8PICURE – European Cuisine with a fusion touch

Along River Valley road with Nathan Road as an offshoot, there is a mixed residential building with a few bars and restaurants on its ground floor.

Have your eyes peeled for a stylishly dim mod looking small restaurant known as 8picure.

A friend wanted to buy us dinner there and we had a delightful evening filled with excellent conversation, modest but exquisite wines and great food.

8picure is a hip but cozy casual to fine dining restaurant helmed by Chef Gabriel Lee, a personable and friendly Chef owner.

Although diminutive in size, Chef Gabriel has a big personality and a bigger passion for food and its fine arts.

Prior to opening his restaurant which is about two years old, Chef Gabriel has been operating and hosting degustation dinners with wine pairing at his home for about four years.

The service was warm and attentive the whole evening and we appreciated Chef’s occasional presence to talk to his diners and explain his dishes.

The Wines

We decided that it would be an Australian Shiraz night and we came with a 2004 Brokenwood Graveyard Shiraz, 2005 Grant Burge Meschach, and a 1994 Penfolds Magill Estate Shiraz.

The Graveyard had a beautiful, elegant and complex nose. The wine surprisingly still tasted very youthful and could do with a few more years in the bottle to have a more well rounded finish.

The Penfolds had a very decent nose upon drinking which dissipated quite quickly. As we feared, the wine was slightly over the hill and tasted flat and devoid of fruits.

But the Meschach out performed expectations. It had a hauntingly beautiful nose, fumes of flowers, liquorice, a slight hint of chocolate. Full bodied, seductive with a long lingering finish.

Superlatives flowed throughout the evening as it continued to develop in the glass and produced more pleasures.

Appetisers and Amuse Bouche

Roast pork

The first appetiser to arrive was a plate of roast pork with crackling served with mustard on the side.

The uniqueness of this dish, we were told, is the imported Duroc pork used to make the roast.

The Duroc pig is a medium-sized breed with a moderately long body and drooping ears. The color is often an orangish-brown, but ranges from a light-golden shade to a deep mahogany-red.

More importantly, these pigs are fed on chestnuts which is supposed to improve the quality and taste of their meat.

Great minds think alike.

Proscuitto ham in Italy is made from pigs which are fed chestnuts in the months just before its slaughtering.

Hannibal Lecter (silence of the lambs), served chestnuts to his dinner companions if he sees them as not just companions, but well, simply – Dinner.

I must confess the roast pork didn’t quite blow me away. The crackling was great but the meat was nondescript and too heavily spiced and salted.

To be fair, I think most people would have swooned over the pork.

But I had Kuan sitting at my table who makes the most delectable roast pork which crackles with song, and with the meat light and moist with a hint of salt, and accompanied with her signature “to die for”pineapple chilli salsa.

Far from being fed with chestnuts, the pork she uses is simply local Indonesian pork which has been fed with, well, good old fashioned swill.

Imagine if she uses Duroc pigs that had feasted on chestnuts or Berkshire pigs from Kurobata that has feasted on acorns and nuts.

It would taste like Christmas.

I digress to send this spirited public benefit message to Kuan to say that it has been a while since we tasted your divine swill feasting porcine.

The woman is talented but sometimes as dense as the Amazon forest.

Tuna Tartar Salsa with prawn crackers

This was interesting and the salsa had various spices in it. I thought I also tasted minced onions and calamansi.

It tasted a little like sardines and some people like me, may find it a little fishy.

A little out of place I thought compared to the other aspects of the dining experience.

But it was one of the Chef’s signature creations and a favourite amongst his regular diners.

Scallops

Things started to look up.

The scallops were cooked perfectly with a moist centre and crusty exterior. They tasted delicious with a glop of fresh shrimp roe.

The chicken jus lining the plate was delicious, accentuated with a trickle of perfumed truffle oil.

The maitake mushrooms had a nice bite.

I was puzzled by the puréed peas which I didn’t think sat well with the whole ensemble.

Cool as they may be, the cucumbers also did very little to promote world peace and I wondered about their existence.

But this dish was a unanimous favourite for the night.

Octopus and Crab Cakes

Chef Gabriel’s playful side and creativity started to show.

These dishes are on his menu as full portion entrees but Chef had kindly made half portions for us.

The octopus was well executed, succulent with a slight charred bbq flavour .

It was sliced into flat round pieces and arranged as if to worship a solitary tentacle in the centre.

Droplets of sauce in the centre of the small round pieces made it look like mini sunny sides ups.

Sunny side up devotees chanting around Stonehenge?

Another winner for the night was chef’s signature crab cakes.

A flavourful sweet umami tasting crab cake sat on an elegant tomato compote flavoured with lemongrass, galangal and other spices.

A cornucopia of pleasures.

Tagliatelle cooked in prawn stock

This was another of Chef Gabriel’s signature dishes.

The tagliatelle was cooked al dente and was cooked in prawn stock giving it a briny and intensely sea accentuated flavour.

Maybe it’s just me but I find the prawn flavour too intense and briny. It overwhelmed the sweet subtle flavours of the sweet Japanese Amaebi prawns and shrimp roe that was nestling on top.

Like the truffle oil plebeian slut that I am, I thought the pasta would have been better served with a simple pepper and salt and fresh herbs treatment, perhaps cooked with some white wine emulsion and finished with a trickle of truffle oil.

This would have allowed the Amaebi to shine, and the fresh sweet flavours to come through.

But perhaps the prawn stock pasta was the main draw and not the accompaniments.

What do I know?

Mains of Crusted Cod and Wagyu Beef Cheek

The herb crusted baked cod was done very well. It sits regally on top of broccoli mash and roasted red pepper sauce.

A nice combination and I would order this again and again.

I have grown weary of Wagyu beef sous vide to death and slathered like my dog’s food with some jus or the other.

To my pleasant surprise, the beef came clean, delicate with a pink blush, buttery and utterly delectable.

Perfectly executed and the way Wagyu should be treated.

A simple cauliflower mash on the side and some accompanying vegetables.

Another winner for the night.

Tiramisu and Panna Cotta

The Tiramisu 8picurean, chef’s take on the classic tiramisu, provoked the most debate.

His tiramisu was prepared using mascarpone cheese mousse, lady fingers soaked in whisky and marsala, roasted almond flakes and cacao powder.

And chopped Basil.

Straight off, the Basil threw me off. Basil in Tiramisu ?

Sorry but I’m a traditionalist when it comes to Tiramisu and that Basil represented everything I hate about fusion for the sake of fusion – introducing a twist when there should be none as God has mandated.

I use Rum or Kahlua when I make my tiramisu so I was also curious why he used whiskey.

Also, wouldn’t the whiskey kill the taste of the Marsala?

Marsala is a subtle liqueur that the traditional Italian chefs swear by and some of them will scream “mama mia ” and throw a hissy Italian fit using their hands to smack their foreheads repeatedly if you used anything other than Marsala in their beloved Tiramisu.

So I tasted the whiskey in the Tiramisu and not the Marsala and since I don’t like whiskey in my desserts generally (sharp and acrid) the alcohol component of that Tiramisu didn’t work for me.

Also, I tasted very very little coffee and I like my Tiramisu reeking of robust coffee.

That dessert was actually nice if you think of it as a whiskey lined mascarpone Basil mousse with delightful encrusted almonds slivers.

I didn’t touch this as I don’t like Panna Cotta but it looked beautiful.

8PICURE

428 River Valley Road, #01-04

Singapore 248327

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