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Image 1: Though we were exhausted after an overnight flight, we still had to eat! Our first stop of this trip was the hip dining district of Dempsey Hill. Located at the far end behind a boutique block was this set of stairs that led to the restaurant entrance.
Image 2: Chef Ryan Clift began working in the kitchen from a young age of only 14. He worked around the globe from assisting Marco Pierre White in London to being the Head Chef of Vue de Monde in Australia. He finally decided to settle somewhere in the middle, Singapore. With 20 years of experience under his belt, Ryan established his first venture in 2008.
Image 3: www.tipplingclub.com Chef: Ryan Clift
Gourmet: SGD265 (10-course) Classic: SGD160 (6-course)
Dinner Monday to Saturday. Lunch Saturday only.
Image 4: The reception area offered a view of the testing kitchen.
Image 5: This is where all the action took place. Stainless steel counter enclosing the cold section of the kitchen…
Image 6: … and the cocktail area along with the full kitchen behind where we spotted Ryan laying his final touches on every plate at the pass.
Image 7: A compressed wet towel to make sure we were refreshed before the experience. Knowing that we came directly from the airport, Ryan was very considerate in trying his best to deliver our meal at a quicker pace as he knew our jet lag could kick in at any time.
Image 8: A vibrant atmosphere with stylish table setting foreshadowed a cutting-edge cuisine ahead! Ryan surely kept us entertained by churning out eight amuses-bouches within 20mins along with a few cocktail pairings, something this place was known for.
Image 9: A cube of potato topped with caviar and fennel flower resting on a flat tube filled with vichyssoise. I was intrigued by this serviceware. The idea was to put this unique utensil in the mouth, subsequently pulling it out while sucking out the soup, resulting in a rush of flavour. A sensational opening!
Image 10: Ryan's version of tempura. Charred pepper with soy wasabi emulsion.
Image 11: "Curry rice" consisted of wiped curry cream topped with crispy rice and basil. The curry wasn't intense at all but rather light and airy.
Image 12: A perfectly silky Chawanmushi topped by a consommé of seaweed and shrimp.
Image 13: An aromatic "white truffle polystyrene foam". Loved his creativity!
Image 14: They called this Spanish UFO, which was like a mini-crispy sandwich with Serrano ham. The trendy serviceware surely kept me entertained!
Image 15: This set of amuse bouche even had a gradual progression in flavour, ended with a spoon of chilled foie gras candy.
Image 16: Just before we got into the real menu, a test tube with a palate cleansing liquid was placed in front of us. A sip of tomato water infused with basil and pepper. Very cool stuff here!
Image 17: Finally the first course - mosaic of kingfish decorated with seaweed cracker and thin slices of black radish which were sticking onto drops of avocado cream. Wow, I enjoyed every component, in particular the yuzu sorbet which had a beautiful balance of fruitiness and sweetness. A delicious start!
Image 18: Ryan then came over and poured the velouté of purple garlic onto a bed of chopped razor clam. Great soft crunchiness from the clam with a mild garlicky cream. Truly wonderful food. The meal so far was exceptional, both for the eyes and on the palate!
Image 19: Each course was paired with wine or cocktail and for the next course, the sommelier brought us a unique Kodakara apple yogurt sake; a very fruity drink with only 8% alcohol!
Image 20: Enclosed by a thin candied apple was foie gras purée topped with yogurt, spice, and stevia. Despite having quite a few elements already, the plate had an addition of candied bircher muesli, crystallised orange, pistachio and cacao. Complex, but the whole thing did magically come together, both in flavour and in texture, and with the apple yogurt sake pairing!
Image 21: The foie was very airy without being overly rich at all, along with the fruitiness from the apple and orange, the natural sweetness from stevia, the acidity from the yogurt, and the crunchy candied apple and pistachio, it was a dish from heaven. Incredible!
Image 22: Then a glass of Sicilian COS Pithos Bianco 2010 was paired with the following course. Initially, I thought the wine was off since it had a strong "fishy" nose resembling crushed seashell, but once I put a piece of this fork-tender octopus in my mouth, I appreciated the clever choice of wine.
Image 23: The umami note from the wine complemented the concentrated sea flavour of the octopus which was pressurised in olive oil with pea and algae emulsion. The peas were also distinct with an intense taste while maintaining its bright colour and structure. Every single course we had so far was top-notch!
Image 24: Protected by circular flakes of red beet and candy cane beet was oxtail, slowly braised for 48 hours at 72°C, covered with smoked bone marrow and horseradish cream with a flick of foamy apple and sorrel juice to finish. You can't go wrong by combining deeply flavoured succulent meat and rich bone marrow with a hint of freshness from sorrel. This was my type of food!
Image 25: As expected, not a simple main course - roasted pigeon breast, confit of leg, salted and baked celeriac, jus of celery with lemon and thyme; together with burnt milk solid, green cardamom, mustard, preserved lemon dressing, with goat curd bottom. Despite the numerous components to the dish, the acidity from the lemon jus really tied the whole thing together.
Image 26: A surf and turf as our second main course, paired with rosé champagne Chartogne-Taillet. A wild langoustine rested on a cut of A3 Kagoshima Wagyu short rib coated with Chinese black vinegar. The progression of flavours across the meal was very smooth from raw fish to seafood and now the most substantial and powerful course.
Image 27: The meat, garnished with green onion, cucumber, sesame salt, coriander and pickled ginger, simply fell apart at the slightest pressure from my knife. The langoustine was precisely cooked keeping a slight raw centre. The acidity of dark vinegar resembled that to balsamic vinegar and was crucial in cutting through the fatty meat. Seriously good food!
Image 28: For the cheese course was a very runny cheese served on a crispy bread with fennel, almond, and red mustard. They explained that the cheese was fermented without bacteria but using flower instead.
Image 29: Ryan then placed this in front of us and said "Time for some medication". It was tablet for cheesecakeholics! Dehydrated pieces of cheesecake made to look like pills. I enjoyed the humourous aspect to Ryan's cooking and they were very tasty pills! Does that make me a cheesecakeholic?
Image 30: Pinned with a long needle was homemade liquorice filled with mandarin sorbet with smoked yogurt at the bottom. On top was dry frozen olive, mandarin, and coriander. Futuristic looking and refreshing dessert!
Image 31: More sweet treats - a "green apple meteorite"
Image 32: Looked simple, but one of the most memorable and lightest desserts ever - an aerated coconut cream and milk chocolate. It simply evaporated in my mouth leaving just the flavours behind! No substance, just flavour, ideal for tasting menu! Ryan explained that it took some effort with Wylie of WD 50 to create such an ultra-light dessert. Extraordinary!
Image 33: Small treats kept on coming just like it did at the start of the meal. A cake of "fruit salad"!
Image 34: Then a fizz bomb of strawberry sorbet that melted on the tongue and worked as another palate cleanser before a few main desserts. Cool!
Image 35: Ryan was very passionate about all his food creations and his drink pairing, so he tried to share his philosophy with each diner. Here was another cocktail, Dropie Daiquiri, a Daiquiri cocktail with an original salted liquorice twist to go with…
Image 36: … the first main dessert of Rhubarb & Custard, a modern interpretation of his mother's dessert as he explained. A fun textural play of rhubarb - purée, dried freeze, frozen, crisp, and custard.
Image 37: And the final dessert, Textured Milk - a mix of sago, yogurt, crispy milk, marshmallow, wood sorrel, amaro, and balls of liquored milk; paired with a Milk Punch using dark rum, English breakfast tea, citrus, and milk! A sophisticated dessert paired with a sophisticated drink to finish a sophisticated meal!
Image 38: The light acidity, rather than heavy meat sauce, used throughout the meal was critical. It was a long menu with the beverage pairing, but we were not overwhelmed and still had room to try the petits-fours of salted caramel, rosemary ganache, and yuzu curd.
Image 39: The counter setting here worked really well as it provided interactions with Ryan's team of energetic staff. Ryan made a final visit to present our bill and said, "Make sure you share it!" Underneath the bill was an edible Centurion card made with orange flavoured chocolate. What a fun way to end the meal!
Image 40: I find that many "molecular technique based" cuisines have become too gimmicky these days choosing style over substance. However, I thought that Ryan had the right balance here - visually stylish while retaining the integrity of delicious food. Truly a creative, entertaining, and memorable experience!