Where to eat and what's new in Singapore: Rishi Naleendra's Sri Lankan restaurant Kotuwa, Preludio's new chapter, and an all-female chef collab
Where we dined this week...
It's been a few good years since the French cafe Merci Marcel emerged on our shores, and it continues to excite with a new dining menu for fans of the brand to relish in. In this phase, the traditional cuisines of Cote d'Azur, Grand-Est and Aquitaine regions are fused together, presenting authentic French produce that's sustainably sourced from the South of France. If Merci Marcel's decadent atmosphere didn't already communicate a cozy, communal gathering space, including a charming garden patio — then their new dinner menu certainly will — all about the French social concept of sharing plates. Great company and a glass of wine in hand. We couldn't get enough of the Tarte Flambee pizza-like dish — going back for seconds and possibly thirds. Its incorporation of truffle oil, onions and smoky artisanal coppa made the dish a mouthwatering standout. Next up, the cod fish gratin. Laying in a bed soaked in sweet eggplant caviar may not be ideal for the common man but with this dish, a culinary delight is underway. If you don't feel like sharing, an indisputable favourite would be the Ravoiles de Royans, a dumpling pasta filled with decadent tête de moine cheese. Their Duck Parmentier Façon Marcel also recently got a revamp — with the alterations of shredded Darphin potatoes. The result was a plate full of mushy duck confit — in the best way possible. For a sweet end, we tucked into the moreish lemon pie. A "cherry" on top of the satisfying meal. —NK
56 Eng Hoon St, #01-68, Tel: 6224 0113
Opening hours: (Mon) 8am-11pm, (Tues-Sat) 8am-11.30pm, (Sun) 8am-10.30pm
Chapter two; a poignant way to describe a restaurant's directional shift, but Preludio isn't like any other restaurant. Debuting author's cuisine last year, chef Fernando's bold leap of faith saw him cooking and conceptualising food that was rendered in black and white with the first chapter, 'Monochrome'. Now, a year on, it is moving on to 'Time'. Shedding the visual imagery of its previous chapter, 'Time' is an abstract concept, left wide open to interpretations —whether it be a moment, date, process, or an age. It takes on the same enigmatic vein — now challenged with the dabble of bright, happy colours and the infinite set of possibilities it could be surmised with. The re-acquaintance with colours was something chef Fernando had to get used to, but boy' it was only with Time, that we discovered the importance of having poppy hues on our plate. There was something joyful, seeing colours awash your food. Especially when the first tray of starters arrived — dubbed 'The Time Machine'. A visual feast — a medley of bite-sized snacks, each imploring the use of time of its cooking process. From a roasted rice ice cream fermented with garlic for one month, met with basil pesto, and a crispy sheet purple potato, to a week-aged amberjack layered with foie gras and puffed quinoa for that crunch.
Flavours were bright, bold, and presented a range of textures and stellar produce within a novel experience in itself. It also embodied a spirit that felt lighter and more carefree from the last chapter. Prior to that, we also inhaled a bundle of homemade rye bread in a bacon and honey glaze and served with caramelised onion butter. Playful riffs on the theme came through with the white asparagus course, which set a clever excuse for tableside service because "the chef was out of time". We lapped it up regardless, as a rich heady cod liver sauce took over stalks of white asparagus. Also black truffle rain shower for the 'Gram. A signature staple of Preludio had to be the black pork, which is now wrapped with a prawn sheet and joined with tomato relish sauce and white carrot puree. It reminded us of a Surf and Turf, although we thought the pork would have shone better on its own sans the added layer of the seafood. The pasta dish came together in a parcel stuffed with a French duck confit, which was aged for three weeks. The marinate settled beautifully within the meat, and executed immaculately with just the right thickness of pasta. The curtain call fell on the main — a wagyu short rib treated with chimichurri — an ode to chef Fernando's Colombian roots of how steak is typically eaten. When faced with a perfect sear, glorious crusting on a favoured marbling score, one would be hesitant of excessive seasoning, but his well of deconstructed chimichurri (parsley oil, garlic, oil, white vinegar, and egg yolk emulsion) brought a new depth to the plate. We might just take more chances with our cuts from now on... —JS
182 Cecil St, #03-01/02 Frasers Tower, Tel: 6904 5686
Opening hours: (Mon-Fri) 11:30am-2:30pm, (Mon-Sat) 6:00pm-9:30pm
A Cantonese feast always awaits at Cassia. Even if you're looking for a hearty dim sum spread, you'll find that come lunch hour, with refined classics like steamed crystal dumplings stuffed with black truffle and fresh mushrooms, deep-fried scallop with yam paste, and our all-time favourite, steamed charcoal buns filled with pork and kissed with a truffle finish. Essentially, an elevated take on the humble char siew bun. And with Summer in full swing, comes a dedicated focus of seafood and an execution with lighter finesse. Small bites came in all at once with a deep-fried lobster roll with mango and cheese and wok-fried codfish glazed with a cherry sauce. Delightful, but if we had one gripe — it would be the honey-glazed barbecued Arvinyó Omega 3 char siew. While we did love the tangy scent of lemongrass, the meat was a tad too tough to chew on, despite its revered grade of quality. Iberico pork would have filled in just fine with this dish. The main highlight, came in a superior pot of delicacies — namely a poached boston lobster claw, abalone, scallops, fresh fish maw, mushrooms and vegetables steeped in rich chicken broth. The soup was something to take home, rich in sweetness of the seafood as well as the bold flavour from hours on heat. While a bowl of beehoon is available to savour with, this dish is best had on its own. Or perhaps better paired sparingly with rice. And while you're at Cassia, order another one of their broths — which stand to be executive chef Lee Hiu Ngai's specialties. They're laden with collagen and slow-cooked for over eight hours. Call for any of the double-boiled chicken broths and you'll leave blissfully sated. —JS
1 The Knolls, Capella Singapore, Tel: 6591 5045
Opening hours: (Wed-Sun)12pm-2.30pm, 6.30pm-10.30pm
Where we're looking to dine...
From the man who brought us game-changing concepts like Cheek Bistro, and more recently, Cloudstreet, enters a refined Sri Lankan restaurant. Going back to his roots, Rishi Naleendra's new restaurant, Kotuwa will bring forth rich traditional flavours of Sri Lankan cuisine. This casual eatery will showcase its zest for Southeast Asian food with staples like roti, pork curry, sambols, and even salted kithul caramel for dessert. Undoubtedly, one of the most exciting openings of 2020 in our books.
Kotuwa's authentic Sri Lankan dining experience will be open to guests in mid-April 2020 at the Wanderlust Hotel.
Women of Taste
International Women's Day is happening this Sunday, and where better to be than to attend an all-female chef six-hands? This exclusive event held in TONO Cevicheria will headlined by Cevicheria's head chef Tamara Chavez working alongside culinary masters like Petrina Loh of Morsels and Ashlee Malligan of Nouri. Angus Rump Rendang Taco, Mole Taco, and Tequenos Venezolanos are just some of the delicious Latin-inspired dishes you can expect to gobble down.
Women of Taste' will be held on the 8 March at TONO Cevicheria from 12pm to 3pm and 6pm to 9pm.