Thursday, September 01, 2016

The Top Table at the CIA

The dining room at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) at Temasek Polytechnic (partnering with Singapore Institute of Technology) is only open about three months a year between August to November. Do make reservations in advance, tables are being snapped up real quick. Hopped in all the way east to The Top Table at lunch to check out the current batch of CIA students' creations. This week's menu is headed by Chef Michael Sanson. The Italian menu was fairly extensive. It was a 1.5-hour affair.

Not impressed with the pasta, beef cheeks and breaded pork chop. The meats needed a lot more work. Pretty evident it was a rushed job. The mushroom risotto that the beef cheeks came with was bland and the grains were like ermm... Teochew porridge. Tsk. I was a tad stunned when my first spoonful of vongole linguine was sour! Too little salt, too much lemon juice. UGH. At least the linguine was properly al dente. The scampi with handmade garganelli was quite good.

I loved the antipasti platter, the breads, olive oil and the roasted fish. In fact, the selections of antipasti were so delicious that I almost asked for a second serving. :P The platter held crostini (chicken liver, bacon, rosemary marinated sardines, white beans, pickled fennel, chickpea puree and parsley), squid, white beans and pesto, Sicilian potato salad, marinated sardines and white bean purée, and a baked zucchini and egg tart. I understood that the students had made their own mozzarella. So we had to order that.

The fish was stated as 'branzino', literally 'European sea bass'. Hmmm. We doubted that. When it arrived, we grinned- it's effectively a barramundi, but a nice fat one that's almost oily. (If it's sourced locally, then it's likely from Kuhlbarra.) A peek at the bill revealed that it was S$19; that was ridiculously reasonable. Good choice, whoever in the kitchen that picked this batch of fish. It was beautifully roasted and went great with the white beans and herbs. I half hoped it would be sambar or dhaal. Hurhurhur. Imho, it was the best main on the menu that day.

We had easy drinks. An elderflower cocktail with Canadian whisky. I chose a mocktail of thyme and lemonade. Wasn't up to drinking on a heavy work day. Nobody wanted desserts. Too full. Had coffee instead. It was an enjoyable lunch. If I could, I would return for another meal at The Top Table before the season closes. The standard is pretty decent and better than the crap served at many cafes and restaurants for thrice the prices. 

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