[SG] Violet Herbs | Wallet-friendly fine-dining gem at CBD

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

It is a shame that fine dining is never quite associated with wallet-friendly or affordable but surprisingly Violet Herbs nailed it. Having opened its doors in January this year, the restaurant is quite a gem located on Tras Street, amidst the busy CBD area. While modern European cuisine is sometimes an overused term, Violet Herbs offers more than the usual with a twist of Asian flavours to the dishes.

Executive Chef and owner Edward Hoe has almost 20 years of culinary experience and picked up his skills from Sebastian from renowned Restaurant Ember then Keystone Restaurant, American Club and more recently Eleven Concepts. With an objective of delivering fine food at affordable prices, he hopes that his guests will return regularly for more of his offerings. Being quite a critique when it comes to fine dining, I was somewhat sceptical that it would be on par with some of the top restaurants out there until the first course.

Amuse bouche

While I was equally impressed with the amuse bouche, this was not the first course that blew me away, well I will leave that for later. 

Chef Edward painstakingly ensured that all fresh saffron with parmasan rolls were served warm and accompanied by butter that was infused with basil and mint. Expect a lovely saffron aroma from the roll when you gingerly tear it apart to spread that smooth butter. For something as simple as a roll and butter, herbs play a prominent role and this can only be said for the dishes to follow. Living up to its name of Violet Herbs indeed!

For the amuse bouche which changes daily, we had the minced chicken infused with honey mustard which was a refreshing burst of flavours to whet our appetite!

The homemade rolls and amuse bouche will be served to all guests even if you are not taking the set menu as Chef Edward believes in giving all diners the fine-dine experience.

Pistachio and herb crusted scallops | S$18/+

The plump Hokkaido scallop is the star of this appetiser as it was cooked perfectly with a pan-seared surface that was coated with pistachio and herb crumbs to add another dimension in texture. The combination of flavours and variation in texture was spot-on and did more than necessary to impress our palate. The rich and savoury butternut squash puree coupled with the beautifully executed lobster bisque gel delivered a strong punch of flavours. While the chocolate soil seemed to be out of place, little did we realise that the mild bitterness and its coarseness completed the dish. 

What impressed us was this delicately crafted potato chips. Two fine slices of potato chips were carefully pieced together with clarified butter and some herbs sandwiched in between the translucent slices. It was almost an art piece on its own and paying details to such intricate workmanship on the plate speaks volume about the Chef's culinary skills.

Lobster cappuccino and brandy | S$14/+

For six tedious hours, mixed vegetables comprising carrots, celery, etc were boiled with lobster shells for that bold crustacean flavour so desired by seafood lovers. The broth was then reduced with the addition of cream and red wine to intensify the flavours before being topped with Juniper foam and a dash of brandy, which was a subtle reminder that you are in for a modern cuisine.

Ebi pasta (angel hair) | S$32/+

When you spot ingredients such as bird's eye chii, sakura ebi and rayu oil on angel hair pasta, you know that is a beautiful Asian twist to an Italian classic. We loved that the angel hair pasta was cooked al dente and the sakura ebi (similar to your dried shrimps) gave a nice crispy touch. Tossed in rayu oil (more commonly known as chilli oil for the Chinese) and bird's eye chilli, the heat was surprisingly manageable even for the light weights!

Passionfruit sorbet | complimentary

As part of a proper fine dining experience, a homemade sorbet is usually served to clean the diners' palate before the more savoury mains and Chef Edward nailed it once again. With a refreshing passionfruit sorbet, everyone at the table was impressed.

Roasted lamb rump | S$32/+

Lamb rump is one of culinary legend, Marco Pierre White's favourite proteins and has increasingly been used as an alternative to traditional beef steaks in upmarket steakhouses. Located on the rear of the lamb, the cut is from the leg to the loin and is one of the leaner cuts. As most of the gamey flavours come from the fat, the lean cut tasted clean.

The lamb is first sous vide for about 30 minutes with olive oil, butter and rosemary which tenderises the meat and infuses it with the fragrance of the herbs. Once that is done, it is pan-seared lightly with a nice hue of pink in the middle and served on a bed of creamy sweet corn. A gorgeous lamb jus is made by reducing the sous vide juices with Madeira and port in the same pan before being filled in a test tube to be poured by the customer on their protein.

Marinated red miso cod | S$33/+

Marinated for over 24 hours in a black miso and beetroot puree in order to impart rich flavours to the delicate cod, the fish is then roasted till partially cooked and put under the salamander to caramelise. This results in a tantalising white protein that we could not wait to try. Complemented with a nice dash of roasted pumpkin puree, fried purple aubergine and mixed crumbs comprising fine almond and herbs for added texture, it was definitely one of my top picks for my mains!

Sous vide 48 hours wagyu beef cheek | S$32/+

It is almost a no-brainer that when you read 48 hours sous vide and beef cheek on the menu, you are in for a treat. With a generous serving portion of 150 grams, the prized wagyu beef cheek is cooked sous vide style with rosemary, parsnips and fennel for 48 hours before being glazed in a red wine and port reduction and served with fregola sarda (which has a texture like barley). What made me bite was the raspberry vinaigrette that introduced an element of acidity to the rather sweet meat due to the caramelisation.

Frozen nougat | S$14/+

People tend to forget the appetisers but nobody ever neglects the dessert as it is almost a mantra to end a meal on a high note with a perfect dessert. Chef Edward did himself proud with his stellar homemade frozen nougat with mixed fruit and the refreshing lychee sorbet and raspberry sauce. My only complaint was that it melted way too quickly but the combination of textures and flavours were absolutely spot-on with a right balance of sweetness and acidity.

Cocktail - Violet Breeze | S$14/+

With three signature cocktails namely the Violet Desire, Violet Sensation and Violet Breeze, we went for the last one as it was supposedly the most lightweight in terms of alcohol content and spots a fruity zest. Nonetheless, the cocktails are known to be of American concoction so the bartender tends to be generous with his alcohol and that can only be a good thing!

Americano | S$5/+

While there is usually nothing too exciting about a cup of Americano, the brew uses the famous Illy coffee beans and that spells aroma and robustness in flavours. Every cup of coffee comes complete with a slice of homemade cookie that was crisp and carried a lovely buttery fragrance! Make this a must-try to go with your desserts although the ladies at the table were mostly contented with their teas.

The refurbished shophouse restaurant has two storeys to the building and the upper level even has a private dining room that can host a table of 14 guests or two separate rooms of eight each. There is however a minimum spending of S$1,000 for the entire room which would not be an issue if you have some of the wines on the fine list which includes Chateau Beychevelle 2005 or the Les Ormes De Rez 2005.

Chef Edward with his wife co-runs Violet Herbs

With a cosy ambience and hospitable service, we were thankful that it was not a pretentious affair as we had the opportunity to strike up a casual conversation with Chef Edward and some of the serving staffs on the floor. At such prices, Violet Herbs makes an extra mile to celebrate SG50 with a 50% discount on Fridays on the bill, otherwise known as the iconic Violet Fridays. The only catch for the gents or ladies for the matter is that you have to be dressed in violet, or at least some shades of it. This promotion runs from now till 28 August 2015 but do call in advance to book your table! With six-course degustation that starts from S$98+ to eight-courses for S$128+, it is definitely value for money to enjoy a proper fine dining experience at a fraction of what it would cost at most upscale restaurants. 

We are already planning our next visit to make our calories count.

Overall verdict: 8.5/10

Violet Herbs
81 Tras Street,
Singapore 079020
Tel: (65) 6221 3988

P.S: Special thanks to Veronica for the invite and Violet Herbs for hosting us!

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