AS the pendulum continues to swing between dining in and dining out, there’s one thing still in the favour of the stay-home crowd: restaurants are finally getting better at delivering a dining experience that closely replicates what they would serve on their own turf.
The White Rabbit has been like everyone else – scurrying to open its doors to dine-in guests since June 19 – but it has also kept its At Home Experience (S$138) that, for its price and quality, easily ranks as one of the best value and tasty home deliveries we’ve had since the start of CB.
Under the encouraging banner of ‘be your own chef’ aka ‘idiot-proof meals you can’t possibly muck up’, some higher-end eateries counter the problem of soggy-cold, scooter-traumatised delivery letdowns by providing chilled meals that you assemble and heat up in your own kitchen.
The more exclusive the restaurant, the longer the list of instructions, which can be challenging if you only have a polite relationship with your pots and pans. But White Rabbit doesn’t fault you for not knowing exactly where your infra-red thermometer is, although it does try to push your limits a little by hoping you have a whisk.
The bundle includes everything you need for a full meal: homemade truffle and Brie brioche with seaweed butter; zucchini and cos lettuce salad; lobster bisque; roasted black truffle chicken with mousseline potatoes; and a dark chocolate caramel tart. It’s designed to be a romantic meal for two – but it’s recommended it be assembled by the more kitchen-proficient partner to prevent both from going to bed full but angry.
Instructions are super detailed – written by one who clearly doesn’t trust you to wing it. Even before you start, you’re told what equipment you need, from oven to aforementioned whisk which will be used to whip the buttery yet not-too-rich potato purée back into its original smooth state.
You need five minutes in a hot oven for the fragrant, savoury brioche that’s a swirl of truffle paste and melted Brie on the inside. Pull apart and slather with the pat of seaweed butter provided.
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Go easy on the amiable-looking herb dressing for the cos salad which has an acidic bite, along with the finely sliced lightly pickled zucchini that you drape on top and garnish with pine nuts and shaved Parmesan.
The seafood tortellini for the lobster bisque need to be boiled like pasta but it doesn’t say for how long – it’s okay, you can’t over-cook these dumplings with skin as thick as playdough. Just dig out the tender pillowy filling of shrimp farce and enjoy it with the excellent bisque which packs the full depth of shellfish in a perfectly balanced broth with just enough cream and none of the fishiness that plagues lesser versions. The portion is a little small for two, but as the meal progresses you’ll understand why, as you still have a whole chicken to eat. If on the off-chance you would like an extra starter, the chicken liver parfait (S$24) yields thick piped swirls of rich meaty mousse and chewy fig jam on layers of better-than-millefeuille flaky crackling crowaffle.
The main event – black truffle roast chicken – is a free range hen with supermodel long legs and feet intact, stretching as far as the rosemary spears sticking out of its behind. Being re-roasted in the oven for over 10 minutes and a couple of minutes under the grill to crisp up the skin (sort of) doesn’t dry out the bird at all. In fact, the breast meat stays tender while the legs are slightly pink but still fully cooked. There’s no discernible taste of truffle although little bits of it on the skin are evidence of their presence – it also means no truffle oil was used to sully the natural goodness of this perfectly marinated fowl.
Finally, there is a cookie-crust tart filled with rich, chewy Valrhona chocolate ganache and (very)salty caramel – no instruction required other than to take big bites (with ice cream if you have it) and realise that even if we were all forced to stay home again, it really wouldn’t be a bad thing.
But if White Rabbit offers you a choice of dining venue, Gully is still a takeaway/delivery-only outfit that tries to remedy your stifled wanderlust with a menu of street food from around the world. Its collaboration with Greek restaurant Blu Kouzina means it has a strong Mediterranean/Middle Eastern accent, even in its Asian-inspired dishes such as Indonesian Tempe Rice Bowl (S$13.80). It’s an unlikely but not unpleasant combination of good quality tempeh in a spicy sambal on basmati rice that is tasty and familiar on its own with sauteed bean sprouts, and mint yoghurt sauce which is perhaps there to counter the heat of the sambal.
The yoghurt sauce sits more naturally in the Middle Eastern Chicken and Rice (S$14.80) in the form of tzatziki, adding a lactic tang to the mix of basmati rice, smoky grilled chicken, raw onions, torn lettuce, tomatoes and a pretty fearsome sriracha sauce that lends a fierce chilli kick.
In reality, the food from Gully doesn’t look very pretty – think of it as ugly with varying levels of deliciousness. The Greek Gyro (S$23.50) is an amorphous blob of dense, chewy pita bread trying to contain an assortment of grilled chicken, onions, tomatoes, shoestring potatoes and yes, tzatziki, like an overstuffed, paprika-scented submarine. Still, it’s a sloppy mess that’s fun to get into.
There’s some Chinese finger food of sorts too, such as Beijing pot stickers (S$11.50) that spent more time in the steamer than sitting in a frying pan. They look rather limp and flustered with their plain minced chicken filling peeping out from dishevelled skins, but a quick dip in a tangy chilli sauce perks them up again. In turn, Taiwanese chicken buns (S$15.50) are deep-fried, heavily-seasoned chicken pieces smothered in a citrusy mayo sandwiched between fried mantou buns. There’s no beating around the bush here – just a big chicken wallop between the eyes.
If looks aren’t important to you, and big, gutsy in-your-face flavours are, then Gully is one food flight you want to get on.
The White Rabbit, 39C Harding Road.
Tel: 6473 9965. thewhiterabbit.com.sg
Gully, 10 Dempsey Road. Call/WhatsApp 84850820.
This article was originally published in The Business Times.