Where to eat and what’s new in Singapore: Maggie Joan’s unmissable menu, Art at National Gallery, Caffe Cicheti
Where we dined this week...
Behind an inconspicuous metal door in the back alley of Gemmill Lane, lies the grungy modern European restaurant, Maggie Joan's that has established itself as a culinary dark horse. And with the appointment of new head chef Zach Elliot-Crenn, Maggie Joan's gains a new breath of life. Armed with a deft and sensitive approach — starting with the sourdough (which chef Zach prides himself on wherever bread is concerned) and through all the other dishes that ensue. The new menu stays true to chef Zach's modus operandi of utilising naturally sourced fresh ingredients as much as possible. A stellar first impression was sealed when those chicken liver parfait cigars landed on our table. A velvety and sweet parfait and quince jam filling was piped within a thin, crisp shell. To top them off were candied pistachios. An interpretation that was fun to savour while going through motions of delicate yet bold flavours. Then came the Coffin Bay oysters — surprisingly, the oceanic flavour took a back seat as it allowed a refreshing parsley granita take centerstage. We just wished the wasabi crème fraiche came through a little more. Chef Zach's take on squash financiers resulted in a savoury-sweet mishmash of hazelnut puree and mimolette, a French cheese that was flaky and smooth all at the same time. It was like biting into an exceptionally delicious cloud. On the menu, you'll also find a vegetarian's version of steak tartare, substituted by strips of pickled carrots that was elevated with an oozy confit egg yolk and tangy mustard seeds. The main event followed: A local Loyang chicken, glazed with cerena longan nectar honey and chardonnay vinegar. This humble chicken is in fact, an arduous process, with a separation of the legs and the breast. The former is baked into a buttery piquant pie that accompanies succulent breast slices (aligned with crispy sweet skin) and a butterhead lettuce salad. Keeping with the theme of local seasonal ingredients, the meal ended on a sweet and fresh note with compressed slices of papaya layered on an olive oil cake, topped with a spoon of tarragon ice cream that had just the right spike of herbs bursting through. —NM
Hero dish: Chicken Liver parfait cigars
Estimated calorie count: 239
110 Amoy Street #01-01, Tel: 6221 5564
Opening hours: (Mon-Fri)12pm- 2.30pm, (Mon-Sat) Dinner 6pm- 10.30pm
After a six-month hiatus, Art resurfaces at National Gallery, with a new home to boot. Well almost, it takes over the dining space at Aura, retaining the same sophisticated makings we fondly remember from the restaurant. A new chapter follows, with Michelin-starred chef Beppe De Vito being the main man who helms the kitchen at Art. What we used to think of Art was a fine illustrious avenue for Italian grub, and while that is still very much ingrained in the DNA here, what's different is chef Beppe's role — shifting the menu to transpire from a personal place. Ingredients are paintstakingly sourced from Italy (some of the places and producers that are also exclusive to Art) and techniques are playful yet retaining the traditional flavours of Italian cuisine. There's a lot of fun within the amuse bouche at Art. For starters, they look like little displays of edible art. And while they were all exceptionally pretty to marvel at, not all of them matched up to appearances. However, we did have favourites, one was the sunchoke skin over burrata (that's made in Singapore with fresh milk from the Dolomites). The cheese was a labour of love from chef Beppe's efforts with the Italian cheesemaker from Puglia, where it came up top in quality after a blind taste test. Another unique morsel was the black olive oil crostino bearing a tangy dollop of Sicilian tomato confit above. There was also purple prawn crudo that had fancy counterparts laid aside: A generous dome of Oscietra caviar and compressed pumpkin doused with pumpkin and Amalfi lemon juice. Flavours from the sea were expertly met with the tart from the lemon. The pasta dish wasn't made fresh, but it was in fact, a special commodity made from single grain organic wheat and the purest water from the Dolomites. We were later told it is a common pasta used by top Michelin restaurants in Italy. It was thinner and lighter than the usual spaghetti, and married perfectly with scampi sauce. Next to it, was a whole scampi as well as sauce procured from the scampi's head. Art does a mean Challan duck — while it is already a fine produce to begin with — the meat is done justice by a simple grill and served with artichoke, cauliflower puree, a smoked beetroot cream sauce and a duck jus that was cooked down with a rare citrus fruit, chinotto. That hint of bitterness in the jus against the perfect rare of the duck was a symbol of chef Beppe's creative interpretation of bringing out Italian flavours that aren't widely seen in Singapore. At least not yet. —JS
Hero dish: Spaghetti 'Monograno Felicetti'
Estimated calorie count: 295
1 St Andrew's Rd, #05-03, Tel: 6866 1977
Opening hours: 12pm-2pm, 6.30pm-10pm
It's a bit of a good news-bad news conundrum. On one hand, we bid goodbye to Aussie joint, Fynn's at South Beach Tower, and on the other, we welcome a third Cicheti concept to the dining scene — Caffe Cicheti. Loyal fans of Fynn's will be pleased to know that Caffe Cicheti has saved the cult-favourite ricotta hotcakes on the brunch menu. As with every concept bearing the Cicheti name, there's a dedicated focus on the beverage programme here, helmed by head somm Ronald Kamiyama who makes wine drinking an interesting and insightful affair. As and when, wine pairings are encouraged, with the smorgasboard of renowned and indie labels alike on the list. Brand new antipasti snacks are something to look out for here. Especially the deep-fried sardines, that might not sound like much if you're reminded of those sloshed in a can. Caffe Cichetti uses mediterranean sardines that are dressed in polenta and semolina flour, before going into the fryer. A touch of fine salt and a healthy amount of their housemade garlic aioli goes a long way —which is what happened when we were demolishing our fourth piece and still lapping for more. Like Bar Cicheti, pastas are undoubtedly a veritable signature at this bistro. Spaghetti with a hearty homemade tomato basil sauce, red wine duck ragu tortiglioni, vongole, and lump crab cooked in a piquant shelfish broth bavette (which appears to be a familiar rendition to the crab pasta we've savoured over at Cicheti). Obviously, there's pesto — cloyed with al dente spaghetti and topped with pounded pine nuts and shaved parmigiano. It's simple, fuss free, and done like how pesto exactly should be. To really get a first raving impression sealed in here, order the cioppino. It's a seafood stew, influenced by San Fran, that tastes like a real labour of love. Fish and prawn stock was boiled for just half an hour, then simmered with housemade tomato sauce and cream before tossing in a medley of seafood (of grey prawns, flower clams, scallops, and squids). Essentially a complex harmony of the sea and spot on tomato jus. It's served with a sinful foccacia lathered with garlic and butter. But clearly you'll enjoy it best alone, or maybe a cheeky hint of chili padi just because we're crazy about our heat like that. —JS
Hero dish: Cioppino
Estimated calorie count: 340
26 Beach Rd, South Beach Tower, #B1-21, Tel: 6384 1878
Opening hours: (Tues-Fri)11.30am-2.30pm, 5.30pm-10pm,(Sat)11.30am-3pm, 5.30pm-10pm, (Sun) 10.30am-4.30pm
Where we're looking to dine...
PS.Cafe by the Sea
It might be PS.Cafe's eighth outlet on our shores, but this one holds a special place in our hearts. It marks the first ever outpost to be in the East, and by the tranquil beachside no less at East Coast Park. The menu here will feature many seafood-driven dishes as well as a first Junior category dedicated to the kiddos. Did we mention they get a free ice cream scoop with every meal purchased?
1110 East Coast Parkway, Cyclist Park, #01-05/06/07, Tel: 6708 98288
Opening hours: 9.30am-11pm
PSA: Jigger & Pony has a new bar that will open this December. And from the looks of it, it has a corner that looks like a particular section of its space at Amara Hotel. Live Twice at Bukit Pasoh will feature a small menu — with just 14 cocktails that embody the classic Japanese way of drinks and cocktails. We forsee a no frills space to hang amongst the drink cognescenti.
20 Bukit Pasoh Road, Tel: 9011 8304
Opening hours: (Mon-Thurs) 6pm-1am, (Fri-Sat) 6pm-2am
*All calorie tabulations are derived from MyFitnessPal and are estimated per serving.