Friday, December 22, 2006

Ember @ Hotel 1929, Keong Saik Road

There seems to be a 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. The restaurant also took up more estate on the ground floor of 1929 than said hotel's entire lobby.

Dinner tonight was with fatpig and friends. Originally the idea was to do dinner at Desire but in the arrangement, confusion brought in Breeze and by the time we managed to contact Desire, it was fully booked. 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. We were here on a weeknight and the restaurant was almost fully packed. Service quality from theor staff was pretty good. On the whole, this place felt good. The food while commendable in quality, wasn't as good as I had imagined.

Commencing with the appetizers...

pan scallops with parma ham, orange and tarragon vinaigrette - the scallops were huge. And also succulent. I saw juice squirt out of fatpig's first bite into soft shellfish. Didn't expect the Parma ham to be pan fried, wrapped around the scallops. Apart from the juicy jumbo sized shellfish, the rest of the salad was pretty mundane. I thought the oranges lacked citrus flavour.

tuna tempura with goma wakame, mustard dressing - I was initially skeptical, just a little, about the tempura. It turned out much better than I expected with the tuna being seared instead of thoroughly cooked. Inevitably, I compared it with one I had at Sage which I felt was still the better dish. This tempura batter was thin and light like no other tempura which I've had. The sauce and mustard did overpower the flavour 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 top performer at the table tonight. Ember made a wonderful foie gras with a delicately thin crispy surface and creamy insides that fell apart, melting in the tongue with its rich diffusive flavour. This is seriously damn good.

The selection of main courses at Ember didn't sound 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 items sounded the most appealing to me. I didn't come here expecting to have steak. It was quite small. Apart from the size, there was no complains. Seasoning of the meat was a simple rock salt and coarse grain pepper without compromising he original beefy flavour. Came with a tasty side of potato gratin.

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

On with the desserts...

warm vairhona chocolate cake with vanilla bean ice cream
- this was a common dessert. Everyone's doing it. Kinda hard for me to be too enthusiastic about it. Although nice, they all taste the same.

flavoured panna cotta with chilled mango soup - this panna cotta was mostly drowned in the "mango soup" which tasted like the mango desserts from Hong Kong dessert stores. Not very unremarkable.

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 came with lavender ice cream. I've never tried it and was naturally curious. The flavour 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 the restaurant'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.