Friday, May 20, 2022

Another New Opening

I managed to get a table at the new restaurant Vivant after running into owners Josh and Caleb one random evening a couple of weeks prior to their opening. What a pity their Cut Sando Bar concept didn’t quite work out when it has to be closed most of the time because of COVID restriction, but in its place is this new rustic bistro concept conveniently situated at the corner of Wellington and Lyndhurst Terrace right at the foot of the stone steps of Pottinger Street. 

One couldn’t help but saw some distinct resemblance of the place to the another French bistro-style restaurant that used to be on Gough Street, with the same wooden style décor from their façade to the dining area. Double that sense of resemblance was their head chef Jeston who came through the ranks in that very restaurant too, but we were assured that the menu and style is totally different, which I concurred after trying out a few of their dishes. 

I am willing to give them some leeway given it’s their first week of business and the place was literally packed front to back, but being seated at our table late (some 15 minutes after the original booking time) meant we had to start ordering and eating whilst standing and waiting outside the restaurant and the rest of the dishes had to come in quick succession with us feeling the constant need to hurry before the government-mandated 10pm closing time for all restaurants. 

I would describe the dining area as tight and cozy – best for a quick meal or casual gathering with friends but certainly not for an elaborate date or business meeting. Almost every table has a good view of the open kitchen where all the dishes came out from. That’s an impressive feat by Chef Jeston’s team given the vast a la carte menu (all filled on a single page) and a crowd of hungry souls to feed. And the vibe was lively, true to the restaurant's name. 

Let’s just say I was much cheered up from the time the first dish was served because (most of) the food was worth all the fuss. The Pomodoro Pain Perdu was magical with the umami flavor of amaebi (Japanese sweet shrimps) served on a perfectly toasted bread smothered with tomatoes. The eel rillette looks like another dish of finger sandwich but instead of bread, it’s served on the crispy “potato millefeuille” which contrasted well with the creamy topping with a hint of smoke.

Both beef dishes were excellent – first the bits of short ribs trimmings marinated and grilled on a skewer in Japanese kushiniku style, then the slab of short ribs done sous vide til melt-in-the-mouth tender and served in a generous spoonful of the creamy peppercorn sauce. Many of the dishes featured seasonal seafood commonly found in local wet market. The giant clams was done in its own broth and a dash of wine perhaps, and finished with bits of chorizo and squeeze of makrut juice – it was a simple dish done perfectly right. The “charred” squid was not as charred as the menu description suggested but to great effect nonetheless, with squids cut into thin ribbons, given a quick toss in a skillet and served lukewarm with tonnato sauce and fried capers. 

The bowls of tortellini with green pea puree took a break from the rick flavor in the other courses with something light, refined and refreshing. The turbot was our last course, with the piece of fillet taken from a decent-sized fish pan-fried and served with the rich Colbert sauce with lots of brown butter, sauteed shallots and herbs. That nutty, rich and aromatic sauce was good with the fish with firm meat and the portion was big enough for 3-4 people for sharing. The chunks of fondant potatoes as side worked fine as well – perfectly crispy on the crust and soft and almost creamy on the inside. 

Ran out of time (and room) for desserts this time so that had to wait til the re-visit. Just like its predecessor, natural wines dominated the drink menu at Vivant. The bottle of white I picked turned out to be sweeter than I expected (I missed the word "late harvest" on the label... my bad), but it’s all good for a casual early summer night. 

While I would probably go for the earlier seating next time for a tapas-style pre-dinner or something, this is a great place for some no nonsense casual dishes with a drink or two and to feel the lively vibe at this busy street corner.

When? May 5 2022 
Where? Vivant Restaurant, G/F, 8-10 Lyndhurst Terrace, Central
Menu Highlights? Local Turbot with Colbert Sauce
Drink? 2011 Clement Klur Gewurztraminer Vendanges Tardives, Alsace AOC

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