Monday, August 29, 2011

Cocotte: the Hearty French Fare

I first read about Cocotte through a magazine which featured it's Poulet Roti (roasted organic hormone free chicken)$60 for 2 person. However, I had not the chance to try it as it is only available during dinner. Also, the place promotes communal dining so it's good for groups and families to dine there. Having been eyeing it's much more affordable set lunch, I finally had a taste of what Cocotte food is like even though the signature Poulet Roti was unavailable.
This French restaurant sits inside Wanderlust Hotel in Little India, a couple of minutes of walk from the Little India Mrt. The seats are not very cramped together and quite cosy.they have 3 types of set lunch:
1)$29 for 1: 1 appetizer, 1 main,1 dessert
2)$35 per person for 2: 2 appetizers, 1 main, 1 dessert platter to share
3)$33 per person for 4: 3 appetizers, 2 main, 2 dessert platter

Having scan through all available reviews, we went for the 2nd one $35/pax for 2. My goodness, never underestimate the portion of 1 main as it is supposed to serve 2-3 person as written on it's ala carte menu.
1st appetizer: Escargots Gougeres with parsley cream,tomato Coulis on gruyere pastry.

Had to add another $3 for this but I think it is worth it because I wanted to try escargots when ever it is available on the menu.Though I still prefer the garlic and herbs version of Le Entrecôte's,this one is not too bad either. Much lighter and less savoury.

The gruyere cheese puff was soft and the escargot was quite fresh I think. The greenish cream is the parsley cream that contributes the most flavour to the dish.

2nd appetizer: Pear, Bleu'D Auvergne Salad

This is a much creative salad compared to the usual Caesar salad. With generous chunks of blue cheese and toasted hazelnuts, the salad did not require basalmic vinegar or any dressing.

The argula leaves are only drizzled with lemon but the moist and juicy sliced pear makes the salad a very refreshing one. The blue cheese was not too overpowering and I think many people will be able to accept this somehow more than the usual blue cheese.

Our much awaited main course: The Roasted Pork Collar

The very hot pot came to us with two other sides and you will go WOW when the lid is opened. Right in our eyes is the huge slabs of pork collar swimming in a deep pool of Creamy Dijon Mustard Sauce.....ooh lala.
This is the first time I try the collar part of the pork and it is even much more tender and fork-friendly than stewed beef.

I was so delighted at seeing so much meat and this is the first time I feel that I do not have to ask for more gravy because there was more than sufficient in the HUGE pot.The gravy was too die for. I wanted to order the red wine braised beef but choose this partly because my partner does not take beef and partly because this dish has been highly recommended by many online bloggers. If there were no meat, I would still gladly mop up the entire pot of creamy sauce with white bread. There were little red dots of crushed Dijon mustard seeds.

What exactly is this kind of mustard as we often seen it in hotdogs or paired with roasted cuts? Specifically, Dijon mustard must be prepared from brown or black ground mustard seeds. The seed coats must be filtered out and no coloring agents, stabilizing agents, or fillers may be used. These days, however, instead of using verjuice Dijon mustard is more commonly made using vinegar, wine, or green grape juice.

Brussel sprouts (served with Pork Collar as a side dish)
This was so good and I finished this pot of 6 generous brussel sprouts except 1 consumed by my partner. As noted by her, Cocotte seems to be pairing dishes with nuts, like the hazelnuts in the salad too. This was sprinkled generously with toasted golden brown almond chips and well seasoned.This vegetable is sold in supermarkets but seldom find it's way into restaurants.
 Usually cooked in most Western homes during Christmas as a side dish. I really like this ball as it is very soft but still crunchy so the texture is just perfect, as compared to really hard versions that I've had before.

Garlic Potatoes and forest mushrooms(served with Pork Collar as a side dish)

The deep fried garlic bits and salt flakes that are tossed with the mushrooms really set the taste apart from the usual roasted potatoes. Together with the mushrooms, the potatoes have a coat of oil that glistened under the lightings. Good for dipping into the pork sauce:)

There was visible blubbers of fat but the meat to fat ratio is more balanced than our Chinese 红烧五花肉 Aka stewed pork belly.
But I guess this version is much sinful and richer and thicker because the fats from the pork has literally melted and dissolved in the gravy.Really a comfort hearty French fare and the best pork dish I've tried so far.

Let's talk about the portion.
This was for 2-3 person but we did not expect the portion to be so much.
What was left after taking our first huge serving each, this was what was left after 2 rounds of pork. Ok...加油加油...还有很多。

Then we went happily to challenge our next serving, the next, and continue digging. Just as we thought we've hit the base as the serving spoon seems to hit a flat hard surface, there was another piece of complete slab of meat in one whole!!!!!
We wanted to dig for mushrooms but there was none. This was an HONEST POT OF PORK. Nothing but 肉, 肉和更多肉。In the end, my partner surrender and I went on to challenge about half of this huge slab. I gave up too. Not to forget that I finished almost the entire bowl of brussel sprouts and some potatoes in between the meaty expedition.

But come to think of it, this pot is really value for $$$. If you just order this 2-3portion one from the ala carte, it is $98. So set lunch is really worth it.We really wanted to finish this because we do not want to waste food. And in the end, when the waitress's came and cleared the table, she asked if we would like to take away the remaining palm sized piece of meat. It was then that I realized...oh I can actually takeaway...那早知道就不用一直塞。

The dessert platter consisting of the French Basque cake with chantily creme, pineapple sorbet and molten chocolate cake.
The pineapple sorbet (top right) was very very sweet. But because it's sorbet and not ice cream, it was finished shortly as the texture is not too creamily rich.

(from the platter)French Basque cake: this is a traditional cake from Basque in France,sandwiched with chocolate custard filling.
The cake is not too heavy despite it looking like a butter pound cake and it even has a slightly crumbly edge.luckily, the cake us not too oily nor sweet and paired quite well with the sweetened whipped cream:)

Molten chocolate with it's oozing lava.
 This met the expectation as the lava was in liquid state. But felt that the temperature had turned lukewarm. This was it's specials of the day and not available as ala carte.

Ok. So that's the set lunch part which if I calculated would cost $163 based on it's alacarte price. So the set lunch is very worth the value. Just as you might think we would be packing up to leave the place after the dessert platter, you might be wrong.

Even though we were filled to the brim, as two greedy people, the dessert platter was not enough to satisfy the variety aspect. So it gives us an excuse to order another dessert from the ala carte menu.
Chocolate Royal
Valhorna Aruguani mousse on top of crispy praline layer and almond sponge with drizzles of Creme Anglaise all over the plate.

The chocolate was not that soft luscious but dark and velvety. We both liked the crispy crunchy layer at the base of the cake. But for the price, I think the portion can be more generous:)

The End.First time devouring more meat than desserts at one go.But this experience was really worth as the pork collar tasted so heavenly. But did I forget to mention that the set lunch is only lasting till end of August 2011?
2 Dickson Road
Inside Wanderlust Hotel
Lunch 12-2.30pm
Dinner 6.30-10.30/11.00pm
for menu and details:

found this outside the wanderlust hotel. Guessed the previous site was used as Hong Wen School

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Da Paolo: An old friend revisited

I have been trying Da Paolo Gastronomia's boxed desserts 5 years ago and for quite a while there has not been any new items. It is a place that sells gourmet food and takeaway food. But recently, I was surprised by their new additions which of course will be a great thing for people who like their cakes. They have also modified their logo and come up with a better updated list of their available food items (pizzas cheese pasta sauces etc) so I guess it is sign that they are moving towards a more efficient way of production.

Although they might be pricey, they are really of good quality and huge quantity as compared to individual petite cakes that cost the same or even more. For ladies, they can satisfy 2-3 person.(or more if u like).It's abt $6-$9 for each cake so its around $3-4.50 per halved portion. (if u were to divide the price among the people)

Peanut butter chunk

For the huge size which can be shared amongst 3 person, it is definitely worth the price. The peanut butter was gooey and slightly savory after heating. Together with the dark chocolate brownie and sweet and salty crunchy peanuts, this was highly recommended. It really taste much better after warming up, as it was quite hard after storing in fridge.
Sinfully delicious (from top to bottom): almond nibs in chocolate, crunchy peanut butter feuilattine, caramel peanuts, chocolate cream, cream cheese brownie

Although I had been warned that it can get messy after warming up, but who cares? The taste is the most important thing. Really can't miss this for peanut butter fans.

Orange Cream Cake
This is quite average as it consists of a layer of orange cream, genoise sponge filled with dried citrus fruit and a layer of thin chocolate ganache. This is less sweet than the other cakes here but the texture of the cake is still not as soft as preferred to be.

Sundae mousse cake

This one is another highly recommended one besides the Peanut butter chunk.

The white chocolate mousse and chocolate cream is very velvety and smooth. Suprisingly, the white chocolate layer was light and not too sweet. Once again, the hazelnut praline feuilatine helps to provide a crunchy texture to the cake. The addition of morello cherries was highly desired because the sourness really helped to reduce the sickness when you sometimes having too much creamy stuff at one go. The chocolate meringue sponge was not too dry. An interesting and worth trying mousse cake which is less rich than your ice cream sundae:)

Mango Passionfruit Hazelnut Almond cake topped with almond nibs
(hidden with passionfruit jelly that gives it a citrus tangy twist)

This is actually a very simple cake with just mango passionfruit buttercream in between the vanilla sponge.

Though it was really less sweet than the usual mango cakes(I personally seldom eat mango cakes as I find mango too sweet), the buttercream was the key that is deterring one from having the cake. Perhaps it would be better if they can mix this with some mousse and not just simply eating butter. 稍微太腻了.
Coffee Orange Crunch Cake
Coffee cream, sponge with dried oranges and Feuillatine base
Another very tasty cake that pairs coffee and citrus fruits....gone is the usual pairing of choc and orange.

The different layers meld very well together. Actually, the orange was not found into the cream and but its skin was used and added to the sponge layer. The bottom Feuilatinne was thick enough to give that contrasting texture. Though it is not the crunchiest one so far, this is above average amongst the selection at Da Paolo.

Bread and butter pudding($6)

This is really very rich and sinful. Why? Because when I heat it up, the pudding was literally sitting in a bowl of oil. Not exaggerating at all and when you press your fork to take each bite, out ooze the yellow melted butter. But because of this presence of butter, the pudding was fragrant and moist.

Can't really taste the caramel sauce supposedly on top but occasionally will get the burst of rum in the mouth which comes from the plump alcohol soaked raisins. Though this came without any creme anglaise, it was very good on it's own. Not too sweet and sticky. Just right:)

Da Paolo Gastronomia (gourmet deli cafe)
Paragon Orchard, Holland Village, Serangoon Gardens My Village and many other outlets.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Pizzeria Mozza

This 2nd visit was a totally unplanned one. Sinde no reservation was made,we were left with the bar seats though it was only a few minutes into their dinner service.

Well, the gd thing of bar seats is that we can get to see everything in action! from the pizza making process , how other food was moving out from the back kitchen to what kind of food was ordered the most, how did the food look was really an eye opener especially when you have 2 executive chefs in front of you checking that every plate is perfect before it is served to the hungry diners.

Prosciutto di Parma, rucola, tomato, mozzarella ($25)
We waited nearly 45 min but it can't be helped since the pizzas were made to order. In fact, if you just order pizza, it will be just nice for one person to have one plate of pizza by herself. Do not worry that you will be too full as the crust is not thick at all.

Quite a kid-friendly pizza as long as you remove the rucola on top if he/she don't eat this veggie.Some kids might not be used to this kind of ham but to me, the Prosciutto was awesome, very little fats but yet tasted so smokey and savoury. Very tender and each is sliced extremely thin. I think most adults would like this ham more than the usual bacon or meaty ham. This one is like eating paper thin 很有光泽的Italian ham.

I think one must really try the pizza here at least once in a lifetime as it is amazing to see how the dough can actually puff out at the sides but yet it is just a empty hard crust.

Fried goat cheese with Umbrian Lentils($16)
Sinful but delicious. Fried Goat cheese does not taste as oily as it sounds but is extremely salty.

The cheese paired well the bed of lentils and soft carrots.

How can we miss trying the bruchestta in an Italian restaurant?
White beans alla Toscana with extra virgin olive oil and Saba($15)

The bruschetta is really very hard but crispy. So better don't try if teeth is weak.

Underneath this innocent white bean mash is the Saba which was spicy. The spiciness is unlike the chilli or curry kind, but is just a temporary mild sweet tinge in your tongue. I thought it was fish but it is actually fermented grapes!!! Look like anchovies to me.

Having tried the delicious salted caramel desserts here on the 1st visit, we crossed over next door to Osteria Mozza for a wider selection.

Apple Borsellino
Caramel Gelato & whipped cream.

This is actually another version of apple pie but this tastes alot better as the pastry is crispy and warmed out from the oven. The caramel gelato was not sweet but bittersweet, and it was dotted between two thinly sliced apple crisp. The apple crisp is green but slightly translucent and so do not mistake this for the apple chips...way much different.I wished the caramel gelato was more.

The apple sachet is baked very well, because the interior is soft and not overpowered with the spice of cinnamon. I do not really like apple pie because it is too heavy and chunky but this was really very well baked in every aspect.
Huckleberry marmellata & vanilla gelato
(huckleberry is similar to blueberry and here you can taste plenty of the North American fruit in it's original form)

This was highly recommended by the waitress. I was a bit skeptical as "why should people have doughnuts as dessert in a restaurant like this?" but this donut is really worth trying. Never regretted at all as it was not too filling and not oily at all. There was no smell of fried doughnuts that we would usually get. Furthermore, the ball itself is not sweet.

The huge generous scoop of vanilla gelato sits on a pool of thick yellow sour custard.tasted like passionfruit.Pair the bombelini (the mini fried dough balls) with the custard, ice cream and the blue huckleberry vs cold, sweet vs sour......一切不言而喻。

A very satisfying meal indeed but better not rush in without any reservations.

Pizzeria Mozza (the casual dining)
& Osteria Mozza( fine dining)
Marina Bay Sands

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Fruit Paradise: New Inventions

Guess many people have already tried the tarts from Fruit Paradise, which is famous for it's light Japanese cream fruit tarts. Here are the three latest fruit tarts that were created to make good use of seasonal fruits like the US cherries.
Crushed Lemon Jelly Tart
Kiwi fruits, strawberry, grapefruit with handmade orange jam on cheese mousse. Covered with refreshing lemon jelly

Initially, I thought there would be crushed lemon ice on top of the tart. But it is lemon jelly that has a konnyaku like texture, which was crushed or meshed into tiny bits and scattered on top of the fruit tart. The lemon jelly was extremely sour but the texture was just right, not too chewy.

The taste of the homemade orange jam was not very obvious but you can find bits of oranges in the very light cheese mousse. The cheese was not overwhelming and I was surprised that the combination of cheese and oranges paired quite well.
Lychee Yoghurt Tart
Fresh and juicy lychees, White grapes and grapefruits nestled among the heaps of yoghurt honey mousse on cheese base.

Although this one has a cheese base like the crushed lemon jelly tart, this one is mixed with some yoghurt or sour cream as it tastes more tangy that it's usual cheese mousse tart. The white grapes, with their green skin attached, was sour as compared to the normal purple grapes but the insides were very sweet.

This tart is the least sweet among the 3. My favorite part is indeed the tiny mounds of yoghurt mousse on top. It holds it's shape very well but yet maintains it's soft velvety texture. This is also the part where the yoghurt tasted the strongest. It was clever of the chef to pair it with extremely sweet fruits like grapes and lychee as the sourness can balance off the sweetness, making this a well balanced tart in terms of flavors.
However, the vanilla sponge sandwiched in between the layers were lackluster as it is slightly grainy and not very spongy.
The Blackforest Tart
American cherries and dark cherries infused with Kirshwasser amidst rich dark chocolate ganache.

I'm sure many are familiar with Blackforest cake but Blackforest tart? A good reinvention of the classic by reducing the cake sponge to a single layer. This is very close to a Blackforest cake as all the components are kept except that a pastry tart is used to hold all the various cream,sponge and ganache.

I prefer this to it's cake counterpart as this has more cream than sponge. Though it only stated that it has dark chocolate ganache, there is also a milk chocolate mousse, an even lighter white chocolate mousse which had a slight kirsch flavour and also the simple whipped fresh cream. So it is way much complicated tart compared to the previous 2.

The cherries found on top are the fresh US cherries that are very sweet. And buried in the cream layers are another type of alcohol-soaked cherries that burst and fills your mouth with the kirsch juices. Unlike past Blackforest cakes that I've tried, the cherries found here are much generous and the soaked cherries are especially soft and not too sweet, not hard and chewy. Luckily they used this type of cherries as some Blackforest cakes use the bright red cherries (normally found in Chinese wedding dinners) that has a chemical like artificial sweet taste.

However, across all 3 tarts, a common problem lies in the tart. It still maintains it's grainy digestive like texture, but had turned slightly soggy. So I can get the crumbliness but not the crispness of a shortcrust pastry and biscuit crumbs would easily break apart and some would stick onto the cake paper (a thin paper that is normally used to hold individual tarts or cakes). The crust for these tarts were too sweet and reminds me of a moist cheesecake base. So I would prefer the slightly salted and crispier tart shell of the fruit tarts by Cafe MaMaison.

Wouldn't it be great if there is a fruit tart that combines the crispy shell of MaMaison and the consistent good quality cream fillings of Fruit Paradise?:)

Fruit Paradise:
Available at five outlets (variety changes so might not always be on shelves)
Orchard central
Raffles City Shopping centre
Tampines 1
Plaza Singapura

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Antoinette:The Temperamental Lady

Having tried the cakes of Antoinette, I have expected the quality of the savory food to be on par to the sweets but it was not so. Upon seeing the familiar Crepe Salees( Savoury Crepes) on the menu, I've ordered 2 to try.
Paris Ham,emmental cheese and a sunny side up ($14.50)
This was for my little sis.The crepe was not as crispy as I expected, but it was not soggy either. It took quite some effort to cut through the crepe and the texture is rather chewy.
The portion of salad on top is quite generous.The overall taste is pretty bland as the cheese is not that kind of melted or gooey kind, but has hardened. Some of the emmental cheese bites tasted bitter which I found it strange actually. The Paris Ham is not very juicy and leaned towards dry. This was rather below average as compared to the Nordic one below.

Nordic ($16.50)
Smoked Salmon red onion capers and dill cream cheese

perhaps most would find this much more savoury due to the already very salty smoked salmon. but the plain dill cream cheese was a good balanced to the saltiness but I wished there was more.

The red onion is crunchy and added a contrasting texture to the crepe. The capers is a familiar friend to pair with smoked salmon. But if u notice closely, the colour of this crepe is lighter than the Paris Ham's version. Hence, though the filling of this is much preferred, the quality of this crepe, being rather tough and not golden brown(no 香味)and so this crepe an average one. In fact, the crepes at Canele were not that tough or chewy, even though it might not be crispy.

French Toast with Hot Chocolate Sauce & Fresh Chantily Cream ($11)
Wish, fortunately something really tasty finally popped out. The French Toast was warm and the interior very soft. The exterior is golden brown and it's temperature was melting the cream away. Better eat this while it's hot.

Never regretted ordering the hot chocolate version, as I was initially considering the salted caramel sauce. The hot chocolate sauce was of the right consistency and not that sweet. Yums...highly recommended.

Nougatine ($9)
Praline Ice cream with hazelnut nougatine,salty caramel and caramelized filo pastry.
Initially wanted to order the sweet Crepes but after having the savoury ones, we wanted to avoid another round of disappointment. So jumped straight to this:)
Don't look at this and think the portion is little as the scoop is very huge and thus good for sharing. But I find this very creamy but too sweet.

In fact, if u compared the menu, the sweet Crepes selection is similar to the ice cream ones. So can save quite a lot if you can go without the crepe. The ice cream is combined with creme chantily on top and drizzled with salty caramel sauce. The phyllo pastry is crisp and very light. Like eating paper. The caramelized nuts added crunchiness to the ice cream.

My second visit was to the Penhas Outlet but the service there was less friendly than the ones at Mandarin Outlet.

Gnocchi Carbonara($18.50)
Parisian Gnocchi sautéed with caramelized bacon, white wine cream sauce, served with poached egg and Aged Parmesan cheese.

The portion was not as big as written in some reviews but it was sufficient to feed one. The poached egg was good, runny and soft. The cream was not too runny and is spiced with herbs. Not overly salted, the pasta was surprisingly not too bad to me. But some might find it a bit 腻 after eating for a while.

According to I weekly, gnocchis are usually made with mashed potato but Chef Pang has gone all the way to mix the potato with cheese flour and herbs. The version here changed my previous skepticism about gnocchi being very filling. Indeed, it might be filling but the potato dumplings here are pan fried, and thus golden brown with a buttery fragrance. As such, the mini sized dumplings were each crusty on the outside and chewy. Pure Comfort food on a rainy day.

Besides savoury items, there was a selection of bread. Of course the first one I zoomed into was the almond croissant.($3.50)

Very filling as the croissant here is covered with almonds on the outside and filled with almond cream on the inside. But I should have takeaway this and heat it up myself as the bread arrived lukewarm...especially with the aircon wind blasting on top of your head, the bread turned cold very fast. The croissant had the right sweetness and the nuts set this apart from the rest. However, I did not find this as buttery and crisp as the pain au chocolate(last below)

So what could be better by dipping the bread into a cuppa hot chocolate?
Antoinette's Hot Chocolate ($6.50)
Vanilla perfumed hot chocolate
This was mildly sweetened and the consistency was just nice. Not too diluted or too creamy. The hot chocolate was really hot to the touch and it was oh so comforting to pair this with the almond croissant. I did not take notice of any vanilla scents but well, as long as it's chocolate-ty, I am more than satisfied:)
Pain Au Chocolat($3) Takeaway

This was very buttery and crispy with not much underbaked parts to it. Usually croissants might be quite soft or chewy at the base or interior but this did not happened:)
I initially thought that the amount of chocolate was too little but...after heating up, it became gooey and the taste was bitter. I was surprised that this amount was actually sufficient as there is no need to add on any spreads if the croissant pastry itself was already so good on it's own.

Upon seeing the bread selection, one might feel like trying all. Upon seeing the ice cream menu, one might also be tempted to order them. But as I just learned that there will be a standalone bakery selling French bread and another ice cream parlor opening soon....I think time can wait. I must be patient.

Penhas or Mandarin Gallery
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