished and exudes opulent distinction. Robuchon wanted it to be like a dream family dining room in an art decor style hotel. The place is at once cosy and grand. Plush textures give a comfortable feel, and designer pieces add luxurious class.


Table setting at Joël Robuchon Restaurant
The Joël Robuchon Restaurant also aims to offer the quality of service of a three Michelin-star restaurant, similar to its branches in Las Vegas, Paris and Tokyo. Besides a la carte selections, there are various set menus (S$145++ to S$290++) and multi-course degustation menus (S$485++). They will also have the famous bread, cheese, dessert, ice-cream and tea trolleys that will absolutely spoil the guests.


Joël Robuchon Restaurant has The Winter Garden, which houses a tree in the centre of a sunlit room
One of the highlights here is The Winter Garden, which houses a huge tree in the centre of a sunlit room. It is flanked by two walls lined with planters to mirror even more greenery. This room is perfect for small gatherings of up to 16 persons.


Guillaume Anglade, Restaurant Manager for Joël Robuchon Restaurant, with Executive Chef Tomonori Danzaki
Here is Guillaume Anglade (left), Restaurant Manager for Joël Robuchon Restaurant, with Executive Chef Tomonori Danzaki. Guillaume was previously at the one Michelin starred Yoshi (Robuchon's only Japanese fine-dining brand) in Monaco.

Chef Danzaki is a real gem. He has been with the Robuchon family for nearly 17 years now, and he is well-known to be a perfectionist. He was executive chef with the Le Château de Joël Robuchon (three Michelin star rating) and was part of its pre-opening team in 1994. Then he went on to launch Joël Robuchon Restaurant (also rated three stars) in MGM Grand, Las Vegas in 2005. Seven years later, we're pleased to have him back in Asia. He will oversee both restaurants here, and helm the Joël Robuchon Restaurant.



L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon seats 28 around its counter and 24 at tables
Over at L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon, it's a much more convivial atmosphere with dramatic pizzazz. Striking red and black furnishings form the signature Atelier look designed by Pierre-Yves Rochon.

A long, almost circular counter is all that separates guests and the open kitchen. It seats 28 around its counter and 24 at tables. There is deliberately greater interaction between staff and guests.

L'Atelier combines the simplicity of Japanese cuisine with the vibrance of Spanish tapas bars. There are a la carte selections (S$17-80) and even degustation-sized dishes you can choose. Whether it's just one dish or a full dinner, the atmosphere is much more relaxed. 


The interior is fresh, colourful and vibrant
L'Atelier means "workshop" and the place is much like an artist's studio. Sophisticated, colourful and vibrant - I think Robuchon understood the trend of more casual but chic dining joints for the newer generation, when he came out of retirement to create L'Atelier.


L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon features an open kitchen where you can watch chefs prepare your meal right before your eyes
Everything here is very open. There is not even a glass wall separating the show kitchen like in some places. You can watch chefs prepare your meal right before your eyes, and the chefs can watch you enjoy the meal.


Joël Robuchon introduces his key staff for both restaurants
At the press briefing, Joël Robuchon introduced his key staff for both restaurants. He has plucked some of his best talent from his restaurants worldwide to anchor the team in Singapore.

Besides his long time partners (upper right) who shadow him everywhere, he's also got talent who have served in key places elsewhere. Antonio Benites (upper left) was previously executive chef at Pierre Hermé and also excelled at Ladurée. He will prepare desserts and pastries for both restaurants.

You've already met Guillaume Anglade and Chef Danzaki (middle row). Robuchon teased Guillaume for being so good-looking that in Monaco, he had as many customers coming to see him as much as for the food.

On the Atelier side, we have Chef de Cuisine Lorenz Hoja (bottom left) who heads up the kitchen. Diego Requena (bottom right) is Restaurant Manager, and he has led several L'Atelier restaurants worldwide since 2003.

And now, time for lunch!


We were presented a menu personally autographed by Mr Robuchon - it was like unfolding a treasure map
We were presented a menu personally autographed by Mr Robuchon - it was like unfolding a treasure map. The 8-course degustation menu looked good on paper, but words alone cannot convey what art we were about to experience.


Bread basket, baked inhouse by Baker Chef Yoshihiko Tauchi
First up, a bread basket, baked inhouse by Baker Chef Yoshihiko Tauchi. Apparently the bread is famous too. I liked them. Crusty baguettes and rolls. The semi-croissant-like "escargot" is buttery and fragrant.


The amuse bouche of foie gras custard with red Porto wine and parmesan foam
L'AMUSE BOUCHE
fine royal de foies blonds au vin de porto, en écume parmesane
Foie gras custard with red Porto wine and parmesan foam

The first thing to meet our lips pretty much set the tone for the rest of the meal. Well, it was the first "oh my god" moment (several more to come). Normally I'm leery of foam-based food, but this parmesan foam packed a punch in terms of flavour. The foie gras custard was also incredible. And when taken together, everything just sang.



We had a selection of marvellous wines to go with the food. Here's the Sancerre blanc Domaine Vacheron 2010
We had a selection of marvellous wines to go with the food. Here's the Sancerre blanc Domaine Vacheron 2010 for the next two dishes. A young wine, very light and refreshing.


Méli-Mélo of tomato, l'huile vierge and sumac
LA TOMATE
méli-mélo du jardin à l'huile vierge et sumac
Méli-Mélo of tomato, l'huile vierge and sumac

Five different types of tomatoes - all tasting like little miracles. The sprinkle of olive tapenade in the background is tasty too. The edible flowers are such a pretty touch.



Crispy langoustine fritter with basil pesto
LA LANGOUSTINE
en papillote croustillante au basilic
Crispy langoustine fritter with basil pesto

Doesn't this just look like a goldfish floating by? It is so lovely to look at. The crispy brick phyllo wrapper was a little more greasy than I would have liked, but the langoustine inside was sublime. It tasted like lobster, but had the texture of scallop!



Green asparagus skewer with quail egg (sunny side up) and morels
L'ASPERGE
verte en brochette à l'oeuf de caille (miroir) aux morilles
Green asparagus skewer with quail egg (sunny side up) and morels

So delicious were the sauces that blanketed the lusciously fragrant morels and the grilled asparagus, that I could not help but stealthily mop some up with bread! Eat a little bit of everything together, and you'll find it is all so comfortingly good! I especially loved the morels.



Daikon velouté flavoured with citrus oil
LE NAVET
long en soupe chaude à l'huile d'agrumes
Daikon velouté flavoured with citrus oil

Move over, chicken soup, this is what is good for the soul! This is so smooth and delicate, with a pleasing hint of daikon (Japanese white radish). The citrus oil delivers a surprisingly strong tang.



Fillet of sole with turmeric, ginger and baby leeks
LA SOLE
en filet dorée au curcuma, petits poireaux au gingembre
Fillet of sole with turmeric, ginger and baby leeks

The food is presented so beautifully, I just have to marvel at it for a few moments and take in the aromas. Interestingly, this fish had a "QQ" texture, firm and bouncy (but not rubbery). They are careful not to over-marinade the fish, lest its natural flavours be destroyed. The Asian influence shows in the use of turmeric.



Foie-gras filled free-range quail with mashed potatoes
LA CAILLE
farcie de foie gras, et caramélisée avec une purée de pommes de terre
Foie-gras filled free-range quail with mashed potatoes

The quail is (of course) imported from France, and marinated in a soy-based sauce. Note the pinch of salad behind it? That has amazing flavours on its own, and when mixed with the rest. I notice the pattern of different food elements (usually three) which taste wonderful on their own, but when combined produce a party of flavours in your mouth.

And yes, that's a dollop of the famous Robuchon pommes de terre - mashed potatoes so smooth yet thick, rich and creamy. I think the secret is cheese. Lots of cream, butter and cheese!



The Chateau Tour Seran 2004 en magnum is specially bottled for Joël Robuchon
We had a red wine to go with the quail. The Chateau Tour Seran 2004 en magnum is specially bottled for Joël Robuchon. Wine sommelier for L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon Michael Leitner is very friendly and always made sure we were well seen to. He is one of the four sommeliers, the other three serve the Joël Robuchon Restaurant.



Dessert was served with Jurançon Clos Uroulat 2009
Dessert was served with Jurançon Clos Uroulat 2009, a most delightful dessert wine with a golden hue.


The beautifully named Le Parfum de Iles - smooth passion fruit, rum granite, light coconut foam
LES PARFUM DE ILES
crémeaux aux fruits de la passion, granité au rhum, onctuosité à la noix de coco
Smooth passion fruit, rum granite, light coconut foam

The beautifully named Le Parfum de Iles is almost too pretty to eat. The coconut foam is light as air, but its fragrance is the perfect partner for the strong rum. Mix it all together with the passion fruit and you have a beautiful symphony.



The Sphere coated with ivory chocolate and tangy raspberries
LA SPHERE
surprise au chocolate ivoire, acidulé aux framboises

The Sphere coated with ivory chocolate and tangy raspberries

If you love your desserts boldly sweet and tangy, you will keep coming back for this fabulous treat. They pour hot raspberry coulis onto the sphere, and the white chocolate shell melts to reveal whole, juicy raspberries within, smothered with creamy white chocolate custard. This raspberry bomb is also available a la carte at S$23++.



Coffee escorted by sweets
Tea or coffee escorted by sweets. The coffee is also unique - it's a Suzuki blend that's special to Joël Robuchon. The chocolates and marshmallows (rose-flavoured!) are quite sweet but addictive. We also got some macarons (and more chocolates) as a giveaway. The macarons are some of the nicest I've had! They are proof that macarons don't need to be so sweet to be good. Well, the pastry chef does include Pierre Hermé and Ladurée in his pedigree.

The service throughout the meal was very pleasant. The L'Atelier assistant manager Isaac also fed us tidbits of information about the dishes that helped us appreciate them more.

I also have to say this was one French fine-dining meal that left us very full! 


The Joël Robuchon restaurants are housed within this special building
The grand entrance all dressed up for the opening. With this, Singapore now boasts two more venues that place it on the gourmet dining map.

Congratulations to Robuchon and his team on the official launch of his two restaurants here. I am incredibly honoured to have been part of the "guinea pig" contingent to sample the exquisite creations that are sheer culinary art. Thank you also, Resort World Sentosa and Weber Shandwick for the invitation.


JOEL ROBUCHON RESTAURANT
L'ATELIER DE JOEL ROBUCHON
Resort World Sentosa
(near Universal Studios and the Waterfront Monorail station)
For reservations, either call or email
Tel: +65 6577-7888
Email: robuchon@rwsentosa.com
Currently only open for dinner 5.30pm to 11pm (10.30pm last order)
L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon is open daily (dress code: smart casual)
Joël Robuchon Restaurant is open Tues-Sat only (dress code: smart elegant)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Mutton Briyani
Ali Nachia Briyani Dam at the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station has many fans. I'm sure some of you are wondering where they are going to move to, after being told to vacate the premises by May 2011, to make way for the railway station relocation and conservation of building.

When we visited them at the end of February, they still had no idea themselves, because they had not received official notification to move. But thanks to their Facebook page, we now have the new address: Blk 5 Tanjong Pagar Plaza #02-04! They will be there sometime in early May.

The mutton briyani (S$6) comes in a set with raita, achar and a rasam-like curry gravy. The sides do well to complement the basmati rice and cut through the richly spicy meat. I like that the rice is not greasy, and each grain is separately fluffy. The mutton was tender enough, but the spice paste seemed to lack definition. Maybe it just didn't match what I had imagined it would be. But it was still a reasonably satisfying meal. I just have to continue to look for my briyani epiphany...ah, wherefore art thou?



Fish Briyani
We tried the Fish Briyani (S$6) as well, which is only available Fridays. They are certainly very generous with the fish chunks, but we still prefer the mutton version.


ALI NACHIA BRIYANI DAM (on Facebook)
30 Keppel Road Tanjong Pagar
The Railway Station
Tel: +65 9389 2615
Open Mon-Sat 10am to 2pm (but often gets sold out before that), closed Sundays

Moving in early May to:
Blk 5 Tanjong Pagar Plaza #02-04

Monday, April 25, 2011

Thanks to everyone who joined in the commenting fun for the Pizza Hut voucher giveaway. We got 64 comments on the blog, and 45 comments on the Facebook page, making it a total of 109 entries. The random generator chose no. 79 and 65, both from the Facebook section! So congratulations to Melissa Choi and Xavi Lee for winning S$50 in vouchers each! I'll be in touch for mailing addresses.


I was quite surprised to see how popular the Cheez Mushrooms Wrap is! So many people wanted to try that. The Choco-berry Banana Pizza, Cheesy Mushrooms, and Seafood Baked Rice were also widely nominated.

Cheez Shroomies WrapChoco-berry banana pizzaCheesy MushroomsSeafood Fiesta Baked Rice

Look what the Singapore Tourism Board, IE Singapore and SPRING Singapore are cooking up! The Singapore International Culinary Exchange (SPICE) campaign aims to promote our culinary landscape to the world. Among the initiatives - Singapore Takeout - a travelling container which transforms into a pop-up kitchen! I'm sorry these are the only graphics I am allowed to share with you before its official launch on Thursday, 28 April.

Singapore's already known for its street food. This time it looks like the focus is more on the finer side of gastronomy.

In the space of a year, 10 of Singapore's best chefs will travel with this container to nine cities and work with eight world-famous celebrity chefs to create new dishes inspired by our multi-cultural heritage. Chef Janice Wong of 2am dessertbar will kick off this tour in June 2011 in London.

The Singapore Takeout will be open to the public Friday, 29th April 2011, from 7pm – 10pm. See it at Clifford Square, 80 Collyer Quay, Singapore 049326.

Admission is free, but vouchers for food and drink items can be purchased at nominal prices.


SPICE would like to give out 10 food vouchers you can redeem for a special Heritage dish created by Chef Wong, on 29 April. All you have to do is answer this question.

Q: Which place in Singapore has two of the world's longest sky gardens?

Please EMAIL me (camemberu@gmail.com) with the subject SINGAPORE TAKEOUT:
- Your answer
- Full Name
- NRIC
- Contact details (email ideally), so I can notify you if you win!

First 10 readers with the correct answer (or maybe best Googling skills) win. Closing time/date is 11.59pm on Wednesday, 27 April 2011.

I haven't seen the Singapore Takeout yet, but for me, my favourite mobile kitchen is the Toaster mobile! Plus Bob Blumer is such a great guy!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Bamboo clams on hotplate
It's the middle of spring, and no better time than now to enjoy bamboo clams from the scenic coastal town of Putian in the Fujian province of China. These particular bamboo clams are are at their best between March and May, although they are available until September.

You probably won't be able to find these in your regular wet market. They are specially flown in from Putian by Putien Restaurant two to three times a week. Putien specialises in Heng Hwa cuisine from Fujian, which traditionally is more light and down-to-earth.

At a media tasting showcasing their latest spring menu, Putien also showed us how they process the bamboo clams.


The bamboo clams are revived after being airshipped semi-frozen
The bamboo clams are packed straight from where they are harvested and shipped in a special ice box, suspended in a semi-frozen "hibernating" state. When they are revived in salt water, they spout water like little fountains in a self-cleaning process!


The bamboo clams are washed and scrubbed a few times
But of course, they are scrubbed and rinsed repeatedly until really clean. Each of them is cleaned individually.


The chef cuts the clams, arranges them on a hotplate and cooks them there
The very cheerful and affable executive chef (who is from Putian) demonstrated how they prepare one of the bamboo clam dishes. He cuts their shell, arranges them on a bed of salt upon a hotplate, and cooks them on a stove (it's later covered and baked). A few Szechuan peppercorns are added for a spicy hint.



Baked Bamboo Clam on Hot Plate
Baked Bamboo Clam on Hot Plate - the finished dish. The clam shells seal in all the juices. Hold the clams vertically, pull the flesh out by the double spouts and dab them in a little bit of salt. Fresh seafood sometimes needs little else to taste really good.


Steamed Bamboo Clams with Minced Garlic
Then again, you can also go the whole hog with minced garlic and savoury soy sauce! Steamed Bamboo Clams with Minced Garlic is one of the seven ways they prepare this seasonal dish. You can also choose to have bamboo clams in Soup, as Omelette (like oyster omelette!), steamed in Wine, stir-fried with Ginger and Spring Onion, or fried Salted and Spicy.

We also got to preview some of the Spring Menu items. Putien is celebrating spring with tea-scented dishes, using newly harvested Da Hong Pao Oolong tea leaves. Set menus range from S$68++ for two, to S$488++ for 10.


Double-boiled Chicken Soup with Abalone
Double-boiled Chicken Soup with Abalone - deliciously clear and fortifying. The tender little abalones come from Putian, which is well-known for them.


Four Spring Appetisers
Four Spring Appetisers - braised pork intestines, Ah Po Pickled Mustard Cabbage, Tea Leaf Qual Eggs, and Five Spice Broad Beans.


Tea Leaf Prawns
Tea Leaf Prawns - the prawns are fried with tea leaves for a light smoky sweetness. We all voted this our favourite (until of course the signature beehoon made its appearance). Putien kindly gave us the recipe (see separate post).


Braised Tofu with Minced Meat
Braised Tofu with Minced Meat - a dish that looks very home-made. Might appear a bit more messy than the rest, but it is tasty! The kind of thing that makes you ask for more rice.


Deep Fried Chicken with Garlic
Deep Fried Chicken with Garlic - not exactly traditional Heng Hwa cuisine, I believe, but it does satisfy the Singaporean penchant for deep-fried/roast chicken.


Fried "Hing Hwa" Bee Hoon
Fried "Hing Wa" Bee Hoon - one of their best-selling signature dishes. The extra-fine beehoon is imported from Putian, and it's also available for sale, should you want to try your hand at making some at home. Hint: don't soak the dry rice vermicelli in water, but toss it in straight away in good stock, until it's absorbed all the water (and flavours)!


Spinach with Salted Egg and Century Egg in Supreme Stock
Spinach with Salted Egg and Century Egg in Supreme Stock - part of the regular menu, and one of my favourites. It's so much more robust and savoury than those served in Cantonese restaurants.


Hing Hwa Lor Mee
Putien Lor Mee - surprisingly this turned out tops in an online poll with customers on what their favourite dish was. Unlike the Hokkien lor mee which has dark gravy, this Heng Hwa version seems a little healthier with more vegetables, mushrooms and seafood.


Spring Fruits
Spring Fruits, also beautifully presented. Pity the seasonal Putian loquat had not arrived yet, but the strawberries more than made up for it!

Incidentally, for Mother's Day and Father's Day, Putien will bring out seven new dishes featuring ingredients like cordyceps, red date and bird’s nest. These include (as shown below, photo from Putien) Steamed Lobster with Minced Garlic, Baked Scallop in Egg White, Wild Bamboo Pith with Asparagus and Chilled Bird’s Nest with Pear.
Diners will receive a limited edition Spice Mum Gift Set with a minimum spend of $200 on May 7 and 8 while stocks last. The Mother’s Day menu will be available May 1 to 31 and the Father’s Day menu will be available June 1 to 30.

Warmest thanks to Ringo of Putien, and Geraldine and Anne of linea Communications for the preview lunch and bamboo clam adventure! You were great hosts!


PUTIEN

Branches islandwide (check website for details)
 
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