French chef Christophe Lerouy was turning out fantastic food at DSTLLRY Par Christophe Lerouy at one-north, until the restaurant closed abruptly.
What a pity. But the 34-year-old is opening another restaurant soon.
Until then, I shall head to Patisserie G at Downtown Gallery to partake of the small, but superb menu for his pop-up tapas bar, which runs until Sept 15.
With just 10 dishes, it is easy to say "everything on the menu please" and share the spoils with a couple of friends.
Must-orders include Oyster ($10), with an aromatic sauce that tastes like haute green curry. Oysters are not often kind on my stomach, but I finish all the sauce, which has a tartness that makes my tastebuds tingle in a very delightful way.
You cannot go wrong with Croquetas ($12) with a kicky aioli; and Sobrasada ($12), a pork and paprika sausage from the Balearic Islands, which is spread on sourdough bread drizzled with honey. It has a sweet-savoury vibe that makes me think of bak kwa.
But my two favourite tapas are Beef Tartare ($13) and Octopus ($14).
The aromatic lime zest in the chopped raw beef gives it a powerful kick and I love biting into the pearls of salmon roe that top the beef.
Although the slices of octopus are perfectly fine, I find myself digging into the flavourful rice, coloured with squid ink and flavoured with paprika. The grains are perfectly cooked and juicy.
WHERE: The Pop-Up Tapas Bar at Patisserie G, 01-30/34 Downtown Gallery, 6A Shenton Way (until Sept 15) MRT: Tanjong Pagar OPEN: 5 to 10pm (Mondays to Fridays) TEL: 6222-0390 INFO: patisserieg.com
NEW, LUXE OFFERINGS
I have had many delicious eats at the sleek, eight-seat counter just outside the main dining room of one-Michelin-starred Iggy's: desserts, starters, snacks.
Now, I can go there and order a complete meal: Burgundy wine by the glass to go with the restaurant's classic dishes, and a well-curated selection of tapas by chef Aitor Jeronimo Orive.
I know that the restaurant's owner, Mr Ignatius Chan, has been wanting to remove Capellini ($26/$34) from the menu.
No. Never. Please.
The pasta dish, with sakura ebi, lobster oil and kombu, is a classic for good reason. After all these years, it still tastes great, with lashings of umami. Ignore the copycats - this is the best version.
Bucatini ($26/$34), a new dish, is equally compelling. It is pure comfort - braised oxtail and pasta, with shavings of truffle that make it luxe. I would like just a little more acidity and brightness in the oxtail and, next time, I shall order the larger portion.
Other new offerings include Fish Tacos ($22). You get two kinds: mackerel with chipotle emulsion, and skate with sambal. They are small, two bites maybe, but pack in a lot of flavour.
So, too, does Pintxos ($26 for four), pickled gizzard shad or kohada on toast. The tang on that fish instantly whets the appetite.
It is easy to get carried away, but please make room for Cocotte ($24), beef tripe cooked Madrid-style with tomatoes, garlic and paprika.
Long cooking makes the offal tender and the pickled green chillies that sit on top of the cocotte are crucial. They add bite and tang to this rich dish.
Could I have it tossed through pasta? Or a double portion?
WHERE: Iggy's Mini Gastro-Bar, Level Three Hilton Singapore, 581 Orchard Road MRT: Orchard OPEN: Noon to 1.30pm (last seating), 7 to 9.30pm (last seating) (Tuesdays to Saturdays) TEL: 6732-2234/8188-3200 INFO: www.iggys.com.sg
VEGETARIAN MEE SIAM WITH A KICK
The steady stream of customers at Jiak Zhey (Hokkien for "eat vegetarian food") tells you a lot about the three signature dishes at this stall in Geylang East Food Centre.
Diners will not miss the meat and seafood in the mee siam ($2.50), mee rebus ($2.50) and curry noodles ($3).
Of the three, the mee siam is what will get me back there. A perfect balance of sweet and tart in the gravy makes this dish sing. And don't forget to add a dollop of vegetarian sambal for a bit of a kick. It is flavourful, but will not blow your head off - always a good thing for a chilli coward like me.
I love the luscious gravy for the mee rebus, but find that the yellow noodles have too much gansui or lye water, which makes the noodles springy. A similar problem plagues the curry noodles, which has a light, coconutty gravy that I keep wanting to spoon up.
Get better noodles and I'll be haunting this place every week.
WHERE: Jiak Zhey, 01-67/68 Geylang East Food Centre, 117 Aljunied Avenue 2 MRT: Paya Lebar OPEN: 7am to 2pm (Tuesdays to Sundays), closed on Mondays TEL: 6438-5698 INFO: www.jiakzhey.com/
SPRINGY, PILLOWY ABACUS SEEDS
Singapore chefs have been putting sophisticated spins on local favourites for years, but I have to admit I am often sceptical about these efforts.
There is nothing wrong with a plate of white on white chicken rice. A sloppy but delicious plate of char kway teow. A bowl of laksa with gravy dripping down the outside of the bowl. If it ain't broke, why fix it?
But when I bite into a sweet potato abacus seed in Antoinette, I swoon.
The dish, called Hakka Gnocchi ($24), is chef Pang Kok Keong's take on suan pan zi, abacus seed-shaped dumplings with minced pork and mushrooms.
He makes the dumplings with the traditional yam, but also beetroot, sweet potato and purple sweet potato. And it is not just for the vibrant colours. The dumplings are ever-so-light, springy and pillowy, not the least bit chewy, which is the default description for such dumplings.
My favourites are the earthy beet ones and the sweet potato abacus seeds, which have just a hint of sweetness.
Dried shrimp, foie gras, cured pork and morel mushrooms make the dish luxurious, but not in a bad way. In fact, this is one of the best dishes I have had this year.
Also worth ordering is Chilli Crab Arancini ($16 for three), a mash-up of that popular dish with Italian fried rice balls.
What makes it good is that chef Pang does not hold back on the chilli and the lobster bisque adds a powerful flavour punch.
The salted fish dressing in the Kale Caesar ($22) has plenty of umami and I long to have it drizzled over the rather bland sous-vide chicken breast in Chicken Rice ($26).
WHERE: Antoinette, 30 Penhas Road MRT: Lavender OPEN: 11am to 10pm (Mondays to Thursdays), 11am to 11pm (Fridays and eve of public holidays), 10am to 11pm (Saturdays), 10am to 10pm (Sundays and public holidays) TEL: 6293-3121 INFO: www.antoinette.com.sg