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Afterthoughts – Sassy-hosted Dinner at Sal Curioso

Last night, a few girlfriends and I attended a dinner hosted by Sassy at the up-and-coming Sal Curioso, the casual sister restaurant of Madam Sixty Ate.  The location is central, right across the street from the busy section of LKF, with a view of the Fringe Club garden rooftop.  The restaurant is a lot smaller and casual compared to Madam Sixty Ate, with a small bar section.  However, it also came dressed in the whimsical art that I always associate with Madam Sixty Ate.  

The event was a girls only dinner to taste test the menu of Sal Curioso, and I must say, I was rather “curious” to find out the concept behind the restaurant.  We started off with a cocktail called Quo Vardis, a concoction of cointreau, campari, orange / lemon juice and prosecco.  It was good although on the sweet side – I’m not a sugary cocktail kind of gal.  While we mingled, canapes of prawn cracker tartare, brandada croquettes and cerveza bread sardines circulated amongst the guests.  I was too busy juggling drinks and canapes in between conversations to take pictures of these canapes.  I did rather enjoy the prawn cracker tartare (although it was a bit messy to eat) and the brandada croquettes was deep fried yumminess!  The cerveza bread sardines was too big and cumbersome for a canape, and way too saturated with oil for my taste.  

After being seated at our designated tables, and a round of introductions around the table with my new dinner buddies, we dug into a selection of appetizers.  I must thank the girls at my table, Diane, Clare, Leanne, Alison, Anna, Joanne and Kim, for being such good sports in waiting patiently for me to snap a photo before sampling each plate.  I only had my iPhone handy, so the pictures are not of the best quality – but hey, I tried!

First up, was the three dip cerveza bread, with avocado mousse, cumin eggplants, and saffron tomato sofrito.  The bread was dark and rustic, and made with beer.  However, the flavours were marginal and this wouldn’t be considered a worthy appetizer in my books.

Next, came the Peruvian duck ceviche, a duck confit mixed with orange tonic foam and sliced citrus.  I liked the contrast between the savory duck and the sweet citrus, but felt that the foam detracted rather than complimented the dish.  Also, I was puzzled by the name of the dish, as ceviche is made with raw seafood seeped in citrus juice, while the duck confit was fully cooked.  The only parallel I could see between this and a traditional ceviche is the use of citrus and coriander.

Following this, we were presented with a dish of seared scallops and chorizo sausage on a bed of corn bread crumble.  I love chorizo, and was anticipating a combination of zingy textured meat encased in caramelized, crisp sausage skin.  Alas, what came was mushy, and uninspiring, with big cubes of fat (not melted) falling out of a soggy sausage casing.  I really enjoyed the bouncy scallops though, which were seared perfectly.  

Our final appetizer came in the form of a beautifully brushed bowl of seared squid, saffron mussels with potatoes.  The squid was cooked perfectly, juicy and not a hint of rubberiness.  The mussels were succulent as well.  I would say that this is the overall winner of the appetizers.  

A lot of thought went into planning the event, and so, in order to maximize opportunities for guests to meet new acquaintances, a seat swap followed the conclusion of appetizers.  I felt like I was back during sorority Rush Week (go Gamma Phis!), where we tried to meet and chat with as many girls as possible.  It was a great way to meet new friends.  

Moving on to mains, the first dish to arrive was sherry marinated tomatoes with torta del casa cheese whip.  We tried in vain to find the cheese whip in question, but no one was able to discover this treasure trove.  Overall, the dish just tasted like tomatoes tossed in balsamic.  

Next, came a plate of roasted beets with shaved Manchego, walnuts and beetroot gel.  Let’s just say that the dish looked prettier than it tasted.  There was nothing intriguing about the flavours here.  

I did enjoy the Tunisian spiced lamb leg with sweet potato fried balls.  There was a strong note of cinnamon infused into the lamb and it conjured up images of Christmas. However, I would have preferred the lamb to have been cooked a little bit longer as it was quite rare.

Now, we had to send this dish back twice.  The green chili charred chicken was good in essence – the chicken breast was succulent and tender, but we wished the chicken leg was actually “charred”.  We cut into the chicken leg on two separate attempts, and both times, the meat was undercooked and very pink.  Being residents of the land of SARS, we were very cautious about eating raw chicken, and had to send this dish back twice.  However, the pinkness did not improve despite our two attempts.  

Rounding up the mains was a dish called Biscay marmitako.  Marmitako literally means cooked “in a pot” and is a traditional fish stew commonly found along the bay of Bisney.  The fish is typically stewed with tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and spices, although our version also came with diced chorizo, which added to the spice notes of the dish.  Sal Curioso’s interpretation of this dish also came with seared swordfish, which was a welcomed diversion from the classic recipe.  This dish was good, although in no way, outstanding.

Dessert was served in the bar to create a more interactive environment.  I enjoyed the cocktail (Hong Kong bramble), a mix of gin, blackberry liqueur and lemon.  However, I was not delighted with the dessert options.  Between balancing my drink and conversations, I was able to snap a few blurry iPhone photos of the four dessert options (from left, clockwise):  rice pudding popcorn, porn star pavlova, strawberry champagne spiders, and key lime pie.

I was able to try three of the desserts, but missed out on the key lime pie.  I liked the strawberry champagne spiders (why, is it called spider?) although it was quite difficult to eat as the diced strawberries and whipped cream tend to get stuck in the shot glass.  An attempt to eat this could mean a face full of champagne.  Hehehe NOT so delightful. We did not like the porn star pavlova (why is it called porn star, anyways?) as it left a very sour aftertaste (Mm…..hence the name?)  The rice pudding popcorn was also not popular with our group, as it had a weird herby taste that no one was expecting, or liked.

Verdict:  First of all, great event hosted by Sassy.  It was a good opportunity to try something new, and to give our feedback to the restaurant before their grand opening.  Having said this, this is not a place I’d be rushing back to anytime soon.  Madam Sixty Ate, although not memorable, is steps ahead of this new addition.  I felt the menu lacked a centralized narrative, and came across as trying to hard to sound interesting, or shall I say, “curious” while lacking in real substance.  The kitchen execution definitely needs to improve before diners will get “curious” about this restaurant.  

Sal Curioso

2/F, 32 Wyndham Street, Central

2537 7555

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