Interesting ideas await at a new fusion restaurant in Tanjong Pagar, but one wishes there was a bit more zing
By Wong Ah Yoke, 19 June 2005
WHAT strikes you most about Memoir, a new restaurant in Tanjong Pagar Road, is its sense of drama.
MEMOIR IS MADE OF THIS : The dishes, like the cleverly crafted croquette of tofu, would have been perfect with bolder flavouring.
The tiny 40-seat eatery's narrow dining room is dressed in black and white with a foliage-patterned wallpaper that makes it look like a boudoir. Another wall features bold black and white vertical stripes.
From the ceiling hangs a black chandelier.
A panel of mirrors relieves any sense of claustrophobia and extends the stark outlines of the wallpaper designs.
Opened on April 18, the menu is unabashedly fusion even though the fad has long since passed.
If the restaurant had opened in the 1990s when fusion was still feted, it would have been an instant hit. The cooking is certainly better than some shocking East-meets-West concoctions that many of the restaurants then were cooking up.
Chef James Lim, 33, who used to work in the now-defunct Jeremy's, has certainly mastered his cooking techniques. Each dish is cooked perfectly as far as texture is concerned.
For example, the croquette of tofu ($13) I tried as a starter was a cleverly crafted piece of work. The soft, white tofu was encrusted with a golden coat of crumbs that had been deep-fried to a light crispness.
If the chef is to be faulted in anything, it is that he needs to be a bit bolder in his flavouring. The bland tofu would have benefited from a tasty sauce or perhaps the crumbs could have been spiked with some spice or herbs.
Another appetiser, a mille-feuille of soft shell crab and pancetta ham ($16), did come with a dressing but there could have been more of it. Still, the crispness of the deep-fried crab was just right.
The soups were intriguing. I tried a winter melon soup ($14) that defied any expectation I had. Looking like a melon puree, it was a creamy broth that bore no resemblance to the Cantonese brew. It was a bit bland, though.
The flower crab consomme ($16) was more titillating. The watery soup was full of the flavour of crab, with just enough chilli to give it kick and mask any hint of fishiness.
I liked my main course of Chilean seabass ($34) too. The fish fillet came wrapped in potato cappellini - potato cut into long thin strands that looked like noodles. It was a clever idea borrowed from a Thai dish where prawns are wrapped in egg noodles and deep-fried.
In terms of creativity and the handling of the food, I found little to complain about. Yet, my experience at Memoir fell just one notch short of being memorable.
The cooking reminded me of a singer who is technically perfect but lacks soul. Add some zing, however, and it'll sing.
21 Tanjong Pagar Road #01-05, Tel: 6225-1148
Opening hours: Noon to 2.30pm, 7 to 10pm (Mon to Fri); 7 to 11pm (Sat).
Closed for lunch on Sat and whole day Sun
Price: Slightly high. You can also opt for a three-course dinner at $60 or four courses at $70, which allows you to select dishes from the a la carte menu.