Singapore - DB Bistro Moderne re-visited
Dinner at Daniel Boulud's Singapore outpost this evening with fellow Singapore CH, M_Gomez & her hubby. Nice ambience, great food & great company - what more can one ask for? Amidst the conversation & catch-up on local news, I actually forgot to take note of some of the dishes we had!!
*Some* dishes which we had:
- M_Gomez & hubby both had the artichoke soup which she said tasted more like potato-leek soup a la Julia Child - and she ain't complaining :-D
- I had the country duck-liver terrine, which was rich & sinful. Gack, more Crestor pills afterwards ...
I had the Coq au Vin, which DB Bistro Moderne's chefs prepared correctly. Served with spaetzle which was great in neutralizing the salty, deep flavors of the stew;
- M_Gomez's grilled tuna steak was, in her words, "the best I'd ever tasted!". I stole a small bite and it was delicious: perfectl;y done - moist, medium-cooked;
- Mr M_Gomez had the steak frite done medium which he said was also very nice.
- the Gomezes contented themselves with a cheese platter - which I thought had an impressive variety, but fall short of those one gets at Guy Savoy upstairs at the same Marina Bay Sands location;
- I chose the Sundae Grue de Cacao which sounded a mouthful and, according to the menu, consisted of macadamia cookie, tonka espuma (what's that?), Grue de cacao Bavaroise & milk ice-cream. I thought it was a bit too rich & sweet, but very enjoyable nonetheless.
Aah, it's great to be home in Singapore!
DB Bistro Moderne
Marina Bay Sands
10 Bayfront Avenue
Tel: 6688 8525
Back at db Bistro over the weekend. Chef Stephane Istel came around to say hi and asked if we would “please” let him cook for us, giving us ideas of what he had in mind. Not only is he an excellent cook / chef, but he has a genuinely infectious and boyish enthusiasm for food. Actually, he was so passionate in his presentation that I thought we would give him some mortal offense if I said “Nah, just give me a db Burger with extra fries”.
While we were talking to Stephane, I looked across to the in-laws to gauge their body language. Now they aren’t big restaurant fiends, but when I saw the grins on their faces, I knew they were in; the choice was out of my hands. When we said yes, a big smile broke across Stephane’s face. “Thank you, thank you”, he said, taking small bows, almost as if he was grateful for our trust and that he would not let us down. It was quite clear that he meant business.
This is what followed:
(a) Heirloom tomato salad with goat's cheese and white balsamic dressing. Really flavoursome tomatoes, perked up with shreds of pickled onion and herbs in the goat cheese quenelle.
(b) A gi-normous seafood platter with 4 pairs of oysters, whelks, Alaskan king crab legs and salad, lots of shelled prawns (Vietnamese, unfortunately, not quite up to par with the rest), scampi, Maine lobster and ridiculously good clams in the shell, resting in an intense liaison of reduced clam jus and crème fraîche. Particular highlights were the Gillardeau No. 3 oysters, Alaskan crab salad and clams. We followed sommelier Rajesh Gopal’s recommendation of a 2006 Domaine Pierre Amiot Morey-St Denis (red, redolent of cherries and some toasty oak; drinking very well at the moment), but when he saw the mountain of seafood, kindly poured us glasses of Gruner Veltliner on the house.
(c) “Bouillabaisse” with four types of fish from NZ and Boston scallop. This was a real food nerd kind of dish as you went through the four types of fish (gurnard, trevally and two others which escape me for now) and determined which one you liked the most. The fish, broth, rouille and croutons were all excellent. Scallop was big and meaty but a little meh.
(d) Kagoshima wagyu brisket a la Bourguignon, marinated overnight in port wine and cooked for 7 hours, along with morels and girolles. This was served with a French style “mac and cheese” – orecchiette-like pasta discs in a sauce albufera (chicken jus, port wine, truffle juice and mounted with foie gras) with more morels and girolles and gratinated with four types of cheese – morbier, gruyère, cheddar and parmesan. This night was turning out like a Singaporean remake of La Grande Bouffe, and this dish, richer than Croesus, captured that spirit (at least the food part of it) in a single Staub pot. Mad, mad, mad (but oh so good!). A USDA prime steak was served for the gluten intolerant diners, with some peas, bacon and pea purée. Again, very good quality product and expertly handled; I tasted my wife’s “well done” steak and it was still very tender and juicy.
(e) Desserts – At this stage, we were considering sharing maybe one dessert between the four of us, that’s how full we were. But when the staff re-set the table, we were a little concerned – the feast was not yet over! What followed was a selection of sweets from the menu - rice pudding vanilla soufflé with a spiced mango sorbet, rhubarb vacherin, flourless chocolate clafoutis and a multi-layered slice based on various forms of gianduja, two scoops of vanilla and chocolate ice-cream, followed by a basket of their famous lemon madeleines.
(f) Petits fours and coffee– Just as I shovelled the last blissful spoonful of soufflé into my mouth, I looked to my wife and said “Thank God that’s the end!” Not because the food wasn’t good, because it was great, but you understand where I’m coming from. But it wasn’t the end, and I cringed in fear as a platter of nougat nuggets, milk chocolate and earl grey macarons and Bailey’s ganache pralines was placed on the table. Oh what the hell, we mopped it all up, and the accompanying coffee was very good too.
Damage was remarkably reasonable, considering what we had.
On the few times I’ve been to the casino for dinner, I’ve enjoyed walking back to Raffles Place and taking in the beautiful night time view and the bay breeze along the way. But this time, the thought of walking 1.5 kms to the MRT station was enough to make me ill. Actually, the prospect of WALKING was not a particularly pleasant one. But much as the staff at db had spoilt us, I didn’t think they would be willing to cart us out to the taxi rank in stretchers and/or wheelchairs.
I’m just coming out of my food coma now, but what an awesome experience! I do recall my earlier comments about Istel not having to stretch himself in a bistro environment (even if it is a Daniel Boulud bistro), but when he does, he is capable of truly amazing things. And we will be back, preferably sooner rather than later.
[Sorry no photos with this one. Not quite the done thing to be photographing the food obsessively when dining out with the in-laws ;) ]
db Bistro Moderne: Mondays in Alsace
On Mondays, db Bistro Moderne at Marina Bay Sands runs an Alsace dinner set menu. While I’m not normally tempted by the it’s-early-in-the-week-so-let’s-do-a-special-to-draw-the-guests kind of menu, two things tipped the balance for me.
Firstly, they offered a pairing with Hugel wines, to which I am rather partial. Secondly, db Bistro’s executive chef Stephane Istel is a native of Alsace, more precisely Irmstett, a small town 20km west of Strasbourg. Istel is no mug, having worked with Daniel Boulud for seven years, including 18 months as a senior sous at New York’s now three-starred Restaurant Daniel and leading db Bistro Vancouver’s opening team. When a chef of his calibre is given the chance to cook the food of his region and his childhood, it’s probably going to be pretty darned good.
I like the ambience here, lively but not raucous, but am also thankful I wasn’t seated facing the mall. Mondays are the quietest nights at db Bistro, head sommelier Rajesh Gopal tells me, in which they typically do 90 covers, as opposed to an average 400 covers nightly from Thursdays to Saturdays. The very spacious, modern kitchen is separated from the dining room by a misted panel, so you can see the French-fry guy in the nearest corner plating his output in steel cups lined with parchment.
We started with Pierre Paillard’s Bouzy Grand Cru NV “Cuvée Daniel” ($36++ by the glass). Vinified exclusively for Boulud’s restaurants, this has an assertive yet pleasant yeasty and savoury character. Funnily enough, this is the second time I have encountered Pierre Paillard’s champagne in the last month; this one was the better of the two.
(A rather large) Amuse Bouche: Assiette Lyonnaise
Before we go to Alsace, we must sample one of db Bistro’s signatures, a platter of house-made charcuterie ($26++). Very nice, perked up by the traditional cornichons, nubbins of cured radish and the odd pickled mushroom. Highlights for me were the foie gras terrine and duck prosciutto. Toasted pain de campagne on the side was also good.
Bread Basket – Mini baguette, laugen bread and pain de campagne
(I will resist the temptation to which some Singaporean food bloggers have succumbed in calling the bread “complimentary” or “compliments of the chef”. If you charge restaurant prices and insist on making your guests pay for bread, you must have lost your sense of hospitality somewhere on the stroll to the cash register).
I have a weakness for laugen bread, and this one was top-class. The baguette was crunchy on the outside but rather light and airy on the inside. Huge brownie points: they brought some toasted brown rice bread when I told them Emily was gluten-intolerant. The French are hardly renowned for their sensitivity to food allergies, so this was a very pleasant surprise, driven (I suspect) by Istel’s and Boulud’s North American experience.
After our southern detour, our Alsatian odyssey commences. The three-course menu goes for $68++, an additional $32++ if you would like two glasses of Hugel wine paired with your savoury courses.
Entrée: Snail and chicken oyster fricassee, hazelnut spätzle, garlic confit and parsley and garlic coulis.
I’m not sure how much this dish owes to Alsace, as it has a distinctly Burgundian flavour profile (it is also available on the everyday carte for $24++) but it ticks all the right boxes. The chicken oysters, my favourite part of the bird, are cooked beautifully, the crispy skin properly rendered so it is devoid of any soft, oily fat. The spätzle are delightfully chewy (as good as any I had in Alsace) and punctuated with the crunch of hazelnuts, while the nutty garlic chips haunt and tantalise. Each flavour is layered beautifully and works like a charm. As an aside, I also like how Istel has managed to work in the Alsacien element via the spätzle and simultaneously appeased the local palate’s craving for noodles/pasta.
A glass of breezy, zesty Hugel Gentil 2010 (my favourite everyday quaffing wine at the moment) provides a welcome interval to what is a very rich dish.
Main Course: Pork choucroute royale
Alsace on a plate – sauerkraut (lots of it!) and, according to my waiter, pork done seven ways – rack, shoulder, head cheese, cheek, belly and a house-made sausage flavoured with juniper; yes, I know, that was only six. The rich, fatty, pork-y goodness, all from UK organic suckling pigs, is cut by the acidic sauerkraut. Flavours are robust across the board, and the waxy fingerling potatoes provide a much-needed clean carb hit. Hearty stuff, but well put together.
I selected a glass of the 2010 Hugel Classic Riesling and, at Rajesh’s instigation, also had a taste of the 2010 Hugel Classic Gewurztraminer (you can choose one of the two for your pairing). I recall the 2010 Riesling being excellent and I was glad to have it again tonight. I wasn’t that impressed by the gewurz on two occasions in February, but a couple of months in the bottle appear to have done it some good, with more evident spice and fruit.
Main Course: Seafood Risotto ($32++)
This didn’t quite hit the spot, but we blame ourselves. Who goes to a French bistro and orders a seafood risotto? Well, Emily did…They were generous with the seafood but it was not particularly well-cooked or interesting.
Dessert: Alsacien apple tarte, cinnamon, vanilla ice-cream AND kirsch soufflé with cherry ice-cream
I couldn’t make up my mind as to which one I wanted, so Rajesh kindly made up my mind for me. The tarte, made to a recipe from Istel’s mother, was gorgeously rustic but refined, with big, flavourful apple chunks and a nicely browned top. Soufflé was textbook and the kirsch influence was elusive, but with a taste of the superb hybrid cherry sorbet-cherry blossom ice-cream, all sins are forgiven. On both desserts, the ice-cream was nestled within a little ring of streusel for that little extra Alsacien touch.
After all that food, the idea of jumping into a taxi home is very tempting, but so is the idea of a walk back into town to get the digestion working again. So we took a nice slow walk and enjoyed the superlative views.
All in all, the food here is superb, classic bistro cooking. While I’m sure Istel has the chops to push the boat out more, that’s not what db Bistro does, and tonight, we had a very enjoyable glimpse at the food of his native Alsace. It is a lusty, rib-sticking, potentially heart-clogging cuisine but the excesses are tempered with skill and intelligence. Istel clearly has a very good palate and his technique shows the virtuosity of his pedigree, despite it not being really demanded by the style of food. In other words, a bonus for the lucky diner.
Rajesh’s excellent wine pairings also serve the cause well; objectively speaking, they are basic wines (from Hugel’s négoce range), but they have enough freshness and structure to work with such trencherman’s fare. The only downside for me right now is the lack of a good vendange tardive or sélection de grains nobles to pair with dessert, but Rajesh will be looking to introduce more Alsacien wines onto db Bistro’s winelist, including more Hugel entries and a couple of good pinots noirs. Watch this space.
A great option if you are looking for soulful bistro food, and very good value for the quality. We will be back to try other items, but I would strongly recommend that you sample the Alsace menu soon while it’s still available.
For more photos, etc. please visit http://julianteoh.blogspot.com/2012/0...
Always a pleasure to meet up again with a kindred spirit, klyeoh. I think DB Bistro Moderne has improved and tightened its service repertoire since the last time I was there. Of course, service levels in Singapore still leavea a lot to be desired compared to HK and Australia.
Anyway, it was so wonderful to catch up with you, we're off to Perth next week to visit some kin, but we hope to come back in time to catch Guy Savoy when the man himself comes to cook at his restaurant here. I heard there's a special wine luncheon where Guy Savoy will be speaking to the guests.
re: Charles Yu
I guess the London DB have their reasons - perhaps the Mayfair/Knightsbridge hoity-toity crowd valued sophisticated ambience without the intrusive flashes of digicam lightbulbs, or perhaps a Russian billionaire wants to toast his slinky new companion amidst the cocoon of privacy which DB was all too willing to offer, or most probably, DB hopes to attract celebrities the likes of Colin Firth & Prince Wlliam, and its no photos policy guaranteed a certain level of discretion, away from the nosy, rubber-necked paparazzi ;-)