Where to eat and what's new in Singapore: Curious Palette starring Magic Square's Desmond Shen, the sustainable Kausmo, and a new The Black Swan
Where we dined this week...
Among the karaoke bars and superfluous watering holes along Prinsep Street, there lies a cozy nook housing the famed grounds of Curious Palette. Coffee is its selling point, and for good reason – coconut lovers might want to try out their new coconut cold brew. A new and improved café dining experience, however, is also what awaits even the most seasoned of Curious Palette's customers: Consultant chef Desmond Shen (formerly from Odette and the inventive Magic Square) is on board, and his new menu does Asian food with a punch. We started off with a series of vegetable dishes – good enough to convert even the most adamant of salad avoiders. There was the burnt leek dish, starring – you guessed it – the leek, which, having soaked up a brown butter and lemon juice mixture and charcoal-roasted, resulted in a harmony of flavors spiked by smoky, charred sections. Delicateness, so exquisitely exemplified in the leek dish, did not follow; striking piquancy did, in the form of the fried cauliflower, fish sauce caramel dish – the team's take on curried cauliflower. Every bite of this was akin to bursts of intense flavor, and each fried cauliflower floret engaged the senses with hits of curry powder, lemon emulsion, and an insanely rich fish sauce caramel of their original invention. Off to a strong start, the mains did not disappoint either – it wouldn't be possible when one pasta dish involves tiger prawns grilled to the perfect orange tint and a sauce infused with belacan (it's quite literally called prawn, mentaiko belacan pasta). Meat aficionados were given the love too, through the Korean-inspired slow cooked short ribs. Led by the Korean way of wrapping sous vide beef short ribs in fresh lettuce, the soy sauce and burnt soy mixture imbued in the meat was heightened by some of their fresh yuzu kosho sauce. If your curious palate desires one last barrage of pleasure – and nostalgia to boot – go with the kaya coffee butter toast, complete with the sticky spread and a special complement of coffee butter, sandwiched between toasted white bread like a solid piece of slippery satisfaction.
Hero dish: Prawn, Mentaiko Belacan Pasta
Estimate calorie count: 273
64 Prinsep Street, Tel: 6238 1068
Opening hours: (Mon-Sun) 9am-10pm, Closed on Tue
Given chef Dave Pynt's renown, we're not surprised he's managed to helm a whopping three outlets of Meatsmith across the tiny island of Singapore. What's even more impressive? The new menu highlights: each branch features dishes with their own distinct flavors that pay homage to the locales they're set in, all while remaining true to their roots of good ol' American-style barbecue. First up, Meatsmith American Barbecue (located at Telok Ayer) – where a taste of the most classic forms of red meat awaits hungry patrons there. The pastrami beef cheek, smoked to perfection and served atop mustard aioli sauce, dissolved any impressions that meat is harder than butter. Don't believe it? Their beef brisket was evidence of this (the meat easily came apart at the nudge of a fork, and defied expectations when it still retained a good chewiness upon consumption). We also enjoyed the simplicity of the barbecue sauce and coleslaw plated beside it. But over at Meatsmith Little India, this simplicity was elevated; sophisticated renditions of American barbecue were underscored by the flavours of India, such as in the intriguing crab briyani – still as fragrant as the original, but with a hint of toasty flavor that creeps up on your senses. When you're in full-on carnivore mode, though, you may not want all that carb on your plate – their premium platter would be the perfect choice. Featuring several beef and pork cuts, tandoori chicken wings and bone marrow curry (a real show stopper), you might want to bring a couple of friends along to conquer the intense meat journey this single platter can take you through. A not-so-secret special gem also hides on the third level of this Little India branch: Rogue Trader. The exclusive British cocktail bar has more to it than its quaint Balinese décor — specifically, their tamarind old fashioned. But back to the meats – our last stop, Meatsmith Western Barbecue (at the famous riverside Makansutra Gluttons Bay), ended this carnivorous journey with a bang. The hawker concept of this store means that Singaporean flavors were available to chef Pynt's creative culinary discretion; think salted egg chicken and smoked pork wantons, among other classic roasts available. All of the roots of American fare, plus the fuss-free option of getting beer from the hawker stall at the row's end – talk about a true barbecue experience, Singapore style.
Hero dish: Smoked pork wantons
Estimate calorie count: 606
Meatsmith American Barbecue
167-169 Telok Ayer St, Tel: 6221 2262
Opening hours: (Mon-Sun) 11.30am-10.30pm
Meatsmith Little India
21 Campbell Ln, Tel: 9625 9056
Opening hours: (Tue-Fri) 5pm-11.30pm, (Sat & Sun) 11.30am-11.30pm
Meatsmith Western Barbecue
Makansutra Gluttons Bay, Tel: 6438 4038
Opening hours: (Mon-Thu) 5pm-2am, (Fri & Sat) 5pm-3am, (Sun) 4pm-1am
Within the majestic building of Parkview Square lies the well-established ATLAS, a premier wine-and-dine destination possessing a charm unlike any other, with ornate interiors and most recently, a brand-new dining menu. Courtesy of recently appointed executive chef 'Loki' Lynch, you'd never guess that one of the best places to get meticulous Mediterranean-inspired food would be in the prime spot of Bugis. The taramasalata dish, for instance, hails from the cold section (out of five sections in the menu), and completely transforms the simple idea of a chip-and-dip into an intricately designed plate of this Greek mezze topped with zaatar (a spice mix with Eastern European origins). The radishes and lightly salted bagel chips that accompany this smooth-textured dip finish the dish off with seasoned finesse. Where there is cold, there must also be hot – and the lamb kofta with beetroot yoghurt dish (under hot snacks) ignites a sense of bewilderment as to how casually a meatball can hold such depths of flavor, being topped by bread crumb salsa and a refreshing lemon dressing. When it comes to main courses, a shout-out must go out to the spaghetti with carpet clams and cuttlefish, its distinct flavor made slightly spicy with chili seasonings and crunchy with pangrattato toppings. Then there was the roasted pumpkin drizzled with a wonderfully fragrant burnt butter vinaigrette (arguably the redeeming feature of the dish), topped with thinly-sliced pear, bitter leaves and sunflower seeds, all adding a different twist to experiencing the humble pumpkin. Then came the highlight: the specials. Chef Loki revealed that the mini lobster rolls are a constant favourite, because of its addictive lemon mayo, celery, chives and espelette stuffing. All good things must come to an end, as they say, but our wistfulness at the end of the mains was short-lived as soon as a sparkling banana and caramel cream pie landed in front of us. The sweetest goodbye we could've ever wished for. Harbored by a crumbly and hearty crust, the silky banana filling danced gracefully on our palates as we chewed on that perfect crust – the kind of dessert that elicits a gentle smile upon every remembrance.
Hero dish: Lamb Kofta with Beetroot Yoghurt
Estimate calorie count: 816
Parkview Square, 600 North Bridge Road, Tel: 6396 4466
Opening hours: (Mon-Thu) 10am-1am, (Fri) 10am-2am, (Sat) 3pm-2am
Where we're looking to dine...
The Black Swan
This restaurant isn't exactly a new contender in the fine dining field, nor is it a stranger to defying norms with its glamourous Art Deco starkly contrasting the CBD skyscrapers that tower around. Somehow, though, they manage to stand out once again, as Head Chef Alysia Chan and Bar Supervisor Joanna Lee drive the chophouse towards minimal food wastage and recognising – celebrating, no less – farmers' efforts in sowing and reaping the essential ingredients without which no dish can be brought to existence. If the new minimal-waste menu created by this duo is any indication, girls really do run the world.
19 Cecil Street, Tel: 6438 3757
Opening hours: (Mon-Fri) 11.30am-11.30pm, (Sat) 5pm-11.30pm
Kausmo's aspirational co-founders Lisa Tang and Kuah Chew Shian took it upon themselves to fashion high quality meals out of often too-quickly-discarded, misshapen ingredients that in fact have plenty to offer to the fascinating world of gastronomy. All it requires is a good cook to draw their flavors out. We wonder, will their six-course Carte Blanche menu taste even better knowing that our food was thoughtfully and conscientiously sourced? We'd be inclined to think so.
#03-07, 1 Scotts Road, Shaw Centre, Tel: 8126 8538
Opening hours: (Tue-Sat & alternate Sun) first seating at 6.30pm, second seating at 8.30pm, for 16 pax each
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*All calorie tabulations are derived from MyFitnessPal and are estimated per serving.