Like thousands of others out there, I consider myself to be a bona fide foodie on account of watching endless episodes of MasterChef. Therefore, writing restaurant reviews is without doubt pleasure first and work second.
The usual chain of events involves scanning relatively new tables or researching restaurants that have been recommended by friends or colleagues.
However, my research prior to tackling the evening menu at SET restaurant in Bugis, amounted to no more than a swift Google search – one that yielded zero information. When I double-checked with the restaurant’s marketing team that the place did in fact exist, the answer came back in the affirmative. So I thought, “What the hell; let’s just go for it.” I’ll eat anything, after all – apart from Turkish Delight chocolate and the variety of offal that was once served up to me on Geylang Road. (Maybe there was a translation issue, but I’m pretty damn certain the waiter said I was eating a pig’s fallopian tubes…)
Anyway, back to SET. The reason I’ve been banging on about my lack of research is quite simple: if I’d known that the restaurant was on the second floor of a shopping mall next to an escalator and opposite a jam-packed dance studio, I more than likely wouldn’t have gone. That would have been shortsighted, though, as SET delivered on just about every level – best of all, value for money.
Incredibly, the six-course meal costs just $28.80 at lunchtime and $38.80 in the evening. Yes, the portions are on the small side, but half a dozen gastronomically challenging plates of food for that price almost beggars belief. And it was all washed down with a delightfully crisp bottle of Prosecco that was again a snip at just $40.
We kicked off with an array of starters – the smoked duck breast and tomato Caprese were enjoyable, but the standout dish was the smoked salmon, cured in salt, sugar and dill. It was fabulously light and refreshing. We also enjoyed the Huai San carpaccio, which featured a kind of Chinese yam flavoured with orange; the dish had a uniquely crunchy texture.
Next came a meaty king oyster mushroom with a side of truffle foam, before we got stuck into a roasted pumpkin soup – again with truffle. (How they can do all this for less than $40 a head is beyond me.) It also came with a side of salty miso soup that had been cleverly flavoured with a hint of sake.
Perfectly cooked beef tenderloin was my choice of main, before a delightful, wallet-friendly evening – superbly hosted by waiter Chris who was full of great information and funny one-liners – ended with a selection of fabulously indulgent desserts, among them an espresso crème brûlée, a pistachio panna cotta and a poached pear with gelato. Recommended.