Two Fine Dining Restaurants on Sentosa

In a fit of generosity, DC decided to take me out for dinner at The Cliff on Sentosa for a nice meal. Given that it was a weeknight, the place was already fairly full, with all the coveted balcony seats overlooking the sea already reserved and enough people so that we had company at the next table. It was a very dimly lit restaurant, hence its reputation for being a very romantic place. I can imagine many a marriage proposal taking place at the balcony seats. Unfortunately, the dim lighting also meant that the photos came out at even poorer quality than my norm.

The warm bread was good: crisp and crusty on the outside and soft and yielding on the inside. I liked how they paired it not just with olive oil but also with a vaguely Arabian spice mix with paprika as the main spice. It was fun dipping our bread in the olive oil and then the aromatic powder.

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We were given an amuse bouche that DC really liked. I’m not so keen on molecular gastronomy type bits and bobs, especially the bursty green blob on the spoon (it was a reconstructed olive), but I liked the toast with some experimental spreads on it. Can’t remember what it was, perhaps they’ll take the idea further and turn it into a bigger dish for the menu proper.

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For starters, I had Belon oysters ($13 each). Belon oysters are one of my favourites as I love this particular blend of sharp minerality finished off with a good dose of brine. I wanted to order two because of the prohibitive price, but DC persuaded me that three made it right. And he was right, three is just right for enjoying the taste enough and not overdoing it. DC had an oyster soup that he said wasn’t worth mentioning, so I won’t.

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My main course of barramundi with pickled fennel and prosciutto floss and broth ($68) was overpriced. The crispy skin was well executed and that was about all I liked about the dish. I found the fish a bit overcooked, which was a travesty considering this is a signature dish. Overdoing a $68 fish is a bit much. As to the rest of the dish, I felt that the flavours were oversaturated. The prosciutto broth that the fish sat in was too salty against the sharp briny fennel pickle. It made the dish off balance. How to fix it? First, get the fish cooked right, darn it! Then dial down the salt in the broth and moderate the pickle slightly.

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DC’s pork dish ($62) was much better. They served the usual pork belly with crisp crackling that was perfect, which for a restaurant like this is merely a passing grade. To push for a better mark, they had to one-up the competition. They did. They were daring in serving the pork loin so pink it was almost red in the centre and this was tender, juicy and very flavourful. The piece de resistance was the savoury popcorn on the side, which I slowly picked from DC’s plate as the dinner progressed.

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We shared a dessert of The Cliff Lemon Tart ($20). This is the one thing that I would go back for: the many presentations of lemon. There was lemon meringue, lemon sorbet, lemon cake, lemon everything. I can’t even name all the various textures, temperatures and tastes of lemon in that dish. It was a lovely way to end the meal.

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Would I go back? Yes, with a reservation at the balcony seats next time. I would order the oysters, the pork and the lemon tart again. And I would enjoy the impeccable service. There’s something about this place where all the staff are invariably warm, gracious and inobtrusive. It’s the best service at any restaurant in Singapore.

The Cliff
The Sentosa – A Beaufort Hotel
2 Bukit Manis Road, Sentosa
Tel: +65 6371 1425
Opening Hours: 6.30pm – 12.00am (Last order at 10.00pm)

And the next contender is Osia. DC decided to pamper me for lunch. This was something like two months later, so please don’t think I eat like this every day. My first impression of Osia wasn’t that good. When we stepped in, there was this horrendous drilling noise from the renovation next door. This went on for quite a while until I asked if they could get the neighbours to at least stop for lunch. Our server at first said that they wouldn’t stop and I had to suggest that he ask them to do so before he trotted off. Thankfully, that worked and we had a much more tranquil meal after that.

On to the food. We had the set lunch ($35 for 2 courses and $45 for 3 courses). DC had the tuna tartare starter and was dismayed by the small portion. I liked the freshness of the dish and its bright flavours, enjoying the contrast of soft tuna chunks against crunchy vegetable. It was well executed, a classic dish.

The same could be said for my veal carpaccio. There was nothing to fault in the fresh produce and good flavours, yet nothing in the starters that took things up a level.

It was my barramundi that did exactly that. This is what The Cliff should have made of its barramundi. The fish itself was done perfectly – with silky, flaky and tender white flesh and nicely crisped up skin. The tomato salsa under the smooth potato mash was what made it soar. Aside from chopped tomatoes zinged up with chopped shallots, there were also little morsels of preserved lemons. The restrained use of tangy, salty lemon added an unexpected yet very familiar dimension to the dish. I also liked how the asparagus was presented not in spears, but in pretty yet practical, easy to eat rolls.

DC liked his hanging beef tenderloin with mushroom risotto but I was too caught up with my fish dish to thoroughly enjoy a bite of his. It was decent, that’s all I recall.

Then we shared a dessert of Valrhona hot chocolate soup, a signature dish. When it arrived, I had difficulty figuring out where the soup was, because it was blanketed under a layer of crust and icing sugar.

We had to break through the top to get to the chocolate below. It was more of a chocolately custard that baked into a crust at the top. Though it wasn’t quite as dark as I’d like it to be, it is definitely a crowdpleaser and goes well with the vanilla bean ice cream. What really surprised me was how after a few spoonfuls, the black pepper started coming through and it really made the dessert sing. No wonder it’s a signature dish.

Osia
8 Sentosa Gateway Resorts World Sentosa
Tel: +65 6577 8888
Opening Hours
Lunch: 12:00pm – 3:00pm (Daily)
Dinner: 6:00pm – 10:00pm (Sun – Wed, Last order at 9:45pm)
Dinner: 6:00pm – 10:30pm (Thur – Sat, Last order at 10:00pm)

Verdict? I like both, with The Cliff winning on the inventiveness, especially its lemon dessert, and on the wonderful service. Osia wins on its consistency in terms of fresh produce and well-executed dishes; it’s also much more affordable with its lunch time set menus. There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with Osia’s service, I just found that the staff could have been slightly more proactive at making sure we were comfortable.

Western-Style Olive Fried Rice and Other Experiments

I experimented a bit with fried rice by using no obviously Chinese ingredients (aside from the rice itself). There were some pitted olives hanging around in my fridge, some fatty pork slices and a tomato, together with leftover rice. It worked quite well my dried mixed herbs and plenty of freshly ground black pepper, but didn’t taste very western at all. I guess you can’t run away from the Chinese-ness of garlic, pork and rice. But it’s so yummy from the interplay of soft tomato, pungent olive and tasty fatty pork that I might do it again even if I don’t have olives to finish up!

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Ingredients:
2 garlic cloves
20 pitted black olives from a can, drained
1 tbsp olive oil
100g fatty pork, chopped
1 tsp dried mixed herbs (I used herbs de provence, but it doesn’t really matter)
1-2 cups cooked rice
1 tomato, diced

Method:

  1. In an electric chopper, pulse the garlic and olives together till chopped fine.
  2. In a work, heat the olive oil and gently fry the garlic-olive mixture till fragrant.
  3. Turn up the heat and add the pork and fry till no longer pink, then stir in the dried herbs.
  4. Now add the rice and stir till well incorporated, heat through. Add salt to taste.
  5. Off the heat, stir in the tomatoes and serve.

Serves 2 or 3 (i.e. with 2 people you get leftovers, yay!).

To accompany the fried rice, I made some mushrooms braised in red wine. It’s a really simple dish that so luscious and sinful. I normally think of them with German sausages and thickly sliced bread, but they didn’t do too badly with the fried rice!

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Ingredients:

50 g butter
1 onion, sliced
300 g button mushrooms (1 punnet – brown ones are generally nicer)
1 wine glass of red wine (I normally freeze leftover wine for occasions such as these)

Method:

  1. Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat and sweat the onions gently. Let them colour a bit, but not brown.
  2. When the onions are soft, add the button mushrooms and stir.
  3. Turn up the heat and pour in the red wine.
  4. When the mixture starts to boil, turn down the heat to simmer for about 15 minutes or till the gravy has thickened.
  5. Add salt and pepper to taste before serving.

Serves 2.


Another day, the word “chermoula” kept floating in my head. I’d not really thought much about trying one out till now, and I couldn’t shake it off. Knowing that I had to get it out of my system, I went to the supermarket and picked up whatever seemed right to go into a chermoula. According to Wikipedia, a chermoula is of North African origin. Commonly found in Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, it’s a thick marinade or sauce made out of herbs, lemon, garlic, cumin and oil. It’s supposed to accompany seafood and fish, but I used it to top poached chicken breasts instead. It really livened up the plain chicken and added such zing to a simple dinner. For this meal, the poached chicken was accompanied by boiled beans, carrots and fennel, with a side of wheat berries done in the rice cooker. Top the chicken breast with chermoula and crispy chicken skin (20 mins in 160 °C) and it’s a fairly healthy dinner.

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Ingredients:

4 garlic cloves
1 pack coriander (50g?)
1 pack parsley (50g?)
3 tsp coriander powder
2 tsp cumin powder
4 tsp paprika powder
juice and zest of 1 lemon
olive oil

Method:

  1. In an electric chopper, pulse the garlic, herbs, powders and zest with half the lemon juice and a drizzle of olive oil.
  2. Keep pulsing till smooth, adding more oil to help the process along.
  3. Add salt and more lemon juice to taste.

Makes enough for 4.

Good Eats Along Upper Thomson

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Upper Thomson is an area that I haven’t explored much and I’m glad that recent developments have allowed me to do so a bit more. We had brunch at Meng Kitchen where they specialise in bak chor mee ($4 per bowl). DC thinks this squares up as a top contender for #1 in his books, especially since we didn’t have to queue or wait long even. The noodles were nicely al dente, especially the mee kia. I liked the smoothness of the vinegar, seems like it’s a superior brand compared to the regular versions. I liked how generous they were with the dried sole, but would’ve liked the liver to be less cooked. Pink is the desired doneness, not tough and brown. The soup wasn’t too bad, a notch above the typical longkang jui (drainwater) that’s normally served nowadays.

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Meng Kitchen
246B Upper Thomson Road
Open 24 hours

Next, we wandered round to Salted Caramel to get our fix of (guess what?) salted caramel ice cream. Accompanying it was lychee ice cream, which I felt was too grainy and hadn’t quite enough lychee flavour. The salted caramel ice cream in our double scoop ($5) was top notch, with an excellent smooth texture and just the right hit of salt. I like how you couldn’t actually pinpoint the saltiness, it was simply there to accentuate the sweetness of the ice cream. The strange thing about this ice cream is that the caramel flavour wasn’t that strong. Not every mouthful had the rich burnt sugar taste of caramel. If you told me it was cendol flavour, I would believe you. Still good despite the slightly flavour confusion!

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Salted Caramel
246F Upper Thomson Road
Tel: +65 6753 1718

June Eating House

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Quite a few friends highly recommend this place, so we thought to take my parents her to see what the fuss is all about. We ordered most of the stuff that friends recommended (thank goodness for facebook!) and had a look round the other tables for ideas too. The food came pretty fast, but the mosquitoes in the open air area got to us faster! Bring mosquito repellent if you do go.

The first dish was the pumpkin prawn, an interesting take on the now-typical salted egg prawn. The prawns were first deep-fried in a light batter, then slathered with a thick savoury pumpkin sauce, full of curry leaf and some salted egg. With fresh, plump prawns, and a great sauce, it was hard to go wrong. If eaten early on, the prawn is crispy enough to be eaten whole, shell and all.

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We saw other tables happily eating the long beans fried with dried shrimp (hae bee) and followed their good example. The beans were done with a deft touch, still crunchy and going incredibly well with the salty, fishy dried shrimp.

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Salted egg crab came next, again done very well. It was first deep-fried and then coated in a dry salted egg sauce. Some bits of the crab were fried so well that you could chomp bits of it down, delicious shell and all. I licked up all the salted egg sauce and the sweet, fresh crab meat inside the shell.

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We couldn’t help but also order the pork trotters. My dad liked it so much that he whacked most of it, leaving the rest of us to quickly take whatever bits we could before he finished off the crispy outside, tender inside pork. The sour chilli sauce cut through the richness, making us hanker for more.

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A reasonably priced zichar place that does deep-fried food very well. Watch out for the mosquitoes though.

June Eating House
315 Tanjong Katong Road
Tel: +65 6345 0301

Quick Eats: Rong Cheng Bak Kut Teh

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I was in the Sin Ming area for car servicing, so I had to check out the famous bak kut teh stall there. Rong Cheng has excellent clear, peppery soup. The flavour is probably one of the best I’ve had. Too bad that the ribs themselves were a bit tough. I also liked that they had fresh vegetables (tang oh AKA garland chrysanthemum)  as a side dish in addition to their decent rendition of salted vegetables. The braised ter kah (pork trotters) were tender and yummy, though nothing mindblowing. A good place to go if you’re in the area.

Rong Cheng Bak Kut Teh
Blk 22 Sin Ming Road (the coffee shop right at the corner)

A Good Brunch at db

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We’re not sure how it happened, but one Sunday I found myself at Daniel Boulud’s swanky cafe at Marina Bay Sands with DC, Shinta, KK and Eeyore. We opted to share some starters and then proceeded to our own main courses. The first appetiser was the quail ballotine en croute ($22), basically a baked pate of quail and foie gras enclosed in a pastry shell. It was well executed and tasty. Maybe I’ve had too much airline food but this reminded me a lot of the stuff you get on the plane if you eat just the quail part. But with the foie gras centre, things are all good and yummy. I quite liked the pickles at the side, especially the bit of shiitake pickle – a refreshing change to the usual carrot and cucumber pickle.

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The spicy tuna tartare ($23) was good in that the ingredients were impeccably fresh and flavourful. The chef had a very light hand in the spices as it was hardly spicy to my palate, yet paradoxically heavy on the salt. Perhaps he was going for the cured salmon style while I was expecting more sashimi salad.

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The chop chop salad ($15) cost more with shrimp ($21). We counted 4 shrimp, making them $1.50 each, which isn’t too bad considering that they were, as is the standard at this restaurant, fresh. What I enjoyed throughout the meal was that every ingredient in each dish seemed to burst with freshness and was pretty much picked at its peak. I normally tolerate bits of wilted salad leaves here and there, sometimes even at the best places, but at db, it seemed like they did a proper freshness QC. Very good! Here, again, the salad was very tasty and fresh, though nothing inventive or mindblowing. $15 for a fresh salad with watermelon, sweet and juicy though they were, seems a bit steep to me.

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For mains, DC went for the piggie burger ($24) which had a beef patty topped with pulled pork. My tasting portion of beef patty was well seared on the outside and nicely juicy in the outside. I didn’t taste much pulled pork and think the patty is delicious enough to have on its own. Maybe I’ll go for this one next time.

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KK and Eeyore both had the original db burger ($35), which had braised short ribs in the middle of the meat patty and foie gras on top. I didn’t find my tasting portion very special and didn’t even notice much of the short ribs. One thing though was that the foie gras was tiny and I was very lucky that the piece KK cut for me had a tiny sliver that barely caught my attention had it not fallen onto my plate. But the fries at this place are da bomb. I think they’re probably the best fries I’ve had in recent memory. These are definitely twice fried, they’re super crisp on the outside and somehow slightly waxy and moist on the inside. I wouldn’t call it fluffy, but somehow the texture worked really well. The flavour was great too, and they salted the fries just so. I wonder if they put beef or goose fat in the oil to make it taste that good.

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Shinta had the barramundi grenobloise ($34), again an impeccably seasoned dish. My tasting portion of fish had a lovely crisp crust of skin that really added to the juicy fish. Excellent.

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Finally, my dish. I went for the grilled yellow fin tuna ($36), which I felt was the weakest link of the main courses. The tuna was of decent quality. I’m belabouring the point here, but the produce offered at this restaurant is faultless. However, the flavour of the tuna somehow didn’t sing and I felt that the corn fricasee was a tad too stodgy despite being lifted by the spicy, mustardy watercress. Plus, I could hardly taste the hedgehog mushrooms that I ordered the dish for (yes I put dishes with mushrooms at the top of my order list). While it was a decent rendition of tuna, it was sadly very forgettable.

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For dessert, we were stuffed and none of the other desserts appealed to us, so we went for the warm madeleines for the table to share ($8). Considering that the rest of the dishes were fairly pricey, we were expecting no more than one madeleine per person in that portion. We were very happily surprised that the madeleines came piping hot instead of warm and there were plenty to go round. Even Shinta, who was on a no-carb diet, dipped in and there were so many that no one fought over the last piece (a rarity in this crowd). I liked how each delicate little cake had almost crisp edges of darker golden brown that really added to the tender texture of the morsel. The subtle orange peel flavour added to the yummy ending to the meal.

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I like db Bistro Moderne and think it’s got good, fresh, well executed food and efficient, attentive service. Price-wise, it’s not cheap as we paid $66 per person for all the food above plus a glass of wine and a fruit punch (don’t order the fruit punch, it tastes just like the type you get at post-event buffets). However, I’d say it’s quite worthwhile, as opposed to truly value for money, as the produce really is fresh (there, I’ve said it yet again!). I’d return, though probably for a chi-chi splurge than for a regular work-night dinner. Oh yes, and I’d return for the fries!

db Bistro Moderne
B1-48 The Shoppes Marina Bay Sands
Tel: 6688 8525

Quick Eats: Tsuru Tsuru Tei

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DC and I found ourselves at The Central one work night. Despite wanting something light, we were lured in by the siren call of the deep-fried black pig ramen. I thought to order a salad to help lighten the meal and ended up ordering the only salad on the menu: avocado salad ($7.80). At least there were vegetables. I liked how the leaves were fresh and there were quite a lot of avocado chunks. The onsen egg was a lovely touch to top off the salad, I love eggs with still-runny yolks and barely set whites. Yummy!

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And now for the piece de resistance, the koumi ramen ($15.80). I apologise for the poorly composed photo. It was a work night, it was late and I was tired. The basic ramen below the rack containing the deep-fried pork, though not among my favourites, was decent. The noodles were fairly firm on arrival but got soggy towards the end. You just have to eat fast to enjoy the firm texture. The soup was a decent tonkotsu style broth, very milky and unctuous with plenty of collagen dissolved in it. I think it had loads of msg too, so watch out before you over-indulge.

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Ah… and the thing that lured us in! The deep-fried pork rib was fairly decent, though not as crispy as we’d anticipated. Still, the meat was substantial and tender, and the batter fairly light. I’d prefer it slightly less sweet, but for something that’s not too expensive, I’m not quibbling too much.

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Tsuru Tsuru Tei
6 Eu Tong Sen Street
#03-88/89 The Central @ Clarke Quay
Tel: 6327 7887