Mitchell Yeo (Year 2) – Winner of Week 12
Nestled away amidst the lush greenery, The Dunearn is the F&B outlet run by NUSS at Bukit Timah Guild House.
The Dunearn appears to cater to all: those seeking relaxed and casual dining can dine alfresco at the terrace; those seeking a more intimate (and formal) dining experience can choose the restaurant itself; and those in a celebratory mood can book the two private rooms (The Raffles and The Eusoff). As an occasional patron of The Dunearn, I have had the luxury of dining at both the terrace and the restaurant multiple times.
The service is generally prompt and efficient, and waiting staff are polite and friendly. Don’t expect fine dining standards though — the staff are not going to explain the precise ingredients to you upon serving your dishes!
Let’s move on to the dishes shall we? [As I type this review, I can almost taste the truffle oil and the balsamic honey…]
As we all (should) know, a warm and hearty loaf of bread to start the meal is absolutely essential to setting the mood for the entire meal to come. The Dunearn got this starting step right: The bread was quite warm and of quite good consistency. It wasn’t as mind-blowingly fantastic as the kind you’d expect for Au Jardin, but it was definitely hearty enough to bring cheer to our glum demeanours.
Z and I decided to add on 2 appetizers to our meal to complete the dining experience.
The Truffle Infused Cep & Morel Mushrooms ($10.50) (soup) is my favourite dish in this restaurant. I make it a point to have this gastronomical delight whenever I dine at The Dunearn. For starters, the dish is served in an interesting fashion: the plate-bowl comes with the mushrooms, and the waiter/waitress proceeds to pour the mushroom soup into the plate-bowl. The truffle oil adds deep texture to this soup dish, giving it a flavourful aroma that I would analogise with wine.
The Prawn Bisque comes with the set lunch. While I preferred the mushroom soup a whole lot more, Z assured me that he liked the bisque better (but I could tell from the way he slurped the mushroom soup that he wasn’t being completely honest!) This soup has a thick consistency and the flavor of the prawns comes out very strongly. Prawn lovers delight!
The Flamed Wagyu Tataki with Truffle Shoyu & French Shallots ($16.80) is admittedly quite expensive — as you can see from the picture, the dish consists of razor-thin slices of wagyu beef that has been ever-so-lightly seared. Some parts are still pink. Having said that, this is a wonderful dish if you have a penchant for truffle-based dishes. The shallots and the shoyu bring to this dish a delightful sweet-and-sour base that.
Confit of Chicken Supreme Salad with Sweetened Plum Dressing comes as part of the cold appetizer choice in the set lunch. It was quite a decent dish, and perhaps I am unable to sing high praise because the rest of the dining experience overshadowed whatever satisfaction I derived from this particular dish.
For my main course, I opted for the Salmon en Papilote with Mixed Herbs and Balsamic Honey served with Sautéed Spinach in accordance with my personal policy to choose the fish at least two-thirds of the time. It turned out to be a great choice. The salmon was filleted, folded, and then baked. The salmon was wrapped in a popiah-like skin. I could not think of any complaint for this dish — the fish was fresh, and the balance of flavour was perfected by the honey and herbs. Truly an utterly satisfying dish.
Z’s choice of main course is surely the winner for the longest dish title: “Grilled Lamb Cutlet on bed of Tomato Chutney topped with Minty Rosemary Sauce served with Onion Confit”. Z gave generally good comments about this dish, and made some vague mention about the balance between the lean and fatty portions of the lamb. I personally tried a bit — taking bites of the lamb brought back fond memories of Z and I lost in the endless dunes of the Gobi Desert, eating nothing but mutton (both preserved and super-fresh variants). As I do not particularly like mutton, I was very thankful that the strong flavor characteristic of mutton was quite artfully balanced with the rosemary and onion.
The sole choice for dessert was the Hazelnut Chocolate Mousse Cake with Blackcurrent Sorbet. I’m not a fan of nuts in general (yes, I don’t like nutella as a result), but still found the hazelnut chocolate mousse palatable. I presume that it’s because of the chocolate. What really stood out for this dessert, however, was the curious pairing of the blackcurrent sorbet. A generous serving of berries accompanied the single scoop of ice-cream, and if you have ever eaten berries direct, you will know that the taste is overpowering. I thought that the sorbet itself would help to balance the extreme fruity sweetness of the berries, but I found that the sorbet itself tasted almost as strong as the berries themselves. This dessert was hence something I would call curious — it satisfied every single bit of my craving for sweetness, but yet the overwhelming fruity essence left me in a diner’s daze.
Finally, I had tea to top the meal off. Plain old Twining’s, with a literal pinch of sugar.
I really enjoy my food. I really enjoy hunting for restaurants. I have a good friend who runs a food blog. And I say that The Dunearn really does a good job at providing the comfortable dining experience replete with generous servings. The price of the set meal varies from month to month — historically this was $25++ (but students don’t get charged service tax), but now it’s $30++ (although they added in wine pairing). They also have a flexible set lunch of $49++, but this allows you to choose the full breadth of the menu offerings (some of which are quite splendid indeed).
If you don’t want to spend two-digit sums on a lunch just yet, do consider giving The Dunearn a try for late-night post-studying snacks and drinks. Their 3-litre tiger beer tower goes for about $55, and they have a number of other cheap cocktail options (for those not inclined to beer). They have a terrific list of scrumptious $6.90 snacks (note that the kitchen closes at 10.30pm), of which my favourite are the calamari and the wasabi prawn.
I’ve been in BTC for close to 2 years — and I’d say I spend quite a fair amount of time in school. I encourage everyone to give The Dunearn two shots — one for alfresco snacks and drink, and one for semi-formal/fine dining. There are a number of similarly priced restaurants about 10-15 minutes away on foot — but why go so far if such a great option is just across the road from The Summit?