Tue - Sat: 12:00 - 14:00
Tue - Sat: 19:00 - 22:00
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.
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!
Limited to a set lunch or set dinner the menu more or less makes your decision of what to order for you. In contrast, the wine list is voluminous--23 pages to be exact. And the wines range from affordable, mid-range wines to premium bottles that cost almost $2,000. Fortunately, the restaurant gets away with this because the food it serves is so interesting, creative and tasty.
The style here is part molecular gastronomy, part straightforward European cooking, courtesy of young chef Michael Han. Our starters of Japanese cherry tomatoes, watermelon and strawberries, and Waygu beef carpaccio with beetroot and hibiscus granita were bursting with flavor and texture, yet clean on the palate; while our main of beef flap with foamy potato had us scraping the bottoms of our plates. Our dessert of fig with sweet olive tapenade and green Szechuan peppercorn ice-cream was certainly unique and tasted good; while the other dessert of chocolate caramel and raspberry granite was polished off quickly. Then came the gin and tonic jellies petit fours, which is the fun thing about molecular gastronomy, when done well. And the attention to detail impressed us: Bread rolls served in cloth bags with heated cherry stones to keep the bread warm, a stick of charcoal in the water pitchers to absorb impurities and beautiful raw wood tables, to name some.
Had a fantastic meal there with some friends. Must say that I am hard pressed to remember the last time I had tasted as innovative a menu at home in Singapore. In addition to normal bread rolls, the chef served chicken skin flatten and toasted to a crisp (resembling the flat crispy bread that is served at some restaurants)to start with. It was heavenly and set the tone for the evening. The rest of the meal was just as inventive and did not disappoint. The meal included stewed duck tongue, new potatoes that looked like glazed chestnuts, coffee "soil", etc. And all these tasted magical, and not in the least gimmicky (as some restaurants that tries too hard to be innovative can be). The price is a bit steep given the current economic environment, and this is certainly not a place I would go every week. But it will certainly make a special occasion that bit more memorable.
Ironically I wasn’t aware of this stylo-mylo restaurant until an oversea friend who has heard so much about it took me there when she came over to Singapore recently. The ambience was quite elegant for a fusion 5-course meal. Among the dishes, I have fond memories of the chicken oysters and considering the over $200 bill for a table of two, the service were of course, superb.