Admire the Avant Garde: Neo-Japanese Cuisine at Ami Ami!

In the basement of Great World City, Ami Ami, a restaurant serving avant garde Japanese cuisine, can be found among a cluster of other Japanese food establishments. Ami Ami dares to reconstruct traditional Japanese dishes, without detracting too much from their best flavours. From their menu, we were offered four new dishes that Ami Ami hoped would excite our taste buds.

The Mixed Sashimi Carpaccio ($16.80++) was served on a plate with a deep central recess and wide fringe so that the carpaccio could nestle in the centre while crisp bread, sliced tomato, and dollops of truffle oil and wasabi could be laid along the edges. Together, they presented an immaculately arranged plate, which would turn out to be de rigueur for the rest of the dishes we would eat today. We were instructed to bring the tomatoes and other vegetable leaves to the centre of the plate for mixing with the carpaccio, which consisted of a multi-colour medley: diced sashimi of pink salmon, red tuna, and white yellowtail, orange uni, white yams, tiny green spheres of prawn roe, and green cubes avocado.

Mixed Sashimi Carpaccio ($16.80++)

We topped the toasted, lightly buttered bread with the salad. The flavour of the sea burst forth from the roe, uni, and sashimi, as the avocado provided soft textures and the bread, the hard, noisy crunch. While the carpaccio did benefit from a bit of detected sesame oil in the seasoning, the strong flavour of truffle oil was a bit disruptive to the harmonies of the other elements, and I could have done without it. Nonetheless, this is a great cold starter.

Unlike other maki sushi rolls which traditionally use seaweed, for the Fruit & Ebi Tempura Vegetable Sheet Roll ($9.80++), Ami Ami have opted for a razor-thin sheet of carrot to hold the ingredients together. Inside the sushi’s core is a tubular chunk of prawn, surrounded by sticky Japanese rice. The rolls are topped with diced strawberry, kiwi, and the distinct green prawn roe once again. Two sauces — mango sauce and a sweet and salty dark sauce — are drizzled, not too liberally, in artful zigzag patterns.

Fruit & Ebi Tempura Vegetable Sheet Roll ($9.80++, 4pcs)

The carrot skin does not distract — if anything, it is plainer than seaweed. While this loses the potential light umami of seaweed, it instead gracefully allows the softer flavours of fruit and prawn to come through. Together with the mango sauce, which my photographer deemed refreshing, the flavours of the dish reminded me of the yummy mango prawn salad you get at Chinese restaurants.

In the Zuwaigani Shell Sushi ($9.80++), shredded snow crab meat was topped with green prawn roe in a crab head. Underneath the meat lay sliced tomatoes, diced mangoes, cucumbers, and tamago egg cubes. While artfully created, this was a frustrating dish to eat. Not because of the flavours, which were expectedly good after the first two dishes, but the difficulty of eating it with chopsticks. Because of the atomised nature of the various elements in the crab head, picking up more than tiny pinches of rice and crab meat shreds with our chopsticks was impossible. It’s not an easy dish to share; it’s best consumed by one, who can pick up the entire head, and shovel the food into his mouth like the crab head is a rice bowl.

Zuwaigani Shell Sushi ($9.80++)

The next dish was a Sushi Pizza ($17.80++) that defied both traditions of Japanese and Neapolitan cuisine. Squares of paper-thin spring roll skin were layered with rice, seaweed, salmon & yellowtail sashimi, avocado, mango, and roe. It is finally covered with a blend of gouda and mozzarella cheese. The entire assembly is that oven-baked until the insides are cooked, the base is crisp, and the cheese has melted and browned a bit. Along the side are two sauces – a Japanese tonkatsu-based sauce and a spicy sauce that you can dip your pizza in.

Sushi Pizza ($17.80++)

It turned out to be delicious, and didn’t fall apart when picked up with chopsticks. The cheese could have been slightly less cooked if they wanted it to remain stringy, but overall it was a dish that satisfied me, even if it might offend some Italian and Japanese gastronomes.

Like the Fruit & Ebi Tempura Vegetable Sheet Roll, the Ebi Tempura Cheese Pie Roll ($15.80++) also has a core of prawn and rice. However, the wrap of choice is instead a crisp pie crust with cheddar cheese. It is served along the edges of the plate with a teriyaki and cream dipping sauce in the centre. Adding the cream to teriyaki sauce made it lighter and smoother. Eating the whole thing felt like a more Japanese version of char siew so. While this dish dispenses with delicateness, its bold salty and umami flavours make this a robust dish.

Ebi Tempura Cheese Pie Roll ($15.80++, 8pcs)

Ami Ami dances on the edge of propriety, but manage to hold onto the fundamental tastes of Japanese food. For anyone who wants something deviating from the usual Japanese fare, Ami Ami definitely have a few intriguing dishes to offer.

Thank you Ami Ami for the invitation.

Ami Ami
#B1-03/04

Great World City
(within Shokutsu Ten Japanese Food Street)
Singapore 237994

Contact: 6835 9071

Opens from:

11.30am to 3pm (last order 2.30pm)
5.30pm to 10pm (last order 9.30pm)

Website

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

Saturday Beer Club at Bar MF by Morganfield’s: Really, Why Not?

Saturday afternoons are rather strange bits of the week. On Friday night, you’re relieved the week is over. On Sunday, you’re relaxed, and then you scramble to make the most of the evening before the grind of Monday hits.

But ah, Saturday afternoon, the sweet spot of the wonderful weekend, is when you begin to feel rested. Fresh from a lovely lie-in, but not quite ready for the fun of Saturday night, we often look for somewhere to chill on a Saturday afternoon.

And that is precisely where the Saturday Beer Club at Bar MF by Morganfield’s comes in: free flow craft beers from the tap with beer bites from 4-7pm for $55++ a person, and nestled high above the roar of Orchard Road. What’s not to like?

First off, I’ll tell you what I don’t like about it: that it’s monthly. Aw come on, I could get used to this weekly. And I was a little annoyed when I was limited to having just one beer in hand each time. I’m a man who likes to take sips of two pints and compare (editor’s note: we do not condone the writer’s lifestyle ;)). But beyond that, it’s really quite a wonderful concept. I rocked up to the veranda at Orchard Central with a friend (sip your friend’s beer, that’s how you get around the limitation!), and we had a great time just chilling over the drinks and the food.

Morganfield’s inaugural Saturday Beer Club menu! Selection rotates every month!

Each month, there’s 10 types of craft beer and cider. During the inaugural launch of the Saturday Beer Club, flying the Aussie flag are beers from Beerfarm (Perth, Western Australia), Stone and Wood (New South Wales), and Bridge Road Brewers (Victoria). Beerfarm’s India Pale Lager was something that hit the spot for me, even though I don’t usually consider myself too much of a hophead in the flavours I like. Stone and Wood’s Pacific Ale was a good clean starter too: easy and fresh to open the session with. But what really pleased me was finding a good porter in Bridge Road’s Robust Porter: I definitely picked up a taste for the roasty flavour you get in porters while studying in the UK!

That man just wants to pour you a beer, and he’s not going to demand money for it.

American craft beers aren’t forgotten either: Stone Brewing Co. (Escondido, California) and SweetWater Brewing (Atlanta, Georgia) are on the menu too! As befits the current IPA craze on the American craft beer scene, there’s an IPA from each of them on offer. But what’s intriguing is really the SweetWater Blue: a fruit beer made with blueberries. Still fairly serious a beer, but oooh, the blueberry was a nice touch.

For something a little more unusual, there’s also Black Kite Brewery, a microbrewery in Hong Kong. The Saturday Beer Club features their wheat beer, which is rather banana-ey, with a tart taste reminiscent of sour mash. If it’s free flow, why not experiment with your taste buds, right?

But see, it’s not right to me to just drink beer. The Japanese have a concept that relates to alcohol: otsumami, or bar snacks. They believe that good alcohol must go with good snacks, to pair and bring out flavours complementary to each other.

I had no beef with these beef cubes. They were great.

I believe they are right. And the Saturday Beer Club takes good care of you in that department. There’s Coffee Beef Cubes (aahhhh so good), Grilled Prawns, Burnt-end Skewers with Satay Sauce, Smokey Bacon Bourbon Ribs, Salt and Pepper Squid, Candied Peach BBQ Ribs and Popcorn Pork.

Not your ordinary popcorn pork. Also disappears really quickly when you’re sipping beer, and you don’t realise it at all!

It’s not all meat and more meat: sometimes it’s pancakes and…meat.

Still hungry? Help yourself to Mini Blueberry Pancakes with Bacon, or some Potato Salad or Fruit Salad to ease off from the grease.

Just like that, I had a really relaxing afternoon sipping beers, tasting new things, and generally chilling with friends. Well worth it. See you at the next one.

Thank you Morganfield’s for the invitation.
This post was written by Lan Yingjie

Saturday Beer Club
Bar MF by Morganfields

181 Orchard Road
#11-03 Orchard Central
Singapore 238896

Next edition of the Saturday Beer Club will be held 28 July 2018
Priced at $55++ a person
Tickets available here

Chef Chen Kentaro debuts his first English cookbook, but hurry, stocks are limited

Michelin-starred chef Chen Kentaro has released his first English cookbook, “A Dash of Szechwan”. To great excitement, I attended the launch at his eponymous restaurant, Shisen Hanten – Singapore’s highest Michelin-rated Chinese restaurant – at the Mandarin Orchard Singapore.

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