Thursday, June 28, 2012

Singapore Food Blog - Ambush @ Jurong Point

Location: Jurong West, Singapore

Passing by this small and cramped area in Jurong Point shopping mall, I always wondered what it was to dine within such a confined area, with crowds able to see what it was which you ordered, as well as the look on your face when you sampled a bite off the steak you sawed through.

The catchy name of Ambush was quite intriguing, as well as the range of choices it offered off its menu. The dining joint had a well-deserved boast of offering a taste from Europe, as it was one of the few restaurants which offered truly something from different corners of the continent at a price affordable to us poor middle-class workers. Its slogan said it all - A piece of Europe on your plates.

Seated within the open restaurant allowed one to look around at the frenzy of shoppers, but you will need to learn to ignore the open stares directed to your dish. Otherwise, the small place with its chic design does seem to bring a piece of Europe with it.

Behind this counter lies an open kitchen partially visible from the walkway opposite. The counter itself had a colorful array of bottled sauce - wasn't sure whether those were for sale or only placed there for decoration purposes.

The queue outside Ambush was horribly long. Fortunately, a menu was handed to us while waiting, and passer-by could take a look at the same menu off a signboard just at the entrance.

I was not particularly thrilled to sit in an open area right in the middle of a mall's plaza, with the possibility of people dropping something from the walkway above. The cramped dining area need diners to be seated practically elbow to elbow with occupants of the next table. Even walking to your table after settling nature's call seemed like a challenge with those narrow aisle between tables. And the queue is always horribly long. Sigh...

Even with these downsides listed at the beginning, this is still a place worthy of recommendation, and I got an impression why it is named as Ambush. Maybe it was related to how you could be ambushed by something dropped from above, though I sincerely doubt that this is the reason. However, dining here could really be a pleasant surprise, especially with the choice of food being offered here. Surprised enough, to overlook all the previous negative points.

Complementing the chic design of the restaurant was an equally creative menu. Printed and designed like a newspaper, diners unfold and flip through the 4 pages long menu and choose from the advertised food and drinks. Please remember to return the menu - it's not really your newspaper...

If I were to give my two cents worth (which I am giving here anyway), I would choose two words to describe Ambush - creative and chic. Nothing is more evident than its menu's design to reflect my first choice word. A newspaper design which unfolded into a 4-page long menu offering dishes from around the Mediterranean as well as the North Sea, diners holding up the menu while waiting in the queue gave passer-by an impression of them patiently reading a paper to kill time. 

The chic design is reflected off the way the restaurant was portrayed, from curly hand-drawn cartoon and motifs decorating panes of transparent glass to the choice of wooden furniture, showing themselves in sync with the fashion of modern younger generation.

Three drinks for the three musketeers! The yellowish Passion Fruit (right) tasted a little weird (and slightly sour?), while the dark crimson Strawberry (left) topped with vanilla was milder with a slight sweetness. In contrast, the rosy red Raspberry (middle front) scored a point with its stronger taste though it was a little high on sweetness.

There are not many drinks to choose from, with mainly fizzies of different flavor and coffees gracing the section. The salad section is quite interesting though, with 3 out of its 5 selections containing flesh. There goes the thought of ordering salads for vegetarians. The main entrees are of course the real eye-openers, with choices offered from Germany, Spain, Italy and Belgium. 

The Germans offered the meatier meals, from their wurst (sausage in German) to their meat loaves to the famous pork knuckle. The Spanish conquered their section with their paella, a counterpart of our fried rice but with rice of larger grain. No western menu could be complete without Italian pastas, and the all-time favorites of spaghetti, linguine, penne and fusilli are all available for matching with the contents of the dish. The Belgium joined the fray with pots of seafood, which we did not get to try it. Maybe next time.

Duck Breast Salad ($9.20) is as interesting as a salad could go - it comes with meat. The duck flesh is deliciously chewy, and served with slices of juicy Mandarin orange, the bowl can be considered as a healthier choice if not for the vinaigrette dressings. Digging into the bowl reminds me of cows grazing in a meadow.

For Italian pasta, we singled out Baby Scallop Spaghetti with Fish Roe Cream ($13.80). We did considered the alternative of squid ink in lieu of fish roe cream, but we shied away from it and voted unanimously on the familiar creamy white sauce. It was a worthy seafood pasta, with sauteed Japanese baby hotates (that's scallop) forming its namesake as well as tangerines orbs of fish roes. The scallops are succulent, matching the spaghetti that is made silky smooth by the slightly sweet cream.

Wasn't quite sure of what to pick? Why not take a shot at a dish they confidently named after themselves? Ambush's Paella ($13.80) is one of the few choices of offered Spanish paellas, the Western counterpart of our fried rice. Served with a range of shelled marine delicacies along with bacon and sausages, the larger grains of rice could give the local fried rice a run for their money, if not for its higher price tag. The rice is not sticking to each other the way I experienced in some paellas, which is what I loved most about Ambush's variant. The small wok which the dish was served in was a little disappointing though, as it was barely enough to fill a person's tummy. The dish is served to be tangy, so be prepared for a Western 'tomato seafood fried rice', although one should not draw any parallel between both dishes aside from the name.

I would not know if the Germans really celebrate their annual festival, but Oktoberfest Platter ($16.50) does sound like something to try without the need to go to that land far away. Arrayed within the platter are a cut of pork knuckle, meat loaf and smoked bratwurst (a type of German sausage), all in the company of sauerkraut (a kind of sour cabbage) and mashed potato. The crunchy pork knuckle and other two succulent meaty partners are fulfilling to anybody wanted to try out the main food of the German culture. Not to be forgotten is the mashed potato with viscous and tasty gravy, much like KFC's popular variant.

For anyone craving to visit Europe but hadn't save enough money for the trip, getting to Ambush for a taste of Europe before the trip is my best advise. There exists another 2 branches in Bishan and Orchard for diners in Northern and Central region to dine in. Who needs to go to Europe when we had 3 Ambush(es) right here?

Suitable for:            lunch out or dine out with friends, or have a celebration to commemorate an anniversary. Particularly recommended for the latter, as well as for a romantic dinner for 2.
Cost:                             Occasional; not exactly cheap, and not exactly enough to fill the rumbling stomach of a constantly hungry man (that's me...)

Contact:                      +65 - 6795 9606
Address:                       1, Jurong West Central 2, #02-24, Jurong Point Shopping Centre, Singapore 648886
Operating hours:   Sun - Thu (11.00a.m. - 9.30p.m.)
                                          Fri - Sat (11.00a.m. - 10.00p.m.)

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