Category Archives: Dinner

Eating Chili Crab

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We had a surprise flying visit from a friend of Will’s who came out to Singapore on a very last-minute business trip. Whilst he was here he wanted to do some ‘typical Singaporean’ things. This included sampling the famous Singapore Chili Crab. We ummed and ahhed about the different places we could take him to sample this classic Singaporean fare. In the end, we decided to play it safe and took him to Jumbos Seafood , by Clarke Quay. We munched our way through a starter of some prawns and tofu, before tucking into a huge chili crab and an equally huge black pepper crab.

Despite the name, chili crab is not generally that spicy. It is served in a thick sauce made with tomatoes. This sauce was slightly sweet, with a slight kick of chili.

Chili crab

Chili crab

The black pepper crab is dry, but with a big pepper kick. I’d say I definitely preferred the black pepper crab as you really got to taste the crab flavour; with the chili crab the flavour is masked and you may as well enjoy dunking bread into the sauce and gobbling that up instead!

Black pepper crab

Black pepper crab

Getting into the crab can be a messy business, so be prepared to get your fingers sticky. They helpfully provide you an apron/bib type thing to cover your top, so you don’t end up with sauce all over you. This is not true of the table unfortunately, which was covered with sauce by the time we left!

Will getting ready to crunch

Handy apron

Handy apron

Eating chili crab is a great fun thing to do in Singapore with friends. It is quite a sociable dish, with much hilarity as you try to dig out all that gorgeous crab meat. Whilst not a staple dish for us since we arrived, it definitely is a taste of Singapore.

Finger licking good

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Mozaic restaurant, Ubud, Bali

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Whilst we were enjoying our Christmas break in Bali, we went and ate at Mozaic restaurant in Ubud. Mozaic is set slightly out of Ubud, so it’s definitely a taxi ride to get there. Inside the decor is very modern, but with hints of Balinese. You can either sit indoors or outside in the gardens.

It’s supposed to be the best restaurant in Ubud, and we certainly weren’t disappointed. We had the special Christmas Chef’s Table menu, which was a 6 course tasting menu (and we also opted to do the wine pairing with each course). As we were having the chef’s table menu, we were led through the gardens to a private room at the back, with about 8 tables in it. The kitchen is here, as they often run cooking courses in this room. It’s all very sleek and slick looking, with enough beautiful kitchen gadgets to keep me fascinated, whilst we waited for our first course.

The chef cooking for us was a New Zealander called Blake Thornley. He was incredibly friendly and welcoming, saying from the outset that he wanted people to come up and see what he and his team were doing, as well as ask questions about each dish, and cooking techniques etc. It gave me free rein to ask all my geeky gastronomic questions! Ha!

We started off with a delicious amuse bouche of tuna, with a soy and ginger dressing. Delicious, and it really woke up your mouth, ready for all the other treats coming up.

The next course was ‘Fine de Claire’ oysters, with crushed raspberries and fresh black truffles. It’s here that I must confess that I don’t like oysters. I’ve tried them a couple of times and I just don’t enjoy the texture or taste. It seems a little pointless to gulp down something that you barely taste. My only concession to oysters is when they are cooked (reduces the chance of making you ill as well!). So Will enjoyed his oyster starter, but I had a beautiful alternative of lobster instead, which was perfectly sweet and soft,  complimented with salty vegetable crisps and sauce.

This indulgent fishy starter was followed by a fish course – confied coral trout with wild mushroom crumble, potato espuma and sticky Iberico jus.  I’d never heard of coral trout, nevermind eaten it before. Coral trout is actually a reef fish and found all around Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines. Blake explained how the coral trout had been confied – slowly oven cooked in a low heat oven in a pan filled with oil, flavoured with herbs, at a low heat, until the trout is perfect. The trout was beautiful – just the right side of cooked, and soft but with plenty of flavour. The potato espuma was potatoes aerated in the same way as whipped cream – a new way of having mashed potato – meaning that it was the perfect light accompaniment to the fish. The Iberico jus was made by boiling pigs heads and trotters to make a stock, which was then reduced down to a jus over 36 hours – that’s some commitment to creating this amazing nod to surf and turf! Gorgeous, and perfectly matched with a 2008 Australian Chardonnay.

Perhaps it is here that I should mention the sommelier. He took the time to come round and speak to all the diners, to talk to them about the meal and the wine pairings. He is Balinese, so becoming a sommelier is quite unusual, as most Balinese people don’t drink. However, he took tremendous pride in his work and was delighted that we were happy with his choices.

After the fish course, we had foie gras. I love foie gras; I know some people think its cruel but I think its delicious! Perhaps that comes of having a French mother, who knows?! We had foie gras two ways (hot & cold) served with a bitter cocoa sauce and poached cherries. I loved the hot foie gras, which was pan-fried. I think it’s the contrast of the crust that forms during the frying against the soft inside, that just melts in your mouth. The unusual combination with the bitterness of the cocoa and sweetly sharp cherries was just gorgeous. Paired with a 2008 Reisling (which I discovered I really, really like!).

After the foie gras, I was feeling rather full, and a little bit tipsy from the wine pairings! The meat course was up next: Australian lamb loin, served with pumpkin and lemon puree, sage, and spiced jus. The lamb was perfectly cooked – pink in the middle – and deliciously meaty next to the soft pumpkin and spicy sage jus. Unfortunately, much to Will’s amusement I was so enjoying the lamb and the Bordeaux that we had with it, that I completely forgot to take a photo …sorry about that folks, but take my word for it that it was divine!

Cheese course next: Vacherin Cheese with baked brioche, and warm mushroom and black truffle vierge. I have a photo of this one! The brioche was soft, sweet and buttery, next to the rich cheese. The mushroom and truffle vierge lifted the richness and stopped it becoming too cloying. I’m not a massive fan of strong cheeses, but this was good match with the sweetness of the brioche.

Finally, we had the dessert course. I was super full by this point, but when I saw what it was, I knew I’d make room, no matter what! Baked hazelnut chocolate fondant, with goat milk ice cream and Armangnac reduction. Died and officially gone to heaven. I was intrigued to find out how they did the fondants, as I’ve watched enough episodes of Masterchef and Come Dine with Me to know the route to being an amateur chef is littered with the graves of failed fondants. Blake was confident in his method – all down to the timing apparently, and the texture of the top as you take it out of the oven (better to err on the undercooked, squidgy side to ensure a fondant centre). We all watched with bated breath as Blake eased the first fondant out of the mould – success! We were all rather in awe. But then, rather embarrassingly, it all started to go wrong – the fondants coming out of the mould started to collapse in on themselves, much to his embarrassment. He brushed it off as not having brought them to room temperature before cooking (they’d been prepped earlier in the day and stored in the fridge) but it made me smile that even a chef who has made thousands of fondants, still finds them tricky!

But luckily, there were enough perfect ones for us to sit down with a plateful, a glass of Sauternes, and start tucking in. Oh wow! Rich oozing chocolate combined with tangy goats milk ice cream – sharp and surprising at first, then deliciously salty and sweet – all with a hit of Armagnac finishing things off. I’d never have thought of such a combination, but it was delicious and unexpected. I could have happily eaten it all over again!

We left Mozaic feeling fully, tipsy but delighted at the wonderful evening we’d had – it really made Christmas special. Thanks must go to Blake Thornley and his team of sous-chefs for all the wonderfully delicious food they created, and for answering all my questions about dish composition and cooking techniques whilst trying to plate up! Also the sommelier – we didn’t catch his name, but he did a wonderful job with the wine pairings – even managing to get me to enjoy a dessert wine for the first time ever! Highly recommended if you find yourself in Ubud and want to eat somewhere special.