to follow on the local-gem theme started with yesterday’s post – ember is a stalwart in the dining scene for good reason: great, comforting, well-executed food and always-pleasant-and-friendly service in a modern space that manages to be business-like in the daytime and romantic at night.
the size is a boon – it manages to keep buzzy with its constant stream of diners, but the smaller size mitigates any too-much-loudness that would come with larger crowds. this was my first visit since the new chef stepped up to the helm – to much initial trepidation, which later proved entirely unwarranted – and the place retains both character and quality.
I have a soft spot for the restaurant – and always remember my first visit when panna cotta was described to me as “angmoh tauhuay” – which means a western rendition of the asian dessert of sweetened silken soy tofu. I think it’s that homeliness that keeps diners returning – though of course the food stands on its own.
the lunch set is well-known for being value-for-money, and a three-course meal will swing you less than fifty. it starts with a plate of piping-hot, fluffy tomato ciabatta (and of course, your resident photographer is here to ensure the bread cools down sufficiently before you get your hands on it);
and follows with rather dainty but flavor-wise-substantive appetisers. we were very surprised by this seemingly simple dish of pan-fried tofu, which carried a wholly impressive load of umami with the poetically wilting bonito flakes above, and a sauce redolent with mushroom and truffle. very tasty – almost unimaginably so.
I had rather thought my scallop choice would be the more sparkling of the two ‘tizers – but even with the firm, properly-cooked shellfish and its sweet flesh amidst a vinagretted blood orange salad, the tofu won.
the quality continues with the main courses: a flaky fillet of white fish atop sauteed mushrooms, which was both firm and tender, and went well with the accompanying jus of mushroomy goodness; as well as a pink fillet of beef served with caramelised onions and fluffy, luxuriously creamy mash.
the finish was marked with a successfully oozy chocolate lava cake – a classic for a reason, and always one of my favorite desserts – and a deconstructed cheesecake of cheesy ice cream on crumbled cookies. the latter had a spoon of fig compote that I thought was a little too similar in style to the creamy ice – it really would have benefited from something tarter, or more texturally different, but I’m quibbling on what was still a decent sweet.
I loved the meal – and we were there on a sleepy weekday lunch, which made the place both cosy and comfortable enough for lounging. one of my favorite restaurants, and it holds both regard for the quality of its unpretentious cooking, as well as nostalgia for being one of my first fine-dining undertakings.
50 Keong Saik Rd
tel +656897 2881
$$$: 50-60 per person