Best gazpacho soup recipe from Willy Trullas Moreno of El Willy in Shanghai

willy trullas el willyIf you live in Shanghai, or have visited often, there is no doubt you have heard of Willy and his popular Spanish tapas restaurant El Willy. Formerly located in the French Concession in an old villa, but now on the glamorous Bund waterfront strand, El Willy is a warm and welcoming place (just like Willy). It’s also very well recognised, having  won numerous accolades in local Shanghai media and is also listed in the top 100 Restaurants in the Miele Guide. Continue Reading →

Keiji Nakazawa, the best sushi chef in the world (to us)

When I took my beautiful wife S to Tokyo to celebrate her birthday in March, because we only had three days in town, we had to very carefully curate our dining choices. While we did visit an old favourite, most of the restaurants we visited were new to us, including two sushi joints that we’d been meaning to try for years. One was a much-ballyhooed three Michelin-starred place in Ginza that is regularly discussed on forums like Chowhound and which many punters like to claim is the best sushi restaurant in Tokyo. The other is a much more modest (and much livelier) place in Yotsuya that has no Michelin stars and is rarely mentioned in Western or English-language media. Amazingly–although some Japanese friends tell me I shouldn’t have been surprised–we left the three Michelin-starred restaurant feeling very ripped off and extremely underwhelmed. But, the meal we had at Sushi Sho (also sometimes spelled Sushishou), the cultish little joint just east of Shinjuku, delivered what I can honestly say was the single greatest sushi meal of both my life and my wife’s. S has since been describing the experience to friends as “life-changing sushi.”   Continue Reading →

Bo Innovation

On my recent trip to Hong Kong, my lovely wife S and I had what was easily one of my best meals this year. We had both heard a lot about Chef Alvin Leung from Bo Innovation over the years. Some good, some not so good. Some outstanding. Which is often the case with chefs trying to push the envelope, i.e. trying to do new and very different things to familiar and classic foods. They’ll win over some very loyal fans who are totally blown away by the chef’s new ideas and his or her abilities to turn these concepts into delicious food. But this kind of chef will alienate just as many customers. And, of course, a good share of other diners will be impressed without really understanding what they’re eating. Alvin Leung is most definitely this kind of chef. And I very much belong in the first camp; that is, I am total fan. (Keep reading)

Candlenut Kitchen


Chef Malcolm Lee in his new kitchen

It’s always great to discover a new, fabulous little restaurant. Even better still when the chef-owner is a bright, earnest, young guy that you’ve watched grow from strength to strength.

One of the most rewarding things about producing The Miele Guide (Asia’s only truly regional and independent restaurant guide) each year is that, thanks to several partners, we’re able to give out scholarships to young Asians looking to fulfill their dreams of attending a world class culinary school and kickstarting potentially great careers. Since we started this tradition, we’ve awarded scholarships to two students a year to attend professional classes at the At-Sunrice GlobalChef Academy. One student each year has been a Singaporean while the other student has come from another country in Asia. The very first Singaporean recipient of the scholarship was a young man named Malcolm Lee.

Malcolm was an impressive candidate. While attending the Singapore Management University, he took over one of the university’s cafes and literally turned it around. He revamped the eatery’s menu, transforming what I’ve been told was a very so-so place into a campus favourite. Through what was meant to be an extra-curriculur activity, Malcolm found himself and found his calling. Then, while attending At-Sunrice, his teachers reported to us that he was scoring ridiculously high marks. No one, my colleagues and I were told, scores all As. But Malcolm was, even winning a few A+s along the way. This guy, we all said, was going to go really, really far. Months before he graduated, we started to speculate which great chef would bring Malcolm under his or her wing. (Keep reading)

Mouth-watering Manila


truffled foie gras potato tempura at Antonio’s

Ever since S put together Inside the Southeast Asian Kitchen, arguably the best book on our region’s cuisine (and at the very least the only one in which all contributors were actually from Southeast Asia), she and I have been obsessed with visiting what we realized is probably the region’s most underrated but amazing food destination, the Philippines. Yes, the Philippines. Which, when you actually think about it, makes sense. This is a country whose culture has been very heavily influenced by foreign influences, especially the Spanish, Chinese, Malays and Americans. It’s only natural that elements of these different cuisines have been absorbed into the local food culture to create new (or not so new anymore) and exceedingly delicious dishes.

In addition, over the past few years, the restaurant scene in and around Manila has become increasingly exciting and sophisticated. When we published The Miele Guide‘s first edition last year, we were honestly surprised by the number of amazing restaurants from the Philippines that made it into the top end of our survey–and thrilled that one restaurant, Antonio’s, actually came out as Asia’s tenth best restaurant. (Keep reading)

Tippling Club

I might actually be among the last foodies, and food bloggers, in town to try Tippling Club. While I’ve known about this ultra-modern gastrobar since it opened a year ago, my darling wife S and I had not, until recently, been inspired to visit this somewhat controversial restaurant. I say “controversial” because any time that it came up in conversation among foodie friends, spirited debates would inevitably ensue. Some friends argued that the food was self-indulgent, far too expensive for what it was, and that the structure in which the restaurant is housed is little more than an air conditioned lean-to. Other friends said that Chef Ryan Clift, formerly of Melbourne’s Vue du Monde, was one of the most talented chefs working in Singapore today. They held fast that while the food had its highs and lows, the highs were higher than those of any other chef in town.

The one thing that all of my friends did agree on was that the combined food and cocktail menu was a little too expensive and not really necessary. Yes, we all appreciate the hard work and skill put in by award-winning mixologist Matthew Bax, the other luminary sharing centre stage with Chef Ryan. And I, especially, love a fabulously well-made cocktail as an apertif or digestif, i.e. before or after my meal. But we all agreed that we’d like to eat our food paired with nothing more than a nice bottle of wine or two — and not with a different cocktail paired with each and every course. (Keep reading)

Gunther’s: grown-up food in a grown-up space

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New restaurants open all the time in a city as busy and buzzing as Singapore. Which means some open with greater fanfare than others. Some open quietly, with nary a whisper of publicity or media interest. Others open with a bang. And when a new restaurant is opened by a chef whose last efforts helped his former establishment get ranked among the world’s top 100 restaurants, everyone notices. The food writers for the two (main) papers of record here raced to see who could be the first to write about Gunther’s, dining not just during its first month of operations but on its very first night. The country’s Prime Minister has already taken his family to dine there, giving the restaurant an unofficial First Family stamp of approval.

Gunther’s, a joint collaboration from the talented and charming carrot-topped Belgian chef Gunther Hubrechsen and the very well-established Garibaldi Group of Restaurants, opened in Singapore on 1 August. After just one week of operations, this sleek 50-seater is fast on its way to establishing itself as one of the best and chicest French restaurants in town. Hubrechsen, as every foodie in the region already knows, was most recently in charge of the kitchens at Les Amis, which last year was ranked by Restaurant Magazine‘s annual survey as the world’s 83rd best restaurant. Before coming to Singapore, he spent 5 years working at Alain Passard’s famed L’Arpege, reaching the rank of sous-chef before his departure.

Hubrechsen’s food is light and subtle. It’s food that demonstrates restraint, maturity and a focus on the purity of good ingredients. It’s not the kind of food that leaves you feeling overstuffed and ready for bed; it teases, tantalizes and leaves you just a little hungry (and energetic enough) for other, equally satisfying and seductive nocturnal activities.

S and I have had the pleasure of dining twice at Gunther’s since it opened. We had lunch there last Sunday and dined with friends just a few days ago. While some have commented that the interiors are a tad too somber and plain for them, S and I really like the dark, urban and minimalist interiors. It’s a nice grown-up environment for very grown-up meals, which is always good to have. After all, not all restaurants have to be fun and bright and cheery. We also need nice, sleek spaces for business meals and romantic tete-a-tetes.

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Gunther’s currently offers, in addition to the a la carte menus, a set lunch at S$38 and a set tasting (dinner) menu at S$128. The latter is extremely good value (given both the high level of service here and the quality of the food). At present, the tasting menu consists of Gunther’s cold angel hair pasta with oscietra caviar; seared foie gras with crushed candied almonds; grilled Scottish bamboo clams; a choice of a cod dish or a braised veal cheek; and a lovely apple tart, served with vanilla ice cream. The angel hair pasta with caviar and the bamboo clams are stunners. Both are beautifully prepared dishes bursting with natural flavours. On our last visit, S had the cod, which is plated in a rich creamy sauce and which I sneaked a taste of. It was very good, tasting like what I can only describe as ultra-high end comfort food. One of Gunther’s specialties is his cote de boeuf, which while excellent is quite expensive (at S$110 a portion). His lobster Provencal is lovely; succulent, tender lobster is served with a rice pilaf that has been inspired by local chicken rice and is cooked with both French and Asian herbs. A dish that I really enjoyed is the grilled mushrooms, served with a sunny side up egg and just a touch of ham. It’s the kind of breakfast food that I could have anytime of the day and works very well as a starter on Gunther’s menu. The apple tart, which is the chef’s signature dessert, is light but full of flavour. Our friends swooned over it. S also enjoyed the restaurant’s cheese plate, which offers 4 small slices of excellent French farm cheeses.

Gunther’s is a nice addition to the local dining scene. It’s a fantastic place for that romantic dinner you’ve been promising your loved one but still haven’t gotten around to arranging. It’s also good for a lavish group dinner — the restaurant has two private rooms that can seat up to 12 persons each.

I have no doubt that Gunther’s, whose phones are, from what I’m told, already ringing off the hook, will soon become one of the must-eat-in restaurants for travelling gourmets who stop off on these shores. And as for how it will rank among the world’s top 100, well, from what I know, the jury for next year’s survey is just only now being regrouped. Hopefully, enough of the panelists will find time to stop in and sample Hubrechsen’s food before casting their next votes.

Gunther’s
36 Purvis Street, #01-03, Singapore 188613
Telephone 6338 8955
Email: restaurant@gunthers.com.sg
www.gunthers.com.sg

Gunther’s is open daily for Lunch and Dinner, from noon to 2.30pm.and from 6.30 to 10.30 pm. The set lunch menu offers the choice between 3 appetizers, three main courses, plus dessert, coffee or tea is prized at $ 38. A 6 course Tasting menu runs $128; also available is the “Carte Blanche” menu, in which Gunther makes whatever he wants for you. Price depends on the produce and ingredients used.

Opening hours:
Lunch: 12-2.30 pm
Dinner: 6.30-10.30 pm

Sadly, all the photos I took turned out awful (tough lighting to shoot in), hence I have asked the restaurant to let me use some of their images in this post.