Friday, December 22, 2006

Ember @ Hotel 1929, Keong Saik Road

There seems to be some trend of new restaurants opening themselves in boutique hotels and becoming a name of themselves. Like Wild Rocket at Hangout and Desire at Scarlet Hotel, Ember is the place where the reputation (good and bad) of the restaurant precedes the hotel it resides within. It actually also takes up more estate on the ground floor of 1929 than it's entire lobby.

Dinner tonight was with fatpig and friends. Original intention was to do dinner at Desire, but somehow in the arrangement, confusion brought in Breeze and by the time we managed to contact Desire, it was fully booked. So that's pretty much how we ended up at this place at Keong Saik Road. The arrangement for dinner was shared appetizers and desserts along with individual mains. For a weeknight, the restaurant was almost fully packed. The service from the staff was friendly and above satisfactory. On the whole, this place is a rather pleasant restaurant. The food while commendable in quality, wasn't exceptional in direction.

Commencing with the appetizers,

pan scallops with parma ham, orange and tarragon vinaigrette - the scallops in this thing is huge. I do mean huge and of rather remarkable succulence. I saw juice squirt out of fatpig's first bite into soft shellfish. I was actually expecting cold Parma ham from the description on the menu since I haven't actually had them in other ways. The searing of the scallop felt more like a quick pan fry. Apart from the juicy jumbo sized shellfish, the rest of the salad was pretty mundane. I thought the oranges lacked the citrus punch.

tuna tempura with goma wakame, mustard dressing - I was initially skeptical about the tempura in this, however it turned out much better than I expected, with the tuna being seared instead of thoroughly cooked. Inevitably, I compared it with the really good one I had at Sage, which was still the better dish. Noteably, this tempura batter came really thin and light like no other tempura which I've had. The sauce and mustard did overpower the flavors of the fish (which was light in the first place) to the point that it overwhelmed. Just an observation, not a complain.

pan seared foie gras with caramelized apple and clove port and raspberry glaze - unanimously at the table tonight, this is the highlight of the entrees. Ember makes a wonderful foie gras with a delicately thin crispy surface and creamy insides that falls apart, melting in the tongue with it's rich diffusive flavor. This is seriously damn good.

The selection of main courses at Ember didn't exactly present themselves as enticing from description. In fact, it looked quite mundane.

char grilled angus beef with fava beans - this was my main for tonight. I was thinking that there might have been something more interesting to be had, but the steak amongst the other selection looked the most appealing to me. I really didn't come here expecting to have steak. And it was quite small. Apart from the size, there was certainly no complains. Seasoning of the meat was a simple rock salt and coarse grain pepper, resulting in a good retention of the original beefy flavors. The steak comes with a rather tasty side of potato gratin.

I managed to get a bite from the Slow Roasted Rack of Lamb with Tamarind Reduction which turns out very tender in medium rare and sweetly juicy. The sweetness might have come from the sauce though. The lamb comes with a delicious finely mashed sweet potato side which I thought was quite interesting. The Braised Stockyard Beef Cheek with Merlot which fatpig chose tasted like a Chinese pork braised in soy sauce with a hint of red wine. For $40, I didn't think it quite tasted well enough to justify the price.

On with the desserts...

warm vairhona chocolate cake with vanilla bean ice cream
- this is one of the most common desserts around. Everyone's doing it. Kinda hard for me to be too enthusiastic about it. Although good, they all taste the same.

flavoured panna cotta with chilled mango soup - this panna cotta is mostly drowned in the "mango soup" which tastes exactly like the desserts from Hong Kong dessert stores. It's really unremarkable and the panna cotta itself isn't half as good as the one from Sage.

apple tart tartin with vanilla bean ice cream - freshly made with generous large chunks of apple, I thought this was pretty good. The pastry tasted freshly baked.

warm banana tart with homemade lavender ice cream - I picked this because it comes with lavender ice cream. I've never tried it and was naturally curious about how it tasted. The flavor is rather interesting....brings forth more than a faint reminder of shampoo or shower gel.

The waiting interval between the courses felt a tad long for me because it exhausted conversation, but YMMV. I'll probably wait to catch wind of Sebastian Ng's new rotation of the menu before deciding if I'll return.

1 comment:

jialard said...

We have eaten here a few times and we did enjoy the food here. Some items on the menu are really commendable and that's why we included this as one of the culinary discoveries on 'jialard' as well.

It's great knowing more well-minded people like you and your friends, who enjoy great fellowship over good food.