The UnProfessional Chef

A girl's commentary on food, cooking and all things delicious!

Location: Singapore

A closet food critic and wannabe chef who loves the art of cooking and enjoying great cuisine in the company of great friends!

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Of Champagne Wishes and Foie Gras Dreams....

I’m just back from a delightfully decadent vacation in France! Needless to say, we (Mr UnProfessional Chef and a couple of other friends of mine) ate till we dropped. Far too well and far too much. Anyway, we ate much too much for me to recount everything but I really must tell the story of two fabulous meals that we had in the Champagne region (back to back, I might add). The rest of the trip was spent trying to recover from these excesses. In any case, the reason for my title will become apparent soon enough ….

First stop – A. Lallement. This was the name of a restaurant run by a youngish chap whose family operates a great little hotel L’Assiette Champenoise in the tiny town of Tinqueux near Reims. The misleadingly simple dégustation menu which comprised five or six courses on paper opened up like a Russian doll when plate after plate arrived for only apparently one course each! On average, each course consisted of 2 or more distinct portions of food! I will let the pictures speak for themselves.

Mr UnProfessional Chef and I had different dégustation menus in order that our greedy palates would get to sample alternatives. We started with an amuse bouche of a smooth cucumber-y purée topped with a lightly creamy froth – just the thing to tickle our palate with. Doesn’t it look gorgeous?

Next up was a simple sounding platter of Green Asparagus with Balsamic Jelly and Bacon Granité. What resulted were three gorgeous interpretations of the asparagus which was clearly in season. The first of these was a pair of simply poached asparagus tips with bacon granité. Fun and delicious! This was followed by asparagus mash of some sort sitting stop a thin layer of divine balsamic flavoured jelly. Finally, it was the asparagus in creamy form with froth on top and slivers of parmesan cheese. Again, sublime.

The other set’s first course was simply referred to as Leek with Foie Gras, Potatoes and Ham. Again, this came in three forms. The pyramid-shaped slab of foie gras – untainted by pan frying of any sort was smoothly satisfying, though sadly, I was only allowed to taste a teensy portion given my status as expectant mother. There was then a dishful of leek with a tiny portion of mash potatoes with more jelly and a separate platter of leek mosse atop which was layered tiny slivers of ham and chorizo sausage. All lip-smackingly delicious!

We were of course stunned. Not to mention that at this point, about six types of bread arrived on our table which we just had to sample with the freshest French butter possible. We were seriously worried about how we were going to make it through dinner.

Our (only) second course was just as bad. For one menu, it was Foie Gras with Hot Bouillon, Ice-cream, Mousse and Coulant (sorry, I have no idea what this translates into). This was cooked so I was allowed a bit more of it. What arrived was a simple glass of the most flavourful foie gras stock with foie gras mousse, cream and deep fried foie gras balls out of which oozed the most decadent-tasting foie gras cream. Utterly superb.

The other menu had a break at this point so we moved onto the next round together. I was served a portion of John Dory fish with Champagne froth and little bits of bacon and vegetables. Delicious, and just the allegedly slightly more healthy thing to have after the wickedly sinful foie gras in many interpretations. A little green portion of vegetable cream in a martini glass complemented the fish wonderfully. You will have to forgive the beginning here of a breakdown in blog quality and photos because I was getting delightfully high on the great food despite the lack of alcohol on my part!

The other menu dished up something called Bar de Ligne, Betterave, île flottante au raifort in another little martini glass, which I had no clue about but it was pink, frothy and delicious. This was also accompanied by Monkfish with round discs of jelly. All of this disappeared down everyone’s throat very quickly indeed.

Arriving finally at my main course of Veal cooked in a Hot Pot and Vegetables. This perfectly cooked portion of veal was again gorgeously done (the photo totally doesn’t do it justice but I was working with candlelight only, so forgive me) but just a little bit too pink for me to eat it all. Mr UnProfessional Chef benefited a great deal!

The other menu served up a Pigeon encrusted in a Tart alongside (more!) Foie Gras and Young Spinach. This received rave reviews round the table. Simply the best possible tart-like game dish anyone could have prepared and which we were privileged to try.

We thought we were near the end when the cheese platter arrived, but just look at that cheese platter! I’m not sure what we ate in the end but my hard cheeses (the only ones I’m allowed too) were fabulous. French cheese just seems to taste best in France.

The simple promise of dessert was a little Russian doll of its own. First up, before the actual desserts arrived, came the sweet tray. This seemed to be a staple in all fine French dining establishments and is said to be the chef’s answer to reminding his guests of their childhood sweets. There was hardly any space on the table for the selection of cotton candy, the marshmallow strip (complete with hefty scissors to cut it up with), mini lemon tarts, chocolates, pâte de fruits, caramels, nougat and lollipops. I don’t think I can show it all, but don’t these just look lovely?

Finally reaching dessert, we were given the choice of chocolate or fruit interpretations. Both were anything but light. The fruit choices comprised Mango cubes on a Biscuit and topped with Coconut ice cream, Passionfruit ice cream/mousse in a rounded Ginger Snap cone and Sushi of Pineapple and ‘Wasabi’ ice cream. Fresh, familiar yet fabulously original at the same time. I'll just show the first.

The chocolate dessert came in four forms, each equally sinful. Rum Baba with Chocolate Mousse, Hot Chocolate with a Hot Chocolate Ball and Chocolate ‘stirrer’, a Chocolatey Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream and a White, Dark and Milk Chocolate Terrine. It was just utterly fantastically decadent. Let’s just not think about the calories that were added on in just that one course.

We thought at that point that this had been the meal to end all meals, but there was still the following day’s lunch, more of which I will describe in my next post. The evening’s meal left us totally sated, such that we had to take a walk out in the cold spring evening and do several rounds around the pretty chateau before staggering back into our rooms to rest our full bellies. A top-class meal indeed and a must-visit if you are ever near Reims, France.

A. Lallement
L’Assiette Champenoise – Chateau de la Muire
40, Avenue Paul-Vaillant-Couturier
51430 Tinqueux (Reims)
Tel: 03 26 84 64 64

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Sumptuous Shanghai

Sorry friends, it’s been a too long a hiatus again between posts, but life has caught up with me of late and reduced the amount of time I’ve had to cook and post. I did however manage to find the time to visit a dear friend in Shanghai recently and by the by, had several sumptuous meals.

The first of these was at the utterly delectable Jean Georges, where, for a fraction of the price one would have to pay at the main Jean Georges restaurant in New York, we got to feast on seven courses of the dégustation menu featuring the restaurant’s signature dishes. This excluded the (not very little) petit fours that came at the end of the meal in spite of our enormously satisfied tummies.

Egg Caviar

First up was Egg Caviar. This consisted of the most perfectly done scrambled eggs topped with cream and utterly sinful beluga caviar. The harmonious balance of flavours between the otherwise simply-done eggs and the luxurious briny caviar brought out the best of both foods and provided a wonderful start to our meal.

Sea Scallops with Caper-Raisin Emulsion and Caramalised Cauliflower

This was followed by Sea Scallops with Caper-Raisin Emulsion and Caramalised Cauliflower. The scallops were delicately grilled to just the right doneness and nicely complemented by the cauliflower. Far less rich than the first dish, but just as delicious.

Young Garlic Soup with Thyme and Sautéed Frogs Legs

We were then presented with the delightful Young Garlic Soup with Thyme and Sautéed Frogs Legs. You can just about see the tiny, crisply-fried frogs legs in the background of the photograph. These were then bathed in the delicately flavoured soup. These proved so delicious that I could have honestly eaten far more frogs legs than the two pieces provided. But then, room had to be left for more delights to come.

Turbot with Château Chalon Sauce, Tomato and Zucchini

We moved onto something light – Turbot with Château Chalon Sauce, Tomato and Zucchini. My dining companions didn’t find too much to shout about this dish, but I found the lightly cooked fish with the slightly winey tasting sauce a nice balance to the rich flavours we’d been receiving so far. My plate was again wiped clean.

Lobster Tartine, Lemongrass, Fenugreek Broth and Pea Shoots

Then came one of my favourites (vying neck to neck with the Egg Caviar) – Lobster Tartine, Lemongrass, Fenugreek Broth and Pea Shoots. Every single component of this dish was simply perfectly done. The tomato-based broth which was lightly flavoured with fenugreek provided a great accompaniment to the lobster leg. The pea shoots, done to al dente crispness, lent a nice healthy aspect to the dish.

Broiled Squab served with Onion Compote, Sautéed Foie Gras and Corn Pancake

Just when we thought we couldn’t consume any more, our main course arrived – Broiled Squab served with Onion Compote, Sautéed Foie Gras and Corn Pancake. This was a heavy but flavourful dish. Perhaps by this stage, I was feeling just a little too full to appreciate the wonders of the (again) perfectly done squab but persevere I did and polished off my entire serving. It is a testament to the high standards of the chef that every single component of all the dishes so far was cooked with thoughtfulness and commitment to excellence. Nothing was out of place, nothing was sloppily presented and nothing was overcooked nor underdone.

Molten Chocolate Cake and Citrus and Hazelnut Mousse Cake

Strawberry Jelly with Frozen Strawberries and Cream and Three-layer Liquid Chocolate Delight

I couldn’t of course roll out of the restaurant without sampling Jean Georges’ famous and trend-setting Molten Chocolate Cake. This came presented with a scoop of ice-cream and chocolate sauce (as if it needed more enhancement) and THREE other desserts. Needless to say, we were horrified, but ate everything nonetheless. I could see why this was the grandaddy of all the molten chocolate cakes that have come after it. Rich, just the right texture for breaking open with the spoon and the perfect amount of molten warm chocolate sauce flowing out of it to be lapped up in delight. Not to be outdone were the other desserts – Strawberry Jelly with Frozen Strawberries and Cream, a Three-layer Liquid Chocolate Delight that was sucked up with a straw, and a Citrus and Hazelnut Mousse Cake which could have easily been the star of any other restaurant’s dessert menu. At this stage, the strawberry dessert was the favourite of my dining companions for the tart relief it gave to our exhausted tastebuds.

Petit Fours

Homemade Mini Macaroons

Of course this was subsequently undone by the petit fours (of which we just had to try one of each) and the homemade mini macaroons. A filling but fitting end to a fabulously sumptuous meal. Luckily we were able to walk the length of the Bund after that to work a tiny fraction of those calories off….

Jean Georges
Floor 4, No. 3, Zhongshan Dong Lu

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Comeback Canalés


Apologies! It’s been a rather long hiatus since my last post. The past few weeks had been a whirlwind of activity with the start of the new year and all its frantic scrabbling around to get things done, start new projects, prepare for the business of 2006 and just sheer exhaustion from it all that I sadly had to ignore my blog for a bit.

But I am back! My dear girlfriend D and I had just before Christmas developed a sudden huge addiction to canalés. Those gorgeous chewy rummy delights can’t be found in many places here in Singapore but we had a memory of canalés past from our trip to France last year and had been thinking about it for sometime. Some months ago we discovered a new pâtisserie, aptly called Canalé, which served up a plethora of delightful French pastries, cakes, macaroons, and of course, canalés, of a significantly higher standard than most of the so-called French pâtisseries here.

Inspired to make our very own, we sought the help of friends from France who were returning to Singapore for a vacation to buy us genuine individual copper canalé moulds from the bakeware supply shops in Paris. Our recipe also came from France courtesy of Clotilde’s instructions in Chocolate and Zucchini. These vintagey little orange-coloured devices arrived sometime back and had been sitting forlorn in my cupboard while I went off cooking and blogging for a bit but finally this morning, chancing upon an off day from work, I decided to christen them. Darling D had been a lot more efficient and had started experimenting with making the canalés some weeks back. The first couple of attempts were pretty tough exercises in finding just the right temperature and baking times as well as devising the best means of making sure the canalés did not stick steadfastly to their moulds. By reducing the baking time and buttering the inside of the moulds with copious amounts of butter, D hit jackpot two days ago. Bouyed by her success, as well as her kindness in giving me some of the extra batter (made of rum, vanilla pod, sugar, eggs, milk, butter and flour) she had prepared (a girl can only eat so many canalés ☺), I simply poured the mixture into the individual moulds, whacked them into the oven at 250ºC for 20 minutes, then reduced the heat to 200ºC for another 30 minutes or so and voilà, six little aromatic mouthwatering delights popped out! Gorgeously crisp with an almost caramel-like flavour on the crust containing a tasty chewy heart, these tiny delights pack a mighty punch.

Monday, January 02, 2006

A New Year and New Recipes

Welcoming the New Year by having a meal with either family or friends was simply the best way to enjoy the long holiday weekend we were having. Barely had the excessive feasting of Christmas subsided that the next round of merry-making hit us a week later. While the body may groan at the thought of more rich food, booze and desserts, the celebratory spirit soldiers on for one last burst of wining and dining before settling down to face the reality of work in the New Year.

First up – celebration. I had over for dinner three dear friends, two of whom were at the crossroads of their professional lives. One had just completed her PhD and we were all really chuffed at being able to call her ‘Dr’ after her seven years of hard work! Congratulations #1! The other dear friend is just about to head off to pursue her MBA at Insead – a goal she has always dreamt of achieving and we were all very happy indeed to be seeing her off on this next step of her journey in three days’ time. Congratulations #2!

Standing Rib Roast of Pork with Fennel Seeds, Coriander and Garlic

To mark these special events, I decided to attempt something I had not tried before – cooking pork. I had previously stuck to poultry or beef, but knowing that my guests’ dietary preferences headed in the opposite direction, I decided to push my own limits and try something new. On hindsight, perhaps I should have practiced first, but since I enjoy making each cooking expedition a true adventure, my friends had to suffer slightly from the experimental nature of it all.

I decided to try preparing a Standing Rib Roast of Pork with Fennel Seeds, Coriander and Garlic from the Zuni Café Cookbook. This recipe called for a really good cut of pork rib roast (which I purchased from The Butcher at Chip Bee Gardens, Holland Village) to be cut at crucial points then seasoned for at least three days ahead with crushed garlic paste, fennel seeds, coriander seeds (I didn’t have any so I used dried coriander leaves instead – probably wasn’t quite right, but it didn’t taste all that bad) and salt. The salt had the effect of brining the meat over the three days and rendering it beautifully soft and tender. After three days of sitting in the fridge, the entire roast was then placed in the oven to roast for between one to one and a half hours. Ideally, one should be armed with a meat thermometer in order to determine the precise doneness of the meat, but lacking one of those, I went with sheer guesswork. It didn’t do any harm, but certainly added to the excitement level of the cooking adventure.

The roast turned out beautifully. The brining process did indeed create an extremely tender cut of meat brimming with the smoky flavours of the fennel seeds and coriander. However, in my experimental enthusiasm, I overdid the salt at some spots leaving the meat eventually too salty in some portions. But barring the edges, the rest of the meat turned out well and I noted with a sigh of relief that my guests finished their portions to the bone.

Salad of Arugula Leaves, Red Onion and Red Grapes

To off set the extreme meatiness of the main course, I prepared a salad of Arugula Leaves, Red Onion and Red Grapes. This did not come from any cookbook recipe as such, but from a memory of having previously eaten something similarly delicious at another friend’s home. The greens were simply tossed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. The greens, in particular, the grapes, were a juicy refreshing complement to the roast – who knew simple grapes were capable of this effect?

Rosemary Roasted Potatoes

For carbo, I served up a portion of Rosemary Roasted Potatoes that I’d previously talked about. A perennial pleaser, I’d made sure I had a good-sized portion just in case the meat turned out to be an absolute disaster. It didn’t, thanfully, but the potatoes disappeared nevertheless!

Dinner ended with my standard Apple and Almond Crumble from How to Eat which I used to prepare ad nauseum for any and all dinner parties. I hadn’t done so in a while and thought it would be fun to do it again given its general failsafe quality.


Monday, December 26, 2005

Big Bird on Boxing Day - Diva Dining #3

Cheeky Turkey with Leeks and Trimmings

A belated Merry Christmas to everyone! I've spent the last few days contemplating how to tackle my yearly attempt to cook a decent turkey - that is, not ickily dry or tasteless. Countless cookbooks suggest countless ways of keeping the moisture in, but by Jove, I think I've found the perfect solution.

I had my usual bunch of harpies over for dinner on Boxing Day along with their other halves. As usual, they demand a big bird and it's become a kind of tradition for one of us to roast a huge turkey to stuff our faces with. The wonderful thing is that all my diva girls absolutely love eating and it's always a pleasure to cook for an appreciative audience, isn't it? So, despite the trepidation with which I undertook the task of the turkey, the effort was worth it.

I used a recipe from Jamie Oliver's website - Cheeky Turkey with Leeks and Trimmings. It turned out to be a classy yet fuss-free method of roasting turkey. Basically I had to separate the legs from the body of the turkey, roast that first with onions, then toss in leeks, red wine, dried porcini mushrooms, whole garlic bulbs, thyme and sage before resting the seasoned, buttered crown of the turkey (that had been draped with generous amounts of smoked bacon) on top of the whole mixture. It was then just bunged into the oven for 2 hours and forgotten till the gorgeous smells emerged to inform that dinner was ready. It really was much simpler than the previous recipe for turkey I had used which used far too much butter and required constant basting. This turkey was super moist and very flavourful thanks to all the herbs and the smoked bacon. The gravy was also sublimely flavoured by the leeks and given a robust kick by the soft garlic flesh that was squeezed into the gravy just before serving. Alongside the homemade cranberry sauce and my buttermilk potatoes (five pounds worth mashed diligently by my hardworking girlfriends), this silenced my girlfriends into an eating frenzy for a good half an hour before anyone could stop eating for a long enough time to chat. I didn't even have time to snap a decent picture of the turkey before it was demolished, but I was immensely pleased.

Roasted Onion, Corn and Watercress Salad

It wasn't all unhealthy. One of my dear girlfriends brought along a Roasted Onion, Corn and Watercress salad. Healthy yet completely gorgeously flavoured with macademia oil and lemon juice, this had all of us eating our requisite amount of greens for the day.

Bacon and Mushroom Aglio Olio Linguini

Another darling girlfriend upped the carbo quotient by bringing along a spicy, tasty Bacon and Mushroom Aglio Olio Linguini dish. Despite the massive portions of carbo we had, most of this dish disappeared too!

Crème Brûlèe

To round it all off, I had prepared Crème Brûlèe the day before. Basically consisting of egg yolks, cream, vanilla paste (or the seeds of the vanilla pod) and sugar, this was a tiny delectable delight that perfectly ended our decadent dinner. It was also very much fun to break out my blowtorch to create that lovely crackly caramel topping on top of the Crème Brûlèe.

We couldn't walk much after dinner and one of my harpy girls even had to lie down, so full of food was she.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

A Christmas Revelation

Cranberry Sauce with Orange Zest

I had earlier blogged about the thrill of locating fresh cranberries when I thought sadly that the only cranberries I would ever see here were the dried ones or those already processed beyond recognition in the form of Cranberry Jelly and the like. In my excitement, I’d purchased two bags worth and frozen them. With the little dinner I had planned for my diva girlfriends coming up on Boxing Day, I decided to make good use of the cranberries by turning them into home made Cranberry Sauce for my roast turkey before they became forgotten at the back of my freezer.

For some strange reason, I’d always imagined the recipe for Cranberry Sauce to be some magical secret potion involving hours spent over a hot stove stirring and stirring and stirring. Imagine my somewhat dumbfounded ‘duh!’ surprise when all the recipes I located had one thing in common – they were dead easy. Basically, one cup water, one cup sugar, 12 ounces of cranberries. Boil. If required, add in, as you like, orange peel, pecans, raisins, etc (basically anything you could imagine would taste good with cranberries). Simmer for 10 minutes. Cool, then chill.

The entire process took all of 15 minutes including the time I took to zest some orange peel to add into the mixture, as well as washing up! It was a Christmas 2005 Revelation indeed and the best reason never never never to buy bottled cranberry sauce again – the trip to the supermarket and battle with the traffic is simply not worth it.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

'Twas the week before Christmas...

Christmas Chocolate and Manuka Honey Panforte

With Christmas just one week away, I decided to do some pre-preparation for the diva dinner I’m going to have on 26 December with my girlfriends. I’d learned the recipe for this traditional Christmas delight - Italian panforte (literally hard bread in Italian) from Chef Oscar Pasinato of Buko Nero (a lovely little Italian restaurant here in Singapore which is so consistently good that it has a month-long waiting list for dinner).

The biggest selling point of the panforte was the fact that it can keep for up to a month! Chef Oscar had told us (perhaps jokingly, just perhaps) that in Italy, they even prepare it at Christmas and eat it all the way up to Easter. Whatever the case may be, I was sufficiently confident that it would keep for at least two weeks to feed whoever might drop by my home (Santa, can you hear me?).

The recipe contains honey, chocolate, dried apricots, blanched almonds, sugar, ground cinnamon, a pinch of salt and flour. I opted to use Manuka honey - so my dear friends, you know you're getting the good stuff! The honey and sugar are heated and melted together, then mixed with the dried apricots, almonds, cinnamon, salt and flour. The melted chocolate is then quickly stirred in to form a super dense mixture that bakes in the oven for between 25 – 45 minutes (mine took much longer to bake than the version at the cooking class – perhaps my oven temperature is not what it purports to be). A ultra sweet and chocolatey chewy ‘bread’ is the result. Not meant to be eaten in large quantities due to the huge amount of sugar, it is simply perfect in the teeny tiny pieces shown in the picture alongside a great cup of expresso.

A Chinese Feast

I finally managed to gain entry into Xi Yan this evening thanks to the resourcefulness of two foodie friends who scored a reservation (despite a 2-3 month waiting list) and decided to invite more people along to share this superlative dining experience. Xi Yan is a relatively new restaurant which brings to Singapore the Hong Kong concept of private kitchen dining. Basically, this means that all the diners in the tiny restaurant (just 5 tables of about 7-10 people each) are to eat exactly the same thing and commence dinner at exactly the same time.

The dinner was the definition of perfection. I am not a great fan of Chinese dinners normally because they are usually starchy, heavy affairs. But Xi Yan has really made me appreciate Chinese cuisine again even despite the fact that I was nursing a cold and was not in the best control of my tastebuds. However, it has to be said that the food at Xi Yan was really more fusion in execution than the standard Chinese fare we normally get and therefore much more unusual. I stupidly did not bring my camera as my camera battery was flat! So, photos sadly will not accompany this blog entry unless my kind dining companions who did bring their cameras email me their photographs subsequently.

We started the first of our 13(!!) dishes with Prancing Lobster with Two Sauces – this was the freshest, most simply cooked lobster served with a mint sauce and a tangy Thai-style spicy sour sauce. This proved to be a refreshing start to the multitude of dishes coming our way. Our next appetizer of Japanese organic Tomatoes in Sesame Sauce was simply breathtaking. Three of the fattest, hugest, juiciest and sweetest tomatoes were presented to the table alongside a topping of sesame sauce remniscient of Japanese shabu-shabu. None of us had tasted tomatoes this sweet and juicy before and I am now certainly inspired to go a-hunting at the local Japanese supermarkets for these tomatoes. We then had Cold Tofu with Pork Floss and Salted Egg. Again, the cold, clean taste of the tofu was set off beautifully by the pork floss, perfectly fried shallots and salted egg that gave the dish an added kick. This was followed by Northern Style Chinese Dried Chicken done Singapore-style – i.e. the chicken was treated with some sort of marinade before being frozen in the deep freeze and subsequently steamed. This resulted in a unique version of dried yet flavourful chicken meat. We finally ended the appetizer round with Cloud Ears with Wasabi. This traditional Chinese fungus which is ubiquitous in many a vegetable dish at Chinese restaurants was very lightly prepared. Topped with flying fish roe and accompanied by a wasabi-spiked sauce, it was surprisingly crisp and crunchy, and not in the least bit heavy on the palate.

Our tummies were seriously full by this stage and we hadn’t even started on the mains yet! One of our fellow diners who had eaten at the original Hong Kong branch of Xi Yan doggedly finished every last drop of the appetizers placed before us, as his earlier experience had indicated that the appetizers were generally much better than the mains. However, we were all very gladly proved wrong (and he had to groan and moan through the rest of the meal). The mains were again, out of this world. We started with Orange Beef – this was moist and tender beef shin cooked in an orange sauce and dried chilies then topped jauntily with preserved Chinese orange peel. The flavours, as they had done thus far, melded together to create a beautifully satisfying dish, with each individual taste complementing the other. Next up was Salivate Pork – literally. The minute the platter arrived, we started drooling. Thinly sliced tender pork was given the ‘ma la’ Sichuan hot pot treatment and wisely served alongside century egg and Japanese konyaku noodles that helped to absorb the heat of the sauce. Extremely special and surprisingly balanced between the numbing heat and the cooling freshness of the noodles, this dish was one of the favourites (though absolutely none of the dishes were disappointing) for its unique flavours. Eating our way through the spectrum of species, the chef then presented to us Shrimp Sauce Grouper with Pomelo. This again was an unusual combination of flavours common to Chinese cuisine. Shrimp Sauce is normally used to fry chicken, and I would never have thought it worked with deep fried fish. It did, very well in this case, again nicely balanced out by the tart juiciness of the pomelos. Just when we thought we could not be surprised further, a bamboo platter of Crab Roe Glutinous Rice was placed before us. The waiter advised us that the crabs, which were beautifully presented on top of the rice, were not the star of the dish. In this case, it was the rice, which had absorbed all the gorgeous crab juices and crab roe flavours that was the sweet pièce de resistance. He was right. The crab though still sweet, had given of its best to the rice which was infused with the best crab-iness flavour ever.

By this time, my fellow diners were declaring that they were beyond the ‘Full’ tank gauge reading. Understanding this and in preparation for the rest of our meal, the chef served up a palate cleanser of Mixed Fruits in Plum Sauce. Simple Fuji apples, Japanese pear, Chinese pear and Jambu were given a new lease of life by the just sour enough plum sauce. We happily crunched our way through the fruits and were revived in time for the Fresh Ginseng Chicken Soup – a clear, extremely healthy and very delicious broth. The mains finally finally ended with Braised Mushrooms with Pickled Cucumber. Despite the state of our tummies, the fragrant smells wafting out from the perfectly cooked Shitake, Portobello and Abalone mushrooms led us to dig in one final time with our chopsticks.

But, how could one forget dessert? Indeed, it was again a standout. Simply billed as Xi Yan Tang Yuan, the two innocuous looking dough balls floating in their bowls of ginger soup contained within them a treasure trove of delights. I doubt that nowhere else will I ever again taste tang yuan that is made up of salted egg, sesame, peanuts, sugared winter melon, and butter.

While lolling in our seats, we were greeted by the affable and very young chef (which is so impressive in itself), who presented us with one final touch to our meal – a Xi Yan cocktail shot of Calamansi juice, Honey and Whiskey. It was, like all the dishes before, a superb blend of the best ingredients, presented in a unique and refreshing way.

How could we not but book ourselves in for yet another meal on our way out of the restaurant? Hope we’ll be back in January!!

Xi Yan
38A Craig Road
Singapore 089676
Tel: 9695 4957