Wong Ah Yoke Food Critic recommends

Yan's Chinese omakase, Gochi So Shokudo's Iberian pork sets and more

CHINESE OMAKASE MENU AT YAN

More and more restaurants are offering omakase menus these days, a concept started by Japanese high-end eateries, where the chef decides what to serve.

It works well for small restaurants as they do not have to stock ingredients for a la carte dishes that no one may order. And it relieves the diner of having to decide what to eat and, instead, be surprised by new dishes at each visit. Because the price of the meal is fixed, he also doesn't get a shock when the bill arrives.

Yan at the National Gallery Singapore has joined Japanese and Western restaurants in offering omakase menus.

Most Chinese restaurants can customise a menu based on a given budget, but they would often just put together a selection of dishes from their a la carte menu.

What Yan is doing, however, is more than that. It goes totally off-menu, with the chef coming up with fresh dishes that you do not usually get to taste.


Oven-baked lamb's rack with bacon from Yan at the National Gallery Singapore. 

Most of the time, the dishes comprise ingredients that are in season or what the chef finds fresh at the market that morning.

Prices start at $60 a person, but are not fixed after that. You can tell the restaurant manager your budget a few days in advance and the chef will come up with a menu based on that and any dietary restrictions you may have.

Seafood from around the region is plentiful at this time of the year and, at lunch last week, the chef served a dish of sauteed giant grouper fillet with preserved vegetable and lily bulb.

Other dishes in the eight-course menu, priced at $180 a person, include steamed lobster meat with winter melon and pumpkin soup, and oven-baked lamb's rack with bacon (above).

The omakase menus are available daily for lunch and dinner, but require reservations. In case you're wondering, the restaurant still has an a la carte menu.

WHERE:1 St Andrew's Road, National Gallery Singapore, 05-02 MRT: City Hall WHEN: 11.30am to 2.30pm, 6 to 10.30pm daily TEL: 6384-5585


GO ON A CULINARY JOURNEY


La Brochette Margaridou from chef Jean Marc Bessire (Restaurant Le Cigalon in Geneva). 

Le Bistrot du Sommelier's chef Brandon Foo is taking a look back at his 10-year career by presenting a menu of dishes he learnt from some of the chefs he worked under. Titled A 10 Year Kitchen Affair, it is a one-night dinner held at his restaurant as part of the upcoming World Gourmet Summit.

He did a preview recently and it was quite a culinary journey, as the five courses ranged from rustic to modern French, each an homage to a different chef. I was particularly impressed with the Pate Lorrain, a delicious veal and pork pate baked in a puff pastry, that came from chef Arnaud Caree from the Cafe de Paris in Brassac, France.

I am not a fan of sweetbreads, but was charmed by the La Brochette Margaridou (above) from chef Jean Marc Bessire (Restaurant Le Cigalon in Geneva). It is a perfectly roasted and skewered roll filled with veal sweetbread, ham and morels in bechamel sauce, and served with morel mushroom port wine sauce.

WHERE: 53 Armenian Street, Le Bistrot du Sommelier MRT: City Hall WHEN: Wednesday, 6.30pm PRICE: $148 a person; $188 with wine pairing TEL: 6333-1982


AFFORDABLE IBERIAN PORK


Charcoal-grilled pork, served on rice with a soft-boiled egg. Choice of cuts include belly ($10), jowl ($13.80), collar ($10.80) or a combination of all three ($11.80).

Iberian pork from Spain is a premium meat that is often found on the menus of fine-dining restaurants. But you can also get it at a self-service eatery in a corner at the basement of One Raffles Place.

Gochi So Shokudo has been around for more than a year, but it recently changed from selling mixed Japanese set meals to focus on the pork, with prices targeted at the office crowd.

I like the meat there best charcoal-grilled and served on rice with a soft-boiled egg (above). You have a choice of cuts such as belly ($10), jowl ($13.80), collar ($10.80) or a combination of all three ($11.80).

The pork is also available as tonkatsu ($15.80 for loin; $16.80 for tenderloin; or $25.90 for a mix of both with prawn and scallop) or katsu curry ($15.80 to $17.80), with the meat breaded and deep-fried.

WHERE: One Raffles Place, B1-30, Gochi So Shokudo MRT: Raffles Place WHEN: 11am to 9.30pm (Monday to Friday); 11am to 8pm (Saturday); closed on Sunday and public holiday INFO: No reservations. Walk-in only


COOK WITH THE CHEF


Lunch at The Capella Singapore. PHOTOS: WONG AH YOKE, LE BISTROT DU SOMMELIER, CAPELLA SINGAPORE

Lunch at The Capella Singapore had never been as hilarious as the one I attended last week. And it was thanks to David Senia (above), the hotel's culinary director and a natural clown, who was whipping up a three-course lunch while doing an occasional jig or cajoling one of the guests into being his assistant.

It was for a group of invited guests to check out the hotel's new dining space called Chef's Table, with a well-equipped kitchen and seating for up to 14 people.

Here, you can play host with the help of a private chef. Guests can watch the chef at work or, as in our case, be persuaded to put on a toque and apron and help to chop and stir.

You can book the space for a birthday celebration, tai-tai lunch or a reunion dinner. But it won't be cheap. The menu is customised to what you want, with prices starting at from $1,500 for breakfast to $2,500 for lunch and $3,500 for dinner or brunch. Tea can also be set up for at least $55 a person.

The food for our lunch was good. There was a cold soba salad with seared scallops to start, which we watched chef Senia prepare step by step. Then, while we were tucking into that, he and his assistant whipped up a perfectly oven- roasted cod, followed by panna cotta with fresh berries for dessert.

WHERE: 1 The Knolls, The Capella Singapore, Chef's Table MRT: HarbourFront WHEN: Flexible TEL: 6377-8888

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 25, 2016, with the headline 'Food Picks'. Print Edition | Subscribe