With so so many new restaurants opening every other month, it’s really darn hard to keep track of what’s new, delicious and hot. A friend told me recently that if he spent every meal eating out at every eating establishment in Singapore, even in 5 years, it would be impossible to taste everything. Perhaps!
That’s why I always rely on friends to whisper succinct reviews and clue me in. Saves me from having to burn cash on unsatisfying meals. And you know how grumpy I get when I get disappointing food.
This week, I was fortunate enough to encounter Alma. If she was a lady, I’d say she is a gentle soul, with an adventurous but focused creative spirit. Classy, yet not afraid to get herself dirty.
By Juan Amador, a decorated chef of Spanish descent, Alma provides a pleasant ride round the flavour carousel. As per their website, the creations are Spanish-European, with Asian influences. All 7 courses pulled its own weight. Even the cheeses. Yes the cheeses. I’m a simple person. Give me cheese, bread and olive oil and I’m set. Three Spanish cheeses – a sharp, a mild and a pungent (the blue cheese) one. The last one was surprisingly smokey. I’ve never had blue cheese this smokey. And its grey-brown colour was intriguing. I have to find out exactly how it got this way.
Sous vide salmon with red wine jus, topped with snappingly crisp salmon skin and a sexy roll of jamon (YAY). I would marry jamon if I could, so I was very very happy to see it. Beautifully cooked fish that married well with the slightly tangy, acidic sauce. Throw on the jamon and skin, and my senses were just flying. Good start!
Chorizo. Three cheers for good ‘ol chorizo. All you Spaniards, you are geniuses. This was a lovely dance of the tender and chewy. The sauce was a good syrupy bed for a seafood & meat affair. I had to bug the staff for more bread so I could mop up every drop.
Pig. Again. Yes. Stop it. I’ve already admitted I am a pork fanatic. What’s new. Suckling pig, with white mustard, and three little blobs of artichoke, chickpea and something (sorry I forgot!). I find it hard to find fault with pork belly. Especially when it’s tender, and the skin done just right.
Pigeon. Tender tender tender. One of the best pigeon dishes I’ve had the luxury of tasting. It’s so alluring. Beautifully presented, even better when floating on what Alma calls ‘purple curry’. Being the curious cat that I am, I just had to ask the staff, “What makes it purple?”. The answer was, hibiscus. So on top of the curry blend of cumin and turmeric (and mysterious spices of which I knew better than to pry), they added in ground dried hibiscus. Who would have thought. However, I still think they should call it ‘magenta curry’ instead. That’s more accurate. But that’s just the anal retentive side of me talking.
For dessert, I grilled our very helpful maître d’ about the fact that there wasn’t anything super chocolatey to satiate my (eternal) craving for the deep and dark. He managed to convince me that I should be less typical and try their ‘Brick in a wall’ and the ‘Crema Catalana’. Me being the ever challenging diner, asked him, “Are you really really sure I will enjoy it when all I can think about is chocolate cake?”, and he gave me a confident yes. How could I say no?
My verdict was a happy one. The brick turned out to be adorably shaped as a lego piece and was made of coconut. Perched on top of it was a light coriander sorbet (super yay) and accompanied on its side were super mini mango macaron drops. Refreshingly invigorating, that was how I felt.
The crema is like a creme brulee but friendlier. At the bottom of the arty purposefully deformed cup was pineapple cubes, which was welcomed by me. I like having some tart in my desserts, to cut through the cloying sugar rush.
And just like that, my carousel ride was over. I would definitely hop on again, especially after finding out from the lovely maître d’ that since it opened 3 (or was it 4) months ago, the chef has been so inspired, he’s been reinventing and rejigging the menu ever so often. There has been 12 menu changes thus far. That my friends, is a sign of a truly inspired chef.
Goodwood Park Hotel
22 Scotts Road
Remember what every one says when they hand you a lemon?
Make the best damn lemonade as if your life depends on it. Well, that’s not the actual phrase but you probably get what I’m squeezing at 😉
Metaphorically speaking, it’s the best line to encourage optimism and positivity in light of adversity. Because sometimes, you just need to do what your gut tells you and stop overthinking things. The lemon could probably be sour or sweet (if you’re lucky enough to be handed a gorgeous meyer lemon) but you never know till you slice it open and extract all the juice it has to offer.
Travelling is a lot like making lemonade. We all make it a certain way. I like mine with apple cider vinegar and a splash of maple syrup. Some prefer basil leaves in it. Every person has their travelling preference. For me, I delight in the kind of travel that transcends space/place. Don’t worry I’m not about to go all philosophical on you. In my world, travel is a journey. You don’t need to physically leave the country you’re in to ‘travel’ in the proper sense. If you focus hard, you can travel through your senses. That’s one of the best kind of travels, in my honest opinion. For a second, you escape your current literal reality and ‘teleport’ to a destination of your choice (no air fares needed!).
An ordinary bite of salsa, with guacamole and sour cream takes me to Mexico (even though I haven’t been!) and decadent jamon iberco on warm baguette slathered in french butter is enough to transport me to Barcelona (which I also haven’t been to!). The concept seems ethereal but if you think about it, it’s melding the tangible and intangible so that your reality (which is really what your mind perceives) becomes what you feel in your five senses.
This is my huge lesson of the year. I’ve been more adventurous in the kitchen, exploring healthier cooking options and more nourishing ingredients and it’s been terrific.
Many friends have asked me to open something to share the food that I’ve been cooking. To this, I have to say – it’s in the works. I have a long way to go. But it might be sooner rather than later as I’ve a pretty awesome cooking partner now and we’ve been cooking up quite a storm for our friends over the past few months.
Here’s a peek into one of our homely dinners. The menu was decided on a whim as yours truly constantly trawls Tasting Table and Food52 for recipes to try. These dishes seem to fit (in theory) in terms of flavours so I thought why not?
Onions are one of my favourite ingredients and the way they caramelise and morph into something so rich so easily always leaves me spellbound so I couldn’t resist making this Cilantro-Lime Sofrito. Such an exotic sounding name isn’t it. For the layperson – it’s really onion jam that’s cooked till it’s sweet and layered with a burst of lime and lime zest. There are many versions of sofrito (it has its roots in Spanish culture but the Cubans, Filipinos and Greeks also have their take on it apparently) but for a start, this was a mind-blowing concoction. It went really well with the cauliflower rice we made.
Cauliflower rice is super easy. Pulse a whole head in a food processor, fry some aromatics like garlic & onions in oil for about 3 to 5 minutes then throw the ‘cous-cous’ textured blitzed cauliflower. Unlike rice, it doesn’t weigh you down and it absorbs whatever gravy/sauce you douse it in. Which makes perfect sense when paired with Food52’s Shrimp & Okra stew.
We doubled the recipe as there were 8 of us and it was one of the most easy yet complex tasting dish I’ve cooked. The smokiness of the back bacon complemented the buoyant prawns that glided through the liquid and pulp from the 8 tomatoes we threw in. What I loved most was when two of our guests shared how they don’t usually like prawns and okra but having tasted this stew, were completely converted. Feedback like that gives me a warm fuzzy feeling!
Every mouthful and every tender bite made sense. Best ‘icing’ on the figurative cake was how nutritious every dish was.
Even the dessert!
Chocolate Avocado Pudding. Nothing I can say can accurately describe how life changing this dessert is. Raw, vegan, gluten free, dairy free and completely free of unrefined sugar, it’s one of the most healthy things you can feed yourself. But it doesn’t taste gross (as you would expect something that healthy to be eh?). Instead, it tastes decadent. You’d think there was heavy cream in it. Oh boy that’s when you understand the miracle of creamy ripe avocados!
One of our guests brought along his guitar and started singing & strumming some melodious latin inspired tunes. The best part was when we all got up to dance to the music.
For that second (or maybe a minute or two), we felt like we were in the Caribbean, swaying along, by the beachside.
We escaped reality. And it was awesome.
*NOTE: We are trying to make this a private supper club project so if anyone is interested or want to try our food, do drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
Adapted from from Annie Pettry, Decca, Louisville, KY (as seen on Tasting Table)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
5 cups finely chopped yellow onion (3 to 4 medium onions)
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
1 tablespoon minced garlic (1 large clove)
¼ cup finely chopped cilantro
Zest of ½ lime
1 tablespoon, plus 1 teaspoon, fresh lime juice (1 lime)
In a large sauté pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onions and salt, and reduce the heat to medium low. Cook the onions slowly, stirring often, until they are soft and light golden, 1 hour. Add the garlic and cook until soft, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the cilantro, lime zest and lime juice. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt. Let cool.
Shrimp & Okra Stew (We doubled it to feed 8 pax)
Chocolate Avocado Pudding by Laura Miller (I doubled the ingredients to feed 8 pax)
-2 large avocados
-½ cup agave or maple syrup (I used maple)
-½ cup cocoa powder
-3 T coconut oil
-1/2 t balsamic
-1/2 t nama shoyu
-¼ t salt
-Blend all ingredients in a food processor.
-Enjoy as is, or freeze overnight!
-High in Vitamins C, K, B6
-Great source of fiber
-Healthy fats that boost your metabolism (including an amino acid L-carnitine)