FiftyThree

14 Aug
After much deliberation, I finally booked a table for dinner at FiftyThree. I was surprised at how controversial this restaurant choice was – feedback ranged from “I don’t get it. It sucks” to “the best fine dining experience I’ve had in Singapore”. I figured I had to try it out for myself.

After a $210 8-course meal later, I was a FiftyThree believer. I wouldn’t go to the extreme in saying that this was THE BEST fine dining experience I’ve EVER had, but I would definitely rate it up there along with Jaan par Andre and Gunther’s.
The setting is modern, casual and un-pretentious – no fancy schmancy white table cloth or a million silverware on the table. The service was attentive and well-orchestrated. The food was REALLY VERY GOOD – Chef Michael Han used so many interesting and novel ingredients that I felt bad for the servers who had to keep repeating the names to me. The flavors were strong and the meal was substantial – we were seriously full at the end of it. I felt like a whale afterwards, ready to be rolled home.

The meal started with 4 different ‘snacks’. The first one was crispy chicken skin and crunchy tapioca flavored with Japanese sardines. They tasted SO GOOD on its own but even better dipped in the hazelnut and carrot emulsion. The tapioca crisp is a real winner – I wish I could bring a jar of it home and eat the whole thing in front of the TV.

Next up is the ciabatta crisp with Jamon and watercress.

Followed by another ciabatta crisp creation, this one with a feta cheese emulsion and various herbs and edible flowers.

The last ‘snack’ was anti-climactic. Cubes of aloe vera flesh marinated in sugar syrup and lemon peel, topped with thinly sliced fennel. I thought it was interesting as I’ve never seen aloe vera being used in a fine dining menu before. An A for texture but a C for flavor – it didn’t taste bad but it didn’t really taste like anything either.

2 kinds of bread – one is made with potato and yoghurt and the other one is made with charcoal powder. Served in a sack. To be eaten with LOADS of super-bad-for-you-but-so-good Danish butter with shaved ham or buckwheat. The buckwheat butter really did it for me – the creamy butter went nicely with the crunch. I personally couldn’t really taste the charcoal powder in the bread, but it didn’t matter coz the butter was awesome…………..Did I mention the BUTTER??
Mud crab with gooseberry jelly, shaved fresh almonds and creme fraiche. Who knew all these ingredients would go together, but yes they do!

As much as I love food, I hate to admit that I’m not very courageous when it comes to eating unusual animals or its various parts (e.g. pig’s trotter, any kind of liver except goose, frogs, turtles, etc.). BUT this course was an exception. Underneath that juicy lobster was 2 pieces of extremely crispy duck tongue. To the side is lobster brain – amazingly buttery brain, like a ball of fat that just melts in your mouth. Thin slices of apples and a dollop of apple puree nicely complements the warm lobster broth that permeates the entire dish.

Shima (striped) ebi cured in salt with pumpkinseed oil, clam juice and beach herbs. I’m a big fan of sweet ebi so I really wish I could say that I liked this dish, but it was all a bit too fishy for me. But my dinner companion A loved it, so to his each his own, I guess.

One of FiftyThree’s signature dishes – Carroll’s heritage potato caramelized in chicken stock (reportedly for 7 hours), served with Parmesan cheese emulsion and cocoa + coffee powder as soil. The broth that the potato was cooked in was also served. It was so bitter and almost as black as coffee. I thought the potatoes were good but it honestly tasted like any other potato to me. I do give the chef props for creativity though and the dish is so photogenic, don’t you think?

Next to the lobsters and the yam skin snack, this was the other total STANDOUT of the night – Iberico pork grilled in charcoal and served with rapeseed oil and black garlic puree. The pork was pink and tender with just the right fat content. You could smell and taste the smokiness from the charcoal – amazing.  The best part though was the black garlic. You can’t see it in the picture but there is a mound of it underneath the greens. It is sticky, black like tar but SWEET, sort of reminds me of syrup-y aged balsamic vinegar. Who knew garlic could taste like that?! This was my favorite course of the night and I would go back to FiftyThree just to have it again.

Green pepper panna cotta with cereal flakes and dried strawberries. The server then takes out a mini-fire hydrant-like contraption and out comes pink goo that quickly bubbled and fizzled. We were told to dig in right away before everything turned into a puddle of pink soup. The foam was interesting and tasted like strawberry-flavored Sprite, but the panna cotta I didn’t enjoy at all. The green pepper flavor and the zing from the Balinese long pepper that was sprinkled all over were a bit off for me.

The first dessert came with watermelon sorbet which I enjoyed much more than the other half of the course.

Chocolate parfait with shreds of dried coconut and mango, plated with mango sorbet and fresh mangosteen. You don’t often see chocolate being paired with tropical fruits. I loved the mangosteen and the dried mango.

Gin and tonic gums – alcoholic silicone implant version of gummy bears – this one is definitely not child’s play. The server told us to put it on our tounges and to chew on it when the taste gets too strong. I held mine in there for a good 5 seconds before it got unbearably bitter and I had to spit it out. Very interesting meal finisher – never had anything like it before, but I much prefer traditional petit fours.

To those who are considering going to FiftyThree, I would say yes! definitely try it! I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. I wouldn’t give ALL the courses a thumbs up, but the majority of it I liked, a few even blew me away, and the others that I didn’t love so much, I would still applaud for the creativity. In general, I think the desserts paled in comparison to the savory courses. By the way, a lot of reviewers bashing FiftyThree seem to have gone there for lunch and not dinner – something to consider. For those who have come out saying they hate this place, I say give it another chance and email ahead to get a copy of the menu and alter ingredients you may not like (yes, the Chef emailed me personally on a few questions I had on the menu).

Would I go back? Most definitely.

Fifty Three
53 Armenian Street
Singapore
+65 6334 5535

 

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One Response to “FiftyThree”

  1. SSW August 15, 2010 at 5:35 pm #

    Carroll's heritage potato – but where's the potato? hahaha

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