I try to meet up with my friends Mr. and Mrs. Ho every time I'm in Singapore. We've been friends for a long time, and have shared many culinary adventures together - including that fantastic dinner at elBulli. This time around we're celebrating Mr. Ho's birthday a little early, so after some discussion we decided to get ourselves a table at the Tippling Club.
Tippling Club has, of course, been regarded as one of the top restaurants in Singapore for the last few years. My first impression of the restaurant wasn't a good one, as it was featured in an article in the Wall Street Journal about cryptic menus - leading me to write a post about my pet peeves regarding menus. Nowadays the Tippling Club has entered the ranks of Asia's 50 Best Restaurants for the last 3 years, and certainly would expect to bag themselves a macaron or two when the Rubberman publishes their first Red Guide for Singapore next year. So it moved to the top of my hit list.
We started the evening at the Ho residence, where I saw the kids and their bunny before bedtime. As was customary, Mr. Ho also opened a nice bottle of white wine as an aperitif.
First we started with a series of snacks:
my experience at Alinea, where there were courses which compelled me to reach for a drink in order to wash away the saltiness on my tongue.
I think the roll was already kinda mushy before the injection of liquid, so it only got worse.
When someone who proclaims to love foie gras chooses not to finish a foie gras dish, that should tell you something...
The real problem with this dish, though, was again the flavors. While I was not surprised to find some acidity in a dish featuring Jerusalem artichokes and jamón ibérico, the dish turned out to be incredibly salty. Yes, the jamón can be a little bit salty at times but in reality it also comes with sweet and nutty flavors. The salt also didn't come from the confit egg yolk. It appears to have come from, among other things, the avruga caviar... which was completely unnecessary in this dish. Let's face it... avruga caviar isn't even caviar. It's a fucking processed food ingredient made to look like caviar, but it neither has the right texture nor the right flavors... and in the end all you get is salt on your tongue. And the illusion that you're serving your customers a luxe ingredient - which it is most definitely not.
Another dish that my friends did not finish.
At least the chunk of Jerusalem artichoke at the bottom was introduced correctly this time... even though the menu still got it wrong.
At this time both Mr. and Mrs. Ho threw in the towel and declined any more dishes. Mrs. Ho came to a full stop while Mr. Ho skipped the next two dishes and only took the very last fruit-based dessert. Cat the manager was kind enough to take this into account and deducted some of the charges from our bill.
This was the second time this year that staff at a fine dining restaurant came to tell me that they were using "ichigo strawberries". Dude, ichigo (苺) is the Japanese word for strawberries, not the name of the strawberry cultivar or brand name. If you are expecting to display a Michelin star or two on your door, I expect you to know your ingredients.
In spite of the disappointing food, the service tonight was better than I had expected. Besides being fairly attentive with wine service and all, and deducting some cost off our bill for not taking the full 10 courses, the restaurant also graciously decided to waive their standard corkage for both of the bottles we brought along. It was unfortunate, then, that I was fuming by the end of dinner that I did not notice this fact until after I returned to my hotel room. I would have added back some tips to show my appreciation.
P.S. One final rant about this restaurant. I know that many diners like the idea of an open kitchen so that they can watch the kitchen at work. I'm not one of those people, but I wouldn't mind so much as long as the kitchen is properly ventilated. Unfortunately, this kitchen isn't. When I'm paying good money for a meal, I don't want to be smelling the kitchen making other people's food - because it interferes with my dining experience. My olfactory experience should consist solely of what's on the plate in front of me. I would also be extremely bothered if I could not properly smell and enjoy my glass of wine... which was the case at various times tonight. This is a HUGE pet peeve of mine, and there's little reason for me to return to a restaurant that delivers this kind of experience.