Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Abalone Groupon at "Award winning" Tonny Restaurant

I'm always very wary of buying any dining deals off Groupon (or any of the hundred other competing deals/coupon sites). After all, if a restaurant is worth its' salt, why would it need to slash 75% off its' menu prices to try and get customers? And, more importantly, at those 75% discounted prices, can the restaurant even put out a quality meal?

Putting aside all the other problems plaguing Groupon as a company, the darling and I try our luck with "award winning celebrity chef Tonny Chan's" Tonny Restaurant's Five Course Abalone Set Meal Groupon ($24 per person, $48 value).

We start off with the Crispy Yam with Truffle Oil, $12 if ordered off the Ala Carte menu. We thought that the slight hint of truffle oil was nowhere near strong enough, and that overall the yam shavings suffered from a lack of moisture. It's not fun having to wash down the yam towards the end with liberal gulps of Chinese Tea.

The Double boiled soup with Hong Kong Wonton was actually quite good. Had a very nice and strong chicken flavor to it, although perhaps the Chef could have served more than one wonton?

Butter Sauced Escargot and Fish Fillet was somewhat lacklustre. The fish fillet was well battered & crispy, but the butter-based sauce was mediocre at best.

For the highlight of the night, we're served the Braised Fresh Abalone (Ten Heads with Brocolli and Fried Rice). Ten head abalone means each is about 60gm (very small), which is perhaps to be expected given the price of the meal. What we didn't expect was just how horrible the fried rice was - soggy and tasteless with zero hint of wok hei.

The dessert - Chilled Lemon Grass with Snow Fungus - nothing noteworthy.

The food we had wasn't close to being a fulfilling meal, so we also add on a Roasted Spring Chicken for $20, which was sort of nice, crispy, and well-seasoned.

Which again, brings me back to the main problems I think restaurants (and probably other business as well) have when using Groupon as a marketing tool. The huge 75% "loss" you have to take means that you probably end up putting out a sub-standard and/or cheap meal with cheap ingredients.

The peril of this route, is that customers try, end up unimpressed, and never come back. Some of these customers (like yours truly) might even end up blogging about it! I think that Chef Tonny should have really put more effort into this menu - even if it means taking a (potentially sizeable) loss, as good food should mean return business at the full menu price.

Tonny Restaurant is at 325 Joo Chiat Road. One major drawback is the lack of parking around the area, so it might make more sense to take a cab if you live nearby. Non halal.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Flammeküche (French "Pizza") at Flam's (Orchard Central)

Right off the bat, let me first say that describing a French food (Flammeküche or Tarte Flambée) with an Italian word (Pizza) is perhaps not the most politically (foodiecally?) correct way to go about things. So if you're reading this and you're French, no offense is intended. It's just that calling the Flammeküche a "French Pizza" seems like the easiest way to describe it in our neck of the woods :)

The Flammeküche originated from the region of Alsace in the North-East of France, and is traditionally, a very thin crust with lots of onions and bacon (or pork fat) on a crème fraîche-based sauce. The folks over at Flam's brought this Alsatian specialty to our shores about two months ago, naturally with a number of different toppings available on offer :)

It's hard to imagine the restaurant decor being any less French. Maybe it's because we're used to equating French food with Fine Dining; Flam's is much more casual. With bright orange sofa seating and lots of wood everywhere, it's not what you'd call cozy, but it does gel with that whole Pizza vibe.

Oops, I meant Flammeküche, of course!

Anyways, because the Flammeküches are so thin, they only need to be popped into the oven for something like 3 minutes before they're served. We started off with The French (SGD18.00), which is Camembert (cheese), walnuts and chives added to the basic bacon and onions. Having such a thin crust does mean that we can enjoy the taste of the liberally-sprinkled ingredients.

The Fresh Mushroom (SGD14.00) also comes loaded with slices of mushrooms. We're not 100% sure what mushrooms they were (tasted like shiitake). For those of us with normal appetites, one Flam per person is probably just about enough.

There are a bunch of sweet Flams on the menu too (for dessert) - we try The Banana Chocolate (SGD6.50) - a half-sized Flam that as its name suggests, comes with slices of Banana and chocolate chips. No bacon and onion on this pie, thankfully!

If you're in a particularly hungry mood, Flam's offers up "all you can eat"s for about SGD25 a mouth, which comes with a salad and non stop Flams until you throw in the towel.

So is a Flammeküche a "French Pizza?" Not really, in my opinion. There's no cheese topping, and the sauce is cream based and not tomato based. Nevertheless if you're in the area, the ingredients are fresh and the Flams are pretty good. Good value for money, too, especially if you're a big enough eater to take advantage of the "all you can eat" offering.

Flam's is on the second floor of Orchard Central. Non-halal.