‘Take a seat, make a friend’ – that’s my interpretation of Social Dining. Think networking lunches or even speed dating over a meal – it is the philosophy of using food as a means of connecting with other.
It was with W Hotel that I get to experience my very first Social Dining 2 weeks ago. Hosted by the marketing team of W Hotel Singapore and the very personable and sociable chef Matthew Woolford, I had an enjoyable time of connecting with other bloggers and foodies on the table.
“Growing up in Australia, I enjoyed chatting to other diners at the next table and share our favourites. I would leave with the feeling that I have new memories to rediscover the taste of food I loved, “said Chef Matthew Woolford. “I want to share this and allow diners to experience food the way that I do, with the opportunity to interact with others. And, Get Together at The Chef’s Table brings about just that – a group of open and like-minded diners who are looking for something different as opposed to the traditional restaurant experience.”
Upon reaching, I was greeted by the very warm and friendly staff of W Hotel with my choice of drink at the Woobar.
As I did a mad rush from my office to W Hotel, I was refreshingly surprised by this unique glass of spice infused alcohol. I had initially chosen it out of adventure, but what this Lemongrass-Ginger Infused Tequila did was to clear my throat and lift my appetite for great spread of gastronomical delights that awaits us.
First up was the Alaskan Crabmeat Popiah. Yes, you read it right. It is Popiah with Alaskan Crabmeat inside and here’s how it looks.
The chunks of crab meat inside are real and while close friends know that I have no likings for po piah because of the spoonfuls of sugar, salt and preservatives inside, this one made me reach out for one more on my palette. Not too salty with the traditional and well made thin elastic skin, this Po Piah definitely tastes much healthier with a generous sprinkle of crushed peanuts. What a pity though, that even though I could clearly see and feel the texture of the Alaskan Crab, the taste was overwhelmed by the preserved vegetables, save for some crabby sweetness in the aftertaste.
This is my second favourite of the lot. The Laksa is of a moderately spicy level and simply delicious! The gravy is definitely one of those made with fresh coconut, not the thick type, but still full of taste. Served in a small bowl to ensure you’ll still have space for the remaining of the 6 courses, there is no sparing for the partly candid filled eggs, fishcake and that large fresh prawn. I kept the soup throughout the whole course, reluctant to let the waiter succeed in clearing it.
Now for the STAR DISH in my heart.
This is the dish that got everyone sociable. If there is anything that would make me pay the full price to come back again, it would be this sinful delicacy worthy of a potbelly stomach. Cereal Prawns are one of the easiest and hardest dishes to make. While the ingredients are simple, fresh prawns, cereal, oil and spice like basil leave, the cooking process is difficult. The amount of cereal to oil must be correct accompanied by the right level of heat and stirring, else, what you’ll get is a culinary disaster of soft oily melted cereal that sticks to each other like glue. I am happy to report that this dish was exceptionally well done – I could taste and basil and some of us even ate the cereal by itself! (without the prawn) YUMS!
By this point of time, the strangers I was seated with around the table had opened up and started talking about food and life. Seated opposite me was Vivian Pei, a cook, writer, instructor and food geek with 5 countries and 5 languages under her belt. While I shared with her how difficult it was to make cereal prawns, she shared with me everything from cooking to fruit juice diet to kids to travel and being a expat living in Singapore.
Seated right opposite me was a serial diver from the W Hotel marketing team and on my right, was the founder of TheSmartLocal. Like what Matthew said, you’ll never know who might be seating next to you on a Social Dining table!
Next up, Singapore’s local favourite -Chilli Crabs and Fried Man Tou!
I say from the looks of Goddam Ramsey’s and Matthew Woolford Chilli Crabs, you can indeed trust a foreigner with a supreme local dish! Matthew choose to use mostly crab claws and legs, the fleshiest and more succulent part of a crab (in my opinion). The crabs are most fresh and the flesh is tender sweet and chewy. The sauce is rich and luxurious with substantial amount of egg pieces in it.
It is visually satisfying to dip everyone’s beloved golden crusty buns into the pot and watch as the sauce give the once-white bun a thick orange coat. Some ladies on the table actually preferred the buns more than the crab as it is easier to eat even though we were given 5 star weapons to battle the crab shells – I thought it would be better if all of the crabs were well cracked so that we could save the awkwardness of flying sauces and boomerang shells in front of acquaintances. Or a service when the diner had chosen his/her crab, a waiter brings the away the pick, strategically cracks the claw and returns with a plate that can be tackled with simply fork and chopsticks.
Item number 5 is the Sambal Inspired Squid, which is also my third personal favourite.
I am pretty sure there was something in the squid rings that made it extraordinary delicious, but I couldn’t put a finger to it. So just note that this dish is really good 😛
I got to be honest, I love eggs but this one is disappointing. The taste is not bad, however, I am not sure if the egg is overcooked or there is just not enough oil or sauce into it. It is definitely too dry for my liking. Perhaps some accompanying sauce might help, or just add more oil – yes I am one who lives to eat! 😛
Otherwise, I would actually call this the healthier version of our Or Jian/ Oyster Omelette 🙂
Now this brings back memories! If you have grown up with parents who simply needs to order kang kong with every zhi cha outing even though they know you can’t take chilli when you were young, this is time for revenge. I love water spinach, sambal-ed , boiled or with other ingredients. Chef Matthew had this well handled that brought out the great shiok taste of kang kong. Too bad there wasn’t any rice to go with this! Man, writing this at dinner time is making me hungry! >.<
Finally, when we thought we are all done with the humongous spread, dessert, which was not on the menu, was announced.
This is one truly unique dish! Served in a mason jar (everything served in mason jar must be good), dessert was Matthew Woolford’s very own ice kachang, and I can totally see his character is dish! Delightfully cheery with red strawberries, sweet like marshmellow, wacky and crisp like rice cereal and a loose nut in the head 😛 There’s pistachios inside!
As I am a Bailey’s freak, I had the waiter to add another gallon of baileys into my jar – highly recommended action 😛
Since it is a social dining experience, I do have to make friends and take wefies!
This lunch menu will be available at The Kitchen Table and for 9 pax only.
When : 16 August and 20 September
Price : $50++ per pax
Reservations: +6808 7268 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Set to reinvent the dining experience, Chef Matthew will curate and present a multitude of innovative culinary concepts on the third Saturday of every month from August 2014 onwards.
For more details, please visit www.facebook.com/wsingaporesentosacove or