Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Singapore: FiftyThree

amuse gueule: potato chips with yogurt powder

We allowed ourselves one "fine" meal in Singapore. It was a toss up between Iggy's and FiftyThree. The former has been around for a long time and is generally known as one of the best fine dining establishments in the Lion City. I think they were even awarded best restaurant by the Miele Guide. I heard lunch there was a bargain (as fine dining goes) and was eager to try, but alas, they were full every day we were there. The latter is the newest endeavour of the venerable (well, in Singers anyway) Les Amis group, who also own Cepage in Hong Kong. I liked Cepage, but the reason why I wanted to go to FiftyThree was because I'd heard that the chef had trained at The Fat Duck, Noma, and several other notable eateries. They were full almost every day too, as they only have seven tables, but were able to fit us in for lunch, even though I'd wanted to go for dinner. The chef, Michael Han, kindly devised a special menu for us, which would include both lunch and dinner dishes.

Burrata, tomato (cherry and 'micro'), watermelon, basil and apple juice. yes apple juice. excellent combo - apple juice went really well with the acidity of the tomatoes. Total highlight - genius.

Lemon & lime cured Japanese mackerel, yogurt granita, smoked eel, water chestnut, dill & cream, 'micro' south american cucmbers, dill flower. It's wonderful to look at, but the whole flavour experience was a little anti-climatic, given the wow factor of the first dish. The dill flower was a bit too strong and seemed quite separate from the rest of the dish. If you bit into the flower (which I did), your tastebuds would be momentarily hijacked...

Hokkaido scallop, watercress, carrot puree, chicken powder (prob consomme with the water vacuumed out?), chicken oysters. Big savoury dish, quite pleasing, though the chicken powder has a tendency to become cloying and clumsy in the mouth while not adding too much flavour.

Welsh lamb, very rare, topped with root veg - swede, daikon, beetroot and Jerusalem artichoke.
If you look really carefully, you'll see that the beetroot at the very top is held at an angle by a supporting slice of daikon to give it height - I love that attention to detail. Not sure how the lamb was cooked though. Sous-vide then flash seared? Roasted at a very low temperature? Either way, it was almost raw, which was fine by me, but some of the pieces were a bit hard to cut as the tendons were in the middle... It took me a while to get through the dish because of this - even the server noticed and asked at the end "operation complete, doctor?" haha

Potatoes cooked at 75C for 7 hours, served with wattleseed, cocoa and parmesan emulsion. Beautifully presented, and this was the first time I'd had wattleseed - an interesting ingredient indeed, with intense coffee + dehydrated soy sauce tones. I was really too full at this stage of the meal to fully appreciate so many carbs and intense cocoa/caffeine flavours. I wish it came earlier in the meal - but maybe it was my fault for asking for a lunch+dinner combo menu!

Dessert - apple 'risotto' (fine dice) with rosemary foam. The foam was way too floral, but admittedly a little smear of it went well with the apple.

I know it sounds like I didn't enjoy this - but I did. It was a bit of a rollercoaster ride as far as the food goes - the first course really knocked my socks off - it really was amazing - and perhaps set the bar a bit high. The rest were all very good - true, the flavours were a bit of balance here and there, but I do applaud the creativity, skill and attention to detail. I've certainly never had something quite like it in Asia (not yet anyway). Chef Michael Han is definitely one to watch, and that's not only because he's a spunk.

A note about the service and decor - both are excellent. The servers are knowledgeable and friendly and have great attention to detail. Decor-wise, it's in an old shophouse, simply but tastefully refurbished with a lot of Nordic modernist accents - e.g. the light wood tables and chairs, the Marimekko (or lookalike) painting, the use of soft grey felt as coasters and little decorative tidbits here and there. Although next time I'd sit downstairs, right next to the glassed-in kitchen, though it's not always possible as it also serves as a private function room.

Another example of the fabulous attention to detail - this is the bread basket, or should I say, sack, which had a pocket filled with pebbles at the base - the sack, plus pebbles would be pre-heated so as to retain heat and kept the brioches (which had a great crust, by the way) warm about 3/4 of the way through the meal. Smart and chic.  

53 Armenian Street, Singapore (near Raffles)
+65 6334 5535
Open: Tue-Sat lunch, Mon-Sat dinner

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  1. Wow! Sounds like I need to fly down for a visit. What's with the "micro" everything, though?

  2. Haha, yes, that's exactly what my friend (who I dined with) said re all the 'micro' things. I guess it was for novelty and aethestics - flavour wise these micro things were a bit lacking. But it's certainly worth going to, they're really doing something different there in my humble opinion.

  3. This looks a lot more interesting than the other places people have mentioned but I think I will wait to do it with Jen. She will kill me if I have another fancy meal without her.

    Off to look up what a spunk is now.

  4. I had dinner there a few weeks ago. Loved every single dish! Michael is a genius when it comes to exploring flavours and experimenting cooking methods and combinations to enhance ingredients. I loved his concepts, presentation and also genuine warm service. No pretentious Che Che wait staff here, just well trained and friendly staff who will start each food journey with incredible details of how to enjoy, what goes into the art pieces and how the chef cooked them. Trust me, by the end of the 8 course dinning experience, you will feel like your $300++ per person spent was worth every cent!

    I had the opportunity to also dine at Andre, who is hailed as one of the top chef in the region to watch out for. With a waiting list of 1 mth, I could not say the same about my experience there. Service staff were either nervous (you could tell they were not trained as they poured water across our table to fill our glasses), or extremely serious. The too pretentious menu describes nothing about the entire meal, but elements that made no connection to my hungry tummy. Neither did the description of my courses by the wait staff do much to bring me greater appreciation to what I was tasting.

    All in all, the dinner at Andre was more costly than Fifty Three, yet did nothing to excite my tastebuds. Some dishes were poorly combined like the vanilla popcorn and the oyster and apple foam. Unfortunately, our 1 month wait for Andre turned out to be a huge disappointment. Money not well spent. However, I must give credit to Andre for being very warmth and passionate about his art.