Tuesday, July 03, 2012

House, Dempsey I

When we feel like having Western food, our go-to place is usually The Ship Restaurant & Bar at Shaw Centre. Over there, service is good, quality is consistent, our food arrives fast, and it is no trouble at all to have my fries substituted with vegetables. But one weekend, we wanted to try a different Western restaurant, and having read some reviews about its food, we decided to give House at Dempsey a shot.

To get to the restaurant from the carpark, you have walk down a steep flight of stairs. At night, path is dimly lit, so be careful!

In the daytime, House's many glass-paned doors allow natural light to shine in. They also let you have your meal surrounded by lush greenery, so that you might feel like you are in a restaurant in the middle of a jungle.

You may also be able to see from the pictures above and below that the old, retro-type furniture at House is a real mix. It seemed like no sets of tables and chairs were the same. At one table you might get rickety-feeling wooden chairs and a wooden bench. At another you might get hotel lounge looking armchairs with white padding. Even the chairs at each table might be different.

House is kind of divided into three sections. The section of the restaurant at the entrance is more brightly lit, and its tables more spaced out (see picture above). The section further back is quite dimly lit, and the tables are closer together. Finally there is at least one room for private events at the furthest end of the restaurant.

The paper placemats were intriguing... a Western restaurant selling tau sar pau and teh tarik?

I was impressed at the types of fries House serves as flavoured fries made out of tubers other than potatoes are common in the US, but not so in Singapore. Despite being tempted by the truffle taro fries, we decided against ordering a batch since some of the mains we had in mind would come with fries on the side.

After staring at the menu for close to ten minutes, we decided to go with the Macadamia Crusted Pumpkin Salad as an appetizer. As mains, my father went with the Squid Ink Paella; my mother decided to have the Old-fashioned American Sliders; I chose the Moroccan Spiced Baby Chicken, which our server said would take 20 minutes to be ready.

It took a good 30 minutes for the Macadamia Crusted Pumpkin Salad to arrive. By then, we had read the menu in detail multiple more times and were getting annoyed. It was a good thing that the dish was delicious enough to soothe our irritation.

In the menu, the dish is described as "Fleshy pumpkin oozes sweetness with sun-dried tomatoes and roasted macadamia nuts on a bed of argula greens. Served with a light mustard dressing". What we got was warm, soft, sweet caramelized pumpkin with skin on, against the bitterness of crisp argula, with drops of a lovely tangy mustard dressing, and bits of crushed macadamia nuts. I do not remember seeing any sun-dried tomatoes, but the gorgeous combination and contrast of tastes and textures were already more than sufficient.

After finishing the salad, we were eagerly anticipating our mains. 10 minutes went by... 20... 30... it was only after about 45 minutes that our mains we served to us. We were starving, and were getting angry at the amount of time our mains were taking. Other people that had arrived later than us had received their pizzas, finished them and left, and we were still tapping our feet, twiddling our thumbs, waiting for our mains.

In the menu, the Squid Ink Paella is described as "A star fish! Seafood paella with clams, prawns, squid, black olives, semi-dried tomatoes and sauteed capsicum. Comes out with a crusty top, a garnish of parmesan cheese and fresh coriander."

The gigantic pan of paella was certainly studded with seafood (although it seemed like that parmesan cheese garnish was missing), and my father, who has a huge appetite, could not finish it. He commented that it tasted alright, but reminisced the seafood paella he had in Chicago instead.

The menu describes the Old-fashioned American Sliders as "A pair of hot buns. Mini burgers accompanied with a mixture of sweet ptoato and truffle fries. Served medium well and all day!" Additionally, the menu allows you to choose part of the contents of your burger: "Loaded with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, pickles and "secret sauce"", or "Plain with truffled aioli", or "Sauteed msuhroom and onions", or "Cheddar cheese and bacon", or "Bleu cheese and bacon". My mother chose the first option.

When my mother unwrapped her burgers, they did not look particularly appetizing. The burger buns looked squishy, and one of the top halves of the burger bun (far left in the picture above) even had a big burn mark on it. My mother was not happy with the burgers, saying that the meat was tasteless and dry. Either the chefs forgot to add the "secret sauce", or they put in too little. Quality control anyone?

If anything, at least the amount of fries served with the sliders was generous.

My Moroccan Spiced Baby Chicken is described in the menu as "For a lil Moroccon madness at the table! Marinated spiced baby half chicken paired with fresh tomato-berry chutney. Served with sides of yam crisps, sauteed fennel and baby bok choy."

Pushing the shoestring yam fries to my mother (who liked them much more than her truffle fries), I tore into the chicken. Was it a baby chicken or a spring chicken? Either way, it was tinier than I remember spring chickens to be, with disappointingly little meat for a main that costs $25. At Dallas Restaurant and Bar, their Roasted Crispy Chicken goes for $22 and is a beautiful meaty, fleshy half chicken. I could have eaten two plates of the Moroccan Spiced Baby Chicken.

The dark meat was sufficiently moist and tender, but the white meat was dry-overcooked and tough. House's marinade clung to the chicken skin, and had unfortunately not been absorbed into the meat. As for the chutney, my mother tried a sliver of the chicken with it, and agreed that the chutney was a little too sweet.

In summary, our dinner was one hit, three misses, and three starving diners infuriated by the maddening wait-time. If it was the Moroccan Spiced Baby Chicken that was holding the other two mains up, could they not have prepared the dish at the same time that they were preparing the Macadamia Crusted Pumpkin Salad, and while we were eating it? According to its website, House was opened in 2007. Considering that it has been around for about 6 years, it is surprising that the kitchen has not gotten things down to pat.

I leave you with pictures of the desserts they offer.


8D Dempsey Road
Singapore 249672
Tel: 64757787

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