Words and photos by Sarah Lim.
You know the food has to be good when a restaurant gets booked well in advance despite being housed in a location away from the bustling office crowd. The tranquillity is lost once inside the restaurant. A waitress piles her arms with several dishes, hastily serving them up before disappearing behind the kitchen doors.
Restaurant Ember at Hotel 1929 serves modern European cuisine, and it is not a secret that they have one of the best set lunches in Singapore.
The restaurant has a minimalist interior design; no white tablecloth, no ostentatious cutlery, even the lunch menu came in the form of a piece of card, simply printed in black-and-white and folded in half.
It took some time for the complimentary bread to arrive, but more than redeemed itself up for the wait. Two loaves of sun-dried tomato focaccia, specked with herbs and each haphazardly divided in six unequal pieces, were served to us piping hot. Crusty on the outside yet chewy inside, we struggled to decline our waitress’ offer to replenish it in anticipation of our meal.
A generous slab perched atop cubes of syrup-soaked fruits, the pan-seared foie gras with caramelized apples and clove, port and raspberry glaze was prepared with expertise, resulting in a dish of wobbly, fatty goodness encased in a delicate crisp exterior. We savoured each forkful of the delicacy and it was gone all too soon.
We were equally amazed by how the roasted and poached foie gras (pictured at the start of the post) with mirin, shoyu and shiitake managed to retain its shape on the plate when it simply disintegrated once in our mouths. The tangy, mild-tasting sauce cut through the richness of the foie gras perfectly. Of the two, we preferred the pan-seared version simply for the striking contrast in texture.
The pan-roasted scallops with parma ham, citrus and tarragon vinaigrette was a feast for the eyes. Two plump, juicy scallops wrapped in savoury bacon served with a heaping mound of salad. The dish was competent on its own, but simply paled in comparison to the stellar foie gras appetisers.
We were once again blown away by the faultless preparation of the crispy duck leg confit with new potatoes, caramelized onion – thyme jus, one of the best renditions of the dish we have tried. It was just unfortunate that the sauce was a tad one-dimensional in flavour.
The marinated cod with black miso, sweet peas and herbed potatoes would please those with a sweet tooth. A fillet of oily cod coated with a generous layer of sticky, caramelized miso, this proved to be a safe choice – too safe, perhaps, as the presentation left us slightly underwhelmed.
Among the mains, the pan-seared Chilean seabass with mushroom and smoked bacon ragout, truffle yuzu butter sauce was a clear winner. A thick slab of fatty, flaky fish served atop juicy mushrooms in a pool of luscious golden-yellow sauce. We refused to have the plate cleared until we managed to mop up the last of it. If we were to nitpick, we didn’t particularly like how searing dried up the fish. We’d have gladly forsaken the pretty golden-browned hue it added.
Meant for sharing between two, we slightly regretted our order of the apple tart tartin with vanilla bean ice cream since this meant that we could only order one other dessert. Tasting it did not convince us otherwise – the cloyingly sweet apples atop the soggy tart simply failed to impress.
The crispy caramelized pear tart with homemade baileys ice cream, on the other hand, fulfilled all the requirements of a perfect tart – crispy, buttery and crumbly. We just wished that the baileys ice cream had a more alcoholic edge to it.
Service while not top-notch, is attentive and earnest. At $39.50++ (or $45.50++ if you pick a foie gras appetiser), Ember is more than what we can ask for. This is the kind of place that will leave you yearning for a return, simply for the delicious food in an unpretentious setting.
50 Keong Saik Road
Tel: +65 6347 1928
Nearest Station: Outram