Friday, January 11, 2008

The Universal, Duxton Hill

I didn't find this place (36 Duxton Hill, S089614, tel:63250188) too agreeable with me. Firstly, half an afternoon of various repeated phone calls failed to get through to the restaurant which resulted in my attempt to do a reservation via their website. The web reservation had no acknowledgement and by the time I managed to get through sometime in the evening, it was quite apparent that the web attempt didn't register with anyone in the establishment. An email which I had sent regarding the menu didn't get any replies by the time I was seated in the restaurant, I found that most of the items on their website is no longer being served. Can you spell bummer?

amuse bouche

Admittedly, I did find certain of the dishes appealing by description from their web menu which is what made me decide on dinner here in the first place. The current menu from the very recent change (why is everyone using the same excuses?) didn't quite seem as interesting. At this point, there wasn't much other options and I wasn't about to adjourn to another location. I didn't feel that these guys were really worth my money and ended up with pastas for mains.

cappucino of mushroom

The impression from the dinner stuck me with them trying and not quite getting there. Service was very polite if somewhat sculpted and lacking of human warmth. The opening amuse bouche of a pan fried scallop and parma ham on a cheese cracker did look quite promising, but the promise pretty much stopped at that point. A cappucino of mushroom, thyme infused milk and white truffle oil tasted just like a plain, albeit decent mushroom soup with none of the other mentioned ingredients detected. This paled very much in comparison with a cappucino of cauliflower veloute which I've had some time back. The very modestly sized pan fried foie gras with duck breast, caramelized banana with rum and port reduction at $36 turned out to be too mushy for my likings and the first resonating thought that came to mind when I placed the first piece into my mouth was, "I've definitely had better". Better and less expensive ones too. And in more generous portions. It has almost none of the crispy exterior to speak of to contrast with the soft insides. Duck breast's so ordinary, I can hardly find words to describe them. Help me out here.


I found the spinach gnocchi with home made tomato sauce and smoked scarmoza cheese to be quite unimpressive. For one, the sauce tastes anything but home made. It was tangy, but not in a refreshing way that perks the taste buds. I have my suspicious feelings that it was probably mixed from something that came in a can or a jar. And positively, I can say that I know my cheeses well enough to not detect any scarmoza. Parmesan, yes. Scarmoza, definitely not in there. Visually, it looked a mess with bits of unidentifiable vegetable bits in the sauce and topped with what tasted like salted and fried tapioca chips. Also, from the way the melted cheese appeared, it frankly looked like it had been heated in the oven. I was again, shoved another mouthful of disappointment when informed that their wild mushroom risotto with octopus perfumed with truffle oil that features that same tapioca chips again would be served with mussels instead of octopus because they are out of octopus. The claim was that there was no delivery for the weekend. On a Friday night. After I had made the order. Despite the risotto being rather decent, I was pretty much miffed at the missing octopus from the dish. This restaurant has serious communication issues with their customers.

Or maybe, they just don't like me.