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Black Marble offers some suburban shine
#02-01 Raffles Holland V Mall
118 Holland Avenue
Tel: 9641 6913
Open daily: 11am to 10pm
FOR a suburban shopping centre, we don't know what gauge Raffles Holland V Mall uses to come up with its parking rates. The per-square-foot price of the homes around it, maybe?
How much is the average psf of a Holland Road apartment - say, S$2,400? Because for the honour of sticking your car in this mall, you'll pay S$2.40, or close to five bucks an hour.
If a leisurely meal of two to three hours is on the agenda, lop S$10 to S$15 off your cash card. It generously offers per-entry parking, though - after 9pm - so you can watch the shops close up for the day to your heart's content.
So yes, it's the kind of mall that doesn't encourage lingering if you're driving - either that or they're in cahoots with MRT since there's a station right at its doorstep. But if you can be persuaded to stick around for a while, it won't be a waste of time to stop for a meal at Black Marble.
Black Marble is a pleasant, mid-scale restaurant that wants to be a steakhouse when it grows up. It doesn't have the pricing of a place like Aston's or the pedigree of Morton's, but it does have the name of hotel chef stalwart Otto Weibel and the food supplies of the restaurant's owner, Far Ocean, a seafood wholesaler/retailer that also happens to own meat vendor Swiss Butchery.
Essentially, Black Marble is an upgraded version of Otto's Fresh Deli, which served as a gourmet retailer offering simple café-style cooking in the same second floor space. Now it's dispensed with its retail persona and taken on full restaurant credentials. It's got a sleek stone facade and comfortable bistro-like interior with black marble accents.
To show that it dabbles in dry ageing, there's a little chiller in front that looks like a little wine fridge with a large hunk of meat squeezed in like a prisoner awaiting transport to a larger cell.
The menu isn't complicated. A short selection of appetisers with a couple of chef signature dishes, rounded out with a selection of grilled meats and seafood. Choosing what to eat is a breeze - just point to the handful of little chef hat annotations on the menu and sit back to enjoy a window view of an outdoor carpark and MRT station exit flaunting all the alternative transport arrangements before you.
Service is a little skittish and uncertain so we get rather detailed descriptions of two kinds of oysters before the server realises only one is available. But we put it down to the young man's nerves.
The oysters are expensive at S$38 for a half dozen but these are imperial oysters and require some royal funding. They're firm, fleshy, almost crisp, with a long finish. They don't really need the cocktail sauce or Vietnamese mignonette that they come with. A simple squeeze of lemon is the only boost they need.
We would have liked to finish the oysters first before having our soup, but the black truffle mushroom emulsion (S$15) is in a hurry to make its presence known so it's plopped down in mid-lemon squirt. But that's ok.
It co-operates by staying hot while we quickly slurp down the shellfish and turn our attention to this dreamy, creamy veloute made of real mushrooms garnished with a couple of slivers of black truffle. Wouldn't some crusty bread go well with this, we think; then, as if in reply, a basket of fries appears.
The 24-hour brine hand-cut fries (S$8) are barely seasoned but lovely to eat - thick spears of potato cooked through but with a firm rather than squishy texture that gives you a satisfying bite. A showering of grated cheese adds the extra salt it needs. Never mind that this is supposed to be a side dish and our mains haven't arrived yet.
A plate of spicy seafood capellini (S$28) with the fragrance of wok hei is what seals our appreciation for Black Marble. Fierce flames coming from the stove in the semi-open kitchen show that there's a chef in there that's after our own heart.
Al dente pasta, alive with garlic and a hint of chilli, with fat prawns, passable scallops and not-so-good mussels make this a win.
Such good vibes transfer over to the grain-fed lamb rack (S$38) and the A4 Kagoshima wagyu sirloin (S$90) served the same way with a bulb of roasted garlic and cherry tomatoes. The lamb is the better value of the two with its thick hunk of meat well-seared on the outside and still pink in the middle. Not the most delicate version, but the kind that you can get your teeth into.
Forget the accompanying meat jus, as a smear of softened garlic is enough. There's less bite but not much butteriness in the Kagoshima wagyu, which is of acceptable quality and price but will not last long in our memory bank.
If there's still room, we fancy the house-made tiramisu (S$12) for its layers of coffee liquer-soaked sponge fingers and extra layer of thin sponge cake sandwiched in mascarpone cream so your spoon goes through top to bottom in one movement.
The burnt banana waffle (S$12) is a skinny, low-achieving, dried-out waffle which tries to disappear amid ice cream and creamy roasted banana still in its skin.
But like an unwelcome visitor, the waffle still insists on getting all the attention.
Black Marble hits the spot as a neighbourhood eatery (albeit not a cheap one) with some strong points, even if it's not a refined product.
Another plus is that the food comes quickly, so if you want to beat the car park at its own game, you'll be well fed and out of there with your cash card only slightly the worse for wear.
WHAT OUR RATINGS MEAN
10: The ultimate dining experience
7-7.5: Good to very good
Our review policy: The Business Times 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.