December 19, 2014

Little Serge

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I was getting together with a friend for dinner, and thanks to my incompetence, our original choice of venue became fully booked.  I didn't want to beg Harlan G for a table, so after scrambling for alternatives, we somehow ended up at Serge et le Phoque.

The menu has changed somewhat, and there were no longer à la carte courses listed.  Instead, diners now have a choice between "Petit Serge" (5 courses) and "Grand Phoque" (7 courses).  We decided to go the "little" route...

First the nibbles came.  Focaccia that I dipped into some nice olive oil.  Gougères made with Cantal and poppy seeds.  Dried fugu skin, undoubtedly marinated with mirin (味醂).  But the best part was the little bit of wasabi-flavored miso... which had such a wonderful kick on top of both sweet and savory flavors.

Our amuse bouche came in two parts: first was coconut ceviche with avocado.  I'm not sure how one makes a ceviche out of coconut, but this was basically a blob of coconut sorbet with plenty of acidity, topped with a sprinkle of crispy rice, sesame and coriander.

Soba with sea urchin - this was pretty nice.

Tuna tataki, ginkgo nuts, and vinegar jelly - pretty nice, actually.   Tuna was nicely torched on the outside, and the ponzu (ポン酢) jelly was definitely very sharp.  There was also some pickled lemon rind here which added a little fragrance in the mouth.

Red mullet with bellota soup - this was absolutely beautiful.  The red mullet was tender and melt-in-your-mouth.  There was a good contrast between the slightly strong flavors coming from the cockles and those coming from the bellota ham - both in the broth and the crispy chunks.  Interesting to find a slice of kumquat, but even more interesting that I should find a thin slice of lardo.  The tiny little tomatoes were nice, too.  But the one fail here?  The cockles were full of sand.  If there's one thing I REALLY hate, it's sandy bivalves.

Partridge with eringi, blackberry and choy sum - this was a low after the highs of the last dish.  The partridge was simply overcooked and tough, especially the thin filet of breast.  The dark meat of the leg was crispy and seasoned with pepper, and curiously with a thin piece of smoked eel on top.  The jus was seasoned with rosemary, which was OK.

Brie de Meaux - this seems to be the only cheese around... ever.  A tasty morsel, to be sure... but I wish there was something else available.  Curiously I tasted lots of cauliflower in the cheese...

Before dessert, we had some more nibbles - including this mangosteen.

But the surprise were these raisins au Sauternes - raisins soaked in Sauternes and covered in chocolate.  These were so incredibly fragrant and floral, and we wondered which grapes were used to make the raisins.  Was it Muscat, Muscadelle, or something else?  I loved them so much I ended up buying a couple of bags from the restaurant.

Chocolate tart with Japanese dried plums - pretty much the same as my last visit, but there's nothing to complain about here.  Very rich and delicious.

Dacquoise - this calls to mind the macaron, although the almond biscuits here were just OK.  The chilled vanilla ganache was very refreshing and delicious, and the crunchy nougatine in the middle was a delight.

We brought along a couple of bottles of wine which we knew we couldn't finish, so we offered some to Jeremy the sommelier, to co-owner Charles, the chefs...etc.  Naturally this led to the guys coming over and spending some time hanging out with us... and eventually just charging us corkage for one bottle instead of two...

1983 Jaboulet La Chapelle - nose was very muted at first and the wine seems to be a little over the hill, after double-decanting for an hour.  Some stewed fruits, and evolved later to reveal green pepper.  Later still some burnt rubber showed up, with leather notes.  After 5 hours finally some more fruit emerged.  Ex-domaine stock with a curious plastic capsule inside the tin capsule.

1999 Mascarello Barolo - savory black olives, pretty minty, smoky and earthy.  Lots of tannins here but starting to soften up.

2014 Lucy Margaux Wildman Rouge - Charles brought this over, poured us a glass and asked us to taste it blind.  Nose was a little bit pungent, showing a little sulfur.  Seemingly from cool fruit, showing sweetness on the edges of the nose, but surprisingly dry on the palate.  Also minty, dried herbs and potpourri in the nose.  Turned out to be a Merlot-blend natural wine.

This was a pretty fun evening, and food was pretty good for the most part.  This isn't a place that will jump out at me whenever I'm thinking of places to eat at, but I would certainly be happy to return from time to time...


Anonymous said...

An Openrice reviewer says that they paid $1500 for an average meal here and the place doesnt even have a washroom. Had to go out and find one in the wet market WTF !!!!!

Peech said...

Dear Anonymous,

The last time I actually read a review on OR was... how many years ago? There are tons of crap on that site and I wouldn't trust most of the reviews as far as I can throw the person who wrote the "review".

The price quoted was for 2 pax inclusive of wine. The toilet situation is regrettable (it's in the car park, not the wet market), but it is no different from many restaurants in shopping malls where one has to walk through a maze of corridors. At least this toilet is clean and is used only by restaurant patrons.


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