Lunch @ Locavore (Bali, Indonesia)

December 10, 2018 in Asian by thywhaleliciousfay

When Locavore made it to Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants by S. Pellegrino in 2016, I wasn’t sure if I could ever visit them; I had traveled to Bali thrice and was quite determined I wouldn’t re-visit Bali. My travel policy is the same as my food policy where I prefer to explore new places. Tokyo excluded. Keke.

So when my very close girlfriend said I was to be her bridesmaid for her upcoming destination wedding in Bali, I immediately made my reservation at Locavore. Yes, restaurant reservation came before purchase of my flight ticket. Haha.

And as read from their website… Locavore is led by chef-owners Eelke Plasmeijer and Ray Adriansyah. Eelke, a Dutch-born chef, met fellow head chef Ray Adriansyah when he moved to Jakarta in 2008. The pair ran the kitchen at Alila Ubud together, where they fine-tuned their philosophy of creating exciting tasting menus using primarily local ingredients. It wasn’t before long that their (at that time) unique approach to using only seasonal and local foods was recognised, and they eventually left the hotel industry to open their own restaurant.

Yes, they created Locavore in November 2013. While dishes were influenced by European and Indonesian cuisines, Locavore was all about local. From ingredients to the cutlery.

My reservation for lunch was made 3 months in advanced on Locavore’s online booking system.

I arrived at 12.05pm, 25 minutes ahead of my reservation time. And upon arrival at the restaurant, the staff led me to the counter which could sit 5 people before starting me off with the beverage menu (pages 1, 2). I think it’s the Indonesian Balinese fine-dining culture that beverage menu is presented before the food and beverage-pairing menus are given.

I ordered a mocktail since it seemed I wasn’t going to be given the food menu until I ordered something from the beverage menu. Although to be fair to the restaurant, I could have told the staff I prefer not to drinking.

And for the food menu, Locavore offered vegetarian and non-vegetarian options. No brainer that I went with the non-vegetarian menu. Keke. With a further choice of going with just 5 dishes or the full course of 7 dishes, I went with the latter.

With that, I started my lunch with:-

1) Loloh Bali (mocktail version), RP42,000 (above) – Wild honey shaken with turmeric & mint leaves reduction, tamarind syrup & Tanqueray gin, served over ice cubes, topped with homemade lemongrass soda garnished with pomelo & green leaves.

2) 7-dishes non-vegetarian lunch menu (RP895,000) comprised of:-

  
  
  

(A) Starters, Complimentary (above) – Assortment of pickles (which included garlic, passionfruit, cucumber, etc), watermelon tartare topped with seaweed, dehydrated pumpkin leaf sprinkled with seaweed powder, pickled eggplant with sesame seeds in broth, black rice belini topped with smoked egg emulsion and brown rice puff, and grilled mango marinated with passionfruit juice & pepper.

  

(B) Amuse bouches, Complimentary (above) – The first being cold tomato sorbet on sliced tomato but in warm tomato and celeriac consomme. Although I could only see traces of herbs used, I could taste the pepper which lingered in my mouth long after I finished the dish. Second was prata with 3 types of condiment which I was told to sprinkle all on the prata. I tried the prata alone and could taste the coconut since I was told coconut yogurt was used.


(C) Bonito (above) – Anis cured bonito, unripe mango, kecap vinaigrette, coriander, cili oil, caramelised sesame, daun kenikir.

(D) Goat tartare (above) – Lightly grilled, burnt eggplant, pickled eggplant, kecombrang, fermented shallots, charred coconut milk.


(E) Cabbage & bacon (above) – Whole cabbage roasted in bacon fat, bacon dashi, cashew sour cream, bacon shallot crumble, lacto-fermented onion powder. And I was told the cabbage was roasted for 90 minutes with bacon fats over it.


  

(F) Into the sawah (above) – Heritage galum rice (from Tegalalang, central Bali), snails & garlic, 64 degrees duck egg, frog abon, fern tips, wild flowers. When I poke into the egg, I was expecting the yolk to flow out like liquid, but its texture was like custard. Rice was wet like risotto instead too.


  

(G) Mahi-mahi (above) – Sago herb tempura, green chilli emulsion, pete shiitake sambal, pickled shiitake, charred green chilli oil.

(H) Burung puyuh (above) – Roasted breast, ginger cinnamon butter, barbecued leg, smoked pumpkin, charred pineapple, pickled pumpkin. Pigeon breast and thigh were used for the dish. The deboned thigh somehow reminded me of our Chinese 香腸. Hmm…

(I) Pre-dessert, Complimentary (above) – With mangosteen being the main ingredient, this was refreshly good.

(J) Nuts about orangeGelato, sorbet, gel, crumble, tuiles. The combination of orange and peanut was certainly interesting. I couldn’t decide if I liked it, but I guess it must be a good sign since I finished it. Or did I keep eating it because I was trying to figure it out? Keke. But I certainly enjoyed the orange and peanut components when eaten separately; Orange was refreshing while the peanut reminded me much of dragon’s bread candy.



  
  

(K) Post-dessert (above) – Petit fours served on Congklak board; A traditional Indonesian game.

Prior to my lunch, I read that the meal at Locavore can get pretty lengthy. And true enough, I spent slightly more than 2 hours at the restaurant. But hey, I ain’t complaining about the many starters and amuse bouches. Keke.

I would definitely recommend one to check out Locavore when in Ubud (Bali). Just try not to plan one’s meal just before… Flying out?

LOCAVORE
Jalan Dewi Sita, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
+62 361 977733, Website, Facebook
Overall: 7.5
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 8
Mon – Sat : 12:00 – 14:30 (Lunch)
Ambience: 7
Mon – Sat : 17:00 – 23:00 (Dinner)
Value: 8
* Closed on Sun
Service: 7

Dinner @ Restaurant Zén

December 3, 2018 in European by thywhaleliciousfay

Compared to my siao-on instagram foodie friends, I am definitely the least informed in the clique when it comes to new restaurant openings. I didn’t even know Restaurant Zén was opening in Singapore until the ‘siao on’-sters brought it up during one of our meals. Oops.

So yes… Zén, a partnership between Björn Frantzén and Unlisted Collection, is an offshoot of 3 Michelin stars Frantzén (Stockholm, Sweden).

Scheduled to open in late November 2018 at Restaurant André’s former venue, we sent in our restaurant reservation request in early October for 6 people. However, we were informed they could accommodate 6 people if we were separated as tables of 2 and 4. Sob, sob. And to secure our reservation, credit card details were required. It’s also interesting we were given the option to start at 6.45pm or 7.45pm. It’s kinda odd. No?

And so… With the enthusiasm of my ‘siao on’-sters, we were to dine at the restaurant on its second day of operation.

  

I arrived at the restaurant 3 minutes past our reservation time. And I panicked slightly when I tried to open the door but couldn’t. It was obviously locked and I had to quickly get inside. Late mah. I even wondered if ‘being locked out’ was the punishment for being late. But apparently one had to press the door bell for the staff to open the door. Ahhh…

Upon entry, the staff directed me to ‘The Lounge’ located at ground floor where I joined my ‘siao on’-sters. I wasn’t the last to reach, by the way. Keke. I initially thought the lounge was the waiting area but I was mistaken. Apparently this was where we would have the canapés too, before being led to the dining area.

While waiting for the rest to arrive, the staff handed me the drinks menu where I ordered a glass of white wine. And once everyone in our group reached, the staff passed us the food menu with additional options of non-alcoholic ($100) or alcoholic ($285) pairing. The intention of the food menu was to let us know what’s going to be served later since there’s only one tasting menu.

After we made up our minds with the pairing, we started our dinner menu ($450) with:-

  

1) Pre-appetiser, Complimentary (above) – We were each given a wine glass containing a sorbet-ball of plum-tomato juice. The staff then came round and topped our glasses with plum-tomato juice.

  
  
  

2) Canapés assortment, Complimentary (above) – We were served i) beer-poached lobster tartlet with dill-scented sour cream, trout roe and fennel flower, ii) crispy potato roll with creme fraiche and Vendace roe, and red onion rings, iii) celeriac tartlet with whipped foie gras, celeriac and apple salad, topped with toasted Danish rye and preserved truffle disc, iv) king crab and spruce shoots with sea urchin hot sauce and chrysanthemum petals, and v) sweet onion veloute with liquorice and almond. My absolute favourite was the celeriac tartlet. So, so amazing. Eat wth care though. A very fragile piece.


  

After we finished our canapés, we were told to take our wine glasses (if not empty yet) and follow the staff to the back of ‘The Lounge’ where we were shown the ‘produce box’. We were given a detailed introduction of the ingredients for our dinner.

One could also steal a peak of the kitchen which was designed with no walls. Uh huh, open-concept kitchen.

After we were shown the ‘produce box’, we were brought to the main dining area at second floor (by stairs). It was good news that we were able to sit together as a group of 6. Yeah!

And I understood their initial dilemma of hosting big groups. They were wondering how to bring the kitchen theatre to us; As part of the entire dining experience, the chefs personally plated dishes in front of us on the side tables placed beside our dining table, before the (completed) dishes were put in front of us.

  

3) Dish #1 (above) – Crudo: Zén prestige caviar, red deer, argan oil & finger lime.

  

4) Dish #2 (above) – Blue lobster, crispy koshihikari rice, yuzu pepper, clarified butter emulsion, sansho leaf.


  

5) Dish #3 (above) – Chawanmushi, sea urchin, ikura, unagi & hot smoked pork broth.

  

6) Dish #4 (above) – Scallop, vin jaune, blond miso from Kyoto, sprouted walnut & white truffle.


  

7) Dish #5 (above) – Chewy beet, ramson capers, chive scapes, preseved pine & mustard aioli. This was the replacement dish for the beef. Disappointing I have to say. I prefer to have a meat dish swapped with another meat dish. Like pork or lamb? Nonetheless, the beet texture was really interesting. And before this dish was served, we got to choose our knives from a box of custom-made steak knives from Morakniv (knife manufacturer in Sweden with more than 400 years of history) which shaft decorated with an intricate Sweidsh kurbitz motif by Swedish artist Pernilla Nordman.

  

8) Dish #6 (above) – French toast “grande tradition 2008″ & consomme a’la truffle.


9) Dish #7 (above) – Sea buckthorn sorbet, crystalized sea lettuce, blue & green tea.

  

10) Dish #8 (above) – Run-raisin smeifreddo, PX, frozen foie gras & oat muesli.

After finishing our main courses and two desserts, we were brought to level three where we continued the final leg of our Zén dining experience. The third storey was also known as ‘The Living Room’.

And having been fed with so much food at the lower floors, the cosy atmosphere of ‘The Living Room’ with the comfortable sofas certainly didn’t help; We were in food coma and were struggling to stay awake. Haha.

The staff rolled the tea trolley over where 5 types of tea leaves were presented. Unfortunately, none caught our attention. Sleepy already, I tell you.

  

11) Sweets #1 (above) – Grilled Malaysian pineapple tarte tatin brushed with 20 years-old mirin and black cardamom chantilly.

12) Sweets #2 – Assorted fruits comprising green muscat grape, mango, strawberry, persimmon and melon, and pistachio macaron. I personally didn’t like the fruits. The ingredients and/or seasonings used on the fruits were simply mismatched.

13) Coffee, $16 (above)

And finally… To answer the questions which I’ve been asked several times since dining at Zén. What’s the verdict? Worth it?

My dining experience at Zén definitely couldn’t be summed up with mere phrases of ‘good’ or ‘bad’. I certainly enjoyed myself with my ‘siao on’-sters. And if I was asked to select my few memorable dishes, the canapés were strangely the winners. For me lah. But in no way should that be misinterpreted as the other dishes were bad! They were good. But I preferred the former.

It was also through our meal that I realised Zén aim at setting itself apart from the other high-end restaurants by offering a holistic experience of food, service and ambience. One would notice much thought went into the planning of the kitchen theatre. Example, the restaurant made sure there were sufficient waiting staff so that the 6 of us were served dishes at the same time once the 2 chefs were done with the plating. Or at least that was how it was for the first few dishes. I didn’t pay much attention after that because I was busy chatting. Keke.

And I enjoyed the chemistry of the entire team. We had the privilege of having 2 chefs for every course since we were dining in a big group. It was fun watching the chefs plate at both ends of our long table, and them throwing friendly competition at each other of who’s more efficient/faster at plating. Keke.

In fact, I was very impressed that although we were dining on their second day of operation, it didn’t feel that way at all. To think we were worried about being guinea pigs. Ha.

So back to the questions… Was my dining experience at Zén worth it? Should one hurriedly head down to Zén? Well, I say give them just abit more time and I am pretty sure the dining experience will definitely impress. I am not intentionally comparing Zén to now-defunct André just because Zén took over the venue which used to house André but even with my dining experiences at André, my 3 meals at André got better with time. So I believe the same for Zén; With some tweaks (like to the fruit dishes), the already-brilliant dining experience would be perfect.

And having mentioned André, I like what Zén did with the exterior and interior. It was familiar, but not; I’ve been to André and knew how the space was like, and Zén did a fabulous job in leaving no trace of André. Instead, they successfully created a new space with its own character. And it’s read that the architect behind Zén’s interior is Joyn Studios Architects, which also designed Restaurant Frantzen in Stockholm as well as Frantzen’s Kitchen in Hong Kong.

It’s further shared by others who dined at Frantzén that the dining experience offered at Zén is pretty similar to Frantzén’s. So I say, give Zén some time for them to find their own identity too before spending a whopping $450. Since you know… $450 ain’t exactly a small amount.

Am definitely looking forward to return to Zén to see how my second experience would differ from the first. But that’s probably in 1.5 to 2 years’ time. And for reservation, do note tables for the coming month are opened for reservation on the first day of every month at 10am.

RESTAURANT ZÉN
41 Bukit Pasoh Road, Singapore
9236 6368, Website
Overall: 8.5
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 8
Tues – Sat : 18:45 – Late
Ambience: 9
Value: 8
Service: 9
* Closed on Mon, Sun

Dinner @ Kko Chi Bar

November 27, 2018 in Korean by thywhaleliciousfay

My project team had been heading out for after-works gatherings as our project neared completion. More drinks to cope with the increased stress. Haha. We would normally head to somewhere close to our project site but this time round, we decided to venture further out from the East. Keke.

Wanting proper food (instead of pub food), I suggested Korean cuisine. And while looking up for Korean restaurants, I came across Kko Chi Bar. The thing was… When I was doing my research for 2017 Korea trip, I came across (automated) lamb skewer restaurant but didn’t have the time to try one. Now that I saw one in Singapore, I thought “why not try”. And thus, reservation was made for a party of 8.

While making our way over on the day of dinner, the restaurant gave us a call 15 minutes ahead of our reservation time. They asked if we were running late, and I answered we will be (based on Google map’s estimation). 5 minutes late is also late mah. The staff on the other end then went on to say, “We have another big group here. We will release your table to them first.” Whattttt.

Having read the terms & conditions of our reservation, I obviously didn’t agree. I said they had to hold the table for us at least 15 minutes.

In the end… We arrived on the dot. Phew! I couldn’t imagine the big group of us arriving and not having a table ready for us. Stress of being an organiser.

And from the menu (pages 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11), we ordered:-


1) Chicken set, $19 (above) – 5 chicken skewers, 2 chicken skin skewers, 2 chicken wing skewers and 2 chicken gizzard skewers.

2) Pork set, $25 (above) – 8 pork belly skewers, 2 pork belly with enoki mushroom skewers and 2 brittle bone skewers.

3) Green bean skewer, $1.50 per skewer (above, left)

4) Grilled sausage, $1.50 per skewer (above, right)

5) Enoki mushroom, $8 (above) – This was cooked in the kitchen before served to us.

6) Small bean sprout, $8 (above) – Similarly, this came cooked.

7) Fish cake soup, $20 (above)

8) Potato pancake, $18 (above)

9) Fried whole squid, $22 (above)

10) Spicy fried chicken, $22 (above)

11) Spicy honey chicken, $18 (above)

12) Kimchi fried rice, $10 (above)

We had a good time at Kko Chi Bar, bonding over food and alcohol. I guess we especially liked that they operated till late. Need not fear of being chased out. Haha.

But food wise, it was a challenge for us to ‘not burn’ the food although the turning of skewers was automated. The skewers placed in the centre (somehow) burned faster than those at the ends. I guess it’s because of the uneven placement of charcoal embers. And for the few of us seated directly in front of the grill, it got uncomfortably hot for us. We were sweating. Had to cool down with lots of beer.

Nonetheless, it was a fun meal experiencing automated skewer.

KKO CHI BAR
10 Craig Road, Singapore
9730 4433, Facebook
Overall: 7
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 7
Mon – Sun : 18:00 – 03:00
Ambience: 7
Value: 7
Service: 6