Review: Blackwattle, Singapore


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The brainchild of Australian Chef Clayton Wells behind Sydney’s popular Automata, Blackwattle promises simple, uncomplicated cuisine that allows the freshness of the ingredients to shine.

We decided to check it out on the night of its opening and there was already quite a crowd. And no wonder, with Automata ranking 9th among Sydney’s best restaurants.

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Blackwattle is named after a type of tree native to Australia. It had a relaxed yet modern ambience with an open kitchen so we could see all the action as we sat right outside it.

We went with the pre-fixe menu for dinner which came up to $115++ per person. But don’t expect the same dishes each time you return. The chef aims to surprise.

Overall: ★★★1/2
Price: $$$

So let’s begin with the appetiser of Stormshell Clam, rosemary dashi, aerated cream and the Fried Cheese and tapioca, espelette pepper.

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The stormshell clam had a firm texture and was quite tasty, and I appreciated the subtle scent of rosemary. The fried cheese tasted like a regular cracker but went well with the spicy pepper. A decent start.

Let’s move on now to the starter of Amaebi, fennel & ink, parsley, xo & red vinegar.

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This dish tasted distinctively Southeast Asian. There was something about the spices used and the savoury sauce that reminded me of something almost Peranakan. But the sweetness of the Amaebi was slightly overwhelmed by the heaviness of the seasoning which was a pity.

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Travel: Sacred Valley of the Incas, Peru


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To get a true taste of the life of the ancient Andeans in the Sacred Valley, you’ll definitely want to make these three stops. I found each to reveal a unique side to Inca culture that left us completely spellbound. You can easily hire a car for a half to one day tour of all three sites, depending on how long you’d like to spend at each.

Let’s begin in sparkling Maras.

Maras

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I’d never been to a salt mine before. To be honest, I never really thought of salt as being mined on a mountainside. But after taking in this gorgeous spectacle, it left me more in awe of the simple genius of this ancient civilisation.

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These salt ponds nestled on the slopes of the Andes are really fed by an underground stream saturated with salts and silts. It supplies these mines with water so salty it takes just a few days under the scorching sun to yield glistening pink salts crystals.

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Villagers in the area would own their own small plot of the mine, and harvest their salts as they like. Don’t they almost look like snow? If you want to take some home, there are plenty of stalls selling these freshly-harvested salts in grains of all sizes.

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Of course, it being an incredibly hot day out without shade on the mountainside, how could we resist some chilled homemade strawberry beer?

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Michelin Guide ★: Cheek by Jowl, Singapore


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Quirky name aside, my best friends had been raving about the modern Australian cuisine at Cheek by Jowl for the longest time. That’s even before it scored its first Michelin star earlier this year. So Sean and I figured it was high time to see what all the fuss was about.

Overall: ★★★★
Price: $$$

It’s been quite a year for Chef Rishi Naleendra. He opened the restaurant in February 2016, and just one year later, he’s scored his first Michelin star. Let’s find out why.

On first impression, the place is contemporary, chic but laid back. I liked the semi-open kitchen concept where we could catch glimpses of the chefs working their fiery magic.

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We went for the 5-course meal, reasonably priced at S$88.

Despite how it sounded, our appetiser of Oyster Smoked Tomato turned out to be rather unique.

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The oyster was incredibly fresh and well-chilled, more buttery than briny (my favourite kind!). But it was really the tomato that wow-ed us. Instead of a cliched mignonette or cocktail sauce, the delicate melt-in-your-mouth texture of the tomato actually really packed a potent punch! It went perfectly with the oyster. An impressive start to the meal.

Next came the Smoked Mackerel with horseradish, pickles and green pea.

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Travel: Cusco, Peru (Plaza de Armas, Sacsayhuaman)


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I’m so excited to share the incredible experience Sean and I had travelling around South America this August. He’d been working in Chile and Argentina for a couple of years now, and it was the first time I’d flown nearly 40 hours each way to see him. It’s always been a dream to experience Latin America! It had always struck me as a place with so much diversity, colour, warmth and fascinating cultures. We visited Peru, Ecuador and Brazil over three weeks. And I’ll be sharing about all that in the coming posts.

But first, let’s start in Peru.

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Plaza de Armas

Sitting at an elevation of 3,400m, Cusco (or Cuzco) is arguably the historical crown jewel of Peru. It was once the capital of the ancient Inca civilisation and is known today for its mind-boggling archaeological ruins and traditional Spanish architecture.

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Lima felt a lot more like the financial heart of Peru (more on that in another post!), but I thought it was Cusco that revealed its true soul.

From children with colourful wide-brimmed hats playing in the narrow cobblestone alleys of Plaza de Armas, to old shophouses spruced up with merry flags dancing in the wind. Cusco felt like it was awash in a constant buzz of activity.

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We ran into a traffic-stopping strike of hundreds of teachers armed with huge hastily painted banners and megaphones, and tour agencies and souvenir shop owners touting in halting English to passing tourists. I loved everything about it. It had a kind of life I’ve never quite experienced in any other city.

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A seamless blend of the crumbling ancient and the spanking new, cool winds frolicked with the warm sun, the impatient swearing drivers of rumbling vehicles stalled alongside passersby taking life languid and slow. The people had fire in their bellies, but yet were always laid back and polite.

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Following the advice of many locals, Sean decided to take the plunge and try Peru’s most iconic dish – Cuy (pronounced kwee). Yes, Peruvians love their guinea pigs. I’m generally game to try anything. But this I couldn’t stomach because I actually have a pet guinea pig at home and it was just impossible to do it without feeling like I let him down.

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