[SG] Raven | Defining "The New Americas" cuisine

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The first question you might have is what really is The New Americas cuisine? It is essentially Northern and Southern American food with an Asian twist. The development within the F&B scene internationally or even in Singapore is somewhat phenomenon to say the least as innovative concepts continue to drive changes in the industry. 

Raven is the latest concept to join the ranks of the rising new generation of restaurants at Chijmes which seems to have seen quite a fair turnover over the years. Quite frankly, food is somewhat commoditised and it seems like a trend that owners find themselves competing on concepts, ambience, service and any other forms of value-added propositions to distinguish themselves. 

Can Raven impress? Let us find out.

Fried chorizo croquettes | S$13/++

These golden brown delicious looking balls comprising chorizo, bechamel and mozzarella were definitely a delightful companion to my pint of Asahi. Served with tangy jalapeno vinaigrette, expect some richness from the house-made creme fraiche that delivered a good balance overall. The crispy coating was more than enough to smite me anyway.

Verdict: 8.0/10

Burratina & heirloom tomatoes | S$18/++

This dish was a classic and you could hardly go wrong with buffalo mozzarella that was cleverly served with oregano, basil oil and dehydrated olives that not only added depth to flavours but variation in textures. While it was stated on the menu that there was gula melaka balsamic, it was almost impossible to taste any of it so my expectations were somewhat misguided to begin with. Nonetheless, the cheese was brilliant and so were the tomatoes.

The beauty of using heirloom tomatoes is its superior characteristics of subtle fragrant compounds which research have proved to influence flavours of a tomato beyond its sugar content. This was a clear favourite among the guests at the table and I could not see why not.

Verdict: 8.0/10

Tuna tartare | S$17/++

I always regard tuna tartare as one of those dishes that sound so easy but yet so difficult to get it right. Appreciating the quick smear with the back of a spoon on the avocado wasabi puree as part of an elegant presentation for the dish, the elements did not work out quite as well as I had expected. The Nan Shui pear shavings was ingenious thinking to add granularity to the dish and to balance out the heat in the wasabi. On the other hand, the yuzu and soy vinaigrette on the diced tuna ticked the box for acidity. When consumed as a whole, the heat of the wasabi and the richness of the avocado stood out, almost like a sore thumb unfortunately, as the other elements were masked and paled in comparison to strike a harmonious chord.

Verdict: 7.0/10

Roasted corn niblets | S$12/++

Regarded by some as the best corn in Malaysia and inherently the most expensive, these white corn (also known as candy corn) niblets from Cameron Highlands were extremely crunchy and robust in flavours. The Chef massaged salt through the corn, sufficient to extract some of the moisture to leave each bite a nice crunch while still tasting succulent. What made me craved for a second serving was that beautifully smoked sour cream made out of chilli, paprika and cayenne, giving an unexpected but surprisingly good punch of heat.

Verdict: 8.0/10

Crispy nori wrapped salmon | S$29/++

This was my favourite dish out of all the starters and mains tried for dinner. The fennel salad on the side was tossed in a tangy dressing that would almost make a brilliant starter standalone. The real deal on the plate was that perfectly cooked salmon that was double-fried. With a thin layer of breadcrumb coating to give that desired crunch, it was flash-fried to keep it crisp. The lovely pinkness on the inside was delicate to the touch and was almost melt-in-your-mouth tender. I truly enjoyed the juxtaposition in textures and if that was not enough to get you hooked, that carefully prepared Ponzu sago sealed it for me with a nice chewiness to the mouthful. The acidity from the citrus element was spot-on to go with the main but my only complaint was that the balance of flavours on the plate was somewhat tilted towards a more acidic after-taste due to the salad. If you were to have them separately, that might sort things out.

Verdict: 8.5/10

The Raven Burger "Cemita" | S$22/++

A handmade minced patty that possessed 180 grammes of quality beef chuck, we enjoyed the burger as much as the salmon. The patties were made from scratch and it was fluffy on the inside and nicely toasted for a crisp finishing. What made this a winner was not just the perfectly cooked patty that retained a slight pinkness in the middle but the gorgeous combination of  chorizo cream, avocado, red onions, corn chips and chipotle. It tasted rich and truly American.

Verdict: 7.5/10

Handmade open beef ravioli | S$24/++

After sharpening my palate over the years through trying various kinds of cuisines, it is key to practise cooking yourself to learn and better appreciate any dish served. It has taught me to change things not for the sake of being different but rather to make the difference, be it in taste or flavours. 

Staring at the dish, I struggled internally to ascertain what is an open ravioli - does that not seem like another rendition of lasagne but coined in a hipster fashion? Do not get me wrong, I love the flavours presented on the dish, that pulled beef that was braised for 16 hours in red wine was a cracker as it was brought to medium well before finishing in the oven to lock in the juices. The sheets of freshly rolled pasta were stacked and drizzled with Parmesan cheese. Carrot cream, red wine sauce and spinach were added for finishing. The pasta was cooked perfectly to al dente and the whole dish was a winner but the flaw was again in managing diners' expectations. 

Verdict: 7.5/10

Green tea opera | S$13/++

Kudos to the dessert chef for coming up with this beautiful dish. No way was I expecting a green tea opera presented almost like a bacon! The plate came complete with a generous scoop of adzuki bean ice cream, green tea and chocolate truffle. The sake gel littered on the sides of the plate gave an unexpected burst of bitterness that went surprisingly well for me.

Verdict: 8.0/10

Chocolate overdose | S$13/++

With a dessert that claims to be chocolate overdose, that is a tall order to fill but the Chef nailed it. It was an artisanal display of various textures of Belgian chocolate starting with the bitter chocolate sherbet (70% dark chocolate), hazelnut mousse (33% milk chocolate), chocolate sponge (55% dark chocolate), milk chocolate, hazelnut cream before being sprinkled with the broken bits that added another dimension with the crunch. Apart from delivering on all fronts in flavours and textures, the complexity derived from dark chocolate was impressive indeed.

Verdict: 8.0/10

I have to applaud the Chefs at work in delivering an array of quality dishes with no attention spared in construction, presentation, flavours and tastes. I must say there are not many restaurants out there which managed to devote such labourious efforts at this price point. For other parts of the restaurant, fine details such as menu and interior decorations were also well taken care of. 

There are also three sections to the restaurant - the Garden (outdoor seating), Bar and Gallery which house comfortable leather seats in cosy corners. Happy hours run from Monday to Saturday 5 - 9pm and all day on Sunday. Not only are draft beers 1-for-1, they are one of the few places to offer cider on the tap.

I have definitely found a new sweet spot for happy hour sessions and for those who think that Raven is merely a place for drinks, you might want to pick up that menu and start ordering.

Overall Verdict: 8.0/10

B1-01/02 Chijmes, 
30 Victoria Street
Singapore 187996
Tel: (65) 8798 2724
Website: www.raven.sg

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