Pairing with Martell on a high

28 03 2013

It is in a room with a view that I experienced what has to be one of my high points of the year. It wasn’t just that I was seated in a restaurant, which on the 62nd floor of One Raffles Place, is perched close to the top of what is one of the highest points over Singapore one can possibly get up to without boarding an aircraft, but also from the treat over lunch that was to follow.

Compliments of the Chef: a teaser before the pairing session, Cream of Youth, that we were told (jokingly), would take 10 years off our age (photo taken with LG Optimus G).

Compliments of the Chef: a teaser before the pairing session, Cream of Youth, that we were told (jokingly), would take 10 years off our age (photo taken with LG Optimus G).

Lunch, which was at the kind invitation of Martell and Stellar at 1Altitude, was a tasting session of a cognac pairing menu available exclusively at Stellar for the month of March (it has since been extended to Sunday 14 April 2013). The menu involves signature dishes on the Stellar menu, paired with cocktails made with Martell Cordon Bleu cognac as a primary base. After a quick introduction to the restaurant with a Cream of Youth, the tasting session proper commenced with the first pairing on the menu. This was the very rich Duck and Its Nest: Pan-fried foie gras in a semolina crust; duck rillettes and arfait; corn pancake and quince compote. To complement the foie gras, a cocktail with a balance of acidity (as a foil for rich foods), sweetness, aroma and texture, much as the classic accompaniment to foie gras, the full bodied white wine, Sauternes, is was required. The result is “Inside the Rocks”, a concoction with dry orange, molasses syrup and fresh parsley that is mixed with Cherry Brandy and Martell Cordon Bleu. Chilled inside a hollow ball of ice which is broken before it is served, the cocktail is indeed a delicate blend – the dry orange drawing out the notes on the cognac – a perfect accompaniment to the rich flavours of the foie gras and rillettes of duck.

Duck and Its Nest: Pan-fried foie gras in a semolina crust; duck rillettes and arfait; corn pancake and quince compote.

Duck and Its Nest: Pan-fried foie gras in a semolina crust; duck rillettes and arfait; corn pancake and quince compote.

Which is paired with "Inside The Rocks": a cocktail of dry orange, molasses sugar, herbs and Martell Cordon Bleu.

Which is paired with “Inside The Rocks”: a cocktail of dry orange, molasses sugar, herbs and Martell Cordon Bleu.

Next was a Classic Lobster Bisque, served with leek fondue and a seared scallop ravioli, paired with a champagne cocktail “Erlinda 1942″. The cocktail meant to bring out the feel of summer, brought out by the taste of lemons and herbs. Besides lemon juice and star anise, the very refreshing cocktail has also crème de cassis, rose Water, St. Germain liqueur, champagne, and Martell Cordon Bleu mixed into it, bringing out a zest which well complements the lobster bisque with a huge and very succlent piece of scallop in the ravioli.

Classic Lobster Bisque with a succulent piece of seared scallop in ravioli which is paired with "Erlinda 1942" a champagne cocktail with a taste of lemonsand a hint of herbs - mixed of course with some cognac.

Classic Lobster Bisque with a succulent piece of seared scallop in ravioli which is paired with “Erlinda 1942″ a champagne cocktail with a taste of lemons and a hint of herbs – mixed of course with some cognac.

The highlight of the pairing menu seemed to saved for last, the last before the dessert that was to follow, that is. To accompany the very tender slow cooked (over a wood coal fire for four hours) Kobe C beef off the ribs, served with short rib hash, tarragon baby vegetables and morel sauce, was “1st and Last ”. While that certainly wasn’t the last cocktail to be served, I certainly would not have minded if it was. The deliciously penetrating and flavourful aroma brought out by the infusion of cardomom syrup and a cinnamon stick is certainly one that lingers and one which seems to melt into the tasty morsels of beef oozing with flavour from its cooking. The cocktail is one in which the spices come together with a Martell Cordon Bleu base and Zen green tea liqueur bringing out a “lemony and flowery” flavour,  “with note of camphor or eucalyptus due to cineole in the essential oil”.

Kobe C rib of beef, smoked and slow cooked over wood coals; short rib hash; tarragon baby vegetables and morel sauce.

Kobe C rib of beef, smoked and slow cooked over wood coals; short rib hash; tarragon baby vegetables and morel sauce.

Paired with my personal favourite "1st and Last" - rich in flavour and spiced with a cardomom syrup and cinnamon stick - one gets a high just from the aroma it oozes.

Paired with my personal favourite “1st and Last” – rich in flavour and spiced with a cardomom syrup and cinnamon stick – one gets a high just from the aroma it oozes.

Dessert is something that always comes as a treat, more so in this case being prepared at the table. The “1-Caramel Dessert Experience” which was served on a platter and to be shared was certainly made even more irresistible with its baked Alaska with strawberry ice cream and warm chocolate brownie; Valhrona chocolate praline bomb with berry compote; and vanilla crème brûlée with dulce leche ice cream. The 1-Caramel Dessert Experience is one that is paired with “El Favorito”, a very rich combination of Martell Cordon Bleu, vanilla ice-cream, Mascarpone cheese and white cacao – said to bring emotions to your head, with a sweet and creamy flavour – it did well complement the dessert experience and while it was perhaps a little too heavy for me, it was a sweet and flavourful way to bring the tasting session accompanied by one of the best views of modern Singapore out the window, to a conclusion.

Preparing the 1-Caramel Dessert Experience: Baked Alaska with strawberry ice cream and warm chocolate brownie; Valhrona chocolate praline bomb with berry compote; vanilla crème brûlée with dulce leche ice cream.

Preparing the 1-Caramel Dessert Experience: Baked Alaska with strawberry ice cream and warm chocolate brownie; Valhrona chocolate praline bomb with berry compote; vanilla crème brûlée with dulce leche ice cream.

Dessert is served.

Dessert is served.

The baked Alaska.

The baked Alaska.

Dessert is paired with "El Favorito": Martell Cordon Bleu, vanilla ice-cream, Mascarpone cheese and white cacao.

Dessert is paired with “El Favorito”: Martell Cordon Bleu, vanilla ice-cream, Mascarpone cheese and white cacao.

The “Pairing with Martell” menu is available at Stellar at 1Altitude until 14 April 2013. Besides the individual paired items on the menu, a set menu which includes all dishes and cocktails, is also available at s$185++. Reservations are highly recommended.





Spreading happiness at Serangoon Gardens

14 02 2013

Tucked away in a somewhat obscure area of Serangoon Gardens is a delightful little café that as its name, Sun Ray Café, suggests, brings sun rays over the area. Describing itself as a joyful and offbeat spot, the cafe is probably better known to pet owners – it being one of the few pet friendly eateries found in the area of Singapore.  I guess, not being a pet owner, I might be forgiven for not being aware of the cafe, and it was only through an invitation for a food tasting session that I got to know of its existence.

Yu Sheng that is served not with raw fish, but with smoked salmon and tossed with a fork.

Yu Sheng that is served not with raw fish, but with smoked salmon and tossed with a fork.

That it is an offbeat place is probably also seen in some of the food creations made specially for the occasion of the Lunar New Year and Valentine’s Day. One of the first things we got  to do was toss the what has come to be a tradition for the Lunar New Year in Singapore and Malaysia, Yu Sheng or Raw Fish Salad. That is perhaps as traditional as it does get, not only is the “Raw Fish” Salad topped not by raw fish as its name might suggest, but by a generous helping of smoked salmon, but it also is  tossed with a fork. Topped off with croutons, and served with plum sauce, the salad’s ingredients and the salmon topping is shaped into a short cylinder in a mould – taking on a rather quirky and non-conventional appearance. The Sun Ray Café Yu Sheng Platter, named Rising Joy is rather a rather delightful twist to the traditional dish, comes in two sizes – a small portion ideal for 2 diners is priced at $10.80 and the large portion for 4 diners costs $16.80 and will be available until 24 February. Being a pet friendly, the café also serves a pet version of the dish with boiled salmon, a portion of which costs $6.80.

A peek into the pet friendly café.

A peek into the pet friendly café.

The main part of the food tasting was to introduce the café’s Valentine’s Day menu (for which this post probably comes a little too late for). Available on 13 and 14 February, the menu comes with a choice of three entrées. The menu is also served with a Smoked Salmon Salad served with a wonderful walnut sauce dressing; a Cuppa’ Mushroom Soup inspired by how cappuccino is served these days which I thought was just right – light and not overladen with cream; a choice of Home Made Tiramisu or Chocolate Lava Cake; and a choice of drinks – a Signature Mocktail Mellini or a glass of House Wine. The entrées can be selected from a Australian Seared Steak (marinated in red wine and rosemary and served with Lyonnais potatoes); Crusted Salmon (sesame crusted salmon with sweet taro mash – I am told it is naturally sweet taro); or the Honey Glazed Spring Chicken (grilled and served with oven-roasted potatoes). I though the salmon turned out the best – full of flavour complemented by the sesame crust. The steak was also tender and juicy and rich in flavour. The chicken however did taste a little too sweet and wasn’t to my liking. The menus are priced at $45 for the steak, $35 for the salmon and  $30 for the chicken.

The smoked salmon salad with a walnut sauce dressing.

The smoked salmon salad with a walnut sauce dressing.

Cuppa' Mushroom Soup.

Cuppa’ Mushroom Soup.

The Valentine's Day menu offers a choice of entrées. The Australian Seared Steak menu costs $45.

The Valentine’s Day menu offers a choice of entrées. The Australian Seared Steak menu costs $45.

The crusted salmon.

The crusted salmon served with sweet taro mash.

Honey Glazed Spring Chicken.

Honey Glazed Spring Chicken.

The very refreshing Signature Mellini Mocktail.

The very refreshing Signature Mellini Mocktail.

Besides the food – the café’s owner is also big on coffee. A trained barista, he hopes to also turn the café into one that serves specialty coffees and is considering roasting his own beans. Tthe café was kind enough to have a little coffee appreciation session during which Columbia Geisha beans (which we were told cost $300 a kg!) were used and the practice of coffee cupping was  introduced – after which I will not look at a cup of kopi-o in the same way again.

Brewing the Geisha beans.

Brewing the Geisha beans.

A cupping spoon.

A cupping spoon.

Located at 79 Brighton Crescent, more information on the pet friendly café can be found at its Facebook page. And do note that, as a special treat, the café is extending a $10 return voucher – all you would need to do to claim the voucher is to say “Happiness will keep us alive!” to the staff serving you.





Rush hour on Summerland Beach

2 10 2011

Leaving A Maze’N Things, it looked like we might be in for a cold, wet and windy evening, as we headed towards what would be the evening’s rush hour on Summerland Beach – that of the daily frenzied (if you can call it that) procession of individuals in black and white suits back from their day in the office. The rush hour is one that is one that certainly isn’t a pain to be caught up in – that of the Little Penguins of Phillip Island, returning from their daily duties in the office that is the cold waters of the Bass Strait.

A detour en route to the rush hour on Summerland Beach - a drive by the Nobbies with the promise of stunning views of the rugged western coastline of Phillip Island facing the Bass Strait.

With a wee bit of time to spare before we need to make our way to catch Summerland’s evening crush; we were able to take a short detour to the wild, wild, west of Phillip Island. It is on the western tip of the island where we find the rugged geographical features known as the Nobbies that overlook the rough white waters of the Bass Strait breaking over the rocks that dot the coastline. The stunning views we were treated to standing on the high windswept cliffs that are the Nobbies that evening were made even more dramatic by the storm that appeared to be brewing – the precipitation in the atmosphere painted a spectacular rainbow that seemed to promise a lot more than a pot of gold. It wasn’t just stunning views of the coastline that we got as we made our way to the intended destination – the heads of several wild wallabies on their evening’s forage through the tussock grassland that surrounded us were very much in evidence.

The stunning geographical features of the south western coastline of Phillip Island known as the Nobbies.

The spectacular view of the white of waves breaking on rocks to the setting of the sun.

The Nobbies and the wind tossed tussock grassland on the high cliffs.

The breaking of waves over the rocks that dot the coastline.

The rainbow over the Bass Strait that the precipitation painted.

View of the coastline on the approach to Summerland Beach.

Sunset greeted our arrival to the Phillip Island Penguin Parade’s visitor centre, as did signs prominently displayed that reminded drivers to look below their parked cars for penguins when they were eventually prepared leave after getting their fills of the evening’s procession. We were soon armed with a cup of hot chocolate and an MP3 player – an audio guide included with the tickets for Penguin Plus that provides commentary with information on the penguins, their habitat and their habits, and ready to brave the stiff breeze that brought a chill to the boardwalk that led us to the beach.

Sunset greeted our arrival at the Penguin Parade Visitor Centre.

The grey of the incoming storm mixed with the fading light of sunset.

Signs reminding drivers to check under the car for penguins.

Several options are provided to allow visitors to get up close and personal with the penguins – Little Penguins that at 30 centimetres high are the smallest penguins in the world. Penguin Parade provides general viewing from tiered seating on stands by the beach. The option which we got – Penguin Plus, allows a more private viewing at an area where more penguins come up the beach – this is limited to 150 people each evening. More private viewing options are also available. The popularity of viewing penguins at Summerland Beach has increased substantially since the initial viewings were organised in the 1920s (now attracting over half a million visitors each year) – and steps were put in place to minimise human impact and damage to the habitat in the 1960s with fences and boardwalks constructed, which today boardwalks allow visitors to get close enough to the penguins to be able to observe them at arm’s length. Photography in any form, with or without the use of flash is not permitted to protect the penguins.

The procession of Penguins takes place every evening on Summerland Beach (photo courtesy of Phillip Island Nature Parks).

Getting up close allowed us to observe the habits of the penguins that waddled up in waves in the safety of numbers, with tummies full of the day’s harvest of fish that would be regurgitated to feed nestlings. Sensing danger the scout penguin pauses – preening with oil from glands to keep their feathers waterproof – the penguins in the parade behind the lead penguin doing the same. Despite the rain that came down as darkness fell and the stiff cold wind that blew across the beach and the boardwalk behind it, it was a wonderful experience getting that close to the adorable little creatures in their natural habitat – I had only previously come close penguins separated by the thick glass panel of the zoo enclosure.

The boardwalks allow visitors to get up close to the penguins without disturbing the penguins or their habitat (photo courtesy of Phillip Island Nature Parks).

To bring a wonderful day out on Phillip Island to a close, from Penguin Parade (after checking for penguins under the car), we made our way to Taylors Waterfront Restaurant where the scrumptious treat of a huge seafood platter that included oysters, lobsters, king prawns, mussels, octopus and calamari awaited. The restaurant is one that is situated on cliffs that overlook the Bass Strait and must provide spectacular views in the day time – the view that we got that evening was no less spectacular, with the full blast of the stiff wind from the sea sweeping over the cliffs driving the rain that was falling horizontally to the huge window panes as we dined to the sound of the weather cock spinning furiously on the roof. A couple of us – Pete and Valyn were crazy enough to brave the wind and the rain and take a walk around on the outside. The coffee and ice-cream that we finished with also brought to a close what was a long but thoroughly enjoyable day out on Phillip Island – a must visit for anyone visiting Melbourne.

Taylors Waterfront Restaurant by night.

The huge seafood platter was a wonderful treat!

The force of the wind coming from the sea over the cliffs blew the rain horizontally against the windows of the restaurant.

Two mad bloggers braving the wind and the rain outside Taylors - the cliff drop was just beyond the edge of the grass that you see.


Phillip Island Nature Park

The Phillip Island Penguin Parade, the star attraction of the Phillip Island Nature Park, has been delighting visitors for many years with little penguins making their way up Summerland Beach each night at sunset. Over 500,000 visitors make the Phillip Island Penguin Parade the third largest visited natural attraction in Australia.

Phillip Island Nature Park
Summerland Beach, Ventnor Road
Phillip Island VIC 3922
Tel: (03) 5951 2879
Fax: (03) 5956 8394
www.penguins.org.au


Taylors Waterfront Restaurant
5 Phillip Island Tourist Road
Phillip Island VIC 3922
Tel: (03) 5956 7371
Fax: (03) 5956 6540


This is a repost of my post on the omy Colours of Melbourne 2011: My Melbourne Experience site. You can vote for your favourite blogger at the My Melbourne Experience voting page. Voting period is from 15 September 2011 to 5 October 2011 and stand a chance to win prizes worth up to $3000 which include Jetstar travel vouchers and Crumpler limited edition laptop bags.






Low and slow at The Atlantic

22 09 2011

From the highs of the Eureka Skydeck 88, we moved on to our next stop where we explored the lows of The Atlantic – our dinner destination where we were to savour the low temperature cooking genius of one of Melbourne’s celebrated chefs, Donovan Cooke. The Atlantic, a restaurant sited at a prime waterside location at Melbourne’s Crown Entertainment Complex, draws its inspiration from the famous meat packing district of New York, as well as the hustle and bustle of the fish markets of yesteryear and may perhaps be the jewel of restaurants in the Crown. Donovan returned last year to Melbourne, a city that remembers him well for his previous stints there, after a spell as the chef de cuisine at the Derby Restaurant and Bar at the Hong Kong Jockey Club, to helm The Atlantic as its Executive Chef and partner.

The Atlantic is set in a prime waterfront location in the Crown Entertainment Complex.

Donavan Cooke the Executive Chef of The Atlantic.

Walking through the bustle of the restaurant’s floor and past the open kitchen and oyster bar designed by none other than Donovan is enough to get the gastric juices flowing in anticipation. We sat down in a private room surrounded by fish nets, lit by the glow of the wine cooler that served as the wall on one end. Studiously examining the pre-selected menu, I saw that a four course dinner awaited us, starting with a Yellowfin Tuna Tartare – which I somehow couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into.

The open kitchen designed by Donovan Cooke.

Fishnets add to the ambience of the restaurant.

The reverse side of the menu. The Atlantic strives to provide the diner with a true ocean to plate experience.

As always, there was some excellent wine to accompany the meal – we started with a sparkling 2006 Yarrabank Cuvee selected to complement the started of raw tuna, horseradish and Iberian ham and the excellent company perfectly. Donovan Cooke then made an appearance; giving us the low-down on the low temperature cooking techniques that he employs which was to feature on the next two dishes on the menu.

We started with a 2006 Yarrabank Cuvee.

The Yellowfin Tuna Tartare we started with.

The first of the two, Citrus Marinated Olive Oil Confit King Salmon, cooked at low temperature for a long eight minutes appeared on the table. Orange and served with a slice of orange, the piece on the plate bore the colour of raw salmon. Half expecting the taste of raw salmon, which I often enjoy, I was pleasantly surprised to bite into a very smooth textured piece of fish which was oozing with the rich flavours of the citrus marinade – a heavenly piece of perfectly cooked, albeit raw looking, salmon that seemed to melt in my mouth. The salmon was accompanied by 2008 Gioiello ‘Reserve’ Chardonnay.

The very raw low temperature cooked Citrus Marinated Olive Oil Confit King Salmon that melted in my mouth.

Next came another melt-in-your-mouth delight – Braised Wagyu Cheek, which did not just melt in the mouth, but provided me with a sensory treat, even if I thought it might have been a little too salty. The Wagyu cheek was another that was prepared with low temperature, braised for a total of eight hours until it literally dissolved as I bit slowly into each and every bite of it. This was complemented by a Shiraz – a 2006 Moortangi ‘Old Vine’.

The Braised Wagyu Cheek - another one that melted in the mouth.

The sommelier explaining the selection of wine.

Pete was his usual animated self, as Eric looks on somewhat bemused.

Donovan Cooke at work.

After that wonderful treat of salmon and beef, it was time for dessert – Vanilla Panna Cotta – my second panna cotta of the day. This was served with Persian fairly floss and strawberries and was perfect to bring what was a perfect end to a thoroughly enjoyable first day in Melbourne. There were to be two more days of adventure that awaited us, but for the moment – the meal was all that I wanted to remember Melbourne for.

A sinful end to a perfect evening - more panna cotta ...

... and coffee ... to keep me from falling asleep ...


The Atlantic
Crown Entertainment Complex
8 Whiteman Street
Southbank VIC 3006 Australia
Tel: (03) 9698 8888
Fax: (03) 9698 8899
www.theatlantic.com.au


This is a repost of my post on the omy Colours of Melbourne 2011: My Melbourne Experience site. You can vote for your favourite blogger at the My Melbourne Experience voting page. Voting period is from 15 September 2011 to 5 October 2011 and stand a chance to win prizes worth up to $3000 which include Jetstar travel vouchers and Crumpler limited edition laptop bags.

The post has also been featured on the Atlantic’s website:
TheAtlanticWeb






The Merchant of Venice

15 09 2011

I am just back from an extended stay exploring the world’s most liveable city, Melbourne and the area around it, first with nine other bloggers on a 4 day, 3 night adventure courtesy of Tourism Victoria and Jetstar, and then on a self-drive adventure of my own. Although it wasn’t my first visit to Melbourne, I did come away with a collection of wonderful impressions, that included some of its best in dining, an appreciation of its friendly people, vibrant culture, and rich heritage, and the what lies beyond greater Melbourne and its environs. It is probably too much to really describe, but it will be something that over the next few weeks, I will try my best to do.

A selection of cheeses greets the visitor to the Merchant which is inspired by the culture of Venice and the Veneto.

The serving counter at the Merchant.

Some of the Venetian inspired fare on offer at the Merchant.

The adventure started with a delectable treat at an Osteria inspired by the rich culture of Venice – a perfect way to start the short, but what proved to be a thoroughly enjoyable time in a city which is informally referred to as the dining capital of Australia. The Osteria, the Merchant, was founded last year by one of Australia’s leading chefs, Guy Grossi and Grollo family, both of whom have links to the Veneto. The Merchant, set in a red brick historic building within the forecourt of the Rialto Towers which once served as a trading house, provides an ideal setting for the Osteria, and one that certainly provided a welcome to an excited group of ten bloggers. Accompanied by an excellent selection of wine, a three course meal awaited us, one that included some of the finest ingredients.

The Merchant is set in a historic red brick building which is now part of the Rialto Towers forecourt off Collins Street.

We started with a King Valley La Zona Prosecco.

Chrismont La Zona King Valley Wines accompanied the meal.

The choice of a starter wasn’t difficult – I can never resist a mouthful of prosciutto. That, Parsuto on the menu, came served on a wooden board and a tong – an interesting way to start the meal, and the rich flavour of thin slices of dry cured pork in the form of nothing less than Prosciutto di San Daniele seemed to be brought out by the prosecco which accompanied the starter. The main course for me was fish of the day, flat grilled – Il pesse de uncuo alla piastra – grilled to perfection – each mouthful was a pleasure. Dessert was Spuma di Castagne con pera cotta, a delightful but very sinful chestnut panna cotta served with slices of pear poached in amarone.

Choice of a starter, Parsuto - Prosciutto di San Daniele served on a wooden board.

Choice of Main Course - Il pesse de uncuo alla piastra - flat grilled fish.

Spuma di Castagne con pera cotta, a delightful but sinful chestnut panna cotta served with slices of pear poached in amarone.

Bloggers and Tourism Victoria representatives were able to mingle over the wonderful lunch.

A double espresso that saved me from the effects of lunch.

With a belly full of scrumptous Venetian fare, fine wines and prosecco, it wasn’t had to be transported to the Veneto, and for a while, it did feel like I might have been floating through the canals of Venice in a Gondola and passing under the Rialto. But that did not last long as we all too soon had to make a move, not under the white arch of the Rialto Bridge, but the glass and steel of the towering Riato Towers – the next adventure awaited some of us braver ones – a bicycle ride through Melbourne, and that I will ride through in my next post.

A very satisfied customer - Valyn Lim, winner of the Best Fashion Blog.


The Merchant
495 Collins Street
Melbourne Vic. 3000.
Tel: (03) 9614 7688
Fax: (03) 9614 7211
http://merchantov.com


This is a repost of my post on the omy Colours of Melbourne 2011: My Melbourne Experience site. You can vote for your favourite blogger at the My Melbourne Experience voting page. Voting period is from 15 September 2011 to 5 October 2011 and stand a chance to win prizes worth up to $3000 which include Jetstar travel vouchers and Crumpler limited edition laptop bags.









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