When a Michelin-starred restaurant, Singapore’s longest running music festival, and a restaurant of a well respected culinary group jointly present a dinner, the bar (and the stakes) is undoubtedly set very high. I had expectations – who wouldn’t when it’s Burnt Ends, ZoukOut, and FOC Sentosa? – especially since it was priced somewhat prohibitively for a pop-up dinner at $220++ per person excluding any kind of booze.
It’s not hard to imagine how I felt about the dinner from the title. While we generally don’t write negative reviews, the dinner left me confused enough that this piece is an attempt to make sense on what went down on the Saturday night of 1 December 2018.
Coachella, which featured three of Los Angeles’ hottest restaurants on its line-up this year, was cited as an inspiration for this attempt by ZoukOut. We applaud the festival’s initiative to do something new after 17 years, but not limiting it to the VIP ticket holders (as Coachella did) backfired since even riff raff like me could buy tickets despite not going to the festival. Perhaps it didn’t generate interest amongst the VIPs, but having to be financially responsible for the event diluted the very sense of exclusivity that it was meant to heighten in the first place.
Dinner started in typical Spanish fashion, with tapas circulated throughout the bar and dining room on the ground floor. The 11 types of small bites were a mix of offerings from both FOC Sentosa and Burnt Ends. Highlights of this session – unsurprisingly – include signatures of both restaurants like the Mushroom Croquetas and The Best Olives in the World (FOC’s molecular jigged olives), as well as Burnt Ends’ Beef Marmalade and the incredibly moreish Chicken Tacos.
There were premium, high quality ingredients, like the lovely Iberico ham on FOC’s Air Baguette and Burnt Ends’ twist on Steak Frites, which saw deep fried potato hash topped with beef tartare and a healthy portion of caviar. Service was the let down here. More than once, plates clattered on the table when they were set down in front of us and a couple of servers didn’t know what they were actually passing around (having to know what I’m eating in an occupational hazard).
The wine pairing option didn’t materialise so we got a bottle of wine to share before the two paella (vegetarian and squid ink) made their appearance. Some of our fellow diners were meant to party it up on Siloso Beach at ZoukOut after dinner so it’s strange that the alcohol programme was not more cohesive and in sync with the food. And instead of winding down towards a party vibe, the last part – a three-course sit-down – required us to move upstairs to the more formal setting of the brightly lit private dining rooms, which was more than slightly jarring after about two hours in a bar setting.
After all the tapas, something hearty and substantial was in order so FOC Sentosa’s Seafood Canelón came at the wrong time. We were ready for Burnt Ends’ Blackmore’s Striploin. Unfortunately, the sharing-plate serving style meant that we had no choice in how much of the accompanying lobster hollandaise to have with the beef, which is a beautiful cut of meat with a marbling score of 9+. It was still delicious, but having to scrape sauce from the meat was not something I thought I would be doing.
Also served by Burnt Ends, dessert – Pavlova and Milk & Cookies – was a blur because half the room left in a bid to get to the festival as the large number of diners (approximately 100) meant things got delayed. While it certainly didn’t apply to me, the pressure to leave the room was tangible.
In the end…
Despite our high cost of living in Singapore compared to neighbours in the region, $220++ goes a pretty long way here. Heck, it’ll get you a good meal at Burnt Ends with all the fiery action, a veritable feast at FOC Sentosa, and a VIP ticket to the next ZoukOut. I loved the idea of the event, but when the execution falls as flatly as this, it’s difficult not to go on a verbal diarrhoea fuelled by disappointment, such as this one.
Here’s to hoping I don’t get blacklisted for being honest; and I sincerely hope they get it better next year.
The ZoukOut x Burnt Ends x FOC dinner happened at FOC Sentosa, 110 Tanjong Beach Walk, Singapore 098943, on Saturday, 1 December 2018.
All images courtesy of Colossal Photos.