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Entertainment, Food & Beverage

Thai fine dining in style

The food at Tamarind Hill is contemporary Thai fine dining - a daring choice, considering Thai cuisine is better known for it's street food variations (and prices).
The Business Times - September 3, 2012
By: Debbie Yong
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Thai fine dining in style Daring choice: The platter, which comprised little cubes of tropical fruit-flavoured jellies on a skinny plate, and the scallop tempura, at Tamarind Hill (glowing elegantly in the evening), which is flanked by two dining rooms - PHOTO: SAMADHI RETREATS

NEW RESTAURANT

Tamarind Hill
30 Labrador Villa Road
Tel: 6270 1868

IT is the 1900s again, and the governor has invited you over for a dinner party.

Your driver sails past a set of Victorian wrought-iron gates atop Labrador Nature Reserve and into his driveway. A long garden path stretches out before you, which you stroll down slowly - because you're bourgeois enough to have time to smell the flowers - appreciatively contemplating the black and white villa that glows elegantly before you in the evening light.

Passing through Tamarind Hill's main doors, you enter his sitting room. There are antique Chinese medicine shelves, old paintings and comfortable sofas. You could linger there to kiss your hellos, or knock back a few aperitifs around the island bar in the building's high-ceilinged main hall.

Later, a tanned Asian woman with hooped earrings and jangly bangles on both arms welcomes you with a courteous "wai". She leads you into one of the two dining rooms that flank the building.

There, it's all dark wood and concrete floors with Buddha statues and exotic scrolls along the walls. There's a hum of ethnic music in the background and a faint whiff of floral incense - suddenly you feel like you've been transported to a tropical spa.

Then a man in fisherman pants and a smart cotton shirt places a menu in front of you. Oh right, you remember, snapping out of the mind-lulling fantasy, you're still in modern-day Singapore and you're here for dinner.

The food at Tamarind Hill is contemporary Thai fine dining - a daring choice, considering Thai cuisine is better known for it's street food variations (and prices) and there's only one Thai restaurant so far that's deemed to be of Michelin standards in Europe. Still, it doesn't daunt native Thai executive chef Thiti Thammanatr - he's done this before at Tamarind Hill's sister restaurant in Kuala Lumpur.

Fusion creations (though nobody wants to embrace that term these days) are aplenty on the menu. We ventured for the poached tiger prawns wrapped with smoked salmon starter ($18) as it was intriguingly risky odd pairing. Unfortunately, we were poorly rewarded. The salmon was dry and not that fresh, and while the prawns were poached to a delicate juiciness, it was obliterated by the salmon's robust, fatty taste. The lime and chilli sauce served on the side helped to lift the combination a little, but serving the prawns solo might have done them more credit.

Also a let-down was the crispy duck breast with green pea eggplant tempura ($22). Though the tempura coating gave the vegetables a crackling bite, when applied to the thin duck meat slivers and fried, it dried them out to a rubbery texture.

Luckily, the meal was redeemed by the wagyu sirloin with foie gras in green curry reduction ($45). The wagyu and foie gras were so tender and tasty, it scored points even without the curry. But the green curry - served in a small bowl we polished off entirely - added a fragrant buttery finish.

The steamed river lobster with Thai herbs and lime, at $17, was a steal. The acidity of the chilli and herb salad that beautifully coiffed the shellfish balanced out its milky sweetness.

A waiter enticed with his promise of pumpkin custard and mango black sticky rice in our Tamarind Platter for two ($22), but when it arrived, it comprised only eight little cubes of tropical fruit-flavoured jellies on a skinny plate. The manager (aforementioned jangly bangle woman, now motherly and concerned) cooed her apologies citing inexperienced young chefs and waived the charge. Already lulled into a zen-like acquiescence by the surroundings, we bore no grudges. All the more reason to return again to try the rest of the desserts anyway.

Tamarind Hill does $36 lunch sets too, though dinner promises a more magical time. Just don't stay until closing time (or adjourn for drinks on the outdoor verandah if you do) when the clang of plates being cleared in the kitchen reverberate through the lofty space and ruin the fantasy.

Rating: 7/10

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