A circle of friends can be as diverse as varieties of apples in an orchard -- the much loved person (Golden Delicious), the tiny one (Gala), the popular boy/girl (Red Delicious), the nerdy tech-inclined geek (McIntosh), one with a big heart (Fuji Apple), one with small appetite (Gala), and one who nags all the time (Granny Smith)...etc A group of friends with a common love for eating is exactly how we ended up together. While it doesn't matter how long we've known each other, our common love for food has not fallen far off the tree (the idea) of "occasional decadence to treat ourselves". There come several members in the group who are more inclined to host get-together events, communal dinners where we share food, old and new favorites, together.
Such is the case for Applegreen, and with quite a strong push for the past year or two, we have had some dinners here, each at a different venue. After a long absence from the rest of us, the leader of the pack has decided to throw a party where we get together once and again, and at the same time, trying out some of the newer item at the American restaurant in the latest branch in TST. The menu, carefully constructed to sample some of the old and new favorites of the restaurant, consisted of several appetizers and mains, together with signature salads and pasta dishes, and a few desserts too. The new signatures are inspired with an Asian influence, as many of the new dishes feature some Asian elements -- some commoner than not.Asian Nachos ($78)
-- What may have appeared to be 'fried wontons' tasted more like 'fried wonton wrappers' (without filling). The sweet sauce tasted reminded one of bottled teriyaki sauce from the West, a little too sweet, and a little too far out trying to be Asian-inspired. The wasabi cream and cheese topping were satisfactory though, the latter made the dish more like nachos, but neither managed to save it from being too 'strange' to begin with. Tofu Chilaquile ($78)
-- Looking like a blooming sunflower, corn tortilla chips surrounded a black-bean (not preserved) sauce with Tofu mixed in. It tasted similar to a Westernized Ma Po Tofu, and the tiny tinge of heat from the chilies made it taste even closer to disappointing Chinese takeout than an inspiring Asian-influence. Firecracker Salmon ($78)
resembled thin cigars of spring rolls, with a strip of salmon in each 'firecracker', as well as plenty of parsley within. It's tasty enough on the whole, although the thin fried cigars were too oily. Not only do people who dislike parsley need attention for these, so do anyone who have a fear of fried foods that look fried with oil oozing out from each bite.Salad Diane with Lemon Vinaigrette ($96)
-- a simple salad that requires little preparation, or knowledge of who DIANE is in the first place. Chicken and iceberg lettuce are shredded fine and tossed with a lemon vinaigrette with silvered almonds and crispy rice noodles to make a combination of crunches in this light salad. It reminds one of a meat-containing coleslaw, which could be more entertaining to the palate with different vegetables present. This one is satisfying with the tangy vinaigrette, but it also comes out rahter bland after several bites. Lox ($136)
-- The best thing that ever happened to this LOX dish is its green salad on the side and inside the dome of fanned slices of preserved salmon fillet slices. The honey-citrus dressing tastes like condensed orange juice from a can, but each bite of the salad comes with surprises such as dried cranberries (tart) and beetroot (sweet), both of which made very good salad accompaniment. The salmon itself was a little softer when compared to ordinary lox in this twist of a Scandanavian dish.
Pasta are supposedly strong at Applegreen, not in an Italian sort of way. The much-loved Carbonara ($88)
used to be a favorite, which in turn has slipped onto less-than-perfect quality with the abundance of cream and lacking its shimmering goldenness of a quintessential Carbonara. It tasted heavy but the spaghetti managed to stay al dente, which is good. Pollo Mexicana ($88)
is tomato-based spaghetti with chicken strips. The thin tomato sauce and the addition of sweet corn made it look more like Hongkie-style spaghetti from Cha Chaan Tings (they charge $88 for that!) The tomato sauce tasted its part -- thin and overly sweet and the chicken strips tasted like tired strips from an overcooked chicken breast. Soft Tacos ($128) involves 2 kinds on one dish -- Two each filled with 'Mexican Chorizo' (dry and crumbly) and 'Cumin-rubbed steak cubes", with the latter looking like brown pellets of dried-up beef with strong pungency of powdered cumin. The best thing that happened to the dish was the warmed flour tortilla and the tomato salsa -- simplicity, afterall, beats any complicated forms here. The Grilled Sausage Platter ($108) features 4 sausages. The hot-links were ok and the veal ones were juicy, the other two were unrecognizable. The potatoes were finely mashed but nowhere near fluffy enough, and the originally good roasted garlic turned out undercooked -- some cloves were caramelized and sweet, while the others were pretty much uncooked with a charred exterior.
The last time us friends gathered at Applegreen, conversations were stretched over topics of diversity. This time around, through an expanded group that spanned across three tables, conversations still flowed, only this time across tables with jokes enjoyed from one end of our reserved space to another end. There were exchanges of laughs, and photo-taking tips, and discussions of prospective dessert options elsewhere, until desserts were served.
Among four desserts served, Chocolate Puff Bomb ($48)
is a cream puff that has been blown up into wild proportions. The enlarged Choux pastry is slightly sweet with dustings of icing sugar. With Chocolate icecream sandwiched within and a drizzle of chocolate sauce. It's proven to be too cloyingly sweet and the puff itself too soggy. The Crispy Cheesecake ($52)
baths in a thick red fruit coulis. The cheesecake itself is a rectangle of cheesecake wrapped with filo pastry, which is clearly nowhere near crispy and the cheesecake is seriously too sweet, with a special heaviness that sits in the stomach even with limited consumption of two forkfuls per person. The Applegreen Choc Chip Cookies
were round and brown, like an enlarged icebox cookie, were so dry and sandy-crumbed that the appearance can easily be passed as a toss-up between diet-cookies and dog-biscuits. While there is chocolate in it, there is much need to improve on the textures. The Chardonnay Grape Jelly ($58)
is quite a stunner at the dessert selection. The pale jelly, softly set in a large wine glass, suspends seedless green grapes within. The green grapes were tarter than anticipated but the chardonnay jelly was only lightly sweetened. Individual portions will make quite an impressive palate cleansing dessert as well.
This meal, with plenty of joyful sharing of food and conversations, was exactly what we need every now and again -- the communal participation of something that makes us friends with each other in the first place. Each time with new people joining in, our group has gotten a stronger comraderie that binds all of us together under the same level appreciation of good food, (some may be more disappointing than others). And for the apples in our group, the joy and elation of each celebration is as real as appreciation of any kind can be.
Nachos -- wonton wrappers crisp but too sweet
Does it not look like Ma Po Tofu?
Firecracker Salmon -- twisted spring rolls?
Salad Diane - Light Shreds of Joy
Lox - Green Salad is good but dressing too sweet
Carbonara - too creamy, not eggy enough
Spaghetti Hongkie-style, with tomatoes and corn!
Soft Tacos - crumbly meat in (good) soft tortilla
Grilled Sausage Platter has gone downhill
Chocolate Puff Bomb - deflated and discouraged
Chardonnay Grape Jelly - Dessert of the Night
Crispy Cheesecake - too heavy and not crispy
Salad Diane (with Lemon Vinaigrette),Chardonnay Grape Jelly Other Ratings:
Value for Money 2