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Restaurant review: Fat Cow and Mikuni in Singapore


Fat Cow uses top quality ingredients for amazing Japanese food 

Fat Cow

1 Orchard Boulevard

#01-01 Camden Medical Centre

6735 0308 | www.fat-cow.com.sg

Entering Fat Cow from the austere forecourt of the Camden Medical Centre feels like stepping out of a tardis into Shinjuku – it’s an instant relocation to one of the minimalist, sophisticated restaurants that Japan is renowned for. Nothing about the name, however, has prepared us for the chic, dimly lit bar and the ceiling hung with a large timber frame that has surely done time as an art installation. Instead, I had conjured up images of a noisy, steak and fries buffet with cheesy murals of cartoon cows.

The cosy leather banquettes are taken by a large group, so we sit at the bar to watch talented Australian mixologist Matt Radalj create our drinks. At his suggestion we try the hot buttered ume ($25) – an unlikely combination of rum, ume (Japanese plum) syrup topped with a knob of butter, its taste reminiscent of brandy butter. Apart from his list of unique cocktails, Matt also accepts any challenge to create a bespoke cocktail; simply mention a few of your favourite ingredients.

Dragging ourselves away from the theatre at the bar, we are seated in one of three intimate dining areas, each separated by Japanese paper screens. Alas, the show kitchen at the back where diners sit around a central food preparation area and watch the chefs at work is booked out tonight.

The focus is on high quality ingredients and simple, pure flavours. The heart of palm salad ($18) is a light, palate cleansing combination of crisp Japanese onions, shaved heart of palm and mizuna. Zucchini blossom tempura ($38) is melt-in-the-mouth delicious, the light tempura batter holding a Hokkaido scallop. It’s delightful dipped into the accompanying fresh honeycomb, but pricey at just two pieces per serving. The sommelier helps us select an Australian 2010 Knappstien Riesling from the Clare Valley ($20 per glass) from the interesting wine list.

For the main course we try the Alaskan king crab ($30/100g), unadorned save for a garnish of lemon juice, letting the subtle flavours shine through. Beef is the Fat Cow’s showpiece, so we order shabu shabu to share, including two types of Australian (from $52 for100g) and two types of Japanese beef, (from $80 for 100g). Both are thinly sliced and Wagyu–style, and when cooked for under a minute in the shabu shabu broth, are tender and delicious. Vegetables and udon noodles come with the beef.

The food is undeniably light, so we have room for the homemade warabi mochi ($18), a soft, cubed jelly with a chewy texture that is served with green tea powder and roasted soybean flour. It’s probably an acquired taste, as is the sweet kabocha soup ($18), comprising pumpkin and soymilk.

With an emphasis of fresh, high quality ingredients and a Japanese menu with an innovative twist, Fat Cow is a worthy addition to Singapore’s dining scene.

Katie Roberts

Amo (closed)

38 Craig Road

8118 8181 | www.amogwb.com

Amo’s trio of owners comprises: Chef Anna Borrasi Annamaria from Napoli via Portugal and the Canary Islands; Vlada Davidovic, born in Belgrade and raised on the Cote d’Azur; and local entrepreneur Belinda Chua.

The attractive double-front Chinatown shophouse has an alfresco area that’s ideal for perusing the Friday night passing parade. Inside, it all looks very different from the opening party bash a couple of weeks ago – then, the floor was open to accommodate a horde of skinny tai-tais, Eastern European models and faces you vaguely recognised from somewhere, jostling for free cocktails and hoovering up acres of canapés.

Tonight the white walls and white damask on white-painted furniture look fresh against solid wood flooring. Black-and-white striped banquettes line one side; the long bar presides over the other.

Highlights from our eight-course degustation menu include all three antipasti: grilled octopus and calamari with a mixed salad ($22 each for the full starter portion), grilled chicory stuffed with Parma ham and mozzarella ($26), and zucchini flower fritter stuffed with mozzarella ($26          

Hearty skate and broccoli soup ($14) is redolent with olive oil, and perhaps more exciting than the linguine with asparagus and Orbetello seabass ($26). For mains, our seabream ($38) features the wonderfully Mediterranean flavours of cherry tomatoes, olives and capers, the tasty fish perhaps a bit overcooked. Not so the deliciously tasty still-pink tenderloin mignon (42, parcelled in filo pastry and drizzled with Gorgonzola sauce.

From the exquisite dessert platter ($12 to $16 each for a full portion), we especially recommend the semifreddo coated in rich dark chocolate and topped with pistachios; light cannoli stuffed with fresh cream; mascarpone with a lacy millefeuille ($12 to $16). Actually, we specially recommend the whole lot.

From an interesting and varied Italian wine list, three are available by the glass: a Prosecco ($16), a pinot grigio ($15) and a sangiovese from Valpolicella ($15), all exceedingly drinkable.

P.S. Roy returned for the four-course business lunch a few days later ($30). He enjoyed the skate and broccoli soup again, but says he would not hurry back for either his pork scallopine or for the risotto that Terry. The meal concluded with tiny portions of apple cake and tiramisu for two rather large men; coffee or tea constituted the fourth course.

Verne Maree

Mikuni (formerly Inagiku)

80 Bras Basah Road

The Fairmont, Level 3

6431 6156 | www.mikuniatfairmont.com.sg

I have a childhood memory of my barehanded Dad catching a hapless octopus on the rocks off Clansthal beach, south of my hometown Durban. After turning its head inside out – oh, how my sister and I squealed! – he repeatedly dashed the poor thing against the barnacled rocks, the time-honoured way of tenderising its tough flesh.

It was still a bit tough, as I recall. And until last night, the best octopus I’d had was the Greek island version, dried in wind and sun for a couple of days before being singed over charcoal, sprinkled with coarse salt and topped with a squeeze of lemon.

Last night, an almost impossibly succulent octopus tempura was one of eight courses on the omakase set menu ($250 a head) at Mikuni’s robatayaki bar. They’d cooked it sous vide before chucking it in the oil, explained the new Executive Chef, Korean Moon Kyung Soo.

We’d started with an excellent foie gras in egg custard (chawanmushi), topped with a lacy squid ink chip and a minute, crisp-fried whole riverine crab. I tried not to look at its tiny brothers and sisters waving feeble claws from a bowl on the ice-bedded display in front of me. Food can be too fresh, I sometimes think.

The Mikuni siphon soup is literally spectacular, the stock heated over a flame so that it percolates upwards into another chamber to be infused with bonita flakes before being poured over the shrimp and enoki mushrooms in your bowl.

New style sashimi featured yellowtail tiradito topped with micro-cress; Roy thought the truffle oil dressing rather overwhelmed the subtle flavour of the fish. But the sushi – toro (tuna), botan ebi (creamy prawn) and saba (tasty mackerel) – was a delight.

Then Chef Yamamoto sprang into action from behind the counter, producing first a robotayaki-style kinki fish for us to share, and then Kagoshima Wagyu beef with garlic teriyaki sauce.

After kicking off with a couple of spicy wasabi-shochu cocktails, we’d opted for sake pairing rather than wine (add $xxx); all four were all differently delicious, and knowledgeable input from the sake sommelier added to the fun. A super-smooth Japanese grappa sealed the deal.

High-end Japanese is on the pricey side, so in our books Mikuni would be a splurge. But it’s also a cosy, cheerful place with a relaxed ambience and delightful service – a real treat.

Verne Maree

Pasha Restaurant  (closed)
64 Aliwal Street
6723 7117

During Dita Von Teese’s burlesque striptease at Zirca, she coquettishly removed all but strategically placed sparkles, then climbed into an oversized martini glass and splashed water in a decidedly raunchy manner.

This spicy performance inspired the Beau and me to opt for something a little risqué for dinner, something we hadn’t tried before: Moroccan food. When we phoned Pasha in Little India to check if they were still serving, they replied: “It’s only 10pm, come on over.”

If Aliwal Street were in New York or London I wouldn’t dare walk down its line of seedy, neon-lit bars and run-down shophouses at night. The valet parking guy kindly pointed out Pasha’s entrance, but for a more salubrious option, get dropped off at Hotel Sultan on Jalan Sultan and walk past the reception into the restaurant.

We were greeted like long lost friends and guided to a tastefully decorated table hugged by four luxe velvet chairs. Starving, the Beau ordered the cold Pasha mezze ($18) before our waiter had a chance to present the wine list. The fresh, delicious dips came with piles of flat bread; we’d return to Pasha for its mezze alone.

My chicken tanjine ($26) had the deep flavour of a long marinade and the freshness of lemons and olives, and the Beau raved about his beef kefta tanjine ($22).

Full and satisfied, we took the rest of our bottle of spicy red up to the rooftop bar, where comfy seating and a light evening breeze sealed a lusciously lascivious evening.

Guess what was the first thing the Beau mentioned the next morning at brunch with friends: “a great find in Little India”. Dita didn’t even get a mention until later than night when someone ordered a martini!

Kate Mallord

A Valentine’s Day like no other

Saint Pierre (closed)

3 Magazine Road

#01-01 Central Mall

6438 0887 | www.saintpierre.com.sg

When one of the city’s best chefs, Emmanuel Stroobant, set about devising a romantic Valentine’s Day menu at his flagship restaurant, Saint Pierre, did he settle for the obvious, like platters of natural oysters and chocolate-dipped strawberries?

Nope. Instead, his ten-course degustation menu includes – wait for it – chicken nuggets, fish burgers and doughnuts.

It’s hardly the stuff that Romeo would serve up to Juliet, right? But there’s a twist. Not everything is what it seems: the nuggets are, in fact, lobster tempura; the fish burgers contain a divine sliver of ocean trout in a truffled tartare sauce; and the doughnuts are perfect rings of sweet potato, beetroot and celeriac confit with a foie gras mousse.

The idea of the kiddies’ menu is to evoke “sweet childhood memories”. It’s unconventional, but the food is superbly executed and the whole experience is loads of fun. One course, Sand Castle and Oreo, looks like a child’s painting of the beach, except that the Oreo is a king scallop sandwiched between a pair of gnocchi. Another dish – Pizza (not actually pizza) – is presented by Chef wearing a full motorcycle delivery outfit, including helmet. And the meal concludes with a Play Dough session: each couple receives a box of coloured marzipan, some plastic gloves, and instructions on how to make a pink marzipan pig and other barnyard animals, which can then be taken home to be eaten as a late-night treat.

The bottom line? You’ll never eat another Valentine’s Day dinner like this one.

The Valentine’s Day menu at Saint Pierre is available on 14 February from $228++ per person.

Shamus Sillar