(Update – 27th April 2012: FiftyThree has moved to 42 Tras Street, Singapore)
Heading up the kitchens of FiftyThree is Chef Michael Han, a lawyer-turned-chef, who partnered up with Les Amis to open his much lauded restaurant in Armenian Street. Voted Best Gourmet Restaurant in CNNGO’s Best Eats for 2010 and more recently the Indoguna Restaurant of the Year at the World Gourmet Summit 2011, I’ve been wanting to set foot in this restaurant. I’ve heard many good notes about the restaurant – impeccable levels of service and high standards of culinary execution. On my recent trip back to Singapore, one of the few restaurant stops that I made was to FiftyThree.
But, good notes were not only what I heard; I did hear negative comments too. I wanted to visit the restaurant and form my own opinion. It was a weekday afternoon and the dining hall on the second floor was empty, save for our table. Not a promising start to the meal, I thought.
The restaurant itself is decorated simply, there is no over-the-top chandeliers or classic table settings with full length white table cloths flowing down the sides of the tables. Perhaps just a tad under-dressed for a restaurant of its stature and price point.
Although, one positive point to note is that the tables are widely spaced from the next, which is excellent for that romantic date night or business meeting.
The moment that we were seated, we were offered their amuse bouche while we peruse the menu. A nice touch.
Tapioca Crisps with Carrot emulsion topped with walnut shavings.
Owing to the nature of the crisps ala finger food, one is provided with tarragon-scented finger wipes. What’s interesting is how you are presented with what looked like deflated cotton balls but inflate and rise up when the scented oil is poured over it. A tad showy though.
I like the warm breads that were served here. Two breads were served in the basket, one of them is a Potato and Yoghurt Bread while the other is a Potato and Yoghurt AND Charcoal Bread.
The service staff tells you that the the addition of charcoal in the bread aids in your digestion and is best finished. The use of charcoal for the treatment of flatulence and diarrheal is undeniable but to what extent would that translate a better digestion having it in bread, is somewhat of a question mark in my mind.
Instead of the
boring plain ole’ butter, FiftyThree serves along its bread, a Danish Butter with Toasted barley and buckwheat.
I am confident that there will be some who like their butter plain, and some might say that they want a specific type of butter to accompany their breads and pastries. Me? No, I am not that fussy. I liked the combination of the toasted barley and buckwheat which gave a texture to the butter and lent a subtle smoky flavour.
A 3 course set lunch at FiftyThree sets you back at S$53++, which in all honesty, is more expensive than other places.
Served cold, the first appetizer was a Scallop and Passionfruit, Tea and Herbs.
One word best describes the dish – refreshing. The raw scallops paired well with the passionfruit puree and melon balls.
The tea in the menu description came in the form of the Earl Grey granita.
The other appetizer that we had was the Sugar Snap Peas and Black Olives. The snap peas were really sweet – au naturel, I believe.
The culinary foam or espuma (however you wish to call it), however you wish to call it, was rather redundant.
The menu had 3 mains listed on the menu of which one of them was the Wagyu Beef Cheek and Alliums, Asian Pear and Wood Sorrel.
Slow cooked for 36 hours, the Wagyu was really good. If you like your beef to melt away in your mouth with every bite, then the wagyu beef would be up your alley. The pearl
I liked the subtle sweetness of the asian pears (I might be wrong) and the caramelized onion consommé was really addictive. (P.s. the wait staff pour the consommé onto the dish after the plate is placed in front of you)
Do note that there is an additional supplement of $10 for this dish.
The other main that we tried is the Pork Belly and Red cabbage, Lardo di Colonnata.
The skin was crispy and the pork was fork tender. The various sauces all complimented one another.
Just before dessert is served, a waiter clears the table and sprays a mist of lavender essential oil into the air to, and I quote, “build the mood”
The desserts were largely forgettable in my opinion and if I may add, they were exceedingly sweet.
The Apple and Rosemary was nothing what I had in mind when I ordered it. Yes, this was FiftyThree and its cuisine was supposed to be avant-garde, so perhaps I had it coming.
The apple and rosemary came with this large pile of foam which had a mild rosemary flavour infused into it.
There were only 2 desserts on the menu, the alternative being the Pineapple with Chinese Five Spice, Coconut and Brie
First off, let me just state for the record that while I am no fan of brie (except in a burger and even so, in moderate amounts), the brie ice cream had absolutely no reason to be on this plate. The strong flavour profile of the ice cream and sweetness of the rum-infused pineapples did not click.
But hey, one man’s meat is another man’s poison. But to me, it just felt like a marriage gone wrong, really wrong.
(Note: a supplement of $5 is required)
To end off the meal, a slice of White Chocolate topped with Caviar concluded the meal on a sweet-savoury note.
Would I return? Truth be said, it would take quite a large push if I were to revisit FiftyThree again. Granted, the mains (special mention goes to the wagyu beef) were really good, the average appetizers and largely forgettable desserts, I would be hard pressed to return. That said, the impeccable service (1. a waiter opens the door on the first floor the moment you walk in and 2. a waiter walks you out of the restaurant and holds the door open for you – it’s these little things that matter sometimes) and interesting-sounding dinner menu (albeit very expensive) do have their merits.
Perhaps the next time, I’ll skip the desserts.
Note: Photos taken with Apple iPhone 4.
53 Armenian Street
Telephone: +65 6334 5535