Friday, July 13, 2007

Raffles Grill, Raffles Hotel

I wonder if the British gentleman who founded this island back in 1819 would be turning with indignance in his loamy resting ground if he found out today that the expensive restaurant christened after his name in an expensive hotel which also follows his name, serves French food instead of English.

Lame jokes aside, anything Raffles is an excuse for a hefty price tag. Raffles Hotel, Raffles class....erm Raffles Institution? I meant Raffles Grill (Raffles Hotel, 1 Beach Road) which is located directly across the Tiffin Room in the lobby of the hotel. One of the remnants of old fashioned classy restaurants where attire for dining is observed in a slightly more strict manner than most other places. Waiters here are trained to be waiters and there actually is a living person on the piano in the restaurant. The scent in the air is both floral and colonial.

This dinner was the Tour De France Menu Dégustation. Began with a complimentary snack of what I thought was a fresh warm crab roll and potato ball in a berry compote. I think. I didn't recall the elaborate name of this starter but I remembered the mentioning of the word 'mushroom' which I didn't taste and I was fairly sure that what's in the crispy rolls was either shredded crab or lobster. And the gnocchi like thing in the little glasses taste like an expensive potato ball of sorts. Back me up here Chris.

The actual courses of the dinner started with an amuse bouche that was not named. It was a light tasting and frothy mushroom-y cream broth topped with finely sliced fried potatoes. The bottom hides four little gnocchi-lets. Two of them tasted of liquorice.

amuse bouche

Following the tongue teaser came the starter which was a gratinated Marroilles cheese tartlet topped with scallops and summer truffle. This was quite good. The pastry was light and flaky variety that was buttery and could be savoured alongside the scallops. Did not remember tasting any cheese in this stuff. Each composite layer of this starter was individually discernable yet subtle. I'm sure you have no freaking clue what that meant because that's how it felt when we were eating it. That was the only way I could describe the flavour that sounded right. Couldn't identify the drizzle of yellow sauce but it tasted quite good and I suspect it might be butternut squash.

gratinated Marroilles cheese tartlet topped with scallops and summer truffle

After the scallops came the Topinambourg Velouté with chestnut puree and roasted Cepe mushrooms. Stripped from the glamor, this tasted like a good cream of mushroom. Again, these were topped with the tiny fried potato slices. The interesting element to this cream of mushroom was that it came drizzled again, with a certain oil which I could not identify but added a sublime fragrance. The roasted mushrooms here were only lightly roasted. What I thought was the best feature of this veloute was the chestnut puree resting at the bottom; sweet and creamy and textured very much like the Chinese yam paste dessert (orh nee anyone?). Created a conspicuous yet somehow complimentary contrast to the savoury aspect of the rest of the dish.

Topinambourg Velouté with chestnut puree and roasted Cepe mushrooms

Which brings us to the fish of the menu, the confit of Omble Knight in clarified Lavender butter, braised fennel with pastis and thyme. Omble Knight is a fish from the family of salmon. In appearance and taste, passes off easily as salmon. Again, it was the accompaniment of the Lavender butter which made the dish shine. Very light milky fragrance and as I recalled, tasting of a vegetable that I cannot remember. Pastis as I found out is actually a anise based liquor aperitif and fennel is one of the ingredients of absinthe. The liquorice aspect to this dish didn't elude me although the taste was otherwise.

confit of Omble Knight in clarified Lavender butter , braised fennel with pastis and thyme

Fish was followed by the other main of the menu that featured a stuffed cabbage with summer truffle, braised farmer sausages with potato. This made me ponder on how do chefs exactly decide on what to name their creations. I'm inclined to think that it's on a whim or seriously, whatever they feel like. This dish didn't have a name that described the better part of it which was really a thin layer of lard that was wrapped around minced duck before being stuffed into the cabbage and getting braised like xiao long bao. That was quite good. The other outstanding item here was the "potato" which appeared like a mini rosti of sorts. The strands/shreds that made up the potato cake were very fine. It sure looked like tedious effort involved especially when there were also sweet sauteed onions woven into the middle of the potato. This was probably the best potato cakes I've had. Sausages were not bad and supposedly home made. I wonder where is home here.

stuffed cabbage with summer truffle, braised farmer sausages with potato.

A pre dessert followed. This was a rolled chocolate sheet in a glass of three different layers of pudding. An orange mousse with a invigorating citrus flavour, a berry jelly or sorts and vanilla pudding at the bottom. Progressive sweetness in the works.

pre- dessert

The closure for the degustation menu was their dessert of roasted and poached figs in red wine, orange and Sauternes granitee. Apart from the poached figs which were actually quite delicious, I couldn't relate the name of the dessert to the actual item. Having the poached figs on the buttery cookie base turned out to be very simple and effective.

Dinner at Raffles Grill will be a affaire très chère. The ambience is great if you're not in any rush. It is crucial that you're eating with people that are not boring. In the midst of the elaboration, dinner was ultimately good.

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