We had been invited to dine at Chef’s Table tonight, hidden within the upscale hotel the Capella on Sentosa, apart from the hustle and bustle of the mainland. When we walked into the small room which contained the entirety of the kitchen and a long table that only sat 24 guests, I didn’t feel like I had just entered a restaurant. I felt like I was in the chef’s house. I could smell the food the chefs were cooking a few metres away from me as Michael Bublé’s Christmas album played in the background.
We were here tonight to sample a few of the dishes that were going to be available for Capella’s Christmas and New Year menus at their various restaurants: The Knolls, with Mediterranean-style cuisine; Cassia, their Chinese specialty restaurant, and also their festive sweets.
They were really proud of their seasonal cocktail from Bob’s Bar, the Christmas Carol ($22++): a refreshing cocktail mixed with inhouse Navegante rum from Barbados and champagne. They had also mounted a slice of pear on the edge of the glass and sprinkled ground cinnamon on it, so when the glass is brought to the lips, the nose catches a whiff of the spice straight away.
From the starters for the Knolls Christmas Eve & Day Lunch, they gave us the well-crafted Pink Pepper Caramelised Foie Gras Mi-Cuit. A thin strip of mashed pineapple is shaped around a round slice of foie gras terrine. Sugar is sprinkled on top, then promptly blowtorched. The sugar sizzled, bubbled, and darkened into a deep purple colour as the flames danced on top of the foie gras. The fragrance of burnt sugar wafted into the air. The result is like a crème brûlée: a soft savoury foie gras base with a thin crisp covering of hardened caramel. The pineapple was soft, sweet with a subtle tartness. Whole pink peppers were added to be eaten with the foie gras. When cracked, it doesn’t burn the tongue, but releases an atomic hint of floral spice. A painted stripe of dark brown sauce adds a sweet and salty element.
The next thing to be served was something from the main course of the Knolls Christmas menu, the Halibut Confit with Citrus Junos. The halibut is sweet and uniform in its perfect doneness, not flaky or powdery, but soft and fleshy. It paired well with a creamy hollandaise-style sauce made of lemon, butter, and fish juices. Plated together with the fish was the Pumpkin and Corn Gnocchi, a separate option on the same menu. These orange molded balls of a pumpkin and corn mash had the comforting texture of a scone.
From the Cassia New Year’s Eve and Day Dinner, we were treated to the Braised Bird’s Nest with Crabmeat. A small island of shredded crab meat tops a foundation of bird’s nest, surrounded by a sea of thick, chicken and pork bone broth. A few eggs of fish roe round the dish completes the experience with bursts of saltiness. I love the creativity of using bird’s nest away from its traditional usage in a sweet cold dessert in a warm soup instead. The texture of bird’s nest resembles that of shark’s fin minus the guilt, so when your soup crumbles the island into the soup and everything is eaten together, it reminds one of the pleasant times eating warm shark’s fin soup at special occasions with the family.
I was gladly surprised by the succulence of Capella’s tandoori-style Exquisite Turkey. It’s a Christmas turkey with a twist: the bird is seasoned and marinated with classic masala flavours and roasted inside an actual tandoori oven. The result is a turkey that is more juicy and tender than the typical roast turkey. Served alongside is a tasty stuffing doused with fragrant truffle oil, spicy green chutney, and roasted root vegetables.
You’ll have a chance to taste it as well at the Festive Open House at Chef’s Table on 24 November and 9 December 2018. If you purchase it on 24 November, you get a 10% early bird discount of the usual $138++ for the whole turkey, which is still available for orders after 24 November.
The evening is brought to a sweet close by a panoply of sweet delights taken from Capella’s Festive Afternoon Tea. From the moment I touched the chilled plate, I knew that Capella’s efforts in giving the best dining experience extended even to the desserts. The Pecan and Pistachio Carrot Cake was adorable with a carrot-shaped almond-flavoured icing.
The Hazelnut Praline Tart is best enjoyed whole by biting the thin praline case to release the flowy chocolate ganache inside. Vanilla Chantilly Slice with Raspberry Preserve and Lemon Zest Biscuit is a delicious combination of sweet and sour on a soft sponge cake. The Chestnut Cheesecake is royal on top with a gold flakes, but hides a down-to-earth chestnut core inside. And the Almond Marzipan Stollen: it’s like a cold-served slice of thick bread, and it’s sweet and crunchy with marzipan sugar.
These sweet treats — and more — will be available for Capella’s Festive Afternoon Tea from 3-31 December 2018.
As we were eating our dessert, musicians were brought in to serenade us with a joyous rendition of ‘Feliz Navidad’, which got our Spanish chef de cuisine Ignacio Moreno dancing and singing along. Great food plated with love, with a convivial atmosphere; it certainly felt like Christmas at Capella.
The food tasted today comes from Capella’s various seasonal offerings from November to December: the Festive Open House, Christmas Eve and Day Lunch and Dinner at Cassia and The Knolls, Christmas Afternoon Tea at Chef’s Table, and many more. See the full list here.
We thank Capella for the invitation.