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(Closed) FiftyThree

EuropeanWestern
FiftyThree aims to offer a personal rendition of cuisine inspired by their natural environment and its diversity. Ingredients that are foraged, raised and grown with ecological sound and sustainable practices are used to create a cuisine with natural pure flavours.

Tue - Sat: 12:00 - 14:00

Tue - Sat: 19:00 - 22:00

Closed: Mon

+65 63345535
$198 based on 42 submissions
Quiet (18 votes), Dinner (17 votes), Fine Dining (13 votes)
D L 234

very chic, very cool - matched with impeccable and warm service

Having heard and read so much about 53, it is difficult not to have high expectations of it. But hey, I wanted to have some good food, so I made reservations for lunch for two on a Saturday.

We were greeted very warmly at the door, led in and upstairs typical of a conservation shophouse: narrow stairway, but still preserving its natural wood flooring. Our waiter that day was very grounded, unpretentious and friendly - and these traits are consistent with all other wait staff that lunch - they were all impeccably dressed, polished, but they had no airs, and were warm and friendly. I always, always appreciate that.

The second level was spacious. After reading all reviews and editorials, I thought it was a cramped space - oh but it wasn't! High ceilings, stained windows of conservation shophouses, exposed cream brick wall, thick wooden planks on the floor, and gorgeous Scandinavian-style, sand-grey furniture. The glassware were beautiful. Everything was understated, but not the cliche, cheesy Balinese-zen like understatement. I was already in a good mood.

We tried the sparkling jasmine white tea, and had plain water (yes, poured from a flask with a stick of Japanese charcoal).

The complimentary paper-thin crackers were made of tapioca, with some walnut essence on the side as a 'dip'. If I could buy a tin of those crackers, I would. And hog it all for myself.

The bread, hmmm the bread! That must be my favourite 'dish'. There were two types of bread on offer: both were made with potatoes and yoghurt, and the only difference between the two is that one had charcoal powder added to it, resulting in it being soot-black. Muffin-shaped, they were served toasty in a grey, clay tub. Butter? No, not just your usual butter as it was made from buttermilk, with toasted barley laid on top of it, and it was so addictively good - a perfect combination of smooth rich velvet 'butter', the crunchy smokey barley and the crusty soft bread. Sigh.

53 offers set lunch menus, priced at S$53 (without GST), excluding supplements (I doubt that was deliberate - the 53 and $53), offering a choice of starters, mains, and desserts. I chose scallops, wagyu cheeks (supplementary $10), apple & rosemary. My partner had crab meat (supplementary $10), pork belly, and pineapple.

Scallop starter had no real chunky scallops, but small pieces with some fruity granita, and several small flowers on it. I like having flowers in my dish. Especially when I bite into it and there is a surprising flavour. I did wish for larger scallops, though. Crab meat was very well done.

The wagyu cheeks were braised over 40 hours in 60 degrees C, and it showed - it was mouthwatering tender, and soaked up the onion stock with glee. Again, there were flowers - this time, they were wild primrose. Together with the leeks, this dish was a success. My partner's pork belly was also done very well; the apple gel was a perfect complement, however, the portion was too generous and it became very heavy-going.

The dessert was the only real disappointment. My apple and rosemary was a concoction of apple risotto, i.e. super-finely chopped apples, with half the plate filled with white rosemary foam. On it were two red hibiscus flowers - very ugly plating indeed! And the rosemary foam was overpowering. The dish could probably do better in taste and looks with just a dollop of foam. The pineapple dish - baked pineapple with coconut shavings was decent, but the brie ice cream - yes you heard right - brie ice cream was just plain weird. I love my brie, I love moldy blue cheeses even more, but an ice cream that has that strong cheesy smell was simply not right. It was wrong.

Our total bill came up to about S$180 for two. I find that pricey, but it was worth the splurge. This Les Amis restaurant definitely trumps some of the others, like Aoki. Good job!

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10 Mar 2012 • 1 review • 0 follower

Pretty and interesting, but somewhat disappointing.

Overall:

Artistic creations, but mixed reactions to the taste, flavours and price. Will probably be back for a visit if I am back in Singapore, but doubt I would venture beyond a set lunch. Also, a leaky/dripping air conditioner certainly ruins the ambience to an otherwise contemporary setting - one would assume this is rectified after the renovation/move.



Context: 

I decided to add FiftyThree to the list of restaurants to visit while in Singapore, as it was receiving quite favourable reviews when I was reading about Andre and Iggy's (have yet to visit these, but they are scheduled for the next few weeks).

My initial intentions were to try out the popular set lunch menu. However, I wasn't provided with an option and was served a 5 course tasting menu ($135++) - I'm unsure as to whether this was attributed to the last day of service prior to renovations. The other diners, were also treated in the same respect.

Personally, I would have appreciated a menu with the dishes and the price (which was requested, but never eventuated) - I would have dined there either way, but final bill was a bit of a surprise.

Ambience/Setting:

A leaking or dripping air conditioner vent that would periodically result in a splatter of water directly behind me probably sums it up.

Food/Beverages:

The good

The first few dishes I had were certainly a present surprise, they were beautifully plated and artistically decorated. I had all the standard starters that have already been mentioned on here, most of which were variations of potatoes.

I was particularly fond of a mud crab dish, which was coupled with thinly sliced dices of apple. I also had slow poached Tasmanian salmon, which had a mix of foam, purée and sauces to complement it. My description probably doesn't do the dishes justice, but unfortunately I wasn't provided with a menu and I didn't bring a reasonable camera to Singapore.

I also, had an interesting risotto that had a variety of different textures and flavours.

The not so good

I've seen quite a few photos of the charcoal bread, which I thought was a staple. However, although I received the bread sack, I was stuck with three of the same pieces. Nothing to fault about this, just a bit disappointed based on prior expectations - it certainly doesn't compare to say the bread basket at Joel Robuchon HK either.

The main course, which was 'Chicken and Egg' was quite disappointing:

Let's start with the Egg - maybe my understanding of what a slow cooked egg should taste like is lacking, but the egg wasn't silky and the yolk was solid instead of runny. I suppose individuals likes their eggs cooked to varying degrees, but I've tried much nicer variants at Robuchon and Caprice. I also had a fantastic (yet affordable) slow poached egg and white asparagus entree at Rockpool in Melbourne.

As far as the chicken was concerned, I appreciated the different texture between the fried wing and the poached chicken breast. However, this is far from astonishing nor especially flavoursome/tasty. In my opinion it felt rather bland, sure enough it was juice and wasn't overcooked, but when you are paying for fine dining that is to be expected.

The dessert, was the chocolate berry creation with sweet corn sorbet that has been mentioned in a few blogs/reviews. A lot of people seem particularly fond of the dessert, but I didn't find it all that impressive. No doubt it was pretty, but that effectively summarised the dessert to me. The supposedly rich chocolate wasn't particularly impressive and sure I could taste the corn flavour in the sorbet, but I'm not sure how this complemented the dish. I've had too many delicious chocolate desserts to name that I appreciated more and as far as interesting flavoured ice-creams or sorbets are concerned - well mui choy ice cream with foie gras or a recreation of a pineapple bun at Bo Innovation is more to my liking.

Also, coffee isn't exactly Singapore's strong suit but when I paid $10 for a skinny cap I would expect something that is drinkable. I could be mistaken, as I'm not too fond of the milk here but it the foam tasted awfully like full cream rather than skim and the coffee beans were definitely burnt. If they were not burnt, then it must be a very strong bitter blend with a hint of a burnt flavour to it! This was in direct contrast to a nice piccolo and skinny cap I had a Toby's Estate on Robinson Quay before heading over.

The wine was also pretty lack lustre. I'll be the first to admit that I'm no connoisseur when it comes to wine - as I typically just stick to a simple pinot for a red and a riesling for a white. The wine by the glass was quite limited, but nothing too unexpected, I was told there was a new bottle of light Japanese wine from Mt. Fuji, sounded different so I gave it a whirl, but it tasted fairly average to me.

Value:

Value is an interesting concept in terms of fine dining, as with most things the law of diminishing returns applies. Is FiftyThree good value, will come down to the individual. Personally, I have paid for far more expensive and far cheaper meals, but I had a more enjoyable and memorable experience. Without a good taste of fine dining in Singapore yet it is hard for me to set a clear benchmark.

However, at the moment I wouldn't consider FiftyThree to be good value. A tasting menu at $135 that had a number of great dishes, but also a significant number of disappointments does not cut the mustard for me (should note one of the initial starters did have truffles, which usually is charged as a supplement). If the five course was $85 as I was expecting based on what was available on-line, then it would have been acceptable. However, a prix fixe at Marque only sets you back $45, lunch at Iggy's is also cheaper, etc - though admittedly we aren't necessarily comparing apples with apples as this was a 5 course tasting menu.

Ultimately, I don't think it was value for money. By all means the set lunch sounds like great value, but I was not offered this.

Service:

Service was fine, but given the size of the restaurant that is to be expected. However, a menu comprising of the dishes I requested never arrived and there were some sizeable intervals between dishes. Additionally, it sure took a long time for them to provide me with my bill - unless that was attributed to my lack of tipping, but seeing as I paid them 10% svc and there was nothing in the service that stood out I think that is more than fair.

Comparatively though the level of service here, doesn't stack up to what I have experienced at 2 or 3 Michelin star restaurants. However, at the same time unless you are in a private kitchen, the head chef might do a round, but hardly has the time to bring out and present some of the dishes like Michael did.

Note: might give this an edit once I've tried the other restaurants.

04 Jun 2011 • 27 reviews • 9 followers

Yawn...

FiftyThree is at best a mid-tier european restaurant masquerading as modernist cuisine. The decor is a pleasant spartan rustic; the service is generally good, and the dishes are competently plated. The failure though is with the food itself.

For lunch, other than the excellent slow roasted pork belly, we found all of the dishes to be average taste-wise. Granted the unique spice pairings were quite evocative (ex. apple and rosemary, earl grey and passionfruit), but as whole dishes, they just didn't mesh. Basic items were also a letdown. The potato and yogurt "bread" was tough on the outside and chewy on the inside. I really don't care that half of the bread is colored with bamboo charcoal. The food is to be eaten and not just viewed.

The biggest disappointment was with the 40-hour wagyu cheeks. Sous vide cooking is so mainstream these days that the cooking time shouldn't be the only wow factor. Furthermore, the dish wasn't very good. The reduced onion stock left sharp soy sauce-like tones in the mouth, and the cheeks were not-so melt in your mouth. For better applications of water-bath cooking, check out Novus for their pork-belly, or better still - dine at Restaurant Andre.

If I'm a bit harsh it's because the meal just was not enjoyable especially at this price point. Not only does the set lunch cost $53++, but also adding options like the wagyu cheeks and the forgettable chocolate dessert can cost $20 extra.

05 Apr 2011 • 13 reviews • 0 follower

very chic, very cool - matched with impeccable and warm service

Having heard and read so much about 53, it is difficult not to have high expectations of it. But hey, I wanted to have some good food, so I made reservations for lunch for two on a Saturday.

We were greeted very warmly at the door, led in and upstairs typical of a conservation shophouse: narrow stairway, but still preserving its natural wood flooring. Our waiter that day was very grounded, unpretentious and friendly - and these traits are consistent with all other wait staff that lunch - they were all impeccably dressed, polished, but they had no airs, and were warm and friendly. I always, always appreciate that.

The second level was spacious. After reading all reviews and editorials, I thought it was a cramped space - oh but it wasn't! High ceilings, stained windows of conservation shophouses, exposed cream brick wall, thick wooden planks on the floor, and gorgeous Scandinavian-style, sand-grey furniture. The glassware were beautiful. Everything was understated, but not the cliche, cheesy Balinese-zen like understatement. I was already in a good mood.

We tried the sparkling jasmine white tea, and had plain water (yes, poured from a flask with a stick of Japanese charcoal).

The complimentary paper-thin crackers were made of tapioca, with some walnut essence on the side as a 'dip'. If I could buy a tin of those crackers, I would. And hog it all for myself.

The bread, hmmm the bread! That must be my favourite 'dish'. There were two types of bread on offer: both were made with potatoes and yoghurt, and the only difference between the two is that one had charcoal powder added to it, resulting in it being soot-black. Muffin-shaped, they were served toasty in a grey, clay tub. Butter? No, not just your usual butter as it was made from buttermilk, with toasted barley laid on top of it, and it was so addictively good - a perfect combination of smooth rich velvet 'butter', the crunchy smokey barley and the crusty soft bread. Sigh.

53 offers set lunch menus, priced at S$53 (without GST), excluding supplements (I doubt that was deliberate - the 53 and $53), offering a choice of starters, mains, and desserts. I chose scallops, wagyu cheeks (supplementary $10), apple & rosemary. My partner had crab meat (supplementary $10), pork belly, and pineapple.

Scallop starter had no real chunky scallops, but small pieces with some fruity granita, and several small flowers on it. I like having flowers in my dish. Especially when I bite into it and there is a surprising flavour. I did wish for larger scallops, though. Crab meat was very well done.

The wagyu cheeks were braised over 40 hours in 60 degrees C, and it showed - it was mouthwatering tender, and soaked up the onion stock with glee. Again, there were flowers - this time, they were wild primrose. Together with the leeks, this dish was a success. My partner's pork belly was also done very well; the apple gel was a perfect complement, however, the portion was too generous and it became very heavy-going.

The dessert was the only real disappointment. My apple and rosemary was a concoction of apple risotto, i.e. super-finely chopped apples, with half the plate filled with white rosemary foam. On it were two red hibiscus flowers - very ugly plating indeed! And the rosemary foam was overpowering. The dish could probably do better in taste and looks with just a dollop of foam. The pineapple dish - baked pineapple with coconut shavings was decent, but the brie ice cream - yes you heard right - brie ice cream was just plain weird. I love my brie, I love moldy blue cheeses even more, but an ice cream that has that strong cheesy smell was simply not right. It was wrong.

Our total bill came up to about S$180 for two. I find that pricey, but it was worth the splurge. This Les Amis restaurant definitely trumps some of the others, like Aoki. Good job!

08 Feb 2011 • 8 reviews • 0 follower

A unique experience

Frankly after reading what the other reviewers had to say, I had my doubts on taking a chance here but I'm glad I did.

Tapioca chips - complimentary - tasted good and reminded of keropok - but an 'oily-er' refined version. Bread was nice - hard exterior, soft interior - heated pebbles were not v hot so did not serve much purpose - accompanying butter was great and addictive!

Cool trick with the wet towel. Will not spoil the fun by describing here.

Now, since I don't take beef, a 3-course lunch was for me today - $53 w/o gst/taxes.

Scallops were nice and refreshing. Some floral bits and stems added a twist to the tastebuds. A good start. However the accompanying recommended German white wine was a tad too sweet which served to only dull the starter.

Pork belly was sinfully good - usually I take out the fats but this was pretty close to melt in your mouth goodness so I hadn't bothered. I was well advised to take each mouthful together with the dressings and sides which made the experience a better one - not so 'jelak'. The spicy red wine was strong enough to combine well with the pork but not overbearing without a strong long finish - and thus did not overwhelm the flavors. But alas not a very memorable wine.

Dessert was the Amedei (chocs) Chuao and Banana - interesting and unique. Parts of the chocolate dessert were intense - salty and sweet at the same time! Good it wasn't too big a portion.

White tea (silver) was ok for me only... not sure I'd pay the $12 for a few petals. Companion's earl grey looked more robust and better value.

I agree with the other reviewers regarding the wines - that it could have been more value for money - at $26/$29 per glass it did not live up to what one would expect to be paying for. Time to look for better ones?

Regarding water, I did not see any charcoal in mine though - and I was asked still or sparkling - so perhaps that has changed from previous reviews.

Liked the friendly service and ambience - two tables on the first floor, apparently 6-7 tables on the 2nd floor. It did enhance its exclusivity. Hopefully sufficient to keep 53 afloat!

23 Oct 2010 • 25 reviews • 1 follower

Comfortable food, nothing outstanding

The overall setting is comfortable, not as "stressful" as fine dinning restaurant. I went with the knowledge of the cost, but just wonder why there is no price printed anywhere or did I just miss it? The food is interesting, and somehow "Spa-ish". Good but not impressive, the only taste I seem to remember is the black pig with garlic puree.. Wine was introduced by words of the waitress (no menu, no price given). But the a few glasses we had were lovely. Overall, the food is comfortable, but not outstanding and , frankly, over priced.