Apparently, it is the norm in Germany/Switzerland that when you invite someone out for a meal, you have to treat even if it’s your birthday. Here in Singapore, the birthday boy or girl gets treated to their meal by friends and family. Luckily for Flo and I, Pascal decided to go with the way of the Swiss and we were treated to a delicious meal at Rhubarb le Restaurant at Duxton Hill for his big birthday, along with about 6 close friends of his.
Rhubarb is a favourite restaurant of Pascal’s and while holding a one-Michelin star, it didn’t reek of pretension and had a quiet regality about it with its minimalistic decor and soft lighting. Staff were knowledgable, extremely attentive yet not intrusive – a balance that can be difficult to strike.
We had the birthday boy kick dinner off with a short, sweet speech.
Dinner commenced with a single amuse-bouche which boded well with me since I tend to fill up quickly when there are multiple pre-dinner snacks.
We were recommended to consumer the amuse-bouche in a single bite. Crunchy Sesame Wafer Cone gave way to soft, Rhubarb Puree with just the right touch of tang to highlight the freshness of the Rhubarb-cured Amberjack. Sitting on top of it all were delightful pops of Flying Fish Roe. A delicate flavour combination that gently transitioned us into dinner.
Oh and let me say that their bread rolls, the heady scent of yeasty goodness – crusty on the outside and fluffy on the inside, were amazing. I started on this one but had to take a picture just because it was so damn good, even without butter. I had to restrain myself from gobbling it up in its entirety or risk sacrificing the rest of dinner. Especially because those who did finish their first roll were bestowed with slender miniature baguettes – this one Flo loved! There was basically a free-flow of bread so pace yourself!
Our first course was a ballotine of Apricot-Marinated Foie Gras Terrine studded generously with Crushed Almonds and topped with a Smoked Pine Foam. Beside was a Pickled Apricot with Apricot Puree.
I can’t say much about this dish since I lack the ability to appreciate the taste and texture of foie gras. I did however, really enjoy the almonds surrounding the terrine. Usually, Flo and I have learned to inform servers that we’re not keen on foie gras but this time, it being a table of it with the set menu, we decided to give it another shot. I failed. 😦
The Artichoke Emulsion with Fresh Peas, Broad Beans, and Asparagus all hidden under was hands down, my favourite of the evening.
Beneath each velvety creamy airy spoonful were the fresh, grassy crunch of greens. The contrast was perfect and before I knew it, it had all disappeared. Ludwig mentioned that there’s another variation of this with truffles. Mmmm…
The next dish had a bit of Japanese influence in it in the form of the Torched, Marinated Mackerel.
It was a touch salty possibly because of the Samphire as well, but eaten together with the sweet pickling of Wakame and the zing of Lemon Puree and Yuzu Pearls helped round it out. I found myself happily getting into this dish until the plate was licked clean.
I was really looking forward to my main of Monkfish wrapped in Parma Ham, with a squiggling of Capers, Anchovies and Parsley Emulsion, with a side of Israeli Couscous and Chopped Hazelnuts, and Pickled Onions.
Unfortunately, I think this was the only dish that didn’t impress. The fish lacked seasoning and the emulsion tasted a little flat. I thought that the entire dish needed more acidity than the onions could provide. I just couldn’t get my head round the flavours that were supposed to emanate from this dish as a while and so, was quite disappointed.
Flo’s Beef Onglet on the other hand, looked sumptuous with its deep, blood red hue that suggested cooking perfection. I tasted a pieced and together with the Blueberry and Beef Jus, was a total standout. So, as someone who’s not so hot on red meats, I suggest you actually go for the red meat here at Rhubarb because it was executed with incredible finesse!
Dinner rounded up with a dessert comprising of Coconut Sorbet on top of a bed of buttery crumbs, Coconut Tuile, Coconut Pulp, Eucalyptus Chocolate Ganache, and Rum Jelly. I tend to try everything individually before taking a spoonful of everything.
The rum jelly was a real alcohol hit let me tell you that! But everything eaten together created an exquisite mouthful of flavours. The combination was simple, quite classic in fact, but sometimes, it’s about taking elements you know work harmoniously together, and keeping them together. If there’s no need to add more flair to what works, then keep it uncomplicated. At least that’s what I think. And I’m glad Rhubarb did too.
Of course, not to forget coffee/tea with petit fours to end dinner proper.
I’m glad they didn’t ply us with copious amounts of food or feel the need to brandish their cooking flair in one sitting. The 5 courses were enough to demonstrate Rhubarb’s deft hand at creating innovative food while intriguing us enough to want to return again to see what other secrets they have under their belts in their future menus.
I was actually ‘kidnapped’ earlier in the day for a weekend hen’s party (more on that in my next post) but the girls took note and made sure I was able to make it for Pascal’s birthday dinner. Food aside, I think both Flo and I can say that over the last year or so, we’ve come to see Pascal as a friend not just to Flo, but to the both of us. He’s become somewhat of an older brother. We enjoy the friendship we’ve come to have with him and I am chuffed he invited me to his intimate birthday celebration.
It was also wonderful catching up with Claudia and Ludwig, and meeting some of Pascal’s friends who flew in from Switzerland. To love and to be loved is definitely one of life’s greatest gifts, whether by family or by friends. It shows that you must be doing something right, as Pascal definitely is!