In our first-ever monthly gastronomic roundup, Spirited Eats August 2020 looks at restaurants that have recently unveiled new head chefs or introduced reworked menus.
Despite the prevailing COVID-19 threat, the month of August remains a most celebratory one. One reason is that Singapore’s National Day falls in August. But it’s also yet another month out of the enforced lockdown that was the country’s circuit breaker period to combat the coronavirus pandemic. Now that dining restrictions have been largely lifted in restaurants – but with the appropriate social distancing measures in place, of course – we’ve seen how many people have flocked en masse outside to eat.
But you, our dear readers, are made of more discerning stuff. Insomuch as you’d like to support Singapore’s beleaguered F&B industry, you’re averse to fritter away your hard-earned moolah on just any random meal.
So here, in our first-ever monthly Spirited Eats roundup, we put together a list of the dining options we highly recommend – nay, we demand – you explore. This month we included a few establishments of renown that have introduced new menus, a few that have signed on new head chefs, and one that lets you dine while taking in Singapore’s skyline.
Butcher’s Block new weekend lunch menu.
Butcher’s Block in Raffles Singapore is best known as a modern steakhouse that specialises in the finest cuts of meat. Fronted by Chef de Cuisine Remy Lefebvre, it opened to some fanfare earlier this year just before the coronavirus pandemic took hold and shut Singapore down.
Now that Singapore has reopened for dining out, Butcher’s Block has introduced a new weekend lunch menu built around tostadas and pizzas to showcase its more casual gastronomic side and Chef Remy’s cosmopolitan influences. The small but tightly curated weekend menu kicks off with a couple of appetisers – Coconut Ceviche & Seafood and Tomato and Mozzarella – to whet the appetite.
But the stars of the show here are the tosadas and pizzas. The Tuna & Chipotle is a spicy tostada number topped with well-dressed chunks of fresh tuna, while the hearty Beef Tartare is perfect for carnivores. For pizzas the classic Margherita will always please, but for a snazzier, luxurious option the Truffata and Burrata is a great choice.
Wine lovers – note that there are a number of lovely natural wines on offer. We’re really loving the lightly sparkly Blind Corner Petillant from the Margaret River producer made with Chenin Blanc; the field blend that is the Ochota Barrels The Green Room probably works better with your meatier options. But for a truly posh lunch, avail yourself of the spirits trolley to end your meal. Aside from a number of lovely ports such as the exclusive Kopke Colheita 1965 Singapore Anniversary Limited Edition, there are spirit options aplenty to render the rest of your afternoon a perfectly idyllic one.
Butcher’s Block | #02-02 to #02-07, Raffles Arcade, 328 North Bridge Rd, Singapore 188719 (link) | 6pm to 10pm Wednesdays to Fridays; 12pm to 2.30pm Saturdays and Sundays; closed Mondays and Tuesdays | Tel: 6337 1886.
The Butcher’s Wife.
Classy neighbourhood bistro joint The Butcher’s Wife has become a veritable Singapore dining stronghold for celiacs with its 100% gluten-free menu since it opened in 2018. What’s immensely impressive is that while The Butcher’s Wife may catered towards diners with those particular dietary restrictions, those not similarly encumbered are still most likely to enjoy themselves here.
The Butcher’s Wife recently got itself a new head chef too, and Brazil-born, Paris-trained Mariana Campos D’Almeida continues that fine tradition of offering tasty, gluten-free eats to all in two brand new menus for lunch and dinner.
We like that Chef Mariana has tapped her Brazilian roots when reworking the menus. The Tucupi Tiradito – a South American dish of raw fish or seafood inspired by its Japanese immigrants – sees fresh barramundi combined with cassava root and tapioca, the latter two ingredients commonly found in Brazilian cooking. The Dadinhos de Sago replicates a popular Brazilian street snack, and these deep-fried cheese and sago cubes make for a perfect nibble. Mini Corn on Fire too, draws inspiration from the Brazilian favourite of corn-on-the-cob, but reworked using baby corn.
Be sure to try The Butcher’s Wife’s Our Own Goat Cheese, house-made using goat milk from Singapore’s own Hay Dairies and kefir grains, that you can enjoy with (obviously) gluten-free buckwheat and walnut bread and local honey. For those with heftier appetites, the Sweet Potato Gnocchi is filling and tasty. The Blue Pea Flower Naan Sandwich, with its black bean and chickpea falafel filling, is totally scrumptious. You’d forget either didn’t contain meat. But if you bloody need meat, the Wagyu Picanha is a juicy chew (picanha being the round cap, which comes with a ridge of tasty fat and sinew).
Natural wine lovers will love the fact that The Butcher’s Wife also plays host to pop-up wine bar The Drunken Farmer. The Jurancon Sec that is Camin Larredya Part Devant is aromatic and textured and works with most of the grub here, but for an epic pairing the Domaine Les Tetes Tete Red works a treat with the naan sandwich.
While its younger, more fashionable siblings Caffe Cicheti and Bar Cicheti have been hogging the limelight in the past couple of years, it’s the original flagship of the Cicheti Group that started it all with their particularly unique local take on Italian cuisine since 2016. Menu changes at Cicheti have been few and far between, and for good reason too – their pool of happy regulars wouldn’t have it any other way. So the latest changes are really fine-tuning tweaks to the already well-received menu.
We loved the fresh tanginess in the oregano vinaigrette of the rather robust Cicheti Chopped Salad, while the Zuppa di Cozze e N’duja is a hearty stew of mussels heavily flavoured with the spicy pork sausage that demands dipping with some good bread.
Also enjoyable – if rather simple – are the Sea Prawns. Each crustacean is split down the middle and then oven grilled before being slathered with a very moreish butter- and paprika-based dressing. If you love eggplant, though, the Melanzane will up your alley. Previously the aubergine was deep fried, but this tweaked version is now cooked in Cicheti’s wood-fired oven till charred on the outside and creamy within, and then smothered with a lovely bagna cauda.
Cicheti’s ever-popular pizza offerings remain mostly unchanged, but make sure you don’t miss out on their new pastas. The Casarecce – short, twisted pasta noodles from Sicily – have a lovely al-dente bite to them, and their curls trap well the fiery, guanciale-studded tomato sauce it comes in. The Linguini too, has been tweaked, the vongole sauce – which comes with massive clams – is a more herbaceous take than usual. Our favourite though as to be the Paccheri, the long flattened tubes served in a most unctuous beef cheek ragu.
We’re more familiar with SIRI HOUSE as a cutting-edge cocktail bar, even though we know at its heart it’s really a modern Asian restaurant. It’s been attracting a rather chi-chi crowd for its innovative fusion take on Asian cuisines since opening in 2019, and last month it welcomed the end of Singapore’s circuit breaker period with a refreshed space and a reworked food and cocktail menu.
Head Chef Leo Pang tapped ideas from SIRI HOUSE’s previous menu and fused them with the flavours his kitchen team grew up with. There’s Biscuit 2.0, for example, an updated take on the childhood favourite Nabisco Chicken In A Biskit snack that comes as a chicken fat cookie topped with a curry spiced cream and dusted with crunchy chicken skin and mushroom dust. Or Papadum, a roti prata spin on nachos and dip with the Indian crackers and a creamy dip that tastes like fish curry.
Papadums feature again in Burrata, the crackers a great way to scoop up the velvety cheese that’s doused in a red chilli salsa and garlic chive crumbs. We’re big fans of the Chicken Oysters, whose flavours resemble good yakitori but using that prized part of the chicken. Likewise the Duck, a perfectly seared five-spice duck breast topped with crunchy yam strips and a goji berry sauce – a hybrid, we think, of Peking duck and the zichar classic that is yam ring.
Desserts too are excellent. Jam & Toast is a dessert version of kaya toast, while Tropical Tau Huay is really panna cotta reinvented as Singapore’s ice jelly dessert.
Don’t forget the cocktails too – we’re glad to report that most of our previous favourites remain. Spudni and Scotch and Honey, for example. But we’re blown away by the new Got Milk, a clarified milk punch that tastes very much like a good English tea topped with milk.
SIRI HOUSE | Blk 8D, #01-02 Dempsey Hill, Dempsey Road, Singapore 249672 (link) | Open 11.30am to 2.30pm and 6pm to 10pm Tuesdays to Thursdays; 11.30am to 2.30pm and 6pm to 11pm on Fridays and Saturdays; 11.30pm to 4pm on Sundays; closed on Mondays | Tel: 94871552.
Meatsmith (Little India).
Most folks are familiar with popular American barbecue restaurant Meatsmith on Telok Ayer Street; fewer know of its sister concept over at Campbell Lane in Little India. While the flagship Meatsmith puts out familiar American BBQ favourites, the one in Little India offers a wholly unique take on barbecue that infuses elements of South Asia into its offerings.
Those dishes are still there, but this time Meatsmith Little India has unveiled a smashing new tasting dinner menu that allows you a broad sampling of what the kitchen team is truly capable of. And it’s mighty affordable too; you’re looking a full five-course meal – not including hors d’oeuvres and petit fours – at just $85++ per person, with an option of an additional $65++ for cocktail pairing.
What’s particularly impressive is that most of the dishes on the tasting menu isn’t featured in its main menu at all. If we had to describe it, we’d call the tasting menu is a contemporary gastronomic look at British India. It kicks off with a quartet of starters, and then follows that up with a flurry of subsequent dishes that showcase the kitchen’s prowess with a grill, along with an innate understanding of South Asian flavours but always with avant garde twist.
Dishes can rotate according to season, but when we were there our Curried Granita and Carabinero was a lovely surprise, the icy granita melting to form a spicy sauce for the delicate red shrimp. We also did enjoy our mains; the Butter Chicken Deluxe is butter chicken reimagined for fine dining, while the Pork “Belly Chop’ and Sauerkraut Kombucha was grill mastery at its best.
We highly recommend you go for the cocktail pairing too, if only because Coffee + Sakura – which comes as a pairing for your dessert – is one of the best Coffee Negronis we’ve ever had.
Stellar at 1-Altitude.
Modern Australian fine dining restaurant Stellar at 1-Altitude celebrated its ninth year anniversary the end of last year with the launch of a then-new Elements menu. While that menu remains largely unchanged, today there’s an option for a change in scenery – Stellar has launched alfresco dining right on the rooftop of 1 Raffles Place.
Indeed Stellar has taken over part of the rooftop space that belonged to 1-Altitude Gallery & Bar, so you can dine from Stellar’s à la carte and 5-Course Elements menu – including the signature Dessert Art – while taking in the spectacular view of Singapore’s skyline. This means you can partake of Sea & Tea – an amazingly textural dish of charred Fremantle octopus that’s been first poached in camomile tea broth – while looking over Marina Bay, or slowly savouring the 5J pork pluma ibérico cut in A Saucy Pig as you gaze over the towering Shenton Way cityscape.
[Photo credit: Stellar at 1-Altitude]
Similarly tucked in on a high floor in a building in Singapore’s Central Business District is contemporary Italian restaurant and lounge Zafferano, which recently welcomed a new Head Chef in Andrea De Paola.
Chef Andrea, who took over the reins from previous Head Chef Emanuele Faggi, unveiled an entirely new menu that’s totally different from that of his predecessor’s. While Chef Emanuele focused on recreating the authentically rustic fare of his native Tuscany and other regions of Italy, Chef Andrea pulls in gastronomic influences from all over the world for a refined menu that’s cosmopolitan yet altogether Italian.
Consider the Fegato d’oca of foie gras blanketed with a beetroot gelée and raspberry ‘vincotto’, influenced by his childhood days of growing up near the border to France. There’s Japanese influence too – the Scampi, for example, sees charcoal grilled langoustine served with a sauce that’s part white miso and part bagna cauda.
The inventive chef also upends conventional ideas about pasta vongole; his Spaghetti uses razor clams instead of the usual carpet clams, which is also touched with a hint of bergamot for a most mesmerising scent. We think it’s the most beautifully plated pasta alle vongole this side of the planet.
Another new addition to Zafferano is a charcoal oven, which Chef Andrea puts to good use especially in the Agnello. This dish of roasted New Zealand lamb rack is one of the tastiest pieces of art you can set to mouth – tender and moist on the inside, while its crushed Bronte pistachio crust adding a subtle nutty flavour.
You’ll do well to peruse of Zafferano’s extensive wine offerings as well; we like that its wine menu as cosmopolitan and well travelled as Chef Andrea’s cuisine is.
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