Bistro Soori, Singapore

*please pardon the quality of the pictures. taken on the Samsung Galaxy Tab as the camera was not with me* 

Celebrating new beginnings, having had a new contract signed and an old one terminated, we created an excuse to indulge. You see, we have been on the gym diet for 2 weeks now and these long, full course dinners went out the window the minute we signed with the gym because evenings are the only time we can set foot in there. I do work, you know. So we made a collective decision to sneak in a break, feast and boy was it worth every calorie.

Bistro Soori, as the waitress tells me, is 15 months old and recently saw a change in the head chef and is now helmed by Executive Chef Benjamin McBride. I quote, “Bistro Soori is the symbiosis of an enhanced gastronomic experience within a designed space.” I typically steer away from such marketing speak, as a marketing person myself, because consumers recognise the spiel and may even fail to comprehend it. In layman’s terms, visit Bistro Soori if you’re looking for a restaurant to impress that date or client of yours as it boasts sleek designs, courtesy of the architect owner, Soo Chan [also the principal of SCDA Architects] and the food is belly satisfying, of which I will share more in a jiffy.

Reservations were made at 7pm and we were caught in the jam, as we were fretting over whether the staff had let our table go, my Blackberry started vibrating [i keep my phone silent at all times] and it was the staff calling to check if we were still coming. I loved that they did not threaten to let go of our table but rather, dialed us to ask if we were on our way. I knew that I was going to have a good night there because service goes a long way and I was right.

Arriving half an hour late [fashionably, if you ask me tho I hate being late], we had to valet park as Lim Teck Road and its entire vicinity is a nightmare to get parking after 6.30pm. How do I know? Cos Ember, another one of my favorite restaurants is located just a street down from where Bistro Soori is. Seated, we devoured the menu that was placed before us, decided and ordered in a heartbeat and a half. We hesitated a second with the dessert orders as we had each decided on a starter and main without an inkling on the portions.

No need for introductions, the humble bread. I prefer the foccacia tasting one [bottom slice] instead of the rye-looking one [top slice] but to each their own. Note, bread here is served with butter only. I’m sure you can ask for olive and vinegarette but we didn’t try.

Recalling that we had a movie to catch at 9.25pm, I thought to check with the staff on speed on service only after we placed our orders but were reassured that we’d be out of the joint by 9pm. In his words, “We’re only as fast as you eat,” and with a mutual smile the night was off to a food climax starting with starters [for lack of a better word].

This is one night where I did not suffer from food envy at all, loving both my orders starting with the Foie Gras Duo, Poached Pear, Brioche Crouton, Pink Peppercorn, Gastrique at SGD 21. The serving of foie was generous beyond words and the diner gets to experience it two ways – cold, stuffed and contrasted by the flavors of the sweet poached pear and hot, pan seared and buttery rich with the crisp toast. The crunch of the pink peppercorn was a delightful twist in flavors and also refreshing to the palate. Needless to say, I was impressed from the get go.

Another starter at the table was the Scallop, Pistachio Pesto, Arugula, Pear, Vinegar Gelee, Truffle Vinaigrette at SGD 19. Succulent, sweet, the scallops were plump, moist and well seared combined with the pistachio pesto, the dish was aromatic but lacked something to tie all the different components together. I failed to detect the pear in the dish, the arugula provided a slight crunch and refreshed the palate while the vinegar gelee tasted unlike most vinegar I’ve had in this short life time but every item seems to stand on its on and lacked that unity on the plate.

The slow-cooked short rib was worth every penny given the generous serving. Not the best short rib I’ve had but it got the basics right in being flavorful, moist and tender, breaking upon spear.

Without further ado, we approach the mains.

I was pleased beyond words with my order of shrimp, scallop, uni risotto although I was a tad confused by the dish sitting under mains as risottos usually fall under the starter category, not that I’m complaining. I love how there is an infusion of Japanese flavors with the generous use of uni in flavoring the stock and the overall dish. The seafood that accompanied the risotto were well-seared with the right crunch and texture of fresh and well cooked seafood. The basil leaves provided the perfect accent to break the richness of the dish and kept me wanting more till the last spoonful.

The Cured Roasted Pork Tenderloin, Braised Red Cabbage, Grain Mustard, GoldenRaisin, Pear for SGD 28 was an explosion of flavors in the mouth. It was at once sweet, sour, savory, tangy with a dash of heat in a single bite. I’m not a huge fan of pork but this, I kinda liked.

On the menu is also the Fish Of The Day served with Garlic Nage, Baby Spinach, Red Chili. I’m pretty certain the accompaniments on the dish do not match up to what’s on the menu but the sides were excellent, the touch of tang on the ‘shrooms and broccoli flowers was just beautiful. The cos was not that well cooked with parts of the fish overcooked and tough to the bite.
With two courses polished each, we had little room for dessert and settled on the best representation of fusion for the night – Pandan Soufflé, Strawberry Compote at SGD12. Light, fragrant and heartwarming, the pandan souffle is definitely a dish I would return for although I don’t care much for the strawberry compote that did little to enhance the souffle in any way.

GETTING THERE

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Vineyard @ Hortpark, Singapore

Barely a week into service, Vineyard @ Hortpark has left me speechless. In a good way.

I shall not wax lyrical about the flora and fauna that is the Hortpark, we’ve all heard the spiel. The true gem is Vineyard – nestled in the midst of the al naturale setting, with the theme amplified through its wood interior and faux fireplace [which I personally find gimmicky but will let it pass on accord of the tasteful experience I had], it tops my list as the ideal chill out spot for a quiet weekend if you’re a wine lover.

Vineyard as i discovered, offers an array of handpicked wines from over 50 vineyards and marries the selection with the best of Thai, French and Italian cuisine. If you’re a food snob like me, the first inkling of suspicion would have bubbled forth by now. I mean, a restaurant with no clear direction in its offering can’t be all that promising – kinda like jack of all trades, master of none right?

But I was pleasantly surprised.

Settling in post a long week and yearning to round it off on a sweet note, we settled on two desserts while basking in the comfort of the space and one dessert captivated my heart in more ways than one.

Lets start with the Hazelnut Crunch Bar served with Fresh Berries and Passionfruit Coulis. I am a huge fan of hazelnuts and chocolate and this dessert definitely hit the mark in terms of flavor and the right amount of bite. Paired with the sourness of the berries and aromatic passionfruit coulis, each mouthful packed a burst of flavors so distinct and yet worked in such harmony that it left me craving for more. Was this the stunner? Believe it or not, it was not.

Enter the stunner. Elegantly plated, i remained disinterested up till my very first bite. You see, I’ve always been a sweets kinda girl and desserts that are anything but usually do not top my list and my expectations for this Warm Lemon Lava Cake with Chantilly Cream, Sesame Tuile and Mixed Berries was at a negative. There I was, breaking into the dessert, wishing it was a warm chocolate fondant. Watching the lemon glaze ooze from the center of the dessert, I was less than excited as I would usually be cutting into a chocolate fondant. And then, the AHA moment arrived.

The warm lemon glaze encased in that golden brown cake was baked to perfection. The cake’s buttery flavor with a hint of vanilla scent was unbelievably intoxicating and then the tartness of the lemon glaze hits you and the combination kept me going for the next mouthful until the dessert was fully devoured and all i could do was stare at the plate in disbelieve. Me, the Queen of Sweets with zero tolerance for anything that detracts me from sugar rush moments had actually fallen in love with something so tart. The Warm Lemon Lava Cake has conquered me and I raise my white flag as i fall off the Sweets pedestal. That contrast of flavors and textures is enough to drive me crazy. That sesame tuile? BREATHTAKING.

Needless to say, I’ll be back for this dessert in no less than a week. Paired with the wide range of wine offerings and quiet atmosphere, Vineyard is that unpolished gem I want to hug tight to my chest and keep it secret from the rest of the world.

GETTING THERE

Ain’t No Other Hound, Bangkok, Thailand

You know how that exotic face that you can’t place always captures your attention, keeping you guessing of the origin and lineage like a ghost in your mind’s eye? Well, that sums up Another Hound Cafe for you – a half breed that produces amazing results in unexpected ways. The menu features familiar Italian delights with a twist of Thai for an unforgettable tongue-tickle.

Featuring a chic interior against black painted walls, dark furniture and black coated metal grills, the space is a stark contrast to the elegance of the mall that is Siam Paragon which it is housed in –  in a good way, of course.

Visual spectacle aside, we quickly decided on our orders between the four of us. Starting off with a Greyhound’s favorite – Homemade Paté with Cognac and Fresh Peppercorns served with Crisp Toast. I won’t say its the best paté I’ve had and the promise of the Cognac flavor did not meet my expectations but i love the refreshing crunch and hint of spice of the fresh peppercorn, mixed in whole. The toast was done to perfection and that is a bonus in itself. I’d advise to order this only if you have 4 pax and up at your table or it can prove to be overwhelming. A serving of this will set you back by 150 baht which is oh-so-reasonable!

With our palate tickled, we anticipated the arrival of our array of main courses and i must say, the efficiency of the kitchen should be applauded. Every dish on our order was served back to back and if you’re not sharing dishes, this will ensure that no one at the table is left hanging while the others dance an awkward do-i-wait-or-do-i-start look and shrug.

Going with the pasta dishes first, we had a selection of Spaghetti with Thai Anchovy, Fettuccini with Shrimps and Champignon Cream Sauce and Spaghetti Cha Cha Cha.

Was this my favorite dish? No. Was it unexpected? Yes. The last thing you would expect spaghetti to remind you of is stir-fried noodles but this dish in particular did just that. Asian seasoning and style of cooking with an Italian staple produced a dish that perhaps was too exotic for my liking. The flavors were strong without being overpowering nor pungent with a right kick of spice that whets your appetite but i wasn’t bowled over by this dish which sets you back 180 baht and comes highly recommended on the menu.

Second time here, second order of the same dish, that’s a sure indication of the pleasure this dish brings. Like the name, the spices and herbs used in this dish dances in your mouth and creates a symphony of aromas that is unexpected yet in perfect harmony with each other. The squid ink pasta is al-dente with the right amount of bite and its flavor enhanced by the shrimps and scallops it is stir-fried with. What really places this dish on a pedestal for me is the use of Italian basil leaves that is so aromatic and light in contrast with the saltiness of the sea, it is just sheer genius to me what the chef has created with this. The use of chillies and green peppercorns adds a good spice level without being overpowering. This dance of flavors which i recommend for all to try is worth every 260 baht of it.

Simple, straightforward, a what-you-see-is-what-you-get dish, this proved to be a crowd pleaser with its familiar taste and detail to perfection. Pasta cooked to perfection tossed in a perfectly balanced cream sauce with well sauteed mushrooms and shrimps, the Fettucini with Shrimps and Champignon Cream Sauce will set you back by 220 baht.

If you’re vegetarian, fret not, Another Hound Cafe serves up vegetarian courses as well and we tasted one of their offerings and it was très manifique – Baked Spinach with Cheese. Absolutely heartwarming, it was food for the soul. When served, the bubbling browned cheese caused some major salivation and when we dug our forks in, that beautiful pull of springy cheese caused all of us to exclaim in delight as we fought to direct it to our mouths without causing a mess. The creaminess of the cheese and the fragrance of the baked spinach was an orgasmic delight and before long, that dish stood empty and all 180 baht of it was sitting happy in our bellies.

The gluttons we are, we were not satisfied without a proper entrée and that came in the form of a Grilled Pork Strip Loin with Spicy Thai Hot Sauce, similar to what you may find in Thai restaurants across the city. We had initially order the Grilled New Zealand Beef but it was unavailable – do order it as the steak is done to perfection and should not be missed. Back to the pork, it served its purpose in providing a protein balance to our meal and what’s uniquely Thai is the pairing with sticky glutinous rice and Som Tum salad and costs a reasonable price of 260 baht.

Main courses out of the way, dessert came hot on its heels and we settled on three with two orders of layered crepe cake and a chocolate lover [for me!]. True to its concept, the dessert offering comes under the franchise Sweethound and we palmed through the menu quickly making our choices.

I’m not a huge cream fan so I’m not the best judge of the next two desserts but from the reactions my pals had, it must have been pretty good with every bit of cream licked off the plates.

The Layered Crepe Cake – Chocolate Banana is what i would call comfort food but what makes this dessert outstanding is the layered crepe that anchors it. Multi-layered, light and mildly sweet, it formed a perfect balance for the heavy use of cream and generous slices of banana. For the amount of work put into creating the layers in the cake, I’ve gotta say 110 baht is money well spent.

An extra 25 baht for the Layered Crepe Cake – Mixed Berries, I’m guessing it’s due to the general cost of berries being higher than bananas. What this cake offers over the banana chocolate one is a tartness to contrast the sweetness of the cream to offer a delightful balance and mix of flavor which is worth every 135 baht.

The dessert that brought it home for me has got to be the Chocolate Lover, aptly named, to satiate the taste buds of chocolate lovers all over the world. This sinful delight is a wicked combination of all the chocolate-y sweet treats you can think of and crave. Starting with a drizzle of chocolate sauce to serves as a base, a scoop of chocolate ice cream is piled on followed by a scoopful of cornflakes for crunch. Next, layering in a handful of maltesers [this is when i start melting], topped with a slice of brownie with another decadent scoop of chocolate ice cream, this dessert is not even done yet! Popping in ferrero rocher for that hazelnut crunch, the dessert is finished with whipped cream, a dust of coca powder and sticks of picco to make this chocolate heaven. Needless to say, it proved to be too much and i suffered from a sweet coma after and that was just the small portion that we ordered, shelling out 125 baht for it.

All in, if you’re kinda sick of Thai food but still yearning for that local punch with a foreign flavor check out Another Hound Cafe to satisfy all your convoluted craves and enjoy the attention to detail that the owners has paid to the interior of the cafe.

GETTING THERE

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