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)

El Bulli 2008

My greedy but gorgeous wife S and I have wanted to try El Bulli for almost a decade. We first heard about this exciting Spanish restaurant in the late 90s/early naughties. In 2001, at Tasting Australia, we were lucky enough to attend an incredible two-hour long private demonstration during which Ferran Adria showed off some of his more innovative cooking techniques to a room full of journalists. Later that day, we were given a few minutes to interview this revolutionary artist-philosopher-cook.

While theoretically we’ve wanted to dine at El Bulli, I have to admit we never really did anything about it. We never tried making reservations or tried planning a trip. We just assumed that we’d get around to it one day. Of course, as the years passed by and booking a table went from hard-to-get to almost impossible, we started to wonder if maybe we’d been waiting too long. So, when a good friend — a restaurateur who is friends with Ferran — called me two months ago and said, “Hey, I’ve decided to swing by El Bulli on the way to the States in May. I have a table for 6 and am calling you first. Do you want to go? But…um… I need to know right now,” S and I jumped at it. And even though we had just decided to postpone a trip to Italy that we had been planning for September 08 to sometime in 2009 because we weren’t sure we could afford it, we said, “what the halibut” and have put ourselves into even greater credit card debt than we already are. (Keep reading)

21st Century Tortilla


S adds the foam to a “tortilla”

I’ve never had the pleasure of dining at El Bulli, currently considered (if you agree with Restaurant magazine) the world’s best restaurant. That said, I’ve long admired Ferran Adria, the crazy mad scientist chef-owner who spends half of each year in a laboratory experimenting on new cooking and food preparation techniques. In 2001, I was lucky enough to attend a pretty amazing cooking demonstration put on by Adria, his brother, and another one of his chefs. Over two hours, he wowed an audience of food media, chefs and other industry professionals with his very unique brand of culinary magic. After the demonstration, I was even luckier. My wife S and I got to meet Adria and spend 15 minutes asking him as many questions as we could think of.


You can see how enthused Ferran was to meet me

As I mentioned a few posts back, I was recently inspired to attempt one of Adria’s creations, what he calls his 21st Century Tortilla. The recipe comes from The Cook’s Book, a large and impressive book edited by Jill Norman. Each chapter is written by a different and famous chef. S bought this book largely because of Adria’s chapter on foams. Other great chefs that contributed to this book include Peter Gordon, Pierre Hermé, Charlie Trotter, Greg Malouf, and David Thompson.

Adria’s foam techniques depend entirely on a specific piece of equipment, the siphon. Adria recommends using the 0.5 litre iSi Gourmet Whip. Others similar siphons aren’t as versatile because (according to iSi and Adria) they can’t accept warm (or hot) liquids. For the past few years here, the iSi Gourmet Whips were available in Robinsons, one of Singapore’s larger department store chains. However, when I drove down to pick one up, I was shocked to discover that Robinsons was no longer selling them. In fact, as I called every kitchen supply store in town, I learnt that no one was stocking them any more. At one store, however, I spotted a Kayser Gastronomie siphon. And while I wasn’t sure it would work equally well, after a quick call to a chef I trust, I decided to give it a try.

(Incidentally, I’ve since discovered that you can buy the iSi Gourmet Whips directly from their distributor here, Butler-Mason. Check out their website at www.butler-mason.com. I’ve already ordered a new Gourmet Whip from them.)


Caramelized Onions
250g onion, julienned
85g (3oz) mild olive oil
100ml (3.5 fl oz) water

Fry the onions gently in the oil, stirring continuously for about 20 minutes until golden. Drain off the excess oil and add a little of the water. Cook until the water evaporates. Repeat the process for about 20 more minutes until the onions are the texture of jam and the colour of caramel. Season with salt and set aside in the pan to reheat later.

Sabayon
2 egg yolks
30g (1oz) boiling water
Place the egg yolks in a bowl, beat with a hand whisk and add the boiling water in a thin stream. Beat vigorously over medium heat until it emulsifies. Season with salt.

Potato Foam
250g (8.5oz) potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
125ml (4.5oz) single cream
35ml (1 fl oz) virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
Place the potatoes in a pan of cold water, bring to the boil, and cook for about 20 minutes until soft. Drain, reserving 100ml of the cooking water. Place the cooked potato and the water in a blender. Purée, adding the cream little by little. Follow the same procedure with the oil until you have a smooth emulsion. Season with salt. Strain, then fill the siphon using a funnel. Load the air using two chargers, shake, and keep warm in a bain-marie at 70ºC (158ºF).


Make sure you strain the emulsion into the siphon

To serve, reheat the onion in the pan. Place a teaspoonful of onion in a martini glass, followed by one of the sabayon. Finish with the warm potato foam and drizzle with olive oil.

Making this has been surprisingly easy. And it tastes delightful. The texture is beautiful–light, creamy and rich all at the same time. I found that adding some chopped up bacon to the onions added an extra (meaty) dimension to the dish that I really like. Having made this, I’m pretty excited to test the other foam recipes in Jill Norman’s book. Plus, I’ve just gotten a little espuma (foam) book from iSi. This is going to be fun.

The Chef Has Risen

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I’ve always been a big fan of owner-operated restaurants. And one of the best in Singapore is Restaurant Ember. Owned by Chef Sebastian Ng and his always cheerful wife Sabrina, this small restaurant on the ground floor of the Hotel 1929 serves up delicious fusion food at moderate prices. We visited Ember this week to celebrate my wife’s baker friend’s birthday. As usual, the restaurant was packed.

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I started my meal with a half dozen deep fried oysters paired with an equal number of sauces. My favourites were the wasabi mayo, the orange sauce and the sweet chilli sauce. For a main I had a slow roasted rack of lamb with melted leeks, potato fondant and lamb jus. My wife had the pan roasted US pork tenderloin with garlic and a mixed herb crust, creamed corn and natural jus (pictured at the start of the post). Both were excellent. For dessert, my wife and a couple of the other gals shared a big dessert platter, which looked really, really good.

If you haven’t yet been to Ember, I totally recommend it. The prices, as I said, are great (especially the S$38 set dinner), as is the food. Oh, on a final note, I should congratulate Chef Sebastian. It was announced during the World Gourmet Summit here last month that he’s won Best Rising Chef for the second time. Maybe next time the judges will realize that he’s already risen!

Restaurant Ember
50 Keong Saik Rd
Tel: 6347 1928
Email: restaurantember@hotel1929.com