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Good efforts but more work needed
FiSK Seafoodbar & Market
30 Stevens Road, #01-01
Tel: 6732 0711
Sunday and Monday: 11.30am to 7pm
Tuesday to Saturday: 11.30am to 4.30pm and 6pm to 10pm
THERE are many things in life that I would like to be: a viking is not one of them. There are many things I'd like to eat: pickled herring isn't one of them.
I look at pickled herring and see long, cold, barren winters in isolated lands, where fresh fish is scarce and Deliveroo even more so. It's not the kind of vision I like dancing in my head.
This mental disconnect with the Nordic way of life is what gets in the way of appreciating FiSK, a casual gourmet shop-cum-restaurant specialising in frozen Norwegian seafood. It's the new dining offshoot of Snorre - which has been supplying seafood to hotels and restaurants for 30 years and recently decided to serve what it sells.
It's taken up a nice, breezy space in the new Novotel hotel premises on Stevens Road, where you can pop in and buy its seafood home to cook, or pick from what's in the chiller displays and have it prepared by the inhouse kitchen.
Scandinavian minimalism seems to have extended to its repertoire at FiSK, where a skimpy selection of seafood sits in its otherwise very big chiller space. A few fish here, some salmon, a few bags of mussels, a slab of yellowtail make up the catch of the day, pretty much. There's a bigger selection in the freezer sections of the gourmet store.
While limited in choice, it's still better than the hits and misses on the menu in the adjoining restaurant.
The lunch menu is especially limited in choice, with just one set lunch and a handful of ala carte selections. The dinner menu is more substantial but it's still variations of the same theme - fish and seafood cooked in different ways.
Only the hardcore Nordic seafood fan - if there's such a thing - is likely to shell out S$250 per head for an ultimate feast of lobster, king crabs, prawns, scallops and more. You need to order this 24 hours in advance - we assume they need time to thaw.
Yes, you need to wrap your head around the concept that most of the seafood is frozen - the idea being that it can be as good as fresh. In many ways it can be, when seafood is caught and immediately frozen at sea. It's just that we're coloured by visions of frozen fish with one year expiry dates, languishing in gourmet supermarket freezers with visible signs of freezer burn.
Nonetheless, we try our luck with a seabass, mussels and sashimi from the counter and have it prepared for our table. The mussels (S$18) are fresh not frozen, with a pleasant clean flavour - simply steamed in its own juices with splashes of wine.
A little sashimi platter (S$28) of salmon and yellowtail (hamachi) is supermarket quality. We're not sure if the seabass (S$28) is fresh or defrosted, but the fact that we can nibble on the head without getting any fishy whiffs bodes well for it. But the flesh is a little on the powdery side, and it wouldn't beat a locally-farmed seabass if the two got into a boxing ring.
If you want to go 'native', there's a selection of not one but three kinds of marinated herring (S$11.50) which we're not mentally equipped to assess; and smorrebrod (S$6) each, which we didn't try.
The food at FiSK is generally average - a serviceable suburban (albeit a very nice suburb) eatery that offers convenience and decent pricing more than an elevated dining experience. It's dictated by its level of produce, which is mass-high quality, and ho-hum cooking.
All we remember about the raw hand-dived scallop with a calamansi dressing is its $29 price tag.
It's a decent effort, but time will tell if this concept has as long an expiry date as its frozen seafood.
Uni Gallery by OosterBay
7500A Beach Road, #B1-313, The Plaza
Open daily: 11.30am to 2.30pm and 6pm to 10pm
We may not be vikings but our secret wish is to be a Tsukiji stallholder with dibs on some of the best uni in Japan. We think Uni Gallery has the same aspiration, but unfortunately, got the short straw in that department.
This grungy eatery in the basement of an equally grungy hotel-office-shopping building in Beach Road is run by a Japanese seafood supplier, which, like FiSK, wants to have its own seafood and cook it, too.
By the looks of the steady flow of diners, there is never a short supply of eternal optimists looking for that elusive prize of cheap and good sushi and sashimi. But for every attempt, there is the inevitable result - that price will always be an indicator of the quality of the ingredients.
Taken individually, Uni Gallery's dishes fall into the relatively affordable category, averaging in the S$20 to S$30 plus range for most of the options.
The fact that uni, one of the most expensive members of the sashimi universe, falls into this price range is a nearly unheard of phenomenon that has brought the faithful from all parts of Singapore to witness - only to find that false gospel is being preached in this temple of raw.
One thing we will agree on is that quality notwithstanding, the sashimi here is mostly fresh.
Apparently we are there on a day when the seafood has just arrived, says our earnest server who scrambles to find us seats when it turns out that they don't have a record of our reservation.
We're squeezed into a very narrow counter overlooking the prep area and hot kitchen, which isn't the best view but never mind.
We kick off with a plate of giant oysters (S$36) that are fat and creamy but overly washed to the point that much of its natural brininess is replaced by the taste of tap water.
What follows is a fruitless pursuit of taste as we try to discern some flavour from all the dishes that appear before us.
There's a decent plate of mixed sashimi (S$28) that's fresh but average, chawanmushi with a lobe of uni; lacklustre sushi and a uni chirashi don (S$28.90) with a generous serving of uni that is fresh but seriously devoid of any briny flavour of sea urchin.
There is one bright spot. We spot a chef carefully grilling our salmon collar which we initially don't have much hope for, but it turns out to be the best dish - crackling-ly crisp skin and melting soft flesh within, which almost saves the meal for us.
Uni Gallery is one of those seemingly bargain priced outlets where the cost easily piles up and you're out a couple of hundred bucks by the end of the night.
It just serves to prove that cheap and good isn't just a pipe dream - mediocre and ultimately pricey is a reality we find ourselves in one too many times.
WHAT OUR RATINGS MEAN
10: The ultimate dining experience
7-7.5: Good to very good
Our review policy: BT pays for all meals at restaurants reviewed on this page. Unless specified, the writer does not accept hosted meals prior to the review's publication.