Wednesday, March 18, 2009

7atenine - Lunch Unlimited

UPDATE: 7atenine is now Southbridge Jazz @7atenine. They no longer do lunch, and open only from 5pm til closing. So there's no more Lunch Unlimited. Their menu and chef are different now too.

7atenine outdoor dining lounge at Esplanade Mall
Chic hangout 7atenine at Esplanade Mall has only been open since Dec 2008 but is fast becoming a popular chill-out spot. This alfresco bar/restaurant/bistro serves what it terms "Latin Asian" - marrying the tapas concept with fusion Asian cuisine. Chef Florent Gerardin and consultant chef Emmanuel Stroobant have worked out an array of creations from the land, sea, and sky along with sides and "gattsuri taberu" (eat like there's no tomorrow) mains.

Freeflow of juices - orange, lime, cranberry, pineapple, and I forget what else
If you love variety, value and surprises, you will love their Lunch Unlimited (a steal at S$37++ per person). Chef Florent will pull together a symphony of 20 dishes. You won't know what you're going to get, and some dishes may not even be on the regular menu. Freeflow chilled juices, soft drinks, coffee and tea complete the deal. Available daily from noon to 2.30pm.

Of course, with 20 mystery dishes, there are bound to be some you like, and some you don't. Let me just quickly dive into what we had. The dishes change daily, so what you see here may be different from what you get.

Cream of Celery
We started with various appetisers. This "Cream of Celery" had a jelly celery base, and a deeply savoury cream soup topped with chili oil. We liked it. Do not be deceived by its small size, it can fill you up more than you expect because it is very rich.

Potato salad
Potato salad - this tasted quite rustic and woodsy.

Pasta salad
Pasta salad - the shell is al dente all right, but a little dry. I cannot remember what the filling tasted like, it was rather mild.

Smoked salmon, vegetarian caviar and blinis
The salmon looks like sashimi but is salty and cured. I had the whole plate because this was too fishy for hubby.

Tomato something
Now this tomato tart or something other was hubby's favourite. He liked it all, from the beautifully treated tomatoes to the crumbly biscuit base. I wasn't that impressed. I think the herbs in it reminded me of pizza somehow.

Mushroom tempura
Their mushroom tempura is piping hot and very juicy within. Simple but good. I just made mushroom tempura myself the night before, and mine did not have that much juice inside. Makes me wonder if they soaked the mushrooms before putting them in batter.

Beef rolls on hot stone
Now I have seen photos of this very pretty dish on other blogs, but those were of much thinner beef slices. I think they experimented with thicker slices here but the stone was probably not hot enough. We were not sure what cut of meat this was either as it was very gamey. It tasted almost like liver.

Pan-fried seabass with pumpkin puree
Pan-fried seabass with pumpkin puree. Crispy (and boneless) fried fish is usually fine by me. But this piece was way too fishy for hubby.

Ah, the risotto. Not the seafood or mushroom version, but still very comforting. They got the flavours and texture just right. Tiny bits of garlic added more "mmmmh" factor.

Crispy pork belly
All hail kakuni-style kurobuta pork belly! This is not in a fajita like the version stated on the menu. It's encased in a shell of caramelised sugar that you have to crack through to get to the pork. The pork was tasty enough - I just wished there was enough lean meat (about two-thirds of the cube was pure fat). What was out of place was the applesauce it sat on. Pork and soy, yes. Pork and apple, yes. But pork, soy and apple is a bit too complicated.

Chicken kebabs
The chicken kebabs were a little cold and underdone (still translucent in the center). They replaced it with a more thoroughly cooked version, and that turned out to be way better.

Pasta with daily vegetables
This is how pasta with just vegetables can taste so good. Heartwarming and sweetly rustic. We were quite full by this stage, but still finished this carb-heavy dish.

Beef brisket
The beef brisket is delicious. Tender and beautifully braised. I almost regret not going for a second portion.

Wasabi cod croquette
How fun these look! Garlic infused cod croquettes. On their own, they are a little bland, but taken with the wasabi mayo dip, they are a party in your mouth. Love the painted toothpick skewers.

Beef sashimi
The organic beef sashimi looks like carpaccio. We are not fond of raw meat, unless it's fish. But I braved my first bite of raw beef. The meat on its own seems oddly flavourless but relies on other ingredients (manchego cheese, salt, chili powder, tomatoes and onions) for body. The thin shavings do melt in your mouth though.

Signature chili con carne
Now for what is probably my favourite and most memorable dish. The signature chili con carne, with wagyu beef and edamame beans (braised for 36 hours apparently). It has a spicy kick to it, and robust flavour. This is the way I've always wanted chili con carne to be. This is excellent.

Be careful when eating this though. The jar and its contents are very hot. Everything is perched rather precariously on the wooden display. I accidentally toppled the jar while fiddling with my camera.

I normally do not have quick reflexes a la Angelina Jolie in Mr & Mrs Smith (catching the falling wine bottle), but I really wanted to save this. I caught the jar and some of its precious cargo with my left hand. The extreme heat forced me to let go. Oh, what a waste! But the staff cleaned up very efficiently and promptly gave me a glass of ice-cold soda to stop the scalding. And a whole new jar to enjoy.

Churros with Nutella dip
And now we come to desserts. There were four. First up - churros sprinkled with vanilla sugar, and served with a Nutella dip. Rather soft and fluffy for churros but enjoyable nonetheless. What can I say...Nutella = magic.

Café triple trifle
This was good too. Café triple trifle. Espresso jelly, almond crumble, milk foam and coffee ice cream. So many textures in one. The abundance of foam makes this feel very light though.

Strawberry shortcake with raspberry ice cream
Strawberry shortcake with raspberry ice cream. Hubby loved this, so I let him have most of it. The cream was a bit too dense for me.

Chocolate fondant with lime sorbet
Yummy. Chocolate fondant with lime sorbet. Yes, the melted chocolate oozed out nicely when you break this open. Rice crispies lent crunch and the tart lime sorbet helped cut through the rich chocolate nicely.

So there you have it. Twenty dishes that took up more than two hours. The presentation is stunning and faultless. They do vegetables and sauces beautifully. The meats for this session were a little hit and miss. The desserts are worth saving room for.

I would like to give a big shout out to Kesh, their "Diva of Decadence" who attended to us with discreet and dignified aplomb. His genuine warmth made us feel very welcome. He also had no problems with my taking photos for my food blog (I'd asked for permission), and even allowed us a table with better lighting. He also gave us a tour of the restaurant's various sections.

Unfortunately, the frosty blonde manager or maître d' (I can't tell from her title) was not as agreeable. She gave Kesh a hard time, and then questioned me about taking photos (even after getting my blog namecard). I had to explain what a food blog was before she reluctantly acquiesced and left us alone. Her attitude marred this lunch experience right from the beginning. Personally, I would have been quite happy not to take photos, if that had been the restaurant policy. It's not my loss.

I'm not sure why some restaurant staff are still so behind in understanding food blogs and how this new media actually drives business to eateries. After all, it was reviews in blogs like MilkMilk (many visits!),  Some Like It Haute, and Ladyironchef that made me decide to spend my Saturday at 7atenine.

Well, Lunch Unlimited has been interesting, but if we were to come back, we'd go a la carte so we can zero in on the items we want. And I'll need a laptop to show the blonde some food blogs.

8 Raffles Avenue
#01-10/12 Esplanade Mall
Singapore 039802
Tel: 63380-789
Open daily
Mondays to Thursdays: noon till 3pm, 5pm till midnight
Fridays: noon till 3pm, 5pm till 2am
Saturdays: noon till 2am
Sundays: noon till midnight


  1. hi! is it 27 per pax or can you share it? it looks wonderful!

  2. r u callin' blonds dumb blonds? wad discrimination!

  3. Elleve: it's S$37++ per person. I'm not sure you can share though. The presentation is gorgeous, isn't it?

    Anonymous: WHERE did I ever say DUMB when I wrote blonde? Seems it is your mind that is discriminatory. Tsk tsk.

  4. Camemberu: The pics are gorgeous! Do they have an ala carte menu for people who don't want surprises?

    PS: Look on the bright side - sometimes, you actually get *entertained* by detractors like Anon. What a classic example of a Freudian Slip! And then proceeding to score an own goal. Hilarious!

  5. Ju: Yes, I believe you can still go a la carte if you prefer. Latest menu online here. But best check with the restaurant in case they change their policy.

    Haha, yes, Anon always entertains me. Just because someone is not familiar with food blogs does not mean that person (regardless of hair color) is dumb.

  6. IT's a great deal! Presentation of food is a WOW! Tks for the review! It must have been awkward w the mgr's unwelcoming attitude.

  7. wow! some of your photos are very nice even tho taken indoors! i took horrible shots of the first two appetizer and i gave up. outdoor natural lighting was perfect, if not for the sun :p

    i like your mr & mrs smith quote! hahahahaha. well even tho there has been some mixed reviews, i must say it is my best meal of the year till now, well maybe the company helps too. heh

  8. hi! great blog! i was wondering, how does the meal work exactly? can you request more of a certain item? in that sense is it an ala carte buffet?

  9. Vincent: thanks!

    LIC: Haa, I had to use flash for some dishes - just could not manage in the poor light. But thanks all the same! I'm sure your experience was much enhanced by your companion too! ;-)

    Hungrihippo: Oh yes, it is an a la carte buffet. I should tag it as such. You can request encores of any dish you like.

  10. ohhhh, the food looks good! and at 37+=, it's a steal. i visited persimmon 2 months back to check out their ala carte buffet and i must say that this is much more interesting!

  11. Hi Nic! Ah, I wanted to try Persimmon too. That's cheaper though, and you do get to choose the dishes, unlike here - the chef decides what to serve you!

  12. Camemberu Great Shots :) Reading your reviews gave me the urge to visit the place again :)

  13. cat, i'm SO going there, after reading your post!!! thx :D

    lol @ the "need a laptop to show the blonde some food blogs". you're wicked! haha.

  14. Luckily, they didn't object to me taking photos. Maybe they understood what food blogs are all about!
    The dishes you reviewed are so different from mine! I know the grass is always greener elsewhere, or it might be due to your fantastic pictures, but I do feel like you had a much better deal than I did.

  15. Hi, is the buffet available even on weekends?

  16. Yes, Anon, as mentioned above, it's available daily, even on weekends. I had this on a Saturday, in fact.

    Thanks, MissyG, Evan and Amiscell. Yeah, it's a bit of a gamble, cos you never know what you're going to get served!

  17. how u mange to meet the owner of the restaurant..curious and it's really cool

  18. Hi Joshua: I didn't meet the owner, just the staff there. Thanks!

  19. Hey, linked here from your post on Gunther's... Read recent reviews that this place is no longer as good anymore! :( would love to go try it but I wonder if its worth the risk.. haha..

  20. Hi Camemberusan, possible 4 u to include if kids r allowed in the places u go 2? last time, my sis tried to take us to this 5 star hotel restaurant when i was home 4 the hols n we were told kids were not allowed! Boy, was I really pissed!! I do hav 2 admit that most fancy restaurants in S'pore can b pretty stuffy abt kids, unlike north american c'tries! ( wonder if these pple that made such dumb rules were born as adults eh?!)Thks :D

  21. La Canadienne: My, I'd be pissed too if any place refused entry to kids. I have two of my own, and we often include them in the dining posts. Most of the restaurants I've been to have been OK so far. Quite frankly, if a certain place did not welcome kids, we would not patronise it whether or not we had kids in tow.

    It might be unwieldy to indicate if kids are accepted in each post, but I do highlight it if places do NOT welcome kids, or aren't equipped to do so (e.g. Naive which does not have baby chairs). At least 7atenine had a stack of IKEA baby chairs (I even took a photo of it, not posted though). The safest thing to do is enquire abou their policy during reservations.

    Anonymous: yeah I heard some mixed reviews too. Maybe they are overstretching themselves for the lunch.

  22. is this place still open and do they still have lunch unlimited? i can't seem to find their website online... thanks!

  23. Hi anonymous: 7atenine is now Southbridge Jazz @ 7atenine. Their old website is still accessible but does not have the /sg subfolder anymore. I called them up - the number still works - but they don't do lunch anymore, at all. Only dinner.

  24. oh man , i've read so many reviews and was so excited to try it next week. thanks for the quick and helpful reply :D


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