Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Helio Cafe, Marina Square, Singapore

As I slowly approached this location I was doubtful if I had even found the right place. It didn't look like any place I could get some good grub, but since I was recommended (quite strongly) to check this joint out, I decided to muster up some courage and go closer. When I finally reached it, I realised that Helio Cafe at #03-320 Marina Square resided outside the Helio Spa, like it literally crowded the entrance of the spa with a few random tables. More doubts grew. I stood there awhile because there was a sign that said "please wait to be served" but as no one really came up I decided to venture into the spa and look around. Just as I entered I was confronted with this bloke and I asked him if they're open for dinner. He asked me if I made any reservations and I said "no." I then suggested he could surprise me with anything and that I'll risk having an impromptu meal.

This was my subtle challenge to Clement Ronald Ng.

He agreed.

We took it outside.

We asked Clement to recommend something non-alcoholic to help us unwind after a rather stressful and intense day at work. He recommended one of their fifty-odd teas (they have more than a hundred varieties now I think). This one called "Flow" consisted of rosehip, hibiscus and peppermint. There are no additives at all, the reddish color is predominantly from the hibiscus, the rosehip and peppermint imparts a unique slightly tart and minty taste. Just the thing to ready ourselves for the meal.

Our entree was this dish simply called "Pork Wraps". It consisted of two components, on the right we have the leaves (butterhead lettuce and some funky Thai leaf) and the sauce of malt sugar syrup. On the left, we have the fillings of Thai limes, Thai dried shrimp, crushed peanuts and yes, pork.

"Pork Wraps" is perhaps the most understated name I could think of for this dish. After my first chew on this wrap, a symphony of flavors just abounded on my palate. It was almost a gustatory sensory overload. The well-seasoned pork, the salty dried shrimp, fragrant peanuts, sweet malt sugar with a hint of molasses, sourish lime and mildly bitter thai leaf blended perfectly to form an extremely refreshing and exceptional taste. Whatever initial doubts I had about this place were being blasted away. I do wish all the leafs were the Thai ones though because butterhead lettuce didn't provide that nice bitter contrast.

I couldn't wait for what the main course was capable of. Wait a minute, when he said that it would have some saffron flavors in it, I didn't expect to actually see actual bits (you can see some of the stigmas) of the world's most expensive spice. This dish of baked salmon with portobello mushrooms wrapped in a light puff pastry was really delicious (and I'm not even a fan of salmon or saffron!). The light cream sauce did not overpower the dish and infused nicely with the slight bitterish hints of the saffron. The salad was crisp and fresh and the salmon was baked to perfection absorbing the flavor of the portobello mushrooms. The fine interplay of flavors was indeed commendable. Excellent.

Wanting to cleanse our palate before our desserts, we asked Clement to suggest a drink. This glass of white wine cooler was quite refreshing if only a tad bit too sweet for my liking but after a few minues of ice-melting-dilution it tasted quite nice. I would have appreciated it abit more if it had a slight citrus tang to it, maybe I'll ask for a lemon wedge next time.

This place was actually recommended to me by a cheesecake lover and I decided the only way to get a broad opinion on their cheesecakes was to go for both the fridge-set and baked ones. This is the fridge-set passionfruit cheesecake garnished with strawberries and dried forget-me-nots. If you're wondering where the passionfruit was, it was actually juxtapositioned between two layers of cheesecake cream. This was a nice deviation from the norm of just pouring the passionfruit on top because it allowed the passionfruit flavor to be more strongly imparted into the rest of the cheesecake. Light and tasty, the citrus flavors from the passionfruit keeps you from feeling overstuffed. I guess it also helped that I have a penchant for passion fruit having grown two varieties previously.

Ordering two kinds of cheesecake is very much like appreciating two-sides of a coin. But what a precious coin this one was. The baked cheesecake was almost like the evil twin of the fridge-set version because it was a lot richer and heavier. If I were to find any faults with it, it would be have to be that I personally felt it was just very slightly dry but that would almost be bordering on nitpicking.

Service is excellent as Clement seems to be running a one-man-show here, humbly renouncing the title of chef which I bestowed on him, Clement claims to be just a mere cook who enjoys good food (whilst rubbing a slightly protruding paunch) but indeed, if it's true as the saying goes, "You can't trust a skinny chef", Clement is living-proof of that. Notwithstanding being pedantic here but I still feel he deserves to be a "chef".

One danger about asking to be "surprised" would be getting a rather rude one at the end of the meal; in the form of the bill. To end the rather fantastic meal was an equally attractive price. This meal set two persons back at about 85SGD, very reasonable if I may iterate again considering it included alcoholic beverage. I do wish they would have credit card facilities here as they currently only accept cash or NETS.

Clement also mentioned quite a few rather interesting dishes which had flowers in it. So when I do make the time to come here again for another meal (which I certainly will) I'll definitely call two days in advance. If this is what this man is capable of impromptu, how much more kickass can it be with two days advance notice?


p.s: Oh yes, in case you were wondering, that is a real fish in the first picture right at the top!


Anonymous said...

haha.. seems like you really enjoy the food.. glad u enjoy the food there.. =D

Anonymous said...

Cheers from London. I like the thought of food with flowers. :) But I am still not sure about fishies.

-guess who?

Babe_KL said...

keep the food coming D. great job here

Anonymous said...

why? the pussy(cat) will eat the fishies?

From India

Anonymous said...

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words...

I will say that your thousand words are worth a picture or two.

I, am Lord D.

Anonymous said...

yea u should ask clement to serve u the rose petals with melted dark belgium chocolate. but that need to be preordered like 1-2 days in advance for him to prepare. i also love the mushroom soup he prepares and his fish pasta. my friends swears by his grilled mushroom sandwiches. As for desserts, u must always ask him if there are any specials that day.