Published on Tuesday, 17 May 2016 00:00
Written by Cheryl Teo Kai Lin
Tucked away in a beautiful colonial building that is the Pinacothèque De Paris within Fort Canning Park, lies a gastronomical treasure trove lavished with glittering cocktails and exquisite culinary delights. Enter FORT by Maison Ikkoku – a unique gastrobar specializing in bespoke cocktails concocted to your exact specifications, and one of the most affordable 12-course omakase at just $68++ per pax.
The dimly-light restaurant with its elegant furnishings gives off a romantic ambience with a tinge of a grunge vibe from the huge filament bulbs, each giving off a singular burst of light, dangling from the industrial styled ceiling.
Ethan Leslie Leong
Maison Ikkoku was established in 2011 by chef-turned-world-renowned-mixologist, Ethan Leslie Leong. Ethan has perfected his legendary cocktail techniques to a fine art and pairs bespoke cocktails alongside his meticulous Japanese-European culinary creations.
Matteo describing the bespoke cocktail
Ethan regularly goes behind the bar to whip up his special alcoholic concoctions alongside Matteo Caddedu, an award winning mixologist from Italy. Like Ethan himself, Matteo has a keen sense for delivering on his customers' preferred flavors for their cocktails. I vaguely told him that I would like something sweet and floral, and he created the most gorgeous cocktail I have ever laid eyes on that tastes as good as it looks.
The Rose Bullet
Since all of FORT's cocktails are uniquely created to cater for each individual's tastebuds, you will have the opportunity of naming your own special blend. This was the first of many cocktails to come, but it was by far, the best cocktail I have ever consumed. Fresh grapes, rosebuds, lemon juice, eggwhite and gin were used in the birth of this pretty pink amalgamation. The cocktail was sweet, delicate and light with a strong bouquet of roses masking the taste of the gin. I named it the Rose Bullet for its intense floral notes.
The Yuzu Passionate (a very lame attempt at a pun - “you so passionate”) is a simple blend of passionfruit, yuzu and whisky.
The Green Imp
With black grapes, matcha and vodka being the trifecta of the Green Imp, Ethan's spur-of-the-moment cocktail turned out to be extremely refreshing and delicious. Ethan managed to eliminate the bitterness of the matcha with the sugary sweet black grapes, while still retaining the flavor of the matcha with the slightest hint of vodka. It was so invigorating in this hot and humid climate that I practically downed the whole glass.
Bubbly Spice – a light and slightly spicy cocktail infused with beer
Champagne with lavender spheres
What you see resting at the bottom of this champagne flute are lavender spheres or as Jane from Maison Ikkoku calls her “little round boys”. Ethan and Matteo would occasionally throw in these lavender pearls into champagne or cocktails for that party-in-your-mouth burst of flavor. The spherification process takes three painstaking hours for each little pearl to be formed. The bubbles from the drink will push them upwards where you can take little sips with a pearl each for a more multi-dimensional texture and taste.
These bespoke cocktails cost between $22 - $26 each, and they are the perfect drinks to raise a toast to the celebration of birthdays, anniversaries and other special events, considering the fact that you can request for either Ethan or Matteo to guide you through making your special concoction behind the bar, following which, the cocktail can be named after you.
Priced at just $68++ per pax, this 12-course fusion omakase is probably one of the most affordable omakases in town. The wonderful element of omakase is that you leave the fate of your palette up to the whims of the chef, there is no humming and hawing over the menu, and you just go with the flow.
Please do not implicate these awesome chefs and Ethan with manslaughter
Of course, you should inform the culinary team of your dietary restrictions so that they don't run the risk of accidentally killing you from an allergic reaction. The chef will choose the freshest produce obtained that day for your omakase, so do take note that your courses may slightly differ from mine.
Salad in a Jar
My first course was an appetizer of assorted pickled vegetables that is crunchy and slightly sour to whet the appetite. It was then followed by a salad jar served with a sauce consisting of wasabi, soy sauce, citrus juice and vinegar. With the wasabi citrus sauce, avodaco and crushed wasabi peanuts, the salad was refreshing, tart, salty, sweet, savory, crunchy, and slightly spicy all at the same time.
Smoked Goose Conchiglie with Parmigiano-Reggiano
The springy conch-shaped pasta holds all the lovely creamy sauce in its grooves, with generous chunks of smoked goose scattered throughout the dish. The smoked goose was tender, juicy and the smokiness is also transferred to the pasta, giving it a rich and earthy flavor without being too overwhelming.
Oyster with Ikura
Seductively served over a bed of ice, the oyster is crunchy and juicy, and the ikura has a membrane so crisp and fresh that the sweet and salty juices contained within automatically pops in your mouth.
Tuna Carpaccio with Kaffir Lime/Truffle Oil
There are two variations to the tuna carpaccio – kaffir lime and truffle oil. The kaffir lime gives a light, buttery and refreshing taste to the tuna carpaccio where as the truffle oil is rich, musky and earthy. I preferred the kaffir lime tuna carpaccio as the tuna sashimi is so rich and tender that it melts in the mouth, and the lime offsets the fishy taste that tends to linger from a strong tasting fish like tuna.
FORT's lobster bisque slightly differs from the other lobster bisques served in French restaurants as it gravitates towards a lighter consistency and a few extra fusion ingredients. It contains just a touch of cream so that it still has that milky flavor without being too overwhelmingly thick. The lobster bisque has a sweet and spicy taste akin to tom yam soup with a very fragrant and concentrated lobster aroma.
The FORT Roll is one of the restaurant's most popular signature dishes and it is easily justifiable why this is a crowd pleaser with just one bite. A secret blend of chilli sauce is mixed with minced maguro tuna with a chunk of cucumber before it is wrapped up in sushi rice and onion sprouts. The minced raw tuna is so soft it practically disintegrates in your mouth with the chilli sauce packing a big punch of spice. The cucumber and onion sprouts provide a nice crunchy contrast to the soft ingredients and tones down the intensity of the spicy tuna.
Some chefs say that the simpler the dish, the harder it is to perfect it, and anyone who has tried cooking eggs, especially soft boiled ones, will know exactly what this means. An exact ratio of boiled water to cold water needs to measured accordingly before an organic free-range egg is put into the pot for an “onsen bath” for a couple of minutes to achieve the highly viscous state of the onsen egg. Garlic oil, soy sauce, mirin and nori are added to the onsen egg for flavor. Slurping it down whole made the yolk burst forth like a raptured dam and flooded my whole mouth with eggy goodness and the sweet, salty, garlicky sauce.
Salmon Aburi Sushi with Ikura
With a generous piece of salmon belly sashimi entirely covering the sushi rice, the top of the salmon is seared with a blowtorch so that the fat melts marginally and creates a smoky flavor from the slightly charred bits while the bottom remains raw. It is then topped with Japanese mayonnaise and ikura. The end result is a heavenly piece of Japanese art that melts in your mouth like butter with the juicy ikura popping its lovely juices everywhere. Never has consuming a mother and child together tastes so good as it does at FORT.
This mini lamb burger comprises of lettuce, cabbage, seaweed, thyme, Japanese mayonnaise, FORT's secret seasoning, and of course, a juicy lamb patty cooked medium rare. The viscid lamb patty oozed its juices all over my cutlery as I sliced into it, and it was extremely tender and flavorful.
The eel is grilled to perfection and has a very crisp flavor which is derived from its freshness. It has a very delicate taste and its flesh is soft but flaky. Eating it on its own might tend to overwhelm your tastebuds as it is very sweet, but the rice perfectly balances that out.
The shiso sorbet marked the end of my 12-course feast. With its zestiness and zing, it helps to clear the palette and leaves you feeling refreshed.
Ethan is a creative genius both in the kitchen and behind the bar. My experience at FORT by Maison Ikkoku exceeded all expectations and blew me away especially with the warm hospitality that the team shows to all their guests. FORT is a restaurant truly like no other – with its unparalled service, bespoke cocktails and impeccable food, this establishment is the perfect venue for special occasions, girls' night out, romantic dates or just unwinding after a hard day's work.
Address: 5 Cox Terrace, Singapore Pinacotheque De Paris, #01- 02/03, Singapore 179620
Opening Hours: Daily 4PM till Late
Tel: +65 6336 0507