Restaurant Review

Restaurant review: Western with a difference

Grilled Portobello Salad. -- PHOTO: WONG AH YOKE
Grilled Portobello Salad. -- PHOTO: WONG AH YOKE
Seasons Bistro. -- PHOTO: SEASONS BISTRO
Seasons Bistro. -- PHOTO: SEASONS BISTRO
The Surf & Turf Gumbo, with prawns, sausage bits and chicken stirred into the rice stewed with okra and tomato, has a healthy dose of heat. -- PHOTO: SEASONS BISTRO
The Surf & Turf Gumbo, with prawns, sausage bits and chicken stirred into the rice stewed with okra and tomato, has a healthy dose of heat. -- PHOTO: SEASONS BISTRO

Seasons Bistro serves wholesome American fare and its menu is designed to follow the seasons

Every month, you find a mid-priced Western restaurant or cafe opening to cater to those seeking something more comfortable than a food court but less expensive than a stuffy restaurant.

But most of them serve the same things: a few salads, one or two soups, some pasta dishes and main courses comprising a fish and a choice of meats. Their food may taste rather generic, too, as the salad often contains either lettuce or arugula, the soup would be a cream of a vegetable, the pastas would come with a tomato sauce and so on.

In that respect, Seasons Bistro, which opened at Triple One Somerset about two weeks ago, is not that different. But it manages to distinguish itself nonetheless.

Unlike other eateries which classify themselves as generally "Western", Seasons focuses on American fare. And, like its name suggests, its menu is designed to follow the seasons of the Northern Hemisphere.

But what surprises me is how reasonable the prices are, especially for an eatery in the Orchard area. The most expensive starters are priced at $16, while the main courses range from $20 to $32.

This is what you pay at neighbourhood cafes, except both the quality of the cooking as well as the plating are a lot more refined here.

Singaporean chef Benjamin Fong - who studied at The Culinary Arts School of Ontario in Canada and has worked in restaurants there and in Singapore - whips up food which tastes good and wholesome. It's not gourmet food but you certainly will not be getting instant mashed potato or frozen vegetables here.

The Grilled Portobello Salad ($16) is a favourite of mine because it packs so many delicious flavours in one healthy dish. Besides a meaty portobello mushroom, the generous serving also includes mixed salad greens, tomatoes, crispy bacon, candied walnuts, pickled onions and a piece of slightly torched St Mauve Terroir, a mild goat's cheese.

Drizzled with vinaigrette made with red wine vinegar, it can be a meal on its own if you are a light eater.

But I'd suggest you share it, so you can try other dishes.

The Seared Yellowtail Tuna Taco ($14) is very good too. Tuna is not traditionally served on a taco, but it works with the avocado mayonnaise, pickled onions, cotija cheese and cilantro, jalapeno and watercress salad. Put all these delightful flavours on a crispy taco and you have a sure winner.

If you are a fan of tuna, try the Seared Albacore Tuna ($26) as an alternative. I don't enjoy seared tuna as I prefer it raw, but the rest of the dish does appeal to me - a small but delightful salad of pear, avocado and watermelon, a piquant salsa verde and a simple slice of jicama under the fish.

The Surf & Turf Gumbo ($27) passes the spice test with its healthy dose of heat. Besides prawns and sausage bits, there is diced chicken meat stirred into the rice stewed with okra and tomato. Chilli cowards, however, should steer clear.

Instead, go for something safer such as Buttermilk Fried Chicken ($22), which I enjoy for the well-marinated meat. The chef uses a spring chicken so you don't have to deal with chunks of bland breast meat.

There are dishes which do not work for me though. One is the Manhattan Clam Chowder ($8). Unlike the creamy New England version, this is a clear, tomato-based soup with diced carrots and onions. But there are hardly any clams in it, so it tastes more like a minestrone.

An attempt to localise the classic tomato and mozzarella salad by replacing the cheese with tofu does not impress either. The tofu in the Summer Tomato & Tofu Salad ($14) is too bland and needs a stronger dressing than the combination of sesame oil and sherry vinegar used here.

Not all of chef Fong's experiments fail, however. His Mojito Tart ($12) is very good.

The classic ingredients of a mojito come together in a new way - mint lime curd in a coconut tart crust topped with rum cream - but still work magic.

Follow Wong Ah Yoke on Twitter @STahyoke

SundayLife! paid for its meals at the eateries reviewed here.