Our Spirited Eats column for the month of September 2020 is a dedicated look at some of the more interesting new dining options in Singapore’s Central Business District and its environs.
In these oppressive COVID-19 days, aside from work there’s little reason to visit or stick around Shenton Way and its immediate environs. But that won’t be fair to the many wonderful dining destinations that pepper our Central Business District. Many of them are award-winning institutions that have been working around restrictive social distancing measures and yet continue to bang out the kind of experiences that have helped Singapore cement its stellar reputation as a world-renown F&B scene.
So we’ve pulled together a list of some of the recent dining experiences we enjoyed in the CBD and the surrounding areas you may be interested in as well. From a Michelin-starred restaurant featuring the latest seasonal produce to special lunch menus, here’s our Spirited Eats September 2020 “Dining in the City” edition to lure you back to the CBD on the weekends.
A taste of summer at Restaurant JAG.
One of our favourite Michelin-starred restaurants, contemporary fine-dining Restaurant JAG has always impressed with a razor-sharp focus on seasonal produce that it accents with Savoie herbs. And if you’ve not yet visited, Savoie native and Restaurant JAG chef-owner Jeremy Gillon recently introduced a special discovery lunch menu on Fridays and Saturdays that will entice you to.
Restaurant JAG’s Discovery Degustation menu is an indulgent omakase-style exploration of what the restaurant can offer during lunch. JAG was featuring summer produce when we visited, and our meal was a veritable showcase of seasonal freshness. For example, the tanginess of the vinaigrette in our Coucou Flower, Heirloom Tomato of Provence, Honey Vinegar totally enhanced the ripe juiciness of those tomatoes, while the dried fennel and earthiness of summer truffle in the Wild Fennel Seed, Délicatesse Potato, Summer Truffle brought out the crisp potato sweetness.
We don’t often see carrot and scallop used alongside each other, but Chef Jeremy’s Berce, Carrot and Laksa Spicy, Hokkaido Scallop is utter genius. The shellfish, simply lightly smoked to retain its creaminess, combined perfectly with the sweetness of carrot that was served in a variety of ways. The star pick of our meal.
Our main course of Frênes, Artichoke, Pigeon was an exercise in flawless execution with the pigeon’s breast perfectly seared. Accompanying it was Chef Jeremy’s signature creamy polenta, recently updated with a hint of juniper to lighten up the flavours.
In essence, Restaurant JAG’s discovery lunch menu brings out the best of seasonal produce while allowing Chef Jeremy to be as culinarily creative as he can get without you needing an entire evening to sit through the experience.
A spectacular CBD lunch set at Monti.
With a location smack in the middle of Singapore’s Central Business District, it’s natural that Monti at Fullerton Pavilion offers a weekday lunch set to feed the corporate crowd. What is perhaps surprising, is that unlike the pedestrian fare trotted out by its competitors in the vicinity, Monti’s two or three-course lunch set delivers great value for its price.
Options for the first course include the vegetarian-friendly Spinach Flan and Burratina & Heirloom Tomatoes. But if you’re a carnivore, opt for the Mayura Wagyu Beef Tartare instead – their version comes with chunks of hand-chopped beef, topped with a raw egg yolk, pickles and accompanied by a red onion sorbet that lifted the dish and kept it cool and refreshing throughout. Alternatively, their Deep Fried Fresh Calamari is more traditional, with the addition of battered and fried carrots and zucchini to break up the monotony, and it with a piquant house-made pickle sauce.
Mains consist of a variety of pastas and proteins. There’s the pesto-based House-made Tagliatelle and hearty Baked Wagyu Beef & Pork Lasagna, the classic Chicken Milanese Style and pescatarian-friendly Pan Seared Barramundi Fillet. The standout here is the Braised Beef Short Rib, featuring well-marbled meat that’s been slow-cooked for eighteen hours, then seared and finished with a sprinkle of a lemon and rosemary gremolata. The tanginess of the lemon zest in the gremolata is a very clever way to balance the richness of the beef.
To round off a 3-course set, a choice of Blueberry Panna Cotta or Tropical Fruit Platter is offered. Our recommendation though, is to order Monti’s Tiramisu from the ala carte section. Monti’s version doesn’t use any cream yet feels indulgent, with an intense coffee kick strong enough to replace your usual afternoon cup of joe.
Monti’s lunch set comes at $39++ for 2 courses or $45++ for three courses; it’s $12++ for a glass of wine, and $3++ for coffee or tea.
A Caffe Fernet to enjoy during aperitivo hour.
Right down the wharf from Monti sits Caffe Fernet, a “new Italian” themed bar-restaurant run by the same people behind award-winning cocktail bar Jigger & Pony. But if that leads you to think the food won’t be quite up to par with its cocktails, you’d be very wrong.
Caffe Fernet rejigged its food menu earlier this month, the first time it has done so in two years. Its new offerings retain the American-inflected Italian slant it’s known for, but this time incorporate a more modern touch. The Mushroom Agrodolce douses the signature sweet-sour sauce from Sicily over creamed polenta, the tanginess of the wine-based sauce cutting through richness of the polenta. Interestingly its Burrata here uses cheese made right here in Singapore, served atop a piquant tomatillo sauce spiked with fermented serrano chillies for a touch of heat. The Octopus, a fabulously refreshing Mediterranean-style salad of octopus, roasted peppers and beans, is a must-order.
We’re big fans of their new pasta dish, the Tonnarelli Vongole. This take on the classic vongole sees squid ink pasta sacrilegiously tossed in citrus butter and herbs along with fresh clams sourced from Ah Hua Kelong, and is a delicious taste of the ocean. We recommend fish lovers to go for the Pompano Piccata, the large golden pomfret deboned and pan-roasted to crisp skin perfection and then laden with a lemon butter sauce studded with trout caviar and crispy capers.
Another reason to visit Caffe Fernet? A revamped drinks menu that offers one of the best aperitivo hours in town to go with the view. For something refreshing, the fruity yet bitter Garibaldi Frose will help wash the heat of the afternoon off you, while their Americano is a tasty modern rendition that will evoke wistful memories of Milan or Torino.
And if you love your Negroni, Caffe Fernet offers not one, but four Negronis, each paying homage to the classic cocktail’s equal gin, vermouth, and aperitif composition but using different spirit brands to create specific Negroni styles.
You’ll appreciate this weekend VUE.
If you’ve not been to VUE Singapore atop OUE Bayfront, there’s now more reason to. The rooftop bar and grill house has recently introduced new surf-and-turf weekend lunch and dinner menus that makes it extremely attractive to visit during the weekends.
In particularly VUE’s new weekend set lunch menu, which allows you to pick a choice of seafood as well as a choice of meat for your main course (they’re served together); your set comes with a side, dessert, and even a lunch-friendly cocktail.
For “Surf” you get to pick from either a Norwegian Crab Salad on Toast or an Oyster Kirkpatrick, but our advice is to top up with $12++ and opt for the Lobster Thermidor instead. VUE’s take on the old-school classic sees the succulent shellfish smothered in a bisque-like sauce that’s altogether indulgent.
Then there’s “Turf”, which is a great way to experience the restaurant’s binchotan-grilled specialties. The Chipotle Glaze Grilled Iowa State “Sakura Pork” Rack, especially, takes on a smoky char from the grill while retaining its juicy tenderness. If you love beef the A5 “Kokuou” Emperor Black Wagyu Brisket is a most affordable way to try VUE’s signature dish that features its house-aged cut from Kumamoto. Or you can top up and opt for the USDA Prime Brandt Family Beef from the premium California family producer.
The set offers a Basque-style Burnt Cheesecake for dessert, but we fell in love with the French Acacia Honey Cake the first time we visited. We’d totally pay the addendum for that perfect confection.
And if you have time to kill, stay awhile and check out its outdoor spritz bar.
VUE’s Prix Fixe Surf & Turf Menu is priced at $128++ and comes with a lunch cocktail on the house – take your pick from a Bloody Mary or a Mimosa. Subsequent orders will be chargeable at $15 each.
VUE Singapore | OUE Bayfront, 50 Collyer Quay, Level 19, Singapore 049321 | 6pm to 10.45pm Mondays to Fridays; closed Saturdays and Sundays | 8879 0923.
New menu at 15 at Stamford by Alvin Leung is on (wood) fire.
15 at Stamford by Alvin Leung recently refreshed its modern Asian repertoire, the first time it has done since opening up in 2018. Like its previous version, the updated menu at signature The Capitol Kempinski Singapore restaurant by “Demon Chef” Alvin Leung – the culinary maverick behind Michelin-starred Bo Innovation in Hong Kong – reimagines Asian flavours with a contemporary flair. But there’s also a new dedicated section showcasing a range of wood-fired offerings.
We enjoyed the Yellowtail Amberjack, the freshness of the fish in the Asian-style ceviche enhanced with yuzu gel and a ponzu sauce. The Cold Rice Vermicelli from the Asian plates section too was delicious despite a bizarre pairing of Thai flavours in the thin rice noodles with Japanese unagi.
But it’s the new grill items at 15 at Stamford by Alvin Leung that impresses. The Wagyu Beef Brisket features tender, melt-in-the-mouth brisket that’s been braised, and then flash-grilled to crisp its outsides. And thanks to the new grill its popular “Bak Kut Teh” Pork Prime Rib with Compressed Watermelon, Angelica, Barbecue Sauce from the old menu gets an update. Essentially American-style barbecued ribs with a glaze inspired by the flavours of bak kut teh, they attain a fabulous smoky char from the grill.
For the month of September, 15 at Stamford by Alvin Leung is offering a special wine promotion that sees these dishes paired with a range of progressive wines. It’s a great time to visit.
A weekend Bavarian Brunch special at Frieda Restaurant.
For a more casual affair, casual German eatery Frieda Restaurant at The Capitol Kempinski just around the corner from 15 at Stamford by Alvin Leung has launched a special Frühschoppen weekend brunch menu that will give you a taste of a lazy Teutonic weekend.
This Bavarian-style Frühschoppen brunch offers a spread of classics, including the Vesper Platter, which comes in the form of a selection of German cold cuts and cheese selection, complete with pickles and other condiments. Those who like a heftier meal can opt for the Sausage Platter with Pretzel; their pretzel is one of the better ones we’ve tried, being deliciously soft on the inside while possessing a sweet malty crust.
Remember to avail yourself to Frieda’s selection of German beers; the Paulaner Dunkel is fabulous when paired with a pretzel, while the house Frieda Lager is crisp and refreshing without being overwhelmingly bitter like some beers. But if you can’t decide, they do offer a Beer Flight of four beers in tasting portions for the adventurous (or indecisive).
Heart of Darkness Singapore.
Heart of Darkness Singapore, the local offshoot of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam-based craft beer brewery Heart of Darkness recently moved from its original location on Tras Street to where the now-shuttered Neon Pigeon used to be on Keong Saik Road. The move allowed the gastrobar to tweak its offerings, and Heart of Darkness leapt at it.
Before, Heart of Darkness Singapore was mainly a craft beer taproom with a somewhat confused East-meets-West food menu. It now offers more Spanish-inflected, contemporary tapas-style eats to go along with its over 25 craft beers on tap.
We’re particularly drawn to the tasty Octopus Croquetas, which draws inspiration from Japanese takoyaki but in the shape of deep-fried croquettes. Also scrumptious are the Fish & Chips Taco, essentially Baja-style tacos but with beer-battered fish and matchstick chips for a British touch. Carnivores amongst us will like the Argentinian-style Wagyu Tri Tip, marinated and seared to perfection and even served with chimichurri.
With so many beers on tap it can be challenging to find one you like; a tasting platter here will help. Otherwise the Futile Purpose Cucumber Pilsner works well with most deep-fried dishes, while the Director’s Cacao Nib Porter strangely pairs well with the steak. But if you’re not into beer – you’re in the wrong place, really – there’s a decent range of wines, and even beer-infused cocktails, that will strike your fancy.
Capital Lounge at Zouk kicks off pop-up dining concept Capital Kitchen.
The COVID-19 restrictions have been hardest on night life establishments. But pioneer Singapore clubbing institution Zouk has pivoted gamely and quickly enough. It recently introduced Capital Kitchen, a special pop-up dining experience in its luxurious dance club space that is Capital Lounge.
While not everyone will take to tucking into a spread surrounded by dance beats and flashing neon lights, those who miss a thumping clubbing atmosphere certainly will be grateful for the strobing vibes of Capital Kitchen. It’s a small menu, but one that’s curated to offer something for everybody. We like the finger-licking dainty little crab croquettes that were the Crab Meat Tartare, while the Eggplant Parmigiana is a twist on moussaka that was strangely comforting (and lacto-vegetarian friendly).
For mains the @Liski_Li’s Fiery Gamberi Aglio Olio came highly recommended – in fact we saw that pretty much every table had ordered it. The Signature Beer Battered Fish & Chips appeared as beer-battered haddock and comes complete with steak fries and mushy peas, while meat lovers will enjoy the Margaret River Black Angus Steak.
As one can expect, Capital Kitchen offers bottle service if you’re keen on socially distanced drinking, with spirits galore to titillate your inner Dionysus. There are cocktails too, with a range of classic tipples and some rather interesting bottled ones as well. We’re rather big fans of the tangy, vodka-based Asam Guava, concocted as part of the range of Zouk’s online commerce offerings.
Capital Kitchen at Zouk | 3C River Valley Road, Clarke Quay, #01-05 to #02-06, The Cannery, Singapore 179022 (link) | 5pm to 11pm Wednesdays to Saturdays and eve of public holidays; closed Sundays to Tuesdays | Tel: 9006 8793.
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