Friday, October 7, 2011

Friday Lunch Club... at long last!

Friday Lunch Club is an endangered institution... and it's not getting any better since one of its key members moved back home to Taipei. So today Lady Dyson 2000 organised a gathering of starving foodies at Cepage and gave us a chance to catch up on this long neglected tradition. April, Spartacus and Granny G. joined us for a delicious meal orchestrated by Chef Armin Leitgeb (of Les Amis in Singapore), who was in town this week demonstrating his culinary talents to the wow-ed HK crowds. As I never got the chance to visit his Singapore restaurant, this was the perfect opportunity for me to sample his famed cuisine, even though it felt a bit strange to visit Cepage with Chef Seb not in command. Both Chefs (as well as Super-Cheryl the Pastry Queen) were kind enough to pop by our table to say hi, and I finally had the pleasure of meeting Chef Seb. I am of course looking forward to coming back to Cepage to sample more of his delicious cuisine, but I will also make sure to pop over to Les Amis during my next trip in the Lion City. Some of the dishes proposed by Chef Armin today were nothing short of extraordinary, and I am curious to see what other treasures are hidden on his Singapore menu...

The light at Cepage is always perfect for shooting - a least at lunch time.

Tomato focaccia and baguette - this is one of the best bread baskets in town, and the selection today did not disappoint. Crispy baguette with good ears - I know this matters to some of you ;) - and very tasty focaccia.

We started off with a perfectly chilled glass of this delicious champagne.

Amuse-bouche: B.L.T. grilled spanish octopus

Clear tomato jelly, grilled octopus in tiny cubes with veggies, bacon foam and lettuce tempura. This was delicious. The tomato jelly was amazingly tasty despite the surprising lack of colour, and the bacon foam worked superbly with the chargrilled flavours of the octopus. Daring and creative.

Lightly smoked eel "tiede", crispy pork crouton, horseradish and dijon mustard emulsion

Side view. With a 3rd piece of eel it could be made to look a bit like MBS :o)

Lightly smoked eel "tiede", crispy pork crouton, horseradish and dijon mustard emulsion

Top view - the flavours in this dish were incredible. The eel was out of this world, fatty, smokey and melting in the mouth. The pork crouton was crisp and packed with flavour, and the grated horseradish was perfect to cut a little bit of the sweetness of the other ingredients. The mustard sauce was light and creamy, and overall the flavours just worked together wonderfully. This is apparently one of Chef Armin's signature dishes, and it was truly gorgeous.

Poached maine lobster, chanterelle mushroom risotto, lettuce and confit egg yolk

Some of my fellow lunchers were not happy with the way their lobster was cooked, but I am luck to report there was nothing wrong with mine. If anything, it was probably a tad less cooked than it could have gotten away with, which considering its absolute freshness really wasn't an issue. The meat was sweet and bouncy - delish - and worked nicely with the earthy flavours of the mushrooms. I also found the sweet egg yolk worked particularly well with the risotto. I would agree though with Granny G. that both the mushrooms and the risotto were a bit underseasoned and could have benefitted from a bit more salt and maybe a touch of pepper. This was otherwise absolutely decadent.

Chargrilled Australian wagyu rib eye cooked in hay

Brought to our table in the cocotte for us to marvel at... the smell was absolutely wonderful. Grilled meat juices and fragrant dried grass. Heavenly.

Chargrilled Australian wagyu rib eye cooked in hay, sunchokes, spinach and perigourdine sauce

A thick slice of the very marbled and slightly wobbly rib eye landed on our plates on a bed of sunchokes puree with buttered spinach and a wonderful sauce packed with the smokey flavours of the hay and chargrilled meat. This was simply the best piece of beef I have had in months, possibly even the whole year. Amazingly cooked, fondant, tasty (I love Aussie wagyu) and infused with the flavours of the hay. The pairing with sunchokes (aka Jerusalem artichokes) puree and spinach was an absolutely awesome combination;  I asked for some extra bread to mop the sauce, which I couldn't possibly leave on my plate. A truly gorgeous dish, I almost stood from my chair and started clapping...

A little extra pre-dessert sent by the kitchen - milk ice cream with chilli, chocolate sauce, caramelised cocoa nibs, and "molecular" pineapple.

An interesting play on a traditional Singapore breakfast dish. The flavours were clean and subtle. Very, very good.

"A fancy lemon tart" - thyme ice cream

This was brilliant. The citrussy notes on the plate worked wonders after the somewhat heavy meal we just had. The lemon cream was perfectly tart and smooth, with good biscuit crumbs sprinkled on the plate and grilled italian meringue. The thyme ice cream was deliciously fragrant and the addition of baby verbena leaves as a garnish was a very nice touch. A perfect note to end the meal.

Vanilla marshmallow, chocolate and coffee eclairs

Delicious and so tempting you always find space to scoff down a couple...

Dark chocolate ganaches, choco-vanilla shotbreads

Impeccably presented and absolutely delicious. I would like to eat ganache like this one more often :)

Petits-fours - caged

Sweetness at Cepage is always delivered to your table in style :)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A lunch date

Ms Dyson 2000 had a reservation at Caprice for lunch today and no more guest to go with, so I volunteered (huge sacrifice, I know) and joined as her date (sorry Spartacus...). Caprice needs no introduction, it has been featured in this humble blog and many others countless times, and it is always with great anticipation that I return to sample more of Chef Vincent's delicious creations. The service today was at its usual best, smoothlessly choregraphied and as attentive as ever. And the food... ah! the food... I think it reduced us both to grunting cavewomen. There were so many interesting dishes on the lunch menu that the choice was excruciating. A big merci to Jeremy, Mr Garcia, Benny & all the staff at Caprice for their warm welcome. We certainly look forward to coming back soon :)

Great light for shooting, thanks to a harbourside window table :)

Garlic bread sticks, warm and delicious

I NEVER drink at lunch on a weekday when I have to go back to work... EVER!! ;)

This chinon was light and fruity (and paired quite nicely with my fish main course) and we both marveled at the perfect temperature at  which it was served.

Beurre Bordier - the flattened cone is the salted one, which we destroyed in no time. The unsalted one was once more left untouched.

The bread at Caprice is always a feast for the eye and the palate. My choice today was the sourdough, which was served warm (perfect as I love my butter melting on the bread) and was fluffy, crispy and absolutely delightful.

Petit gris snails, meurette poached quail's eggs and sweet garlic espuma

This was absolutely gorgeous. Nutty, bouncy snails, cubes of melt-in-the mouth pork knuckle, croutons, marvellous garlic espuma and red wine sauce. The play on the textures and the pairing of flavours was superb.

Quail's egg, poached to perfection

Cod brandade pastilla, escabeche vegetables and sea urchin emulsion

Each season Chef Vincent comes up with new pastilla dishes for his lunch menu. Lamb, duck and now cod. This was right up my alley. A colorful explosion of crunchy, slightly pickled seasonal veggies and a hearty cod brandade in a crispy fillo casing. Absolutely delicious.

Cod brandade - supremely yummy. I did not really enjoy the urchin sauce though; it was impeccably executed and the mineral, briny flavour was spot on and incredibly fresh, but I am still working at acquiring a taste for urchin and sometimes still find it a bit difficult. That said, for people who enjoy it more than me, it made sense as a flavour on this dish.

Having to go back to work without the time for a nap, we were heartbroken to pass on Jeremy's awesome cheeses... we also passed on dessert, for the usual reason. The petits fours were *yawn* as usual - technically the standard is high, but taste or texture-wise there is always something amiss. Take the pistachio marshmallows on the left for instance. Topped with a cranberry (or was it raspberry??) jelly cube, the pistachio marshmallow was served on top of a pistachio cream. On paper, an awesome combination of flavours and an intersting play on textures, but why oh! why serve this in a dark chocolate cup? Not that pistachio is bad with chocolate, but the proportion was wrong (too much choco killed the pistachio) and I think you should choose between choco or sour fruits as a pairing with the green nut. Even tough the concept is good, it always ends up messy and misses the spot. "Less is more" applies to many areas of life - desserts included. The mango-passion and white chocolate one did not fare much better. The raspberry milk chocolate tasted strangely artificial. The caramel though was very good; I loved the fact that they used roasted walnuts, which are in season, instead of the usual almonds or hazelnuts - nice touch.