In this August 2022 edition of Spirited Eats, we look at five restaurants that recently either reworked their concepts, landed new chefs, or overhauled their menus.
Singapore’s food landscape is ever-evolving. With new dining concepts opening up pretty much every week, existing players are always forced to reinvent themselves to stay current and in the minds of diners.
Here are five restaurants that recently impressed us with their updates. Check them out:
Yantra has just upped a couple of notches in luxury dining with a recent overhaul of its space and menu. The Indian fine-dining restaurant has opened its doors to an even more beautiful space, one that’s segmented into separate sections catered for different dining needs. There’s Jaipur, its elegant main dining hall for a more social experience, while The Wildflower Room is open for booking if you need privacy. Off to one side is The Polo Room, an energetic and larger private dining space that opens out to a patio, while The Garden Room is whimsical with its traditional archways and latticed screens. And make sure you swing through Corbett Bar, a cosy bar with an expansive selection of gins, whiskies, and other spirits.
For its newly reimagined menu, Yantra has consulted Indian culinary historian Pritha Sen to inject a taste of India’s rich culinary heritage across its different regions and cultures.
Expect plenty of familiar dishes from Yantra’s Chef Pinaki Ray some of which are prepared rather differently, and others that you may not have seen before. We loved its take on Chaat Banarasi, elevated with crunchy beetroot puffs and smothered with a spicy mint sauce, as well as the Taka Luchi Alu Dum, effectively a miniature poori topped with spiced potato.
And while Purani Dilli Murg Makhani sounds like any regular butter chicken, Sen draws on its origins for a surprisingly rustic yet more layered version. Its Hyderabadi Chicken dum Biryani on the other hand is more delicate, yet infused with plenty of flavour from the use of top quality spices. Then there are time-honoured recipes, like Calcutta’s iconic Nizam’s Kathi Kebabs of juicy, perfectly-seared mutton.
Our favourites? Aside from the murg mahkani, the fabulously creamy lentil curry that is Punjabi Ma Di Dal, as well as the very surprising Ema Datshi, an exotic Bhutanese cheese soup that’s also well-loved in Tibet.
The world’s highest urban microbrewery restaurant LeVeL33 recently got a new chef helming its kitchen with Executive Chef Jake Kowalewski. Chef Jake brings in a fresh produce-driven perspective to LeVeL33’s beer-inspired dining, what it calls ‘ContemBrewery’ culinary philosophy.
Weaving in beer and brewing ingredients into cooking takes quite some skill, but Chef Jake handles it with panache. He cleverly incorporates those elements without letting them overwhelm his dishes. For example, the flavoured butter that comes with your artisanal sourdough bread roll is made by blending roasted spent beer yeast into butter, while its burgeoning LeVeL33 Signature Raw & Chilled Seafood Platter – laden with fresh oysters, scallops, kingfish sashimi, poached tiger prawns, and cold smoked salmon, among others – comes with blinis made with the brewery’s wheat beer, as well as a mignonette rendered with its lager.
We absolutely adored Heirloom Tomato, a delightful mouthful of juicily-sweet tomatoes, compressed grapes, and micro-greens sitting atop creamy straciatella, as well as the Local Slipper Lobster Bisque, a velvety seafood soup – topped with local slipper lobster tail and Avruga caviar – that has its richness cut through with some bitterness from a touch of lager.
For mains, carnivores will enjoy the In-House Koji Aged Westholme Wagyu Tri-Tip and Free-Range NZ Maimoa Lamb Rack, both of which are executed to juicy, roasty perfection.
Modern Japanese gastrobar iKO on Neil Road recently welcomed new chef-owner Dylan Ong. Knowledgeable gastrophiles will remember Ong from Franco-Asian restaurant The Masses on Beach Road (which he still runs), as well as a co-founder of pioneering casual French bistro chain Saveur before that.
Ong takes a paring knife to iKO, pretty much overhauling a menu originally introduced by Chef Jeremmy Chiam of Binchotan fame (but who has now moved on to Maison Shūko). His “modern Japanese bistronomy” combines cutting edge European culinary techniques with Japanese ingredients and Asian sensibility.
Be sure to start with iKO-Bee, a bag of addictive house-made chips coated in powdered sour cream and bottarga seasoning, as well as Negitoro Ice Cream, essentially creamy minced tuna served up in an ice cream cone. Also delectable is Hay Smoked Hamachi. This is fresh yellowtail infused with hay smoke, the richness of its ponzu brown butter beautifully offset by sweetness of grapes and savoury scallion oil.
But it’s Ong’s mains that truly impress. iKO’s new A4 Wagyu ‘Sukiyaki’ is no ordinary beef nabemono; this sees familiar sukiyaki ingredients – wagyu beef, egg yolk, shiitake mushrooms, leeks, scallions, and perilla – doused in a moreish clear sukiyaki sauce instead. If your Japanese meal isn’t complete with rice, the Dope You Up Bowl is an impressive donburi ume shiso rice topped with seared A4 wagyu, Bafun uni, ikura, cured egg yolk, and lashed with wagyu fat emulsion.
iKO | 65 Neil Rd, Singapore 088897 (Google Maps link) | 12pm to 3pm and 5.30pm to 11.30pm Mondays to Thursdays; 12pm to 3pm and 5.30pm to 1am on Fridays and Saturdays; closed on Sundays | iko.com.sg | 8866 5218
Tiffin Room in Raffles Hotel Singapore, one of the oldest North Indian restaurants in Singapore, has unveiled a refreshed and expanded menu. Award-winning Chef de Cuisine Kuldeep Negi has introduced an array of new vegetarian and non-vegetarian North Indian delicacies that combine authentic regional flavours with some inventive twists to keep things fun and tasty.
Start off your meal with one of Tiffin Room’s refined chaats, all of which elevate the classic Indian street snack. The new Aloo Dal Tikki Chaat, in particular, is a delicious mess of contrasting flavours and textures with its potato and lentil patties smothered in a riotous blend of mint and tamarind chutneys, yogurt, along with chickpeas and crunchy raw onions.
Ease into the rest of your meal with Lahsuni Paneer Tikka, or grilled Indian cottage cheese scented with curry leaf, or Achari Macchi Kebab, chunks of grouper grilled to juicy perfection in a tandoor.
Biryani fans will be delighted to know there’s a new biryani at Tiffin Room. Its Gosht Dum Biryani offers fluffy scented basmati that’s been cooked with whole spices, and served with lamb chops. We do recommend you supplement that with the Gucchi Methi Mattar Malai, an absolutely fabulous white curry made with morels and white mushrooms, as well as Kadhai Prawn, a flavoursome dish of prawns in an onion-tomato masala.
Basque restaurant Kinou, formerly located along Tras Street, moved to its current location in the busy Keong Saik F&B enclave early last year with a more focused concept. Gone is its cosy upstairs lounge bar. The cocktail list is gone now, and in its place a stronger focus on terroir-driven wines.
But the food remains authentically Basque. Basque Country consists of parts of Spain and France, but while its cuisine takes inspiration from both it remains uniquely its own. Kinou chef-owner Benjamin Tilatti continues draws on family recipes for a gastronomic jaunt through his native Basque in southwest France.
Familiar Spanish-influenced entrees include Padron (Padron peppers) and a grilled Pluma Iberica that came topped with a lovely salsa verde, while the Kinou Beef Tartare, Traditional Foie Gras and Escargot are decidedly French.
But it’s the Basque specialties you should really try. The Txistora (also known as chistorra) is a yummy spicy pork sausage much like a chorizo, and goes very well with wine or beer. Then there’s Xipirons (also called txipirones), a dish of squid done here a la plancha and served on a base of squid ink. The Basquaise Skewers too. These chicken skewers may look normal, but it’s the Basquaise sauce – a sauce rendered from peppers, onions and tomatoes also known as piperrada – that makes this dish.
Kinou | 2 Teck Lim Rd, Singapore 088380 (Google Maps link) | 3pm to 12am on Tuesdays to Thursdays; 12pm to 12am on Fridays; 3pm to 12am on Saturdays; closed on Sundays and Mondays | kinou.sg | 8453 4519
Follow us on Telegram to get updated on events and other spirited announcements!