Relax and Unwind with Afternoon Tea at the Chihuly Lounge, Ritz Carlton Singapore!

Some days just call for high tea. Usually, they’re Fridays for me: you’re exhausted by the week, and you really just do want to sit down somewhere, with a lovely platter of little nibbles, and a good drink. And it won’t do either, to head somewhere noisy and crowded: you are seeking respite, after all.

May I suggest the Chihuly Lounge at the Ritz-Carlton, with their 8-course afternoon tea? I know what you’re thinking: 8 courses for tea?! TEA?! But oh, definitely worth it. Here’s how my experience with Stellar Dining Series 8-course afternoon tea goes (Note: now they are serving up the festive afternoon tea promotion).

A little early for alcohol perhaps, but never too soon for a tea cocktail.

Begin with the Tea Cocktail: a light concoction of fruit and tea, bright enough to perk up tired faces from the week. It’s accompanied by some light crackers and sambal: perfect start to the tea already.

At this point, conversation’s still light, and you’re drinking in the lovely surroundings of the Chihuly Lounge. And then the Coquelet Stew in Pie comes out.

Oooh, coquelet stew in pie!

It resembles a Yorkshire pudding with meat more than your classic image of a pie, but make no mistake, it’s pretty tasty too. With a truffle mash on the side, it really whet the appetite properly: I was all ready for the tea stand!

I like my tea stands big. And bigger.

Tea stands are really a thing of beauty: the bigger they are, the more imposing the look, and the greater the number of treats they contain! I will admit I used to be less enthusiastic, but after studying in the UK, where afternoon tea is serious business, I repented of my ways. Look at that beauty!

This is how a good Friday afternoon looks like.

Right in that wonderful stand were two types of scones on the top tier: the traditional scone, and the citrus scone. And then the savoury bites tier (middle) had dill cream egg salad, marinated salmon belly, iberico ham brioche, and a king crab and tuna mayonnaise roll of sorts that I quite enjoyed!

Scones are serious business.

Finishing off the bottom tier were the sweets: these were quite the treat, though I admit I was getting a little stuffed by the time we headed here. Chef Richard Long’s creations of hazelnut lemon, apple caramel, star anise raspberry, and ivory vanilla with fruit were one bite wonders. I enjoyed the mix of flavours, though I think I should have had a bit more tea to balance the sweetness of the tarts.

The Chihuly Vacherin: I have never had a dessert that looked like the environment it was served in!

Rounding off the meal after the tea stands were dealt with, was the Chihuly Vacherin. A mix of pandan ice cream and mango sorbet, there was also tangy lime jelly and a meringue shaped like the iconic sculpture in the Chihuly Lounge! Regrettably, I didn’t quite enjoy the coconut flake texture, but I’m not a huge fan of coconut flakes mostly. This was served alongside a chocolate and cookies trolley, but in all honesty, I was too stuffed by this point!

So, was my Friday afternoon good? You bet it was. I might just come back soon for some much needed slow de-stressing, along with the scrumptious food. You deserve it too.

Thank you Ritz Carlton Singapore for the invitation.

Chihuly Lounge
Ritz Carlton Singapore
7 Raffles Avenue
Singapore 039799

Website

8-Course Festive Afternoon Tea
26 November 2018 to 4 January 2019
12pm to 5pm
Mondays to Fridays
From $52++ per person
Menu

Weekend Festive Afternoon Tea Buffet
24 November 2018 to 30 December 2018
2.30pm to 5pm
Saturdays and Sundays
From $65++ per person
Menu

Letting Your Tastebuds BLOSSOM at Marina Bay Sands!

Usually, when you’re looking for Chinese cuisine, there’s two ends of the spectrum to pick from. If you’re trying to please the more traditional elders in the family, you’d be advised to err on the safe side: think good old dishes that have been done to death. Delicious, but not quite adventurous. Or, you can go experimental. But that’s not always a good option when it’s a large group.

Nestled within these walls is a really cosy place to gather and eat!

Which is why I was very pleasantly surprised when I recently dined at BLOSSOM, a fairly new outfit at Marina Bay Sands. It’s located in the lobby of the hotel area: I admittedly had some misgivings about noise, thinking it might be a little too bustling. But the design of the restaurant put me at ease quite quickly. Nestled along the side, with tasteful partitions, the high ceilings of the lobby dissipated noise while allowing a wonderful amount of light to come in. As the evening went on, the light faded, setting a wonderful atmosphere around the table.

What the interior of the restaurant looks like. All that natural light.

But of course, ambience only brings you so far. The purpose of visiting a fine dining establishment like this one is to eat, and there is not much point if the food’s not up to scratch.

Luckily, it’s more than up to scratch: it will probably satisfy the older generation with its quality, and pique the tastebuds of the more adventurous with its subtle twists! I began my meal with two appetisers: Crispy Silverbait with salt and pepper ($12++)  and the Deep-fried Fresh “Huai Shan” (a carrot cake of sorts) topped with pork floss ($10++).

This silverbait is good. Really.

The silverbait disappeared quite quickly: it was crispy with punch, and definitely very more-ish. It came with a light batter, with bits of spice embedded in it. Altogether, while it’s a type of dish you can get elsewhere, there was something I quite enjoyed about this version.

The carrot cake with pork floss, on the other hand, was definitely unique. The carrot cake bits were crisp, but still moist and crunchy inside. The pork floss added a burst of flavour that really came out nicely, and the taste just keeps growing on you. I started by eating more of the silverbait, but kept taking the carrot cake subconsciously. Definitely something to try!

Next up was the combination platter, with 3 items: the Golden Pear Stuffed with Minced Pork ($5.80++ for 3 pieces), BLOSSOM’s Signature Steamed Prawn Dumplings ($7.80++ for 4 pieces), and the Steamed Siew Mai with Quail Egg ($7.80++ for 4 pieces).

Combination platter for the tasting; you’ll have to order each item dimsum-style!

Do not be fooled by the appearance of the golden pear: it merely resembles one (beautifully so, in its presentation). But it’s actually a semi-savoury dough that is slightly gooey, with minced pork inside and a crispy stem. The dough is made from tapioca flour, with that elusive QQ texture that’s quite the rage in Chinese cooking. I know your parents taught you not to play with your food when you were growing up, but I think the chef had a lot of fun playing with the food he makes here!

The prawn dumplings were interesting as well, with a bit of squid ink. Firm bite of prawns, though this wasn’t as unusual as the other dishes. What I enjoyed though, to my own surprise, was the combination of siew mai and quail egg. The siew mai has crunchy prawns, and the quail egg has a gorgeously soft centre that goes with the texture. Have a bite of each together, and you’ll get quite the flavour explosion!

After the dimsum, came the Baked Chilean Cod in Chef’s Recipe ($26++). This was a real highlight for me: soft, milky cod, with a tangy sauce that goes excellently with the fish. Usually, you’ll find that cod can be rather limp, and the sauce dominates a bit too much, with the fish providing just texture. Here, the sauce managed to balance the flavour explosion of the tang with the opening for the fish’s fragrance to come through. I’m told there’s a mix of Japanese soy sauce and mirin here, but Chef was rather discreet about his own secrets! Definitely try this!

Unassumingly stellar cod: this was great!

The next dish came out rather interestingly: shrouded in a glass cover all steamed up. Naturally, curiosity got the better of me and I got rather excited!

As it turns out, it was the Smoked Chicken with 15-Year Old Pu Er Tea Leaves and Chrysanthemum ($50++ per portion). This was really quite the surprise for me, and ended up being a real highlight. Most chicken served in Chinese restaurants can be a bit boring: dependable, tasty, but boring. And I’ve sat through enough Chinese banquets to associate them with the last bits of the meal: it comes out, people eat it, and the rice course comes out after.

This was different. This was very different. Somehow, they’ve managed to smoke the chicken to have it still be juicy, but with incredibly fragrant tea aroma in each bite. I am not kidding: this dish had me baffled in how wonderful it was. Each piece had a luscious bite to it (gently coated in the natural oil from the cooking), and a wonderful head of the pu er.

Look at how glorious this isGorgeous. Just gorgeous.

There is nothing I can say about this dish that won’t fall short of the mark. Just order it, and experience it for yourself. It’s a real winner.

Last dish of the night: Crispy Rice and Lobster in Lobster Soup ($24++). After the excesses of the previous dishes, this was a nice comforting note to close on. The soup had a sweetness from the crustacean that counterbalanced the richness of the meal prior, and lobster bits had just the right amount of bite to it. The addition of the crunchy bits of crispy rice (popped and then fried) gave it a nice texture in the mouth: this is not your usual lobster soup dish! Overall, this was a simple dish, but evocative of the colours and home in its complexity. I can imagine coming here just to have this on those days when you need something simple to relax with.

BLOSSOM was quite a surprise: for the location and cuisine, prices really are quite reasonable. I’d come back with the family folks for special evenings when you want to cater to a broader spectrum of tastes without sticking to the boring tried and tested. Remember to order the smoked chicken!

Thank you Blossom for the invitation.

Blossom Restaurant

Website for Reservations

Marina Bay Sands Hotel
Lobby Tower 2
#01-05
2 Bayfront Avenue
Singapore 018972

Chill Gen by Xin Wang | 潮 eat 代

There are nights when you want to dress yourself and go eat fancy things. And then there are nights you just want to be simple, sitting around a hotpot with friends. For nights like that, there’s Chill Gen, by Xin Wang.

For people who grew up in the 2000s, Xin Wang is a familiar brand. Open till 2am, I have good memories of late-night suppers and heart to heart conversations at Xin Wangs across the island. I particularly recall the original Heartland Mall outlet in Kovan: it opened in 2005, a time in my life when I had close friends who lived in Kovan, and so I spent quite a lot of time there. So when I first heard about Xin Wang’s new hotpot outlet at Cineleisure, I had to go have a look for myself.

A brightly-lit yet cosy environment for you to hang out with friends.

People might disagree, but hotpot is a communal meal: it cannot be enjoyed alone, if only because you have to wait for things to cook. And it’s precisely in those moments of waiting, that the magic begins. Friends joke and banter, and people just sit there enjoying each other’s company. And so, I found myself one evening checking out Xin Wang’s Chill Gen hotpot buffet, which goes at $18.80++, and $24.80++ on Fridays, Saturdays and eve of public holidays after 5pm. Fairly reasonable, actually, which makes it easier to drag the whole gang of friends down!

A happy spread of food for the bellies.

But of course, we’re Singaporean, and a great location to chill isn’t great if it doesn’t have good food. They sure didn’t disappoint in this regard! Chill Gen offers you four choices of soup base: Signature Papaya, Korean Army Stew, Tomato, and Homemade Fragrant Spicy. I had the Tomato, while my dining partner had the Signature Papaya, so we had a nice mix of variety right there.

Chill Gen operates as an a-la-carte buffet: order whatever you like, and it’ll be brought to your table. As you can tell, we had a good selection of various meats, vegetables, mushrooms and fish items, though there were some unusual ones that you’re probably not getting elsewhere! Frozen Beancurd is one of them: I’m not sure how to describe it, but the texture was springy and I enjoyed it enough to get quite a lot more! Each diner gets one serving of the premium items as well: scallops, ebiko fish paste, and iberico pork belly. I enjoyed all of them, though the fish paste took a bit of figuring out on the cooking front! Their chikuwa and seafood cheese tofu hit the spot for me as well, so I did get quite a bit of them eventually.

Being rather saucy, really: take your pick!

In the end, hotpot buffets are really all about personal favourites, and at this age, I’m sure everyone has their own fancies. But if you take that idea further, then you really also do need good sauces with it. And that’s where I also had a lot of fun building my own sauces to go with the food: right at their well-stocked sauce station! Fried garlic bits really made it for me: I loved the crunch they added to my own secret concoction of soy sauce, spring onions, and…stop judging!

Food provided, just bring your friends.

Ultimately, there’s not much to be said about hotpot. Here, they’ve got the food on free-flow, there’s a great ambience, and there’s good HK milk tea if you want it. Perfect for a nice rainy day, just remember to bring your friends and relax over a nice steaming hotpot together. How would you get past life’s troubles, if not for your friends, right?

Thank you Chill Gen for the invitation.
This article was written by Lan Yingjie.

Chill Gen by Xin Wang
2 Jurong East Central

#01-06
JCube

Reservations: 6684 4407

Opening Hours: 11am to 10pm

When Skyve-ing Is A Very Good Thing

As MRT stations go, Newton is an oft-overlooked one, even though it’s an interchange station between the North-South and Downtown Lines. Nestled in a fairly quiet neighbourhood without high-density housing estates, it’s usually more associated with its eponymous hawker centre (though, tourists beware).

However, just a few minutes walk away from the station sits the hidden gem that is Skyve Wine Bistro. Helmed by the Le Cordon Bleu-trained Executive Chef Jachin Tan, it’s recently launched a new revamped menu of modern bistro fare to go along with its recent facelift.

Stepping into the compound at 10 Winstedt Road, you get a sense of calm already: it’s tucked away enough to make this a wonderful date spot, or a weekend recharge hideaway. But that’s not enough, of course. If we’re here to eat, then the spotlight must be on the food.

And shine the food does. Chef Jachin’s new menu hits the sweet spot: it’s produce-driven, and I often found it hard to figure out what sort of cuisine this was. But that’s not a bad thing, since he’s not limited by a single culinary tradition, and so the quality of the produce really shines through.

Smoked Tomato: Who cares what cuisine this is, if it’s this good?

One example of this is the Smoked Tomato ($12++). Featuring Momotaro tomatoes from the Cameron Highlands, with buffalo snow, heart of palm and a basil sorbet. The tomato is slow-smoked, and together with the heart of palm, really bursts with flavour that is complemented by the buffalo snow. What then rounds it off nicely is the refreshing sorbet: I’ve never quite been a basil person, but this was a surprising pairing that I really enjoyed!

Mediterranean Octopus: My only regret is that an octopus only has eight tentacles.

Another appetizer that went really well with me was the Mediterranean Octopus ($18++). Pickled eggplant, vandouvan (a French derivative of masala spices) and cauliflower puree accompanied this dish. The octopus was chewy but not tough, and its char-grilled flavour was absolutely delicious. This was one of the best octopus I’ve had in a while, because most places either deliver on the flavour, but produce tough octopus, or a wonderful texture but slightly lacklustre flavour.

Beef Tartare: A French classic with a twist.

But not everything here is all new and fancy: Chef Jachin delivered in the Beef Tartare ($18++) a French classic. But of course, as you probably can figure out by now, he’s not the sort to not mix things up a bit: this came with miso-cured egg yolk, shallot dust and gherkin gelee. Beef tartare is hard to get right, if only because most people aren’t that used to the gamey taste of raw beef. But here, the grass-fed Australian beef takes centre-stage, with just a hint of truffle to get the heady aroma. The miso-cured egg yolk contrasts the flavours wonderfully, a bit of beef, a bit of egg yolk, and you start to believe that perhaps you could live a life of food untouched by fire at all.

Lobster Sang Mee: If it means something to the chef, you can bet it’ll taste very good.

You can’t live off appetisers, of course, even if these are that good. So we move on to the mains: first up is a childhood classic of the chef, a Lobster Sang Mee ($32++). No one really expects a zi char dish to show up in a chic bistro, but I’m not complaining if it’s as good as how he does it. With egg drop soup, mussels, and “abalone” (actually a type of mushroom), the dish is intensely homey, but the lobster and the plating remind you that this is quite a step up beyond what you’ll get at your friendly neighbourhood coffee shop. Clearly, never underestimate a chef when he prepares a dish that is emotionally important to him!

Smoked Tenderloin: A garden, with soil, greens, and an animal I could eat over and over again.

Continuing on the smoked theme, I had the Smoked Tenderloin ($38++). Now, it comes with gobo, braised shiitake and truffle soil, but these are merely the accompaniment to the real star: the excellent meat on offer. It is juicy, and the smoking has clearly managed to lock in the flavours, with a depth of taste that I find difficult to describe in words. Maybe it’s the smoking, maybe it’s the quality of the meat already, but this was quite the tour de force. What added a lot of joy to my dining here was the way the other ingredients came in to play: the braised shiitake offered incredibly earthy tastes that contrasted with the meatiness of the tenderloin, and the truffle soil was just excellent mash. I am very picky about my mash, since potato can be boring if you don’t do it right, but I had zero complaints here.

Semifreddo of Lime: Nothing done halfway here in this semifreddo; wholly goodness.

A meal that begins this well, carries this well through the mains, must also end well. To this end, I enjoyed the two options available: a light and refreshing Semifreddo of Lime ($10++) and the simpler but richer Molten Chocolate ($12++). The semifreddo comes with a lovely aesthetic, using blue pea flower caviar, alongside a distinctively floral treat from the crumbly sable that gave depth to the lime notes of the ice cream. Texture-wise, the dessert developed over the time it took to eat it: first with distinct notes from each flavour, then commingling of flavours as the ice cream melted and each spoonful became a delicious potpourri.

Molten Chocolate: What it says on the tin, in a real celebration of chocolate.

But if you’re not into light finishes, then the option for decadence will also not disappoint. Skyve’s chocolate lava cake is as good as I have had anywhere else, with a candied zest that manages to cut through the richness. This dessert is exactly what it looks like: an elegant chocolate cake that degenerates very quickly into a wonderfully sticky and gooey mess that celebrates chocolate gloriously.

Ah, all that satisfaction. Ultimately, there’s a whole host of options for dining that begin from brunch, till dinner, and I think the setting really just is perfect for the food. Come in for lazy brunches, quiet lunches, and charming dinners. They really do hit the right spot.

Thank you Skyve Wine Bistro for the invitation.
This article was written by Lan Yingjie

Skyve Wine Bistro
No. 10 Winstedt Road

Block E #01-17
Singapore 227977
Reservations: 6225 6690

Website