10 NEW RESTAU­RANTS TO WATCH

Wine & Dine - - CONTENTS - WORDS SHARON SIM

Keep an eye on these new kids on the block

Ca­sual, com­mu­nal din­ing with an em­pha­sis on mar­ket-fresh in­gre­di­ents seems to be a re­cur­ring theme among the latest en­trants to Singapore’s restau­rant scene. But if the con­stant stream of restau­rants open­ing here is any­thing to go by, the city has no lack of va­ri­ety to ap­pease even the most dis­cern­ing palates. We’ve hand­picked 10 new and note­wor­thy restau­rants to keep an eye on.

1 VENUE BY SEBASTIAN For­mer Ember chef Sebastian Ng is chef-owner of this ca­sual din­ing es­tab­lish­ment. In­spired by his trav­els dur­ing a three-year hia­tus, the menu is filled with the chef’s imag­i­na­tive yet ap­proach­able dishes that blend mod­ern Euro­pean culi­nary tech­niques with Asian flavours. Set in the com­mer­cial district of Down­town Gallery, the spa­cious

1,900-square-foot space boasts pleas­antly bright in­te­ri­ors. Poised for ca­sual get­to­geth­ers, its din­ing con­cept fo­cuses on com­mu­nal din­ing where din­ers get to sam­ple a va­ri­ety of small plates, por­tioned slightly larger than the usual ta­pas.

Chang­ing daily to in­cor­po­rate sea­sonal spe­cials, the menu fea­tures vis­ually ap­peal­ing, well-paired dishes. Think grilled oc­to­pus rest­ing on a gen­er­ous smear of white bean purée dot­ted with olive green capers and sprin­kled burnt but­ter ($27) and flavour­ful fin­ger food like cau­li­flower fritti with spicy mint aioli ($10). For meat op­tions, the Chilean seabass with mush­room ragout and truf­fle yuzu but­ter sauce ($32) shines. The creami­ness of the but­ter and fra­grant yuzu hit just the right note with the per­fectly pan-fried fish.

#01-02 Down­town Gallery,

6A Shen­ton Way. Tel: 6904 9688; venue­by­se­bas­tian.com

2 NOURI

The Un­listed Collection group places bou­tique ho­tels and restau­rants in Singapore, Lon­don, Shang­hai and Syd­ney by hote­lier and restau­ra­teur Loh Lik Peng un­der one brand. Nouri, in Telok Ayer, is one of the new­bies to join the group, and Ivan Brehm’s first foray as owner-chef. Most no­table for pro­pel­ling The Kitchen at Bac­cha­na­lia to its first Miche­lin star in 2016, his skills were honed in in­ter­na­tion­ally ac­claimed kitchens in­clud­ing four years as de­vel­op­men­tal chef at He­ston Blu­men­thal’s The Fat Duck.

At Nouri, guests at the cen­trally lo­cated chef’s ta­ble choose from a lunch a la carte or set menu (from $28); or din­ner tast­ing menu

($140 for five cour­ses and $170 for seven). They are both au­di­ence and par­tic­i­pants as plat­ing, elab­o­ra­tion and in­ter­ac­tion take place be­fore them as they dine. The neu­tral palette of the con­tem­po­rary in­te­ri­ors al­low the pic­ture-per­fect food to play the main role.

Chef Brehm ex­plores “cross­roads cooking” in en­abling guests to ex­pe­ri­ence the uni­ver­sal touch­points in the shared fa­mil­iar, while en­coun­ter­ing the novel in in­gre­di­ents or food prepa­ra­tion tech­niques. A case in point: Nouri's silken cheese, which is re­lat­able in its flavour (made with fresh milk and fin­ished with grated nut­meg, lemon and pick­led nut­meg flesh) and plays on tex­tures rem­i­nis­cent of silken tofu and Ital­ian panna cotta.

72 Amoy Street. Tel: 6221 4148; nouri.com.sg

3 BLACK WATTLE

Set to open its shop­house doors along Amoy Street in mid-Septem­ber, Black Wattle is the brain­child of Clay­ton Wells, the head chef and owner of award-win­ning restau­rant Au­tomata in Syd­ney. Both are part of the Un­listed Collection. De­signed with a raw in­dus­trial feel, this new ad­di­tion sports the same DNA as Au­tomata, fea­tur­ing the bold flavours and unique, un­fussy style of chef Wells. It will fea­ture a five-course tast­ing menu to­gether with a la carte choices for lunch and din­ner. Just hear­ing about its Sin­ga­pore­anin­spired dishes like mud crab with braised pump­kin seeds is enough to set your ex­pec­ta­tions for its food soar­ing. Also, desserts like but­ter­milk ice cream with black sesame and a cit­rus trio of kumquat, tan­gelo and man­darin are prob­a­bly go­ing to be as amaz­ing as they sound. Jo­eri Tim­mer­mans, Au­tomata’s sous chef, will lead the kitchen here, with chef Wells di­vid­ing his time be­tween the two cities. A cock­tail bar will be lo­cated on the shop­house’s sec­ond floor.

97 Amoy Street. un­list­ed­col­lec­tion.com 4 SUSHI KIMURA

A 12-seater hi­noki wood counter takes pride of place in the cozy 22-seat Sushi Kimura. From min­i­mal­ist wooden fur­ni­ture to the 200-year-old noren fab­ric by the en­trance, ev­ery­thing about this taste­ful Edo­mae-style restau­rant speaks of the master chef To­moo Kimura’s de­tailed care and per­sonal touch. Metic­u­lous about prove­nance, Kimura cul­ti­vated di­rect re­la­tion­ships with small farms and hold­ings from which he sources his sup­plies. They in­clude spe­cial A-grade Tsuyahime or­ganic rice val­ued for its shiny, large grain and the high­est grade nori made from the soft leaves of the first harvest.

Only omakase menus are served here. Lunch and din­ner sets—fea­tur­ing seafood flown fresh from Tokyo’s Tsuk­iji Mar­ket four times a week— start from $120 for five cour­ses. The Edo­mae style em­pha­sises sim­plic­ity, al­low­ing the orig­i­nal flavour of food to shine through. This is am­ply con­veyed in the top-priced Rikyu set at $390 for

11 cour­ses. Its high­lights in­clude sake-sim­mered abalone, five kinds of sea­sonal sashimi and the deluxe uni plat­ter. An­other stand­out is the signature baku­dan don, a seafood rice bowl topped with uni, glis­ten­ing ikura, chopped toro and an on­sen egg.

#01-07 Palais Re­nais­sance, 390 Or­chard Road. Tel: 6734 3520; sushikimura.com.sg

5 MUSE AMUSE

Opened in April, mod­ern Asian cui­sine restau­rant (Muse) and cock­tail bar (Amuse) by life­style con­cept com­pany The Car­bon Col­lec­tive are housed in a two-storey South Bridge Road shop­house. The long din­ing ta­ble dom­i­nat­ing the restau­rant’s min­i­mal­ist in­te­rior clues you in on the din­ing con­cept at Muse. It is the com­mu­nal din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence of shar­ing plates that al­low par­ties from cou­ples to larger groups the band­width for va­ri­ety in their sam­pling choices.

Owner Justin Lum works with a team of three ju­nior chefs to come up with the quar­terly-chang­ing menu com­pris­ing fa­mil­iar tastes, yet in­ven­tive takes. High­lights in­clude Royal Ratchaphruek

($12), an Asian rata­touille that is art on a plate with sliv­ers of lo­tus root and zuc­chini; and roasted chicken ($26), charred-crisp good­ness on the out­side with ten­der, Chi­nese herb in­fused meat inside. Lastly, there is the briny-sweet dessert pair­ing of panna cotta and savoury sea urchin ($12). Af­ter the meal, walk across a nar­row gang­way in the air­well to cock­tail bar Amuse and try their cu­rated list of lesser-known small-batch la­bels.

289 South Bridge Road. Tel: 9475 5529; the­car­bonco.com/muse-amuse

6

THE DEMPSEY COOKHOUSE & BAR

There are many things go­ing for this ca­sual din­ing restau­rant by cel­e­brated chef Jean-Georges Von­gerichten. First, there is the wow fac­tor of its sur­round­ings when you first en­ter. It feels like a green house with its blackand-white floor­ing and in­tri­cately wo­ven white wicker chairs in­ter­spersed with over­hang­ing lush green­ery.

Food­wise, there is the eschew­ing of tra­di­tional stocks and rich cream to en­hance flavours. In­stead, the chef’s signature em­pha­sis is on sub­tle flavours and tex­tures de­rived from veg­etable juices, fruit essences and light broths. Ex­pect lighter dishes that pack just a punch like the egg caviar ($38) which, but for its diminu­tive por­tion, is much raved about; and the roasted cod with broc­coli rabe with herbal co­conut broth ($34). End off with a shar­ing por­tion of salted caramel ice cream sun­dae with pop­corn and hot fudge ($14).

Worth check­ing out too is the bar with its unique cock­tails. A must-try: Passion Whiskey Fizz ($22) made with Maker’s Mark, pas­sion­fruit and lemon.

Blk 17D Dempsey Road. Tel: 1800 304 5588; co­modempsey.sg

7

KAPPO SHUNSUI

En­ter this in­ti­mate 19-seat restau­rant newly opened in April and you’re greeted with sleek, dark in­te­ri­ors. Light strate­gi­cally trained on the counter draws your eye. Fit­tingly, since kappo (mean­ing to cut and cook) style din­ing em­pha­sises a ca­sual coun­ter­side ex­pe­ri­ence where the chef takes cen­trestage, in­ter­act­ing with din­ers.

Kappo Shunsui’s chef is Tomo Watan­abe, whose Az­abu district restau­rant in Tokyo, Shunsui has gar­nered the Miche­lin Bib Gour­mand for three years run­ning since 2015. Jump­ing at the op­por­tu­nity to set up shop in Singapore, chef Watan­abe closed his Tokyo restau­rant and es­tab­lished this din­ner-only restau­rant here.

Open daily (ex­cept Mon­days) at 6pm un­til the wee hours of 3am, it of­fers both an omakase set menu show­cas­ing sea­sonal bests as well as a la carte op­tions. Priced at $249, the sub­stan­tial 10-course set spans ap­pe­tis­ers, sushi and sashimi, warm dishes that are grilled, steamed, fried or sim­mered, and dessert.

For his au­tumn menu, chef Watan­abe brings in hamo (pike eel), ikura (salmon roe), mat­su­take mush­room and fea­tures them in dishes such as Kappo Shunsui’s signature clay­pot rice. An­other must-try is the melt­ingly ten­der A4 Kagoshima roast beef, sous vide in broth for two hours and fin­ished on the grill. As a tes­ta­ment to his high stan­dards, chef Watan­abe taste-tested nearly 20 types of wa­ter be­fore pick­ing the right one that he says brings out the best in his dashi.

The chef is also a kik­isake-shi, or qual­i­fied sake som­me­lier, so try the op­tions for sake­pair­ing with your meal. He ex­pertly pairs the dishes with tip­ples from his cu­rated collection of 100 dif­fer­ent kinds of sake, in­clud­ing very rare ones. These in­clude $3,500-per-bot­tle Juyondai Ryusen sake whose brew­ery sells only to trusted sake pro­cur­ers, and Ura Shinigami Sugiura Spe­cial sake whose brew­ery only pro­duces 50 bot­tles a year. Sake pair­ing comes with six serv­ings of dif­fer­ent sakes (from $55). #04-02 Cup­page Plaza, 5 Koek Road.

Tel: 6732 0192; face­book.com/kap­poshun­sui

8

GAIG RESTAU­RANT SINGAPORE

The brain­child be­hind the menu of this Cata­lan restau­rant is fourth-gen­er­a­tion Cata­lan chef Car­les Gaig. His fam­ily busi­ness spe­cial­is­ing in the cui­sine can be traced back to the orig­i­nal fam­ily-owned eatery in Barcelona’s Horta neigh­bour­hood, Taberna d’en Gaig, es­tab­lished in 1869. Opened in July, Gaig Restau­rant, the Singapore out­post of chef Gaig’s one-Miche­lin­starred Barcelona restau­rant is run by his daugh­ter Nuria Gib­ert, who is fifth gen­er­a­tion in the fam­ily’s culi­nary line.

Housed in a re­stored shop­house, Gaig Restau­rant’s mostly white in­te­ri­ors oozes rus­tic charm. Rough-tex­tured walls hug a cozy set­ting with wicker-backed chairs. And in a nod to Cata­lan’s sea­side lo­ca­tion, it fea­tures frosted lights re­sem­bling glass buoys. Try their signature can­nel­loni ($14) which ar­rives as can­nel­loni sheets lov­ingly wrapped around roasted meats, nap­péd in truf­fled cream sauce which is based on a 150-year-old recipe passed down from chef Gaig’s great-grand­mother. Other must-haves are their hearty stews—think prawns deeply flavoured in an almond, hazel­nut, gar­lic and pa­prika re­duc­tion ($22.30), whose dregs are best mopped up with crusty bread; and stuffed baby cala­mari in a pi­quant tomato sauce ($24.50). This is Cata­lan fare at its de­lec­ta­ble, un­pre­ten­tious, bu­colic best.

16 Stan­ley Street. Tel: 6221 2134; restau­rant­gaig.com

10

AUDACE

An­other ad­di­tion to the Un­listed Collection is Audace which serves mod­ern French bistro fare from its lo­ca­tion in Wan­der­lust Ho­tel in Little India. Its in­te­ri­ors are quirky and com­fort­able, with Pop Art on the walls, mis­matched metal chairs and dis­tressed wooden ta­ble-tops. Here is where chef Jérémy Gil­lon, who led fine din­ing restau­rant L’Epi­curien in the French Alps to its first Miche­lin star in 2015, pre­sides.

Audace, a play on “au­dac­ity”, makes bold prom­ises. Ex­pect mar­ket-fresh in­gre­di­ents from local wet mar­kets com­bined with pro­duce sourced from spe­cial­ist sup­pli­ers in the re­gion. These in­clude oys­ter and caviar from Viet­nam and mi­cro herbs from North­ern Thailand. Other herbs come from a for­ager in the Savoie re­gion of the French Alps. Par­tic­u­larly in­ter­est­ing is how chef Gil­lon com­poses his dishes: he starts by ex­plor­ing the tex­ture, var­ied cooking meth­ods and flavours of the ac­com­pa­ny­ing veg­eta­bles, af­ter which he pairs them with a spe­cific pro­tein. This is beau­ti­fully il­lus­trated in his signature pork belly dish ($38) where the meat turns melt­ingly ten­der af­ter sit­ting in beetroot mari­nade for 24 hours, then slow-cooked and caramelised in a beetroot glaze.

Wan­der­lust Ho­tel, 2 Dick­son Road.

Tel: 6298 1188; audace.com.sg

9

ATMASTEL

This con­tem­po­rary Ital­ian restau­rant at South Beach Av­enue opened without fan­fare in Jan­uary. Now set­tled in, the restau­rant gives off an en­er­getic, artis­tic vibe, where guests can en­joy a view of the ac­tion from the open­con­cept kitchen. Its de­sign fea­tures grid­work pat­terns of the clean lines cre­ated by black metal fur­ni­ture and over­hang­ing shelves, and ac­cented by splashes of colour from its green-tiled coun­ters. Keep­ing things tra­di­tion­ally Ital­ian, its menu fea­tures mains like grilled pork chop ($45), piz­zas and pas­tas. It cen­tres its food on the fresh­est sea­sonal in­gre­di­ents, paired har­mo­niously and sim­ply pre­pared to draw out nat­u­ral flavours.

Tap­ping on his ex­pe­ri­ence at Miche­lin­starred restau­rants such as two-starred Uliassi in Seni­gal­lia, Italy, ex­ec­u­tive chef An­drea Tarini dreams up his menu here. It is based on a com­bi­na­tion of lo­cally sourced fresh pro­duce and weekly air-flown in­gre­di­ents from Italy.

For ex­am­ple fresh bur­rata is used in sim­ple, tooth­some starters like bur­rata with mini San Marzano toma­toes ($28). A well-stocked re­tail sec­tion also al­lows pa­trons to take some of the same ar­ti­sanal pro­duce home, like the 24-month aged prosciutto and bal­samic vine­gars used in the restau­rant’s dishes.

#B1-22 South Beach Av­enue, 26 Beach Road. Tel: 6581 0085; atmastel.com

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