Sunday, January 29, 2006

Madam Butterfly - Singapore

Introduction: We were looking for something a bit different and found it here on Clarke's Quay Entry between a row of 12 foot tall warrior statues we ate upstairs in a very dark and quiet area barely illuminated by ornate chandeliers.
Ambience: "I love a dark mysterious place. A place where no one knows your face"
Service: Helpful, efficient without being hurried or in your face.
Food: Unfortunately my notes about this restaurant have gone astray but it is too interesting not to get a mention.
The two outstanding dishes we had were The tonic of the three deities (abalone, scallops and sea cucumber) a seafood and herb soup which had a slightly bitter medicine like background taste - I could almost feel it doing me good, and the lobster which had a light chilli sauce which I think is not a good combination with a delicate meat. the lobster itself had a very soft carapace and a sweet flavour.
Wine: By the galss or bottle Expensive for very ordinary wines

Price: Around $100 for two

Comments: Worth a try for something a little unusual

Score: 13.5/20

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Piperno - Rome

Introduction: In a tiny square in the old Ghetto area Piperno is noted for it's seafood and in particular the chef's fine touch with the finest ingredients and the freshest of products
Ambience: Numerous senior white coated waiters, all male, move efficiently and unobtrusively in the narrow spaces between tables. Huge chiarascuro copies of renaisance paintings adorn the walls which are covered in tapestry wall paper. Despite being absolutely full everyone spoke quietly, even the children, which made for an extremely good atmosphere.

Service: Prompt but unhurried

Food: Their signature dish lightly battered Zuchini flowers stuffed with ricotta and fish is really really good. The sea food rissotto had plenty of mussels, fish, and baby octopus in a tasty red wine sauce excellent but the real treat was the sea bass cutlets. Sold by weight ($100/kg) a serve is usually two cutlets - about 300 gm. lightly fried in a white wine sauce his fine textured delicate fish was unsurpassably excellent. Piggy heaven!!
A side dish of spinach in butter sauce melted in the mouth.
Another traditional dish, tripe in red wine sauce was also beautifully prepared
Rounded off with very good home made icecream and coffee this was a great gourmet meal
This meal represented only a small part of their extensive menu
Wine: Fairly extensive list reasonably priced. The house wine a Frascati at only $3.5 /glass was remarkably cheap

Price: On the expensive side. We paid about $240 but it would be easy to have a much more expensive meal

Comments: For a really good fish specialty restaurant in Rome I would not go past Piperno although there are several considerably more expensive fish specialty places including Rozetta and Quincy and Gabriell I can no way see that they can be much better than Piperno

Score: 16.5/20

Ai Vechietta - Palermo

Introduction: One of the more expensive restaurants in town
Ambience: Absent! We were seated in a sort of enclosed verandah totally lacking in atmosphere

Service: I found the dinner suited waiters oppressive, somewhat impatient slightl abrupt manner. The guy who appeared to be the boss? owner was scruffily dressed with his shirt hanging out of his trousers. Looked like a mafia lieutenant

Food: Continued our dalliance with signature Sicilian dishes. Mushroom rissotto had strong taste of porchini mushrooms which are available fresh in Italy - unlike Australia, was a small serving. the rissotto is served with less of the stock boiled away so it is much soupier than in Australian restaurants. Pasta norma is another common local specialty - basically spaghetti with eggplant. The pork hock was a huge piece of bone with plenty of meat, tender and filling. The chicken breast stuffed with pine nuts and herbs was a bit dry and not particularly appealing.

Wine: A moderate list a little more expensive than most places we visited but you can still get a easonable bottle of Nero d'Avalo for about $30

Price: Around $130 for two

Comments: I did not enjoy eating at this restaurant

Score: 13/20

Al Bucco - Palermo

Introduction: A better than average Trattoria 100 metres from the Grand Palm Hotel
Ambience: Friendly atmosphere. A large Tv playing quietly in the corner had no English channels

Service: Casual and friendly Menu available in English

Food: Could not wait to try the Sicilian specialty Pasta con sarde The very strong taste of sardines is modified by sprinkling bread crumbs over the dish as we would normally sprinkle cheese. Sicilian oysters have strong taste of salt and the sea and are quite different from the oysters normally served in Australia No way could I have eaten a dozen of them

Rissotto with fruit of the sea was a tasty entree.
We tried Swordfish cutlets and a veal in wine sauce for mains which were both very ordinary.
We also tried a mussel soup which was an excellent dish. Although the mussels are much smaller than those from Australia they had very good taste
Wine: Inexpensive. Largely Sicilian Limited range A bottle of quite reasonable Nero d' Avalo was $16

Price: Agood dinner for two around $100

Comments: Typical Sicilian

Score: 13.5/20

Monday, January 23, 2006

Harry's Bar - Rome

Introduction: A sophisticated restaurant popular for the last 40 years or more at the top of the Via Veneto
Ambience: Unobtrusive live music every night. There is a pervasive air of quiet elegance

Service: Uniformed multiligual waiters provide menus with no prices for the ladies! They are so so very smooth

Food: A lightly flavoured lobster bisque with a few bits of lobster tail resting in it ($50) and a modest serve of rissotto with smoked cheese ($40) for starters were nice enuf but far from special.

A beautifully prepared beefsteak in balsamic sauce served with spinach could not be better. he duck breast was a good size, not overcooked and very tasty.
Both the Gelai and the semifreddo were good without being outstanding. the small plate of petit fours was nice
Wine: We started with a couple of champagne cocktails - The famous Bellini and a Puccini (Nothing to do with opera) aty $20 followed by a ca da Bosca at $60

Price: You cannot get a dinner here for less than about $175 per person and it's easy to spend quite a bit more

Comments: Most patrons spoke English or American if you like and nearly all the men wore ties an extremely rare sight. More style than substance. I was astounded when the waiter asked for tips to be paid in cash. The Englisman at the next table gave him $80!

Score: 15/20

Porto di Ripetta - Rome

Introduction: A high quality specialty seafood restaurant. Meat dishes are available
Ambience: Discreet or you could say fairly dark. The ground level room is narrow with 500 year old bare brick arched ceiling. There is a larger original ?Roman room downstairsroom in the basement

Service: Two waiters and owner/chef Antonio Zacharia look after the 20 patrons who largely fill the ground floor area with pleasant unhurried efficiency.

A complimentary glass of Champagne on arrival was an unexpected pleasure
Food: Antonio showed considerable flexibility providing us with two seperate 5 course degustation dinners to share. The included Salmon, Red Snapper, Angler Fish, Swordfish, Turbot and Sea Bass each marinated or cooked in a variety of ways and served as an individual dish. The highlight for me was the Cuttlefish with porcini mushroom sauce. the fish soup was also excellent

Wine: A modest list with a couple of 1/2 bottles available.

Price: Including a half bottle of wine we paid $250 considered to be on the expensive side in Rome

Comments: Porto is proud to announce that they use no Garlic, no butter, cream or milk in their cooking. It certainly did not detract from the tastes of the food.

Less style than Harry's Bar but much more interesting.
Score: 16/20

Plachutta - Vienna

Introduction: Renowned for its classical Viennese cuisine, particularly the Tafelspitz
Ambience: This large restaurant, about 400 metres from St. Stephans cathedral on Wollzeile was packed with German speaking clients, mostly Austrian I presume. I was surprised that not only is smoking permitted but there is no smoke free area!

Service: Plenty of helpful English speaking waiters and English menu available Menu lists 1/2 a dozen boiled meat specialties accompanied by a drawing of a cow illustrating where the cuts come from. A variety of other dishes available including schnitzels, of course.

Food: Our mixed tafelspitz was from the rump, the shoulder and lean brisket forward and below the shoulder. The meat had been boiled till tender and was served , on a heated iron stand, in a tasty soup containing vegetables and accompanied by a seperate pot of roast potatoes.

One has the soup first after which the meat is served. There are two sauce boats one filled with a cream chive sauce the other with an apple horseradish sauce which went well together
Desserts looked good but this is not the place to go for anything exquisite
Wine: Both the red ($8) and the white ($6) house wines were just OK

Price: Mains up to $40. Anything extra costs eg suppeneinllage, some sort of pastry that goes in the soup, was $3 and a kugel $2.50 In the end we paid $130 for dinner

Comments: This is a Viennese experience not to be missed. There are less upmarket places to go.

Score: 14/20

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Girrorosto Fiorontine

Introduction: This fine restaurant around the corner from the Via Venito in via Sicilia specialises in Tuscan food
Ambience: Has an air of calm quality typical of this class of establishment

Service: All that a tourist could want

Food: The antipasti looked wonderful, brought to the table on a trolley but after weeks of olives, prosciuto, cheeses I found the strength to resist

We had the chef's Tuscan specialities - a Ribolita and a bean soup, both large and tasty serves, followed by the Beefsteak Fiorentine for two. Somewhat more cooked than requested this nearly 3cm thick rib eye was carved into large chunks at an adjacent table and then served out, including the rather bare bone, on our plates. We added a side dish of roast potatoes as it came with no vegatables.
Wine: The most extensive list I have seen in Italy. Divided by region from Sicily to Piedmont we enjoyed a Colle? Tuscan Chiante Classico at the lower end of their price range at $35

Price: About average for this sort of placewe paid about $160 including wine

Comments: A good middle range restaurant

Score: 15/20

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Peony-Jade - Singapore

Introduction: An unusual Singaporean Chinese restaurant at Clarke's quay. All you can eat al a carte fixed price menu contains a selection of 58 dishes
Ambience: Large upstairs room (lift available) Well spaced tables with white linen clothes and serviettes set a pleasant tone

Service: Exceptional courteous and prompt

Food: I found some of the cold dishes not much to my taste In particular the boned chicken roll cooked in rice wine was bitter and the marinated oxtail very ordinary. The large serve of shark fin soup was full of shark fin and had a not overly strong light fish taste whilst the very salty hot cabbage and ham soup needed a microscope to find the ham, looked like dish water.

The sweet and sour prawns in batter were excellent and the sweet and sour pork in batter even better. The best dish however was the sea bass a delicate stemed whole fish, butterflied and boned. the fried rice with crab meat, prawn and egg was good. There were many more dishes available and I wish we had a table of 4 to try more of them. The serves are large and I couldn't manage more. We did have the hot redbean and lotus nut dessert as well as the mango sago - and a second serve too!
Wine: A glass of very ordinary Australian wine for $12 did nothing to improve an otherwise interesting and good quality meal

Price: Lunch is S$28 and dinner S$38 With taxes service etc add 20% or just call it A$

Comments: Next time I come to Singapore I will come back to this award winning restaurant 'tho it is not quite ;\'haute cuisine'

Score: 14/20