Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Basil Alcove, Middle Road

In looking out

Just about two months in its infancy and coping with the teething challenges of a new eatery, Basil Alcove, which is situated along the first floor perimeter of Fortune Centre on Middle Road has already begun its inroads in attracting its own crowd. Headed by an amicable and candid Chef Xander Ang, this small family run restaurant seems to be starting to grow their share of late dining crowd and throngs of students from the nearby NAFA campus as a regular crowd. If you are not familiar with the area, Middle Road is the stretch of road that separates Bugis Junction/Intercontinental Hotel from the Stamford National Library. From there, move towards the direction away from Beach road and Fortune Centre is about 5 minutes stroll away.

Chef Xander was gracious enough to take some time to engage in a little chat providing insights of his work, the theme of his menu, his experiences in the culinary industry and sharing his thoughts over his role as the master of his little kitchen that caters a range of diversified customers. Hailing from the hotel industry, travelled and spent 8 years in the honing of his craft, Xander had developed his own taste endowed in this restaurant which he admits is part Italian, part French, and infused with a tinge of Asia. In the spirit of candor, Xander also talks about the unique advantages of the size of his establishment which enables him to deliver a personal touch in the service he provides in the form of personal customisation of taste when time permits. These he says, works to satisfy gastronomically both the traditionalist and the adventurous. Ultimately, he gains gratification from seeing the smiles of satisfied customers with food that both warms both the stomach and the heart.

Basil Alcove is as I've mentioned, a small restaurant with indoors that seat up to 6 or 8 at the most. On the outside, there are more tables which on a fully packed night can seat up to about 30 (inclusive of the inside). Within arms length from the seats is the kitchen counter and just behind, the kitchen. And for a kitchen that barely has working space for 3 persons, this places whips up a fairly mean array of dishes and a price tough to beat. The setup of the restaurant was small and cosy with attentive staff. Diners are armed with a simple array of cutlery which is basically sufficient for all the served food from the kitchen of this place. Waiting time for food gets a little stretched when the place is crowded since the kitchen itself is basically managed by Xander. Ironically in a heart of Asia, Chef Xander manages to run his eatery styled like the little family and non franchised restaurants which is commonly seen in Europe. This place offers daily set lunch for about $8 and has an a la carte dinner menu with a small selection of wines.

For a first visit, we opted for fairly safe bets and started with the soup of the day (clam chowder), Tomato Bruschetta and a dozen mussels.

Clam Chowder
Looks above average doesn't it? For $3.50, it's heart warming, smooth and creamy. I must admit that the clam flavouring needed a bit of work, but otherwise, I would say that it's pretty decent value for money spent. Especially when compared to a similar offering at the same price or even higher. The photo doesn't show it, but there were clams swimming in that soup.

Tomato Bruchetta
At $2.50, this appetizer was a steal. Though the toppings came a little dry, the dip more than compensated for it. This zesty dip tasted to be olive oil and vinegar(or is it vinegrette?) infused with coriander(I think) and garlic. I really do not know what else could be inside, but it's a little spicy and quite different from the usual oil based dips.

Have I said cheap and good yet? How about it? At $7.80 a dozen, these mussels are fresh, full of healthy bite and cooked in butter. Due to a little misalignment in supplies this time round, the buttery broth was a tad too salty, but it seems that this will not be repeated. I'll definitely be tempted to order this again upon re-visit. This too, has a mild spicy infusion from the sliced chilli bits.

Pan fried dory
This cost just $6.80. I'm not usually a big fan of fish so I'm at a loss of how to really define the meat. It's definitely not lousy, just didn't eat it enough to leave an impression. The rice dumplings at the side are interesting though. They're topped with sliced eggplants and I think zuchinni with a shower of grated cheese. The flavour of the rice dumpling is light, yet noticeable. I found them quite tasty and I couldn't really identify what's in it.

Mushroom & Bacon Aglio
The Mushroom and Bacon Aglio came at an affordable (I really mean this) $4.80. Eat that Pasta Mania! You'd be hard pressed to find another place in town that sells pasta at this quality at this price. If you click on the image on the right, you can get a better picture of the ingredients that are buried in the spaghetti. A generous amount of bacon and mushroom for less than 5 bucks. I'm not sure if it shows up in the photos, but there's sliced chilli inside which injects a mild spicy heat in this dish.

All the above and a Hoegaarden at $32.20 for dinner for 2. I have little reason to complain. Fine food in a not so fine place? Yeah, you bet. Don't just take my word for it. Experience is the best teacher in life.


Anonymous said...

Hey dude, I noticed that there's a pint of Hoegaarden as well as an ashtray in your 3rd pic?

How about including the approximate no. of smoker's tables as well as beer prices (if any) the next time you're at it? *wink* *wink*

LiquidShaDow said...


The Hogaarden's $6.80. The "ashtray" was actually plates.

I'm not sure what's the proportion of smoker's table, but I'm guestimating it at the regular 3-6 seats. What I do know is that there are because the staff enquired whether if we wanted smoking seats or not. I'll try to take note if I'm down again.

Anonymous said...

Beer anytime? This certain look like a very accessible place, coupled with good food, I guess that's as good as it can get. :)

LiquidShaDow said...

No problemo Jeff. Just let me know when.

Anonymous said...

I tried the place on Friday night and it was a good experience :) The chef even checked in on us to see if the lamb, which was very good, was done to our liking. Plus he recommended eating the coffee marinated vegetables that we put aside (I thought they were garlicky cucumbers lah!) :P