It was supposed to be an invited food tasting but somehow, at some point during the evening, I lost my focus. I was paying more attention to the Chef and co-owner at Bar-Roque Grill than the food.
It's not that the food was average, don't get me wrong. In fact, it was outstanding. There were more than 10 of us, all food paparazzi, clamouring over the parade of dishes from Chef Stéphane's open concept kitchen. Any conversation had to be above the incessant drone of spontaneous ohhs and ahhs in the background from delighted taste buds.
I used to say tongue-in-cheek but half seriously that I could tell from the look of the chef if the food is going to be good. But, I make no claim to special wisdom or psyche powers. It's just that from experience, I noticed that happy, passionate chefs serve the best food. Simple correlation and it hasn't been proved wrong yet, so far. Put another way, Chef Stéphane proved my simplistic theory, right again :)
So how passionate was Chef Stéphane? Well, enough to distract me from the food and focus this post on the Chef rather than only the very good food.
Stéphane, 35, and already he has 20 years of cooking experience under his belt in restaurants spread across three continents in the Caribbean, the USA, Canada and now Singapore.
Stéphane left his last post as the executive chef of DB Bistro in the Marina Bay Sands (MBS) in no small part because of his passion for cooking - as the executive chef, he doesn't have much opportunities to indulge in his love for cooking.
Stéphane now cooks in his own open kitchen where we can see his every move. He dances, prances, full of infectious energy, flamboyant, effervescent and mercurial. You can see there is so much joy and happiness in Stéphane as he worked. Constantly bantering with his customers and staff about the food, we kept hearing Stéphane exclaiming "viola", declaring "superb" and wishing "bon appetite" in his French accented English.
Passion is an overused cliché but how many of us really know what it means? How many of us have really felt what passion is or what being passionate is about? Come and watch Stéphane at work - it might taking you closer to the answer.
Bing from Gastro-Sense told me that Stéphane has been energised and hasn't had much sleep ever since his baby, I mean Bar-Roque Grill, was born (on 1 Jul 2013). Just days old, Bar-Roque Grill was already buzzing with diners and basking in the glow of media spotlight.
So, how was the restaurant and especially, the food, you asked.
Photo credit: Gastro-Sense
Inside, Bar-Roque has a rustic, Old World charm and yet retains a playful, laid back feel. That large picture of the cherubic chubby boy set the tone of the restaurant, complementing the contagious happy vibes from Stéphane. The heavy bench-like tables encourage a convivial, communal style of dining and bonding. Bar-Roque is especially conducive for friendly group get-togethers.
Photo credit: Gastro-Sense
While waiting for the rest to turn up, the early birds were treated to rounds of Bar-Roques' signature tarte flambée - a staple from Stéphane's hometown, Alsace in France (near the border with Germany and hence it's unique cuisine). In this picture, the classic bacon and onion topping on melted cheese over a thin crispy pastry base. I am no big fan of pizza but still found these not overly salty, nor greasy tarte likable while waiting for the dinner to begin :)
The highlight of the evening for me, was this roasted suckling pig. The flesh was tender and the reddish orange hued skin was smooth and crispy. I liked it so much that I was not a bit shy to shoot up my hand, the instant we were asked if anyone wanted to take home the leftovers :)
Bar-Roque's French Rotisserie Chicken (SGD20 half, SGD38 whole). I am told the chicken is French born but raised in Malaysia, "kampung" style. The lean free-range "kampung" chicken was brined, poached and then grilled. The resulting chicken was tender inside and the flesh wrapped with crispy skin.
Born in France, raised in Malaysia, grilled by a French chef and enjoyed by everyone in Singapore - globalisation at it's best. Viola, superb, bon appetite!
Australian Pork Knuckle (SGD58, whole pork knuckle). The still moist meat wrapped in golden brown crackly skin served with homemade sauerkraut.
Rotisserie Challans Duck (SGD250 per 2.5-3kg bird) was a crowd favourite.
The large bird (2.5kg at least) was carved in large meaty slices so that we can taste the texture, gaminess and juices of the wild French duck.
Stéphane explaining to us, helping us to visualise how his mother's recipe inspired his ..... apple pie. Why is Stéphane so animated? It's only apple pie, some of us may be thinking.
Photo credit: Gastro-Sense
But Bar-Roque's apple pie is special. Country home style with big apple wedges, cinnamon and raisin on a thick buttery cookie-like crust, served with rum and raisin ice cream.
I love apple pie and ice cream combinations, and Bar-Roque's is one of the best that I've had.
At the end of the party, Stéphane introduced us to his sous Chef, Alex. While observing Stéphane in the kitchen, I can't help noticing that Alex has a similar disposition as his boss :)
Bar-Roque is less than 5 minutes leisurely walk from Tanjung Pagar MRT station. The fun dining grill and bar also serves a good range of wines and beers.
Echoing the charming Chef Stéphane "bon appetite"!
The al fresco area. (Photo credit: Gastro-Sense)
Restaurant name: Bar-Roque Grill (at Amara Hotel)
Address: 01-165, Tanjung Pagar Road, Singapore (Amara Hotel)
Hours: Tuesdays – Saturdays: 12:00noon – 2:30pm, 5:30pm – 10:30pm. Sundays: 12:00noon – 3:00pm, 5:30pm – 10:00pm. Closed on Monday.
Date visited: 11 Jul 2013
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