Chef Tasting Menu-Fifty-three Singapore 2010

Sunday, May 30, 2010

53 Armenian Street
Singapore 179940
6334 5535

Service (4.2/5.0)

Food (4.1/5.0)

During my annual visit back home to Singapore early this year, B and I made arrangements to go try out Fifty-three, a restaurant touted as Singapore's answer to "Fat Duck" (
Heston Blumenthal's). Not a far stretch, since ex-lawyer, now-Chef Michael Han was an alumnus of FD.  In a renovated colonial shop-house along Armenian Street and right by the Peranakan Museum, the restaurant boasts white-washed, Scandinavian-minimalistic walls and furnishings. I thought that the food, execution and plating were well-done for the prices. I'm a sucker for presentation and I can appreciate the TLC the chef put into each arrangement of food. For example, doesn't each potato crisp (below) feel organic as if they were meant to grow out of the charcoal serving block? Taste-wise they were ok.
Service was competent and our server was well-informed and pleasant. That said, he tended to hover around one time too many in the name of being attentive; I was interrupted more than once for a refill of water.We settled for the 5-course SGD 78++ (about 55 USD) menu instead of the 3-course one..well might as well treat ourselves since we're on vakay! Actually, I thought that the prices were reasonable compared to the dinner prix-fixe. The lunch prix fixe menu was interesting and incorporated elements of molecular gastronomy like foam and sorbet (a little overkill in this menu).  I would go back again to fifty-three for carefully-prepared and thoughtful food, although I think that the menu appears a little sterile and lacking in character. Allegorically, the courses seemed like distant, barely-speaking neighbors of an affluent, gated community. It definitely needs to evolve and integrate a little more, me thinks. 

(Potato Crisps-beautiful and delicate folds.)

(Bread - The buckwheat and charcoal potato bread rolls served in a special sack that promised to keep the rolls warm by way of heated stones. Although nothing revolutionary about it, it was a nice, thoughtful touch from the chef. Fluffy and moist. Served with a dish of butter sprinkled with buckwheat/toasted barley.)
(Close-up of the charcoal version. I like black foods :). Excuse my greasy finger!)
(Course #1-Scallop and Buckwheat, Chicken "Oysters*"- extremely tender bites of chicken, I liked the scallops which were cooked perfectly. Tendrils of watercress caressing (pun) the chicken oysters made it seem somewhat suggestive/seductive, no? *FYI: Chicken oysters are round pieces of dark meat close to the thigh and are considered the best part of the chicken, kind of like how fish cheeks are considered the best part of the fish)
(Course #2- peeled Japanese tomatoes with horseradish sorbet, compressed watermelon and strawberries. To cleanse the palate, the icy horseradish sorbet was fresh and tart, and accompanied the cooling fruit medley of tomatoes, watermelon and strawberries pretty well. Thin cookie wafer added a nice amount of crunch; the thin stem of a leaflet threaded within the wafer was very pretty :D)

(Course #3-escabeche of mackerel, kyoho grape and fennel. Seared mackerel was served on a bed of quinoa and with fennel(?) foam. Truth be told, the grape didn't make an impact on me and certainly I felt that for a flaky meat like mackerel, it doesn't compliment the texture at all. The foam was ok.)
(Course #4-chicken & wood sorrel, parsnip. The chicken breast was cooked sous vide (i.e. slow-poached for a longer time instead of high-heat, speedy cooking) and then glazed at the bottom with pine-nut puree (ala satay sauce haha) and parsnip foam on top (again foam!). This is my least favorite dish because the sauces, meat and garnish seem confused here and didn't really harmonize well.)
(Course #5-dessert of pickled cucumber, celery sorbet, drenched in lemonade spray-foam (again) melted away into a refreshing and tangy soup. Celery and pickled cucumber gave a satisfying crunch. At this point, I appreciate the lightness of dessert which didn't cloy my tastebuds with cream and excessive sugar.)
As a accompaniment to the bill, we were served delicious apple-alcohol gummies. I found it amusing/unnecessary that the server had to advise us to let the gummies sit on our tongues and let them melt...It's a gummy for crying out loud!  
The after-meal tea was very very good-mildly bitter and fragrant! Loved the pottery it was served in. I'm stuffed~!


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