5th Quarter: A veritable meat paradise for curious carnivores
Vegetarians, beware. 5th Quarter isn't exactly your idea of heaven. But if you're into your meats — offcuts and all — you're in for a real treat. Set on the ground floor of the audacious Hotel Vagabond, this restaurant helmed by Executive Chef Drew Nocente prides itself as a contemporary grill with a focus on meat curing, but what quickly becomes clear is Nocente's dedication to turning oft forgotten cuts of an animal into a smartly plated offering for the curious carnivore. There are of course vegetables, too, but most of it plays a secondary role to meat, glorious meat.
There are no starters or main courses here. The menu is segmented by cooking techniques — be it salting, brining, or curing. The plates are meant to be shared and you'll do well to order between six to eight dishes if you're going as a pair. Not sure where to start? Here's our pick of dishes you shouldn't miss.
The charcuterie board
If we didn't see Nocente in his chef whites, we would have mistaken him for a personal trainer. The dude has big guns — all the better for him to salt and hang up his meats with. Not many restaurants can boast of a housemade charcuterie platter, but the one here at 5th Quarter speaks volumes of Nocente's background in the art of curing and smoking. At any one time, you'll find on the platter a pâté or terrine, rillette, and three types of cured meats depending on what the kitchen has prepared. Look out for lardo dressed in truffle honey as well as the dense, intensely flavourful kangaroo loin.
This little piggy certainly didn't make it back from the market. Instead, his tail was sliced, deep fried to a wonderful crisp, and served with confit lemon cream and compressed cucumbers. The last time I had pig tail this good was when Fergus Henderson was cooking.
Rum-cured pork belly
Pork belly's always a crowd pleaser, but Nocente takes things up a notch by curing the cut in rum. The rum flavour held up beautifully to the cure and smoke. The result is a tender cut that sings with a toasty, caramelised note.
Salt 'n' pepper tripe
The honeycomb tessellation of tripe might scare those with trypophobia but its unique texture makes it the perfect canvas for one darn good fry. When it comes to offal, some diners might be put off by its pungent funk, but you won't find any of that here. Well seasoned with salt and pepper, these savoury bites are sided with a vibrant caponata sauce.
Salami for dessert? If it's made of chocolate, why not? Nocente cheekily forms his own dark chocolate nut-studded logs which he pairs with salted caramel ice cream. For a real treat, call for the salted caramel glazed oatmeal cookies baked with shredded coconut and pieces of maple bacon.
5th Quarter. 39 Syed Alwi Road. Tel: 6291 1936.