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Sunday, 19 July 2015

[Media Invite] Restaurant Ember @ Hotel 1929 for dinner

50 Keong Saik Road, Lobby Level, Hotel 1929, Singapore 089158
Tel: 6347 1928

Restaurant Ember  is located within the rather iconic boutique Hotel 1929, serving up modern European dishes with focus on "creating refined comfort cuisine; uncomplicated; honest food with quality and freshness".

This is a media invited tasting attended by representatives from Hungrygowhere, and reviewers / bloggers such as IvanTeh, Purple Taste and The Hungry Bunnie.   We tasted several dishes from the simple, new menu now that Chef Sufian Zain has taken over the kitchen.

It was my first visit to this restaurant even though it has been around since 2002, and houses a lovely ambience exuding comfort, cosiness and intimacy all in one.

The complimentary starter was the Herb Bread, deliciously crusty on the outside but a real softie on the inside; every morsel was bursting with its flavour - forget about the butter.

First item to be served was the Flan (SGD$18.00) - the savoury version comprising spanner crab, shreds of asparagus, tobiko and aonori. Imagine chawanmushi in soup, tossed with the abovenamed ingredients - pretty smooth on the intake, with a light flavour that prepares the palate for the upcoming dishes with heavier flavours.

Next, the Mushroom Consomme (SGD$16.00), a clear dark soup looking like chicken essence, containing shimeji mushrooms and tortellinis of chicken and foie gras. The sapid, nearly-sharp taste of mushrooms of this soup made for a  fabulous stomach-warmer. The tortellinis melted in the mouth readily, making one yearn for more.

For mains, there was the Bouillabaisse (SGD$32.00), a classic provencal French seafood stew. Maybe I have a sweeter tooth than that of my fellow reviewers, but I loved this dish with its a la lobster-bisque broth, elemental of sweetness, savoury and creamy tones all intact. The langoustine, Hokkaido scallops, seabass and clams were all fresh and springy, a satisfying treat for seafood lovers.

Then there was the Duo of Duck (SGD$32.00) consisting of Duck Confit and Duck wrapped in phyllo. The duck confit was succulent but I actually prefer its counterpart wrapped thinly in crispy pastry. The flavour was heavier, but the crackling outer-layer combined with tender flesh had another level of appeal on its own.

The Barramundi (SGD$28.00) was pan-roasted, served with caviar, vine-ripened cherry tomatoes, fine beans, clams and clam jus. Crackling skin lined the luscious flesh of this fish; and I enjoyed the clams on the side as well. The only drawback was the broth that was entirely too creamy for my liking. Two sips-  one to test, and one to double-confirm that it wasn't for me, that was it.

As for the Pan-seared Welsh Lamb Rack (SGD$45.00), served with carrot puree and 3-spice jus, the meat was succulent. So succulent, it succumbed to the touch of the knife easily, so it was easy on the teeth as well - a delight. The gamely flavour was a tad strong here though, obliterating even the pool of flavourful jus it was lying on.

Next, .the Pan Seared Cod, off the menu currently - served with mashed potato and pepper slivers in brown gravy. No introduction is needed for cod's buttery-textured, satin-smooth flesh or its natural ambrosial taste, so cod lovers will revel in the beauty of this deceptively-simple dish.

For desserts, we began with Valrhona Chocolate Brownie (SGD$18.00), served with peanut butter parfait, walnuts and bananas was good. The brownie was moist and rich in taste; the peanut butter parfait was tasty, and the bananas complemented the denser dessert well enough.

Next, the Deconstructed Figs Cheesecake (SGD$12.00) crumble and Taihiti vanilla ice-cream.  It was all a whirl of cream cheese and crumbs - relishable for its sweetness, but rather incomprehensible as a cheesecake, however deconstructed.

Following that, we had the Champagne Jelly (SGD$16.00), served with macerated strawberries and yogurt sorbet. I admit that my preference is biased when it comes to alcoholic desserts - so this definitely rocked my boat. I enjoyed the light touch of champagne taste in wobbly form, as well as the accompaniments of tarty strawberries and refreshing sorbet.

The Vanilla Panna Cotta (SGD$16.00), served with fruits and nuts as well as coconut sorbet did not make much of an impression on me. Granted, the coconut sorbet was interesting and ingredients were aplenty - but the diluted panna cotta lacked the smooth creaminess one usually associates with this dessert.

Finally, Pistachio (SGD$15.00) - sponge and ice-cream of pistachio, flower petals, crumble and ginger milk foam. I enjoyed the fluffy pistachio sponge and the ice-cream, both resplendent of pistachio's unique taste, enjoyed the crunch of the crumble and the gentle touch of the ginger milk foam that felt like a caress upon the lips.

Overall, the ambience and food here are good, with a few top favorites singled out for stronger recommendations. Thank you Restaurant Ember and Chef Sufian for hosting this sumptuous tasting session; and thank you Hungrygowhere for the invite!

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