Saturday, May 28, 2011
Senso is celebrating its landmark 10th anniversary in Singapore with a new look and menu! Ten years, that is quite a feat in the restaurant arena. I still remember the buzz when they first opened in 2000 at Club Street. Over the years, Senso has remained an established name that has kept its head high amidst stiff competition, with the combination of good food, ambiance and service.
Executive Chef Yves Schmid and Chef di Cucina Federico Innocenti (who focuses on pastas and risottos) have created new dishes for Senso's 10th anniversary. They both joined Senso in late 2010.
Senso is now clad in warm neutrals like dark brown, olive green, grey and black. Gone is the red-centric theme. I really like the new look - it exudes stylish maturity and elegance. But some old favourites remain. The neo-classical colonial courtyard is still there, as is the iconic six metre long oak table in the private dining room.
The main dining area now features Asian touches like round tables along with lotus motif sliding screens that help create a semi-private space.
There is also an intimate bar you can unwind with pre- or post-dinner drinks on custom-made velvety and leather sofas.
At the media food tasting session, we also got to meet Senso's dedicated sommelier Nejib Gara, who is from Tunisia. Yes, he's a long way from home! He instantly hit it off with my hubby whose father was a Frenchman from neighbouring Algeria. Nejip is very charming and chatty. We enjoyed talking to him very much.
Here he is showing us the Franciacorta Ca'del Bosco, an Italian sparkling wine that's Italy's answer to champagne. It comes from the region of Lombardy and is made from Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Noir. Apparently this is a rare find in Singapore, but is available here by the glass (S$22) or bottle (S$128). We began our lunch with a chilled glass of this and it was soothingly crisp and aromatic. So refreshing on warm days too!
The food tasting menu included both new items and familiar favourites.
Please note that these are tasting portions. Full sized dishes could be several times heartier.
Antipasti - Pan-fried Buffalo Mozzarella wrapped in Parma Ham served with black Olives Tapenade (S$22).
What a great start to the meal. The saltiness of the pan-fried parma ham really brings out the best in the gently chewy mozzarella. The cheese is also slightly oozing out from the centre, so it has this warm softness that's so comforting.
The Sauteed King Tiger Prawns served on black Venere Rice timbale with Avocado and Sicilian Orange (upper left, S$28, new item) is also another treat. Gorgeous fresh seafood flavours with citrusy highlights.
Bisque of Shellfish - Italian-style with Grissini all'aglio (S$22). The lobster meat is first presented in the bowl and then the consomme-style broth poured over it. To great effect, I must say. The wonderful seafood aromas released just teases you to no end!
The bisque is a smooth, clear soup without the usual heavy cream base. It's perfect because you won't feel oversatiated before your main course. I'm also thankful for that, because I could not resist finishing the whole bowl of shellfish goodness.
The pastas were clearly done with great skill.
Foreground: Homemade Taglierini Pasta with Boston Lobster and fresh Basil (S$32). I really liked how insanely tasty and yet well-balanced the flavours were.
Background: Homemade Ravioli stuffed with braised Veal shank served with Porcini Mushrooms sauce (S$26). Ravioli I usually find too heavy and floury, and this one is very filling indeed. But it had a lovely sauce.
Chef Federico has also done a good job with the risottos. Here in stark contrast to each other are the cream-coloured Risotto Carnaroli with "Ca' del Bosco" Franciacorta sparkling wine, and the dark Risotto Carnaroli with Baby Squid a la plancha, fresh Italian herbs (S$32). This is a new item.
Chef Yves gives a new twist to the Traditional Veal Ossobuco (S$36, new item) by topping it with Lemon 'Gremolata' and serving it with Rosemary Polenta Mousse. This is normally presented in a cocotte.
Tiramisu Rivisto (S$16, new item) or "Tiramisu Revisited"- light coffee mousse, homemade Mascarpone Ice Cream with Savoiardi Biscotto, and Coffee Milkshake. Each of these elements were delicious on their own, and it was fun experimenting with different combinations as well. But this deconstructed dessert is probably still best taken with everything mixed together.
As is fitting of a fine-dining Italian joint, Senso has a well-stocked walk-in wine cellar with more than 300 labels. There are wines from different regions of Italy as well as Old World and New World countries.
Nejip's wine recommendations were simply brilliant. The wines paired marvellously with the food. And as for service, it was discreet and impeccable, as it generally always is.
We ended the meal with a quick tour of the place. It was a weekday but there were plenty of diners taking advantage of the three-course executive set lunch (S$36).
Senso also has a Sunday Prosecco Brunch. It's a buffet selection of Italian appetisers, salads, desserts, and a choice of main course done a la minute. Free flow Prosecco, fruit juices, coffee and tea round up the brunch. It's available every Sunday from 11.30am to 3.30pm at S$88++ per person.
Many thanks to Sixth Sense Communications and Senso for the lovely lunch invitation.
SENSO RISTORANTE & BAR
21 Club Street
Tel: +65 6224 3534
Mon–Fri: 12pm – 3pm, 6pm – 10.30pm
Sat–Sun: 6pm – 10.30pm
Sun: 11am – 3pm (Brunch)
Closed for lunch on Saturdays
Posted 12:45 PM
Friday, May 27, 2011
Do any of you like to eat buah salak or snake fruit? To me, this fruit is still quite exotic although it's native to our region (mainly Malaysia and Indonesia). The reddish brown scaly skin is quite beautiful. Like a coat of armour, it keeps curious predators away. But if you try, you'll find that it's thin and peels off easily.
The skin reminds me of the scaly anteater. Wouldn't it be cute if each of these were a mini anteater all curled up?
When peeled, the fruit has three fleshy lobes within. They are coated with a thin waxy covering (you can rub this off easily). Each lobe contains a large, stony, inedible seed. The flesh itself is dry, crunchy like an apple, yet somewhat starchy. The taste is hard to describe - sweetly tangy, but unlike any other fruit. It's still an acquired taste to me.
Posted 8:27 PM
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
PREVIOUSLY on "Sesat" (Malay for "Lost")....we crash-landed on a tropical island.
It was beautiful but we had no idea where where we were...
We built some shelters on the beach. But all was not well in paradise...
There was a smoke monster on the island!
So some of us headed farther inland to explore. There was a mysterious boat stranded in the jungle. Carvings on it said "Batu Hitam" or "Black Rock"...
And we found a hatch...was there someone down there?
Miraculously, we found supplies of all manner...
And then, the Others found us.
They were very nice. Gave us drinks and lots of food.
And so we spent the rest of our days in the temples of relaxation above the sea, safe from the smoke monster!
All right, that was just for fun. These photos are part of my Telunas Beach Resort trip (take a look to see more of the rustic island life).
You can make your own private island escapade for you and 14 of your friends on the similar Nikoi island (very near Telunas, and much more posh) with Tiger Beer. Take over the entire island for 3D2N with a theme party of your choice and free-flow Tiger Beer! Get to choose between a ‘Beach DJ Party’, a ‘Beach BBQ’ or a ‘Beach Camp Fire Dance’ to be organised during the island getaway. With, I'll say it again, free-flow beer! This holiday is worth S$50,000!
Simply purchase S$30 worth of Tiger Beer and enter the contest on the Tiger Beer Contest Facebook page. Keep your receipt for verification later. CLOSING DATE is 31st May, so hurry!
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So, all you need is to gather round your cool babes, and get ready to party! OK, sorry Jolie - promotion is only open for those aged 18 and above!
Posted 2:41 PM
Sunday, May 22, 2011
It may have been Friday the 13th, but it was one of my luckiest days.
You all know my love affair with all things Japanese (food, culture, history, architecture, sense of aesthetics, unparalleled dedication to detail, etc...), so I was thrilled to be able to attend the Masterclass with Sho Naganuma, presented by DBS Indulge. There is a masterclass every month featuring a different chef.
I'd missed last month's class with Andre Chiang because I was out of town. However, Andre I have seen in person and he's amazing, but I had not met Sho yet. So I was very happy to attend this one.
He is the very charismatic executive chef of Hide Yamamoto (8 Bayfront Avenue #02-05, Marina Bay Sands (MBS); Tel: +65 6688 7098), the multi-concept eatery featuring sushi, teppanyaki, robata, ramen and a sake bar. Of the various celebrity chef restaurants at MBS, this is one I haven't tried but have heard good things about it recently.
But back to the class!
Sho Naganuma presented to a full audience at the AFC Studio (181 Orchard Road, #07-02 Orchard Central, Singapore 238896; Tel: +65 6834 4829). You may have seen some of the trailers on the Asian Food Channel (AFC) too.
Some of Sho's signature dishes were featured:
- Chawan Mushi (Black Truffle Flan with Shark Fin Broth)
- Grilled Baby Poussin with Buttered Soy and Truffle Rice
- Pinky Chick (Strawberry Soya Milkshake with Tapioca Pearls, Yuzu Fizz and Japan-flown Strawberries)
We started with preparations for the baby poussin which needed time in the oven. Here we have the stuffing made from Japanese rice that's been cooked with chicken stock, soy sauce, unsalted butter.
By the way, Chef Sho presented in English, which he speaks really well, having spent time in the United States. He first met Chef Hide Yamamoto in Los Angeles in 2002, and then they worked together at the Mandarin Hotel in Washington DC. They also teamed up for the prestigious opening of the Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo.
Stuff the rice into the baby poussin (young chicken), and seal up with toothpicks.
Brush on some duck fat (or any fat you prefer).
And finish off with a slight sprinkle of salt on the chicken. Not too much, because the chicken has already been pre-soaked in 3% salted water. Someone in the audience asked how to get 3% salted water. Well, water is 1kg per litre. So you can easily measure 30g salt per litre for a 3% solution.
Pop it in the oven (250 degrees C) for 10 minutes on each side.
Next up, we have the chawan mushi. A seemingly simple and commonplace dish, but he transforms this into something utterly divine with just a simple treatment.
Yes, truffles! You can't help but notice the stars of the ingredients...whole black truffles and white truffle oil! My kind of magic mushrooms!
Yes, lots of white truffle oil going into the egg mixture!
Blend the eggs, dashi, white soy sauce and the white truffle oil (you can use a whisk and bowl). Someone asked what "white soy sauce" is. It's shiro shoyu (白醤油), made mostly of wheat and less of soybeans. It's much lighter in colour and also sweeter in taste. Usually used for steamed or simmered dishes that you don't want muddied brown by regular soy sauce.
Strain the mixture and steam it for 5-10 minutes.
While the egg mixture is being steamed, you can prepare the shark fin broth using chicken stock and Japanese leeks. You can use any ingredient you like, not necessarily shark fin.
Spoon this on top of the egg once it's done steaming. Top with chives or any garnish you like.
This is hands-down the BEST chawan mushi I've ever had. So beautifully smooth, soft and aromatic! Now I really need to get some of that white truffle oil.
Together with the food, we had some sake pairing from Tatenokawa, Inc., a brewery from Yamagata, Japan. Their sake tastes really refreshing. I particularly liked the Kodakara "Daiginjyo Umeshu" (bottom left), the Kodakara "Peach & Cherry" and Kodakara "Yoghurt" (bottom middle) which they recommended to be taken side by side. Yoghurt sake - that's a first for me! They also have a very special Tatenokawa "Nakadori Junmai Daiginjyo", a very clean-tasting premium sake.
These sake and liquers are available locally at Orihara Shoten (11 Unity Street, #01-02 Robertson Walk, Singapore 237995; Tel: +65 6836-5710)
The sake master and brewery representatives also happened to be in town, so it was a pleasure having them there to give us more detail about the sake types.
All right, the chicken is ready! Chef Sho removes it from the oven. The smell is gorgeous.
Baby poussin hot from the oven! Normally he finishes it off with a charcoal grill (imagine the extra crisp browning!) at Hide Yamamoto, but since we don't have that equipment here, this is the finished product, which is still very good.
And here's a video of Chef Sho demonstrating how he debones the chicken and finishes it off for serving. Check out how generously he shaves the black truffles onto the final dish!
And voila - Grilled Baby Poussin with Buttered Soy and Truffle Rice. Simple yet luxurious and elegant.
Dessert proved to be the most complex dish. You had to squeeze yuzu, make jelly, boil strawberries with sugar and pectin for compote, prepare tapioca pearls, and make strawberry shake soda with sherbet and soy milk.
For the yuzu jelly, he uses gelatin, but says you can use agar if you prefer a vegetarian option. That's helpful for halal purposes too. Someone asked if carrageenan was a good substitute as well, but it's not been tested for this recipe.
The innocuous yuzu jelly that Chef Sho is scooping here is about to make a huge transformation. And this is where the dessert crosses the line from being "easily replicated at home" to something best made in a restaurant.
Mainly because of one equipment we probably won't have sitting on our home kitchen counters. The Espuma (foam) canister and pump sprayer with CO2 (carbon dioxide) chargers.
Yes, this white bottle with strange nozzles. In goes jelly and out comes...this remarkable creamy foamy thing!
Yuzu Fizz! It's like cream but with a delicate tingly fizz! We were absolutely floored.
So here you have the very cutely named "Pinky Chick" - Strawberry Soya Milkshake with Tapioca Pearls, Yuzu Fizz and Strawberries. The foam does dissolve pretty quickly, so don't tarry too long!
The full recipes are below. You can cut and paste the text to print out for easy reference.
Black Truffle Flan with Shark Fin Soup
35g white truffle oil
50g white soy sauce 白醤油
75g black truffle
Shark Fin Broth
600g chicken soup
100g Japanese leek
white soy sauce
1) Blend eggs, dashi, white truffle oil and white soy sauce. Strain mixture into a bowl and chill.
2) Chop black truffle and add into the chawan mushi mixture.
3) Steam chawan mushi at 90 degrees C for 5-10 minutes (depending on how large your bowls are).
Shark Fin Broth (you can use other ingredients, not necessarily shark fin)
1) Heat chicken soup, Japanese leek and shark's fins over medium heat until the original amount has reduced by 50%.
2) Add potato starch to the reduced mixture to thicken further.
3) Add salt and white soy sauce to taste.
Spoon the shark fin broth onto the steamed egg and garnish with chopped chives.
GRILLED BABY POUSSIN WITH BUTTERED SOY AND TRUFFLE RICE
500g French baby poussin (I guess that's spring chicken for the rest of us!)
500g Japanese rice
450ml chicken stock
50ml soy sauce
28g unsalted butter
minced Italian fresh truffle
whole Italian truffle
white truffle oil
1) Clean poussin and soak in 3% salted water for 2 hours.
2) Once poussin is soaked, remove from salted water and dry.
3) Put Japanese rice, chicken stock, soy sauce and unsalted butter into a cooking pan and stir well. Allow it to steam in the steam oven at 100 degrees C for about 30 minutes.
4) Remove mixture from oven and stuff into baby poussin.
5) Brush duck fat over baby poussin and finish off with some salt. Cook in oven at 250 degrees C for 10 minutes on each side.
6) Finish up with charcoal (grill) until poussin is nice in colour.
7) For plating, take a portion of the poussin and assemble with sliced fresh truffle. Spray with white truffle oil and serve.
Strawberry Soya Milkshake with Tapioca Pearls, Yuzu Fizz and Strawberries
1 litre water
30g yuzu juice
16g gelatine leaf (or you can use agar)
1kg frozen strawberries (whole)
7g pectin (yellow pectin)
Strawberry Shake Soda
200g strawberry sherbet
150g soy milk
Equipment: CO2 (carbon dioxide) chargers (Espuma Canister, Pump Sprayer) - it's available at Sia Huat, but probably not meant for home use!
1) Boil water and sugar. Take off fire and add yuzu juice (the delicate flavours of yuzu may be destroyed by high heat, so don't add it while boiling water)
2) Bloom gelatin leaf in ice water and add the bloomed gelatin into the yuzu mixture.
3) Set the mixture in the chiller for 3 hours. Once set, break the mixture and pour it into the siphon.
4) Charge it with the CO2 chargers and chill overnight.
1) In a bowl, mix sugar and pectin together and set aside.
2) Boil strawberries in a pot until they start to turn soft. Add the sugar mixture to the pot of boiling strawberries.
3) Stir constantly until mixture thickens like a jam.
Strawberry Shake Soda
1) Combine strawberry sherbet and soy milk and whisk until mixture thickens.
2) For assembly, combine strawberry compote, pearls and fresh strawberries. Pour in strawberry soy shake, followed by the yuzu fizz and garnish with mint leaf. Serve immediately.
Want more eye candy?
Full set of 36 photos on Flickr!
Big thanks to Fulford PR and DBS for inviting me to cover this event!
Posted 11:46 PM
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Novus is celebrating its fifth year at the National Museum. This modern European fine-dining restaurant also welcomes back its executive chef Stephan Zoisl, who went on an 8-month sabbatical last year. He went around Europe and South-East Asia to taste the best restaurants, and even had a month-long privileged apprenticeship at The Fat Duck!
At a recent tasting, I learned that The New York Times endorsed Novus as one of the must-try stops if you have 36 hours in Singapore. And Forbes Traveller listed Novus as one of the best museum restaurants.
This was my first time at Novus. It's posh and pretty, but not too pretentious. The lovely service allows you to feel equally at ease, whether you're negotiating business over lunch, or having a romantic dinner.
Novus is quite popular with the business crowd at lunchtime. They have two-course set lunches for S$32, and three course set lunches at S$40. Prices below are a la carte, but you may be able to choose them as entrees or mains for set lunches too.
Amuse bouche of a fresh baby radish on "edible earth" (made from malt, olives and other ingredients). Wow, this really looked like it was plucked fresh from the garden. I guess it's the perfect thing for the Year of the Rabbit. The tangy cream at the bottom went very well with the crunchy "earth" bits and the crisp radish.
The Foie Gras Lassi v2.0 (S$24) - yes, apparently there was a version 1! Goose liver (marinated with port wine, Sherry, Madeira and Brandy) is combined with shallots, thyme, butter and eggs, and then slow-poached to create a delectable parfait. It's then layered with yoghurt, grape gel and sprinkled with pistachio nuts. This cold starter is an explosion of flavours, as you can imagine, and fortunately a pleasing one.
Hamachi - cured hamachi, braised Britannia seaweed, granny smith apple, red cabbage.
This is home-cured hamachi, and tastes quite delicate. Notice the little details the chef goes to? The tiny leaves on jelly dotting the plate?
By the way, I love how each dish comes with a little description and trivia card, on silvery special paper. Very thoughtful. The more you know about your food, the more you will appreciate it. And it makes such a nice souvenir to take home.
Sometimes it's nice to see what ingredients are in the soup. Their soups are poured right in front of you, and you see the goodies before they get submerged.
Shellfish Bisque (S$24) - scallops, prawns and crabmeat raviolini. Delicious umami broth!
If you prefer something a little lighter, try the clear "Duck Tea" (S$16) - duck consomme, quail egg, trumpet and brown enoki mushroom, smoked duck breast, black truffle. The tastes here are ethereal and light. Nothing too intrusive.
Crisp Duck Confit (S$32) - confit duck leg, beetroot, turnip, potato puree with pommery mustard, thyme jus. This is one of their signature items, and is quite well-executed. You can see the crispy skin, the moist flesh, and yes, you can almost smell the salty, browned aroma of the duck.
Kurobuta Pork - olive oil poached pork tenderloin, potato onion cannelloni, braised capsicum, garlic chips. This almost looks like a little garden. It comes with a sauce too (I took the picture before it was poured).
Snow Cod and Olive (S$38) - pan-seared snow cod, olive oil emulsion, globe artichokes, potato creme, basil. I liked this. The olive tapenade matched the fish well, without overpowering its taste.
Black Angus Beef Variation (S$50) - tenderloin, braised cheek, sauce bordelaise, assorted mushrooms. All full of meaty aromas.
These come with "triple-cooked fries" - i.e. fries that are first steamed, then twice-fried. The result? Fries that are so soft inside, they taste like fried mash potato sticks!
There are a couple more main dishes that also looked interesting on the a la carte menu. They change the dishes seasonally, depending on the freshest ingredients available.
As for sweet endings, there is a pretty good range of desserts.
Chocolate Test (S$16) - Valrhona souffle, Lindt creme brulee, Barry Callebaut-espuma (mousse) and vanilla sorbet. Chocoholics, rejoice!
Mille Feuille - marinated apples, filo, mascarpone creme, candied walnuts - served with cassis ice cream.
Deconstructed Mango (S$16) - mango textures, white nougat ice cream, chocolate dust, yoghurt crisp. This is an adventure in textures. The normally hard and chewy nougat is now in soft ice cream form, and yoghurt comes to us hard and crunchy!
Ah my kind of dessert! Cheese platter - five types of cheese, red grape mustard and dried grapes. The dried grapes are dried inhouse - they still come on the stems!
So there you have some of Novus' signature items. They will have regular changes depending on the season. Right now, white asparagus features quite strongly on the menu. You can take a look at their menu updates here.
Novus does go all out to make your visit memorable. As I was leaving, I was presented with a farewell gift - a lovely cupcake in a little Chinese takeout box. Every dining guest receives this, and the gift may vary. Again, another thoughtful gesture.
Many thanks to FoodNews and to Novus for inviting me to capture their inventive dishes and experience their service!
NOVUS RESTAURANT, BAR, CAFE & COURTYARD
National Museum of Singapore
93 Stamford Road #01-02
Tel: +65 6336-8770
Open 11:30am – 2:30pm; 6:30 – 10:30pm (Closed on Sundays)
Posted 7:21 PM