Oct 11, 2012

Singaporean Favorites at Peppercrab Restaurant

Peppercrab at the Grand Hyatt Dubai is an accurate representation of Singaporean cuisine.  The infamous locale of Singapore is an amalgamation of its residents ranging from Malaysian, Chinese, Indian, and European, and it's cuisine is an extension of that. This restaurant with it's welcoming facade and warm ambiance was a complete surprise, although it's reputation preceded it from many previous visitors.  I had the pleasure of enjoying this scrumptious meal with a couple of friends and we did some serious damage at the table. I wasn't able to photograph each item, simply because the aroma had enticed us to indulge before I could grab my camera to capture the moment. 

For starters, one of the most addictive dishes in pan-asian cuisine is the Fried Calamari with Salt and Pepper. No matter which restaurant I go to, if I see this item on the menu, it MUST be ordered.  Everyone has there own take on it, but the key ingredients are chillies and deliciously fried calamari! Peppercrab did justice to this favorite fried treat of mine.
The assorted satay with achar peanut sauce lontong was another common item seen on many Malaysian/Thai/Indonesian menus, but the Singaporean way took the best of all three worlds and combined them into this tasty treat.  The satay was a variety of beef, lamb and chicken, cooked to a juicy perfection.  The "acahr peanut" sauce was a tangy take on the Thai peanut sauce I had grown accustomed to.  They also served it with this lontong-is a dish made of compressed rice cake in the form of a cylinder wrapped inside a banana leaf, commonly found in Malaysia.  The texture worked, although it lacked in flavor, a little more seasoning cooked have served that component well. 
Next up were the Singaporean Roasted Duck Pancakes with cucumber, Spring Onions, and Hoi Sin Sauce.  Also commonly enjoyed in many Chinese restaurants, and this one stayed true to it's origins.  The pancakes were slightly more dry than usual, but the roasted duck was full of flavor as was it's crispy skin, that added that special touch when nestled into the layers of this great little "wrap". 
 The moment I have been waiting for, the star of the show finally arrived, the delicious Singaporean Peppercrab! The variety of crab itself is known as a Mud Crab smothered in black pepper, fragrant chili, and chili sauce......WOW! Getting down and dirty and enjoying this delicacy, to its fullest we rolled up our sleeves and tied on our bibs without any cares in the world.  Licking fingers and slurping up the succulent crab meat was completely acceptable in this elegant restaurant, but to be honest, there really is no other way.....The sweetness of the mud crab meat, paired with this aromatic and flavorful sauce was exactly what I had imagined it would be, foodie bliss. 
A couple of the other flavorful dishes we enjoyed were the Wok fried Singaporean Stir Fried Noodles, Soft Shell Crab, Spicy Prawn Curry, with fried Singaporean buns.  The only bit I was able to capture here were the fried Singaporean buns.  The Noodles were just the right balance between a curry and noodle dish.  With the strong essence of spices tossed with the egg fried noodles, and juliened vegetables, there was no stopping once this dish hit the table.  The Softshell crab was another decedent dish, covered in threads of wok fried butter, it felt like an artery clogger, but also put a BIG smile on my face.

These little beauties below, were just the icing on the cake.  often found in Chinese dum sum, asian style buns are commonly steamed.  These little morsels were a take on the traditional Chinese buns with a twist.  The base was similar, but they were actually deep fried for a unique flavor, texture, and richness.  It was paired with the spicy prawn curry as a vehicle to enjoy the sauce, however, they are rich enough to just enjoy on their own. 
Pictured below is Peppercrab's version of Air Batu Campur or Ais Kacang, a sweet Malaysian dessert consisting of shaved ice with palm seeds, red beans, sweet corn, black jelly, and sugar syrup.  For my Singaporean friend, this was a treat, for me, I would say this is more of an acquired taste. Many different layers of flavors and textures, and with the distinct red bean taste standing out, I understand why people from Malaysia to Singapore enjoy it so much.   
Although this was my first time at Peppercrab, the sights, sounds, smells and tastes were all strangely familiar to me.  From beginning to end they delivered on every course.  Some dishes more exotic than others, I felt a comfort level with the food and could easily enjoy it on a regular basis, that is if my waistline will allow it! 

For more information please click on the link below, you are in for a treat!

Peppercrab at Grand Hyatt Dubai


Oct 7, 2012

Best Of BiCE Brunch

The infamous BiCE restaurant in the Hilton, JBR Dubai is known for it's authentic Italian style hospitality and even more so, it's traditional Italian fare with a modern touch.  BiCE has recently introduced their Campari themed brunch every Friday, with a range of Campari cocktails and hearty feast of delicacies done the true Italian way.
The concept is to share a medley of starters and then to select one of the 3 main courses (also to share per every 2 ppl) to celebrate the family style festive meal.  I have listed some of my favorites below, but to really understand the entire gamet, you must indulge at the BiCE campari brunch, it's a right of passage in Dubai.     

As I mentioned, BiCE is known for their hospitality, and they really do spoil their guests with an overwhelming selection of starters ranging from the "BiCE Style" carpaccio below drizzled with their special Venetian sauce, this dish never seems to dissapoint at any meal. 

This colorful pile of fried goodes consisted of everything from Calamri to shrimp as well as Zuchini all served with a spicy tomato sauce.  Now I am a firm believer that anything fried is always tasty, and this dish proved that very point.  The only down side to fried food, is that it can be very filling, but the batter and variety of items in this dish was the perfect balance that allowed us to enjoy, but didn't keep us from indulging in other tasty treats at the table.
Another traditional dish, anyone can recognize at this point is the Caprese salad.  A staple at any Italian eatery, you can do no wrong with the creamy buffalo mozzarella, fresh tomatoes, and the sweet basil on top with a touch of extra virgin olive oil and pesto sauce, this is one of those items you expect on any Italian menu, and one can revel in it's simplicity.
Next up is the pasta course, we were given a selection of three, but the 2 below really stood out.  Since I am a sucker for anything with Truffle, the ravioli to the left checked the box there.  A Ricotta and Spinach Ravioli with a creamy truffle sauce and topped with truffle shavings....rich and hearty, one or two pieces is sufficient if you want to save room for your mains.  The dish to the right is the Paccheri shellfish in a simple oil, garlic, and peperoncino sauce.  It really is the simplest food that stands out sometimes, but to make simple food taste good, good quality ingredients must me used.  The tender fresh pasta combined with the seafood were the exact flavors I look for in a simple pasta dish. 
Now, if that wasn't enough food already, we still had the mains to go.....

Amongst the selections were the beautiful Salt Crusted Sea Bass (pictured below), a Mixed Grill Platter consisting of meat, and another consisting of seafood.  My table went all out for the two seafood choices, and I'm glad we did! Seafood is always the lighter way to go, and after already having such a hearty selection of starters and pasta, it was better, since we wanted to save room for dessert:)
No meal can be complete without a dessert in Dubai (whether you are on a diet or not) The BiCE desserts have alwasy been something to look forward to, and this time was no different.  They offered the quintessential Tiramisu (which was gibbled up before I could take a picture), the Panna Cotta with Raspberrie sauce and of course the Chocolate Souffle.

The Panna Cotta, silky and smooth was sweet and creamy, as a panna cotta should be.  Veyr few places can actually get the recipe correct.  It takes just the right ratio of gelatin to cream and the picture you see here is the accurate result of that.
The chocolate souffle, although common on many menus, is a fail safe item.  There will always be a request for this no matter where you dine out.

Overall the BiCE brunch was a delicious day!  Make sure you visit with a group of foodie friends that like to eat.  That really is the best way to take advantage of all the gourmet delicacies that await at this pictureque restaurant in one of the most desirable locations in town!

Oct 3, 2012

J'Ador Amador

Amador Restaurant located at the Park Rotana in Abu Dhabi is a hidden gem.  The brainchild of Michelin starred chef Juan Amador, this restaurant flaunting "Avant Guarde" cuisine is truly something special. 
To begin we were presented with 2 Amuse Bouche.  The first was this colorful display below which emulated the taste of an oyster.  Interesting compilation of ingredients complete with unusual tastes and textures, I can honestly say, I've never tasted anything like it before...... 

"Oyster" Cucumber Gellie, seaweed brittle, foam
The second amuse bouche was the fillet of sardine below served with a crispy garlic breadcrumb crust  frozen gazpacho quenelle and a touch of herb oil.  At first bite this dish didn't work for me.  The stark contrast of the chilled gazpacho against the sardine was too extreme and didn't allow the natural flavors of the sardine to shine.  However, once the gazpacho melted, the flavors began to meld, and the dish harmoniously came together.    

Sardine with a chilled citrus gazpacho
Having already enjoyed two amuse bouche, we decided to share just one starter, and as it came to the table we were impressed with presentation immediatley.  This flawless dish with colorful components did have the wow factor.  Underneath the gellie, was the perfectly seared scallop nestled warmly ontop of the parsely puree. Packed with elegent flavors and a pristine presentation, these chefs were not messing around!

Scallops with a parsley puree and gellie
Next up, we had another touch of elegance with this gorgeous carmelized Black Cod.  Now, Black Cod has grown in popularity over the years after first being introduced by Chef Nobu.  However, from Okku, to Zuma, Caramel, and even Teatro at the Park Rotana have perfected their own recipes always with a touch of sweet miso.  The crispy exterior and tender inside was well balanced and really took an alternative approach to the many other black cod dishes I've tried in the UAE. The carmelized chicken livers that lay atop the cod, weren't really complimenting the dish, but I enjoyed them anyways as a little added bonus to this already tasty dish.  

Black Cod with chicken livers
As a palette cleanser, we were served this Pomegranate Sorbet garnished with gold flakes and a champage sauce, it could have served as a dessert as it was so sweet.  Aside from the sauce, the sorbet was divine, and did the trick cleaning our pallettes for what was to come next. 
Our last course was the lightest yet most substantial order of steak I had ever seen.  A delicate cut of Kobe Beef Loin cooked to a beautiful medium temperature topped with a steak tartar, japanese radish, yuzu foam, and sesame teriyaki sauce.  I still haven't figured out how this or the black cod fit into avant guarde european cuisine, but the flavors and execution were spot on.  Menu's in Dubai are overwhelmed with Wagyu beef, but very few actually honor the original king of  beef....KOBE!  I was just happy to see it on the menu, and even happier that it had been prepared so well. 

Kobe Beef with a sesame teriyaki sauce with steak tartar, yuzu foam
After we finished our meal, we wanted to skip the dessert, but after the chef insisted we try their signature Spiced Milk with Beet Root Custard, our curiosities had been piqued, and we couldn't resist a taste.  A vegetable I am not usually fond of, I never thought I would eat beet root in dessert form, but i guess it just makes sense.  Beet root is a naturally sweet vegetable, and Amador has extracted that sweetness combined it with spiced milk in a gorgeous silky custard like form I've never tasted before.  Even the color was attractive, clearly an extension of the natural beet coloring. 

Spiced Milk with Beet Root Custard
Just to show off, Chef also sent out the lovely little macaroon below with a wasabi white chocolate filling, just lovely!  And to finish we couldn't leave without trying the cotton candy dusted with beet root powder.....simply genius!!!!!!!

Beet Root Macarons with a wasabi and white chocolate filling

The meal at Amador was one of the most meticulously prepared meals I've had since Gourmet Abu Dhabi last year.  A Michelin Star chef right here in the outskirts of Abu Dhabi preparing his culinary masterpieces is too good to be true, but it IS!

A restaurant that needs a little more foot traffic could do very well in the coming year as we see the tourism and events in this part of town growing exponentially. Looking forward to returning for more delicious meals at this landmark restaurant in the UAE, especially for that beet root dessert!