Wong Ah Yoke Food Critic recommends

Food Picks: New menus at Ce La Vi and The Black Swan, 5 Senses Bistro at ToTT, and affordable Japanese food at Sens

NEW LOOK, NEW MENU AT CE LA VI

Ce La Vi, the nightspot-cum- restaurant on the rooftop of Marina Bay Sands, reopens this week after an overhaul of the interiors with a new menu and chef.

The look now boasts influences from South-east Asian countries, with a heavy use of stone and wood, and a ceiling installation that reminds me of spiral incense coils in Chinese temples.

The view from the alfresco terrace is still as stunning though, especially where it overlooks Gardens by the Bay.

The food by chef Joey Sergentakis, who relocated here from Hong Kong, continues the modern Asian trend the restaurant is known for - basically Western dishes with strong Asian influences. Dishes are meant for sharing, with portions enough for two or three people.

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Not everything works. The Warm Citrus Cured Tasmanian Salmon ($22), for example, has too many things going on - with a tart passionfruit coulis and pickled kumquat fighting with the spices on the cured fish.

But there are dishes I am happy to eat again.

The Hokkaido Scallop & Oyster Ceviche ($34) has more balanced flavours from a dressing of pomelo, calamansi, lemongrass oil and coriander.

I also like the Poached Foie Gras With Hazelnuts & Pomegranate ($34), for the way the flavours and textures both contrast and complement. The nuts add crunch and aroma, while the pomegranate adds sweetness to counter the fatty duck liver.


Rose & Watermelon Petit Gateau at Ce La Vi.

But the Rose & Watermelon Petit Gateau ($26) I have for dessert is the most memorable. Frozen raspberries, rose meringue and a refreshing piece of watermelon buried in a slice of Genoise sponge amid white chocolate cream - it is sinful yet refreshing. And it looks really pretty too.

WHERE: Ce La Vi, Level 57, Tower 3 Marina Bay Sands SkyPark, 1 Bayfront Avenue MRT: Bayfront OPEN: Noon to 3pm (weekdays), noon to 3.30pm (weekends), 6pm till late daily TEL: 6508-2188


THE BLACK SWAN SHOWCASES SKILLS, INGREDIENTS

Chef Daniel Sia has returned to The Lo & Behold Group of restaurants as culinary director - he was formerly chef at The White Rabbit. And one of his first tasks was to revamp the menu at The Black Swan, the group's Western restaurant in Raffles Place.

The new menu is a confident one that showcases good ingredients and skilled cooking over fancy plating or odd pairings. The results are dishes you can eat regularly without getting bored.

At a recent dinner, my favourite dish is the Roasted Iberian Pork Chop ($42), simply because the flavour of the meat is amazing. Cooked to the right doneness, it is moist and delicious.

The Japanese Black Wagyu Striploin ($78), an A5-grade beef from Hokkaido, is good too. It is not too fat and the 140g piece of meat is just right for a main course.

The Roasted Cauliflower Steak ($26, above) is what I would order on days when I want to take a break from eating meat. I like the vegetable when it is cooked well because it gets so sweet.

Here, the chef tops it with chopped truffles for aroma, puffed grains for texture and pieces of maitake for flavour. And a slow-cooked egg for all the reasons mentioned.

WHERE: The Black Swan, 19 Cecil Street MRT: Raffles Place OPEN: 11.30am to 11pm (Mondays), 11.30am to midnight (Tuesdays to Thursdays), 11.30am to 1am (Fridays), 5pm to midnight (Saturdays), closed on Sundays and public holidays TEL: 6438-3757


WHOLESOME BISTRO DISHES AT TOTT

At Tott, food is no doubt on everyone's mind - whether you are there to pick up kitchen equipment at the shop or culinary skills at the cooking studio.

There's another foodie reason to be there now - to check out the offerings at 5 Senses Bistro. Run by chef Andrea Lim, who owns an eatery of the same name in Bedok Point, it is a cross between a cafe and a bistro.

The cooking is much better than what you would expect at a generic cafe. Part of the reason is that the chef does not use frozen ingredients, which is why you would find some dishes running out towards the end of the day.

The food tastes wholesome, with a lot of the components made from scratch.

Among my favourite dishes is Pan Seared Norwegian Salmon ($15.90, above), a beautifully seared fillet that is smooth and moist. Served with caper sauce, this is one of the rare cooked salmon dishes I enjoy.

I usually would not order carbonara pasta either, but the Carbonara ($8.90) here is worth the calories. The creamy sauce is rich but tastes fresh, and the 62-degree poached egg that you mix into the pasta is a good idea.

The Seafood Aglio e Olio ($11.90) is lighter. It is hard not to like the pasta topped with squid, mussels and prawns and tossed with minced garlic and chilli flakes.

The 150 Days Grain-Fed Angus Braised Beef Cheek ($19.90) is too lightly seasoned though. It is tender enough, but I'd prefer a more robust flavour.

Also, a number of the main dishes come with similar sides of broccoli, diced carrots and potato. It gets monotonous, especially if you order a few dishes to share.

WHERE: 5 Senses Bistro, 896 Dunearn Road MRT: King Albert Park OPEN: 10.30am to 7.30pm (Mondays to Thursdays), 10.30am to 8.30pm (Fridays), 9.30am to 8.30pm (Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays) TEL: 6219-7077


GOOD, AFFORDABLE JAPANESE FOOD AT SENS

A friend who moved here from Tokyo last week lamented that good Japanese food here is expensive.

That is often the case, but not always true. You do find some more affordable eateries here with quite decent food too.

I'll be taking my friend to Sens to prove him wrong.

The Japanese eatery in the basement of Raffles Holland V is located inside a small gourmet market called Taste and offers an extensive menu of different styles of cooking - sashimi, tataki, tonkatsu and teppanyaki, among others.

I'm usually rather wary of eateries that try to do everything, but the food here - especially the cooked dishes - is rather good.

I like the Kurobuta Rosu Katsu ($17.50, above), a pork loin cutlet breaded and deep-fried till golden and crisp outside, and tender and juicy inside.

Beef lovers will enjoy the well-marbled Miyazaki Wagyu Tataki ($68.80) or the more affordable Sirloin Beef Teppan ($18).

If you're not happy with what is on the menu, you can also buy fresh ingredients from the gourmet market and get the chefs to cook them for you. The eatery charges $8 for every 100g of ingredients.

WHERE: Sens, B1-12 Raffles Holland V, 118 Holland Avenue MRT: Holland Village OPEN: 11am to 11pm daily TEL: 6262-5618

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 12, 2017, with the headline 'Food Picks'. Print Edition | Subscribe