Many thanks to Appetite Magazine, I was able to make Savour 2013 this year with a pair of Savour Lounge Passes to interact with the sumptuous gastronomy that many established chefs brought from all over the world and savour them inside air-conditioned lounge with free flow beverages!
First and foremost, I was impressed by the ticket sales, where Savour Pass for many sessions were sold out, particularly for the weekend. However, does these people really knew what they were paying for? A Savour Pass is only valid for entry to the Gourmet Market, where they can view and purchase produces but cannot enter the Gourmet Village, where the main actions really are, and where one can savour the many excellent cuisines offered by renowned chefs as well as taking part in cooking workshops at the Gourmet Auditorium helmed by them. This is clearly specified by the organiser, but I can’t help suspecting many simply didn’t bother to read the (not so) fine print. In my opinion, the Savour Pass is simply not worth buying, at the very least, it shouldn’t cost more than the Savour dollar enclosed.
Having said that, let’s begin our gastronomy adventures!
We arrived at Savour Village around 5.45pm, there were hardly any queue at all, so the privilege of priority queue for Savour Lounge Pass holders was rather redundant. Soon as we entered the village, I suggested a lite drink to start off our gastronomy journey, which my companion gleefully agreed. I had a white Tyrrell’s wine while my friend sipped some Taiwanese Lychee beer. Afterall, given a pair of Savour Lounge Passes, we should utilise it to the optimal 😛 However, we were told, that once we stepped inside Savour Lounge 1, we had to stick to it, and could not venture into Lounge 2, but anyway, the beverages served would be the same across both lounges despite a slightly different theme setting. I guessed it was one way to segregate the crowd. And I probably preferred Lounge 1’s setting anyway.
#15 Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants
#52 World’s 100 Best Restaurants
We did not stay long inside the lounge, so as to maximise our time with those heavenly cuisines. We started with Bo Innovation, obviously the star attraction of Savour 2012 & 2013. Michelin 2-Star celebrity chef Alvin Leung, otherwise known as Demon Chef, is excellent in playing along extreme visual stimulation with his devilish dishes such as Dead Garden, Sex in the City, and X-treme Long Bao (right). Chef Alvin did not bring the first two cuisines to Singapore this year, but here’s X-treme Long Bao. I did not try this personally, my friend told me it tasted very different from conventional Xiao Long Bao, however, she could not describe the complex taste in detail, but apparently, she wasn’t very impressed. I play with a little camera trick here, does it looks like cat’s eye? LOL!
Anyway, we also tried their Bo Chicken Rice (a.k.a. Chicken With Rice), partly, we were expecting magical taste from Alvin’s cuisine and we thought this could be a bit filling for our empty tummies, particularly this being our first encounter with molecular food. Secondly, I owed Alvin my inspiration in acquiring this opportunity visiting Savour 2013. This is basically cooked with yellow chicken stock and served with abalone jelly. I was a little disappointed with this to be honest, the jelly certainly did not taste anywhere near an abalone, and the rice just tasted like mixing rice with egg yolk. Not that the presentation was as eye-catching as his other dishes anyway. We were unimpressed.
The Tasting Room at Le Quartier Francais, South Africa
#57 World’s 100 Best Restaurants
Our next venture was the result of a peep from the next table diners’ order, Seared Scallop, Aerated Scallop and Dill Vichysoisse, Barley and Squid Ink Crumble by Margot Janse of The Tasting Room in South Africa.
The seared scallop looked so tantalising that we consented we ought to give it a try! The thinly crust of the seared Hokkaido scallop was a joy to consume, with its internal texture remained tender. And the creamy vichysoisse was a great combination together with the crispy crumble, offering a diversification to the taste bud one normally expecting from only a plain scallop. It’s a long time since I last tried squid ink in Hakodate, Hokkaido, Japan. To bring these two Hokkaido delight together by a South African master was truly wonderful. Needless to say, it’s tasty too! I had tried some African cuisine in Mauritius before. For my companion, it was an eye opener, even though I don’t really regard this as genuine African cuisine.
Lychee was perhaps my friend’s delight, but king crab is definitely without any doubt. I wasn’t surprise when she ordered this from OSIA, an Australia-Singapore collaboration between chefs Scott Webster and Douglas Tay, who won a few rare accolades. This order fusioned together fried crab meat and lychee martini. As expected, king crab’s meat tasted a bit bland, and it had to depend on the flour skin to spice it up a little, while on the other hand, lychee juice certainly sweetened the frozen martini, the end product was a rather smooth martini shaved ice.
#43 Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants
This is yet another dish apart from Bo Innovation’s Xtreme Long Bao that I can still recall from last year’s Savour, and in my opinion, the best dish I had for the evening! The pasta used here was the thin type, known as Angel Hair, almost as thin as rice vermicelli, in a way, I found that a masterstroke by Chef Gunther Hubrechsen of Gunther’s Singapore, because this thin pasta was able to absorb the fragrant taste of truffle oil thoroughly, and the Oscietra caviar was sweet, bearing a good reminiscence of ocean flavour like that off a fresh salmon. I don’t usually like cold meal, but this chilled cold pasta was here flavoured with truffle and Oscietra Caviar, this is the best pasta I ever tasted! Going for $60 at his restaurant, it’s consider a steal at $18, nevermind if it may or may not be a portion of the original serving. I wasn’t a fan of foie gras, certainly don’t know how to appreciate it. So this day, I had the privilege to try the two best ingredients of the world, an absolutely perfect match of the best ingredients on land and from sea! Merely a couple of weeks back, I had some Salmon Rillettes with Caviar, but those caviar were almost tasteless comparing to this. Well done, Gunther! On the contrary, my dining companion was quite critical of it, she found the smell of the caviar too strong, something like stink fishy smell, I would rather use the term fresh and oceanic to describe it though.
Wild Honey, UK – 1 Michelin Star
Arbutus, UK – 1 Michelin Star
Arbutus and Wild Honey are two UK restaurants helmed by Anthony Demetre (together with manager Will Smith), each with 1 Michelin Star. We were quite fascinated by how he ‘merged’ squid and mackerel into a ‘burger’ and ordered this dish. My companion was attracted by his Slow Cooked 1824 Beef ‘Cottage Pie’, Hot Smoked Potato as it was recommended in the event festive guide hence she also purchased this. I suppose she’s hungry for some beef, especially in such gourmet event, she probably thought it would be a big miss if she didn’t try some best beef cuisine from world renowned chefs.
Let’s start with the squid and mackerel ‘burger’. It was very different from what shown on the event guide, the presence of seaweed was quite unexpected. I suspect Chef Demetre replaced some green vegetables salad that he had problem acquiring here, but that somehow fell in line with the theme ‘sea green’ in the title of this cuisine. That’s rather secondary, the chief objective was the burger itself. Instead of calling it a burger, I would say it resembled more of a meat patty, a thick one at that. It was basically a mackerel patty filled with squid fragment inside, not a composite. The lemon peel was a little delight, adding a finishing touch by providing a thin citrus sweetness to the salad, but otherwise, the patty tasted a little plain, which honestly, was natural for most mackerel dishes.
As for the beef ‘Cottage Pie’, I was rather bemused by the title, why 1824? I suspect it has something to do with some recipe from Mary Randolph’s cookbook “The Virginia House-Wife” published that year. Randolph, by the way, was Thomas Jefferson’s cousin. My friend complimented that the beef was soft, I don’t know whether she really meant it when she said ‘melt in the mouth’. She’s very stingy on compliments, so I take it that it’s good! However, it must be noted that the end product looked very different from the brochure.
Astrid Y Gaston, Peru
#35 World’s 50 Best Restaurants
This is interesting! I had tried cuisine from almost all continents in the world, but not South America. Like it or not, I do not see much signature cuisine from North America, which basically referring to US & Canada, who were readily embracing food culture from Europe. So, LATAM’s food culture is really the defining thing, of course, whether one likes it or not, is another matter entirely. I was eager to try out one of the best restaurants in Peru, if not South America. Astrid Y Gaston of Peru was the sole America flag bearer here! We witnessed an event staff enjoying a plate of the Hot & Cold Combination while we were having cuisines from Wild Honey and Arbutus, and decided to add ourselves a little Latin fanfare. It actually came in two portion, hot, and cold. The hot portion was the main course, the cold a dessert. It’s very difficult to translate the ingredients, basically, Jalea de Pescado is a Peruvian cuisine usually meant fish fried with salt, pepper, and onion. Andean Grains are something like those breakfast grains, but usually hardly found in this part of the world. Chupetes is the Spanish word for lollipop, right here, the closest example I can quote, is something like Kellogg’s Coco Pops, not those candy lolly. Simply put, the main dish contained onion pickles, fried potato, and fried red snapper. While the dessert was an ice dulce de leche with Andean grain lollipops.
Chef Emilio Macias’ clever use of sauces and dressing was a midas touch, adding much desired latino heat in his cuisine. The snapper was mildly spicy on the outside, and tender within. The fried potato was quite tastefully done, not a bit of it tasted bland. Whereas the onion pickles had been masked off its strong pungent with the clever use of dressing. Overall, this was a very appeasing entree in general!
Ice Cream & Cookie Co
Up till now, my friend and I decided to call a little break, to walk about for some digestion before we indulge in more cuisines. Otherwise, it would be difficult to savour the goodness with a relatively full tummy. So we had ice latte from a Nescafe kiosk with the coupons inside our given tote bag before proceeding to the Gourmet Market for a bit of shopping. She then came across this Ice Cream & Cookie Co kiosk and attracted by their Ice Cream Sandwich, which comprised of two cookies buffering an ice cream. She had a chocolate cookies with vanilla ice cream, and was told to wait 5 minutes before consuming because it was frozen hard. We waited for more than 15 minutes and still having difficulty cutting the cookies with a steel fork, couldn’t imagine my tooth! Personally, I didn’t find anything special about it, the cookies was rather normal, the ice cream was nice, certainly better than Swensen’s, but nothing exceptional.
When we thought we had enough digestion, we returned to Savour Lounge 1 and stuck there until the event ended. While there, we tried a few other cuisines as we were appreciating wine. I had a few glasses of Tyrrell’s red wine and kept myself busy filling up many contest coupons while she was getting the food.
Almost all renowned chefs struggled to bring their delicacies to Savour as close to their original visual presentation as from their restaurant. But one outstanding visual coup must be that from Mikuni of Fairmount Hotel, Singapore. For this cuisine, Chef Moon Kyung-Soo probably didn’t re-produce the exact form as in his restaurant (usual price $28), he possibly outshone it. Served in a Mikuni tin can, slivers of yellow tail lightly dressed with rice vinegar, truffle essence, light soy, black volcanic salt and garnished with micro-greens, it probably drew more creative juice than most chefs who simply do with plastic plate or disposables. But of course, the importance was, the sashimi was very delicious too! This dish also came with a tiny cup of sake, but my companion wasn’t touching it. For one moment, I thought of finishing it. But my friend cautioned me since I was already drinking red wine, the composite might be rocking. Very well then, it’s not that I was deliberately wasting food.
She also had this Stellar Grill from Stellar@1-Altitude, Singapore. It was another recommendation from the event guide, comprised of smoked beef short rib, served with Pommes Gruyere (fried cheese?) and Condiments (sauce?). I am not a beef eater, I guess I was probably too drunk to remember what she commented on this order 😛
#22 Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants
Yet another recommendation from the event guide, I was not sure whether the rosemary-smoked organic egg was heated at a temperature of 55°, but it was certainly sporting a less appealing presentation than that from the brochure which usually cost $44++. It was served with smoked ratte potatoes, winter mushrooms and chorizon Iberico. I didn’t try that by the way, my companion did.
1 Michelin Star
I love Seafood, but how a Swedish Michelin Star chef interprets it would be interesting. It was indeed exceptional, not so much on the seafood itself, but on the salad instead, which comprised of pine nuts, raisins, bacon, and Permigiano Reggiano (I guess that means Parmesan cheese dressing). The salad gave the seafood a fruity and nutty touch, it was an absolutely accommodating combination, offering seafood dishes a different dimension! However though, my companion expressed a distaste for it, I suspect the seafood was probably fried with garlic, which she really dread.
We also ordered the Chocolate Brioche from Sjômagasinet, with that, we finished off every single Savour dollar in our possession. This was also a recommended dessert. However, I was forced to finish it in a gulp that I hardly recall the taste of it as it was already 11pm then, the closing hour of Savour. I didn’t even realise it was that late! Pity.. Pity.. But looking at the picture, it must be quite delicious.
To wrap up our culinary journey, I have to confess some cuisines were rather overrated despite their outlook. We had our disagreement over some dishes, but that’s totally natural, given the fact we have different taste for food. But in some cases, we agreed that even dishes from Michelin starred chefs can be off-coloured. On our way home, my companion commented that it was an eye opener, yet she won’t be anticipating next year’s event. I couldn’t help but to agree. Take for example, a recent Hong Kong Michelin Star restaurant opened a new franchise in Singapore, I tried before from their HK outlet but didn’t find it exceptional, despite it currently drawing long queue willing to wait for hours before been served. In fact, some of our much cheaper hawkers’ cooking tasted better to be honest, what they lacked are mainly the presentation. Personally, I have a little regret that some chef didn’t bother to put up pictures of their own cuisines during the event, and that Alain Passard did not make Savour this year. Alain is a 3 Michelin Star chef, and it will be fantastic if we can savour his costly cuisine at discounted rate here. But nevertheless, Savour is still a good experience!