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Sunday, 8 November 2015

[Media Invite] Dinner at CATO Singapore

237 South Bridge Road, Singapore 058786
Tel: 8299 6434

CATO is a modern Asian Fusion restaurant located at the ex-OCBC Bank along South Bridge Road, occupying a second-storey unit in the conservation building, giving it all the element of historic cultural allure along with old world charm.

Comfort is the name of the game, from the modernistic, rustic decor of the first storey restaurant to the dimly-lit, industrial chic interior of the second floor bar area. Mains are served on the restaurant level and one may have light bites / tapas to go along with drinks on the upper level.

This was a media invite hosted by CATO Singapore and attended by representatives of OpenRice Sinagapore as well as many other esteemed food bloggers - some are very familiar faces and others, whom I was glad to know.

They started us with the Prawn Bisque with Home Made Cod Fish Ball and Coriander Leaf (SGD$12.00) - thick, smooth and creamy broth has a delicious flavour, slightly saccharine and distinct with lobster goodness; lingering in the palate long after every drop is savoured. The cod fish ball had a class of its own - firm but soft in texture, the taste is lighter than those of the typical fishball, but very pleasant for sure. Wish I had more of those balls.

Garlic Fries (SGD$8.00) were crispy and lived up to their name, piquant with the garlic flavour intense and strong, especially so, for the strands of fries that clamped together.  It was addictive to pop a few into the mouth continuously for a while, then one would find it rather overpowering. I suggest lightening up on the garlic power by a notch or two.

Next, which I could call my favorite and most memorable dish of the entire evening - the Chicken Noodle Salad (SGD$16.00) - Chinese tea-smoked chicken salad with fresh greens and Ghost Chili seasoned noodles. The tea-smoked chicken was tender, juicy and proudly infused with the aroma of Chinese-tea and hunger-inducing smokey hints that made it a joy to chew unto. Do not be deceived by the seemingly innocuous name or appearance of the murky-coloured noodles - one bite was all it took to feel the spiciness reverberating in the ears and inferno in the mouth. I enjoyed it immensely, and had a few more bites since the rest pretty much left it alone after the first try - but bear in mind that I eat chilli padi as well (though this exceeded the prowess of chilli padi greatly). Suggestion is that you can order it for sharing, or ask the restaurant to let you have the milder or non-spicy version.

Following that was the Açaí Cured Salmon (SGD$18.00), açaí -cured salmon rounds served on starfruit ceviche with a light and refreshing calamansi Crème Fraîche & Açai jelly. Another dish that left a deep impression on me, and I am sure I needn't emphasize that a dish with health benefits definitely scores points in today's context, where people eat healthier. Springy salmon rounds were sweetly-justifiable of the salmon's luscious, mildly-fishy taste, like eating fresh sashimi. Açai jelly were tiny caviar-like rounds by the side; fun to bite on; and calamansi Crème Fraîche with starfruit ceviche added a refreshing touch of zest.

Another delicacy came next, in the form of Crispy Squid in Thai-style Glaze (SGD$12.00) were baby squids with a light flour and spices batter, crackling scrumptiously with each bite, melting readily away in the charmed jaws. I could eat a few plates of this easily, especially over drinks.

Then we had the CATO Wings in Home Made Chili Glaze (SGD$12.00) - the tiniest hint of crisp on the glossily-glazed skin, opening up to reveal succulent and moistened flesh; the spicy taste was not overpowering here, but just enough to boost the flavour and excite the palate a little.

The Steam Baked Pork Cheek (SGD$28.00) - tender strips of slow-cooked pork cheek sealed in "Fata" cooking foil and steam-baked in a Port Wine Mustard sauce along with seasonal vegetables. So we eagerly unwrapped the anticipated dish like a precious present, and slowly doused the yellow sauce over it before attacking the dish. Such soft, succulent pork cheeks were a bliss to behold in between the teeth, slowly slicing through its springy texture and letting the strength of the port-wine mustard sauce come through - rather intoxicating and very palatable. I also loved the sweet vine tomatoes served with the pork cheeks.

Next, Aunty's Jasmine Fish Curry (SGD$25.00) - a secret family recipe straight out of Mom's kitchen, with CATO's added modern touch. This was New Zealand Ling fish prepared in an Indian-style curry with okra, eggplant, tomatoes and garnished with fried onions. Watch the fragrant and spicy curry drip, drip, drip over the luscious, flakey ling fish, draping its tasty flavour over the fish and vegetables beautifully. The ling fish was fresh and has a taste reminiscent of cod. Curry was thick enough and not too spicy - aromatic with the spices infused in it, giving this dish a traditional touch of modern.

Finally, time for desserts. We had the Papaya Nougat Glacé (SGD$14.00) and Valrhona Warm Pistachio Chocolate Cake (SGD$14.00).

The Papaya Nougat Glacé  - homemade nougat speckled with fresh papaya chunks and studded with almonds was soft, chewy, sweet and crunchy. Drizzled with a papaya and sweet wine reduction pooling it slowly, this decadent dessert was further enhanced in taste and flavour.  Loved the berries by the side too.

Finally, the Valrhona Warm Pistachio Chocolate Cake, which came with a flowy centre of thick, luscious chocolate sauce that cascaded richly when sliced into. The sapid chocolatey taste was well-noted, and vanilla ice-cream was creamy, light and saccharine. Loved the dusting of sugar powder as well as beautifully strewn blueberries, raspberries and pomegranite seeds giving the dessert touches of tartiness, heightening the senses. No nutty notes detected in the cake or ice-cream though- could it be overwhelmed by the richer chocolate taste?

Duchess de Bourgogne beer 

Pinot Noir

Modern Times Beer (stout)

Apple Cider on tap

Whiskey Sour

Throughout the meal, we were entertained by a number of drinks here, so we got to experience both the restaurant dining experience and lounging experience here at CATO Singapore. Good drinks overall, especially the Apple Cider on tap and Pinot Noir.

In conclusion, it was a very enjoyable meal here with innovative items on the menu, quality food, excellent service and enigmatic ambience. On a personal note, I especially loved it how many dishes were created with touches of alcohol - port, wine, etc. Above all, pricing is reasonable - oh and on Wednesday nights, oysters are at SGD$1.00 each, starting from 6.00pm.

Thank you CATO Singapore for the fabulous hosting and meal; and thank you Openrice Singapore for the invite.

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