By the time we left Esquina, it was barely 8pm on a Friday evening and we were worried that all the nice places in the Chinatown area would be packed and we weren’t sure they’d give us a table just for dessert. Here’s where Bistro Soori really shone. It’s just diagonally across from Esquina and couldn’t be more different. It is a quiet dinner place, more for an intimate first date than raucous socialising. The place was fairly empty and almost entirely taken by reservations, but thankfully there was a lovely place overlooking the prep stations at a bar counter and we were very happy to sit and watch the chefs at work while proceeding with our gluttony. When presented with the menu, we couldn’t help thumbing through the rest of the courses instead of simply zeroing in on the desserts. Here’s where we all exchanged slightly guilty looks at our greed and asked each other almost simultaneously if we could share the one dish that caught our fancy – the uni, scallop and prawn risotto ($35).
The chef started preparing it right in front of us. I was surprised by how quickly he put it together, first carefully removing two generous strips of uni from its wooden bed and mashing one while reserving the other, then taking half-cooked rice from one jumbo tub in the fridge, and adding broth and various seasonings to the pot. The risotto was plated carefully and finished with a fluorish of grated cheese and baby basil leaves. I was slightly taken aback by how soupy it looked and I was bracing myself for the worst, until spoon hit tongue, I chewed, and an epiphany occurred. Could it be true? We just had a very good tapas dinner, could this surpass that? It was indeed. The first thing that hits when tasting this dish was the clarity of flavours. The taste was of the sea – slightly briney, and tasting intensely of slate and mineral. Then a hint of yuzu rang out and there I was again, reaching out for my next spoonful of risotto. With the fresh uni, it was full of that strange quality of creamy seafood that only sea urchin has. The prawn was lovely enough, but the scallop was amazing. It was seared just so and sliced to let out the juices. The risotto with scallop juices was simply astounding. To completely let go with my histrionics and overblown comparisons (this is me all excited about the dish), it was as if we were released from Plato’s Cave and finally got to taste risotto and scallop and sea urchin in their ur-forms. I think it’ll go down a treat with a bone dry, minerally sauvignon blanc or muscadet. DC thinks it’s a lot of fuss about a dish, but this is the best I’ve had for the year so far. Go try it and taste for yourself!
Back to the matter at hand: dessert. We ordered pineapple cake with coconut cream frosting ($12). The cake had a strange gummy texture, as if a heavy flourless batter had been shot through with bubbles. The closest texture comparison is the local kueh ambon with its vertical chambers. DC really loved it. One of the chefs told us that the cake was fat-free and had been made by using a foam canister to extrude the batter into the tin, that was how they achieved the heavy lightness. The coconut frosting was quite good too, that I’m sure had plenty of fat in it!
Chris absolutely had to have her pandan souffle ($12). She’d been here before and fell in love with this dessert at her last visit. The small cake came out super high with a yummy brown top. It tasted a lot like traditional pandan chiffon cake, just far softer and moister. It was light and lovely. I could eat two on my own! The little biscuit on the side was a good contrast as it was slightly salty, a nice plain foil to the aromatic pandan.
I very much hope to come back here soon, but that will have to wait till another day!
2 Teck Lim Rd
Tel: +65 6438 3802
In the mean time, other diversions awaited. The night was yet young and we traipsed around the area looking for another place to either have more food or for a drink. Since we’d all driven there separately (so eco-unfriendly, I know), we couldn’t drink anything alcoholic. We also reached the limits of our greed and were very glad to come across Tea Chapter at Neil Road. It was a $7 minimum order per person for the tea, so that meant that we had to get something that was worth at least $21. We chose the silver needles white tea ($28) and our server very kindly made the first pot for us.
First, she poured the hot water into the little teapot to steep before transferring it into a beaker when the time was up.
When we wanted to enjoy it, we poured some into the tall cup to enjoy the aroma, and then into the short cup to sip the tea.
The tea was very enjoyable, especially between the various steeps of the tea. It went from delicately floral to more tannic and robust from the first pour to the fifth (that’s the maximum you can go). But more fun was watching Chris and DC play Othello. Not surprisingly, Chris won: she has plenty of practice playing against her son. Me? I just sat back and tried my hand at brewing the tea.
9 Neil Road
Tel: +65 6226 1175