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Having a Cristal ball in summer

SOME restaurants seem to really hit their straps as the weather heats up, and Cristal Restaurant and Bar with a fresh, light Mediterranean-style menu and large outdoor terrace is ideal for summer dining.

First appearances can sometimes sum a restaurant up, and this interior is light and bright, with lots of natural sunlight coming in through the glass roof.

It's a good indication of the kind of food on offer, with Cristal's Executive Chef and General Manager Alexandre Molina designing a creative menu driven by fresh seasonal produce.

The Frenchman hails from Nice and brings a southern Mediterranean sensibility to his cooking, with lots of seafood and olive oil and fresh herbs taking center stage.

He takes inspiration from a range of cuisines and culinary traditions of France, Spain and Italy as well as touches of inspiration from Middle Eastern, Moroccan and Southeast Asian food.

This approach works well in an international city, and the restaurant draws diverse clientele, including a strong Japanese following.

One of the most popular dishes is a Spanish fideo (288 yuan/US$42.50 for two), which Molina says is based on a recipe handed down from his grandmother.

Served in a cast iron pot, the fideo is similar to a seafood paella; but instead of rice Molina uses short spaghetti cooked in a bouillabaisse saffron broth.

It is a classic light and fresh dish with whole prawns and lobster, mussels and clams, great to share with friends. With plenty of bread to mop up the broth and a crisp white wine, this is prefect for a balmy summer evening.

Also showcasing the chef's flair is a spice-coated duck breast and boneless leg of squab (188 yuan) stuffed with goose liver and gently wrapped in dough before being quickly fired. The flavors of the dark, rich meat are highlighted by a dollop of fig and apple chutney served on the side.

Molina certainly runs a tight ship, the service is timely and efficient, and at the time of luncheon visit he is visiting tables, chatting to customers.

That's to be expected from a chef schooled under Alain Ducasse, in the three-star Michelin Louis XV Restaurant at the Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo.

Since he comes out of the hotel industry where he specialized in desserts, diners should save some room for one of his creations.

These include a delightfully light and fluffy white chocolate souffl?? (78 yuan) served in a clay terrine. It is paired with a zingy peach sherbet and fresh citrus and mango salad. Rounding out the dessert is a rich verrine of brownie, which gives a nice textural counterpoint.

Cristal offers set menus, from a very competitive 118-yuan three-course lunch deal to a 1,200-yuan epicurean four-course meal with premium produce such as wild Spanish boar, Hokaido scallops and toro tuna.

In August Cristal will offer a three-course Gourmet Fest set menu for 299 yuan.

Hours: Monday-Friday, 7:30-10am (breakfast), 11:30am-2:30pm (lunch); Monday-Sunday, 6-10:30pm (dinner); weekend brunch, 11am-3pm

Address: 175 Taixing Rd

Tel: 6136-1355


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