01 FOOD FROM THE HEART
Honest, tasty cooking gleans some fine dining twists at this new Amoy Street restaurant. The name might sound chi-chi but its roots are as heartland as they come. Avenue 87 is named after the childhood homes of chef-founders Glen Tay and Alex Phan, who grew up in Hougang Avenues 8 and 7 respectively. The food also reflects a deep connection to their roots.
Most dishes in their fine-casual, degustation-only set-up are inspired by hawker and regional favourites and matched with flavours uncompromisingly tuned to local palates.
For instance, there's a nod to sambal seafood – grilled octopus leg topped with house-made sambal and served with charred market greens as well as a confit egg yolk. There's also a fish soup reinterpreted with locally farmed sea bass sitting in a rich stock of traditional fish soup flavours amped up with anchovy butter and milk sauce to boost umami and richness. It also comes with sliced bitter gourd, compressed with salt to tame its bitterness and give it a crunch, and tomatoes, semi-dried to intensify their flavour.
Another highlight is a Vietnamese-style baby lamb rack marinated in a lemongrassbased mix and served with grilled Thai eggplant as well as a tangy-sweet stingless bee honey sauce.
02 WINE, ONLINE
Gastro wine bar Ma Cuisine's app takes your experience beyond dining in at the Michelin-star establishment. Registered users get access to exclusive wines and virtual wine experiences showcasing everything from Swiss cult wineries to some of the best the Napa Valley has to offer. Bottles purchased through these virtual wine experiences will also have their corkage waived at the restaurant. Also on the app: a takeaway menu with items like ham terrine and braised guinea fowl as well as a lifestyle store featuring other indulgences like caviar and flower arrangements.
03 ON A ROLL
Fashioned to resemble its overseas counterparts, Luke’s Lobster Singapore is a seafood shack through and through. The food is pure Luke’s Lobster, whose “Taste The Source” is an oft-repeated mantra. What sets its seafood rolls apart is, well, the seafood. Sustainably sourced and traceable from surf to turf, the Maine lobsters, crab and shrimp are presented Mainestyle with buttered griddled rolls, lemon butter, mayo and the signature seasoning. If that’s not enough, a selection of bisques and beers seal the deal.
04 NEW BAR GRUB
Covid-19 may have wreaked havoc on Singapore's F&B industry, but a few silver linings have emerged. Our favourite: the rice bowls at Jigger & Pony, which tops Asia's 50 Best Bars 2020 list. They include the carbfree, super-satisfying cauliflower rice biryani and the beef short rib rendang bowl.
05 HERITAGE EATS
Chinese restaurant stalwart Min Jiang is offering a new take on old-school dialect classics. Its menu includes a complex Teochew dish of steamed Sri Lankan crab meat, grilled chicken liver and salted egg yolk wrapped in caul fat and deep-fried. There's also Hokkien braised pork belly served with a mix of deep-fried and steamed buns, as well as Cantonese-style siew mai, luxed up with flying fish roe and truffle oil.
06 EATING YOUR BOOZE
Temporarily closed during the circuit breaker – and for a little longer following that – Barbary Coast, spread over two floors and three historic shophouses in the Boat Quay district, has reopened with new drinks and food as well as safe distancing measures.
Among its fresh libations are overproof (also known as navystrength) gins and the Pea-Ness, a spirit forward, refreshing lactofermented apple cocktail laced with gin, pea water and lemon.
A lot of the dishes feature some kind of liquor-inspired component, too. Standouts include the vermouth-spiked spaetzle mac and cheese with butter-poached lobster and a tomato dish with heirlooms, fermented tamarillos, sauce vierge and tomato mezcal that's served with ciabatta crisps.
07 DINNER WITH A VIEW
We had to check out the new Riviera Forlino (formerly Forlino), a modern Mediterranean lounge offering fine dining with a view of the stunning Marina Bay waterfront and Merlion Park, at One Fullerton.
Executive chef Remy Carmignani’s menu is a winner. Celebrating the finest culinary influences from the coasts to the mountains of this diverse region, including southern France, Italy and Morocco, each dish gives you a unique taste of the Mediterranean.
We enjoyed the tortellini stuffed with pulled tangiastyle lamb shoulder slowbraised with preserved lemons – indispensable in Morrocan cooking – as well as saffron and goat cheese cream. We also liked the wild-caught New Zealand langoustine with refreshing tomato jelly, vinaigrette and seasonal microgreens.
Also on board is executive pastry chef Nicolas Vergnole, who brings to Riviera Forlino experience from Odette and La Dame de Pic. His Caraibe 66% is an elegantly simple creation of its namesake chocolate made into a cremeux and served with ice cream churned with Glenfarclas 1978 single malt whisky and salted caramel.
Do we really need clear ice in the bars?
“Cocktail bars that bother with good ice also tend to have it all together.”
I remember my first encounter with a piece of clear ice. It was as if Scrooge McDuck had leapt out of the TV to place a cartoonishly large diamond in my glass of whisky. I spent most of that night captivated, watching the crystal clear ice catch whatever scant light there was in the bar. Then I snapped out of that – and I bet this is a sentence you've never heard before – ice-induced reverie, disturbed that I was being seduced by what was just a chunk of frozen water.
But was it honestly that simple? I consider myself a consummate cynic, one that far values functionality over form, and this clear ice, in my books, belonged in the same category as gold flakes and charcoal powder – frivolous and with a presence that was likely masking some kind of flavour inadequacy.
I was dead wrong.
The immediate argument is that one tastes with their eyes first – and this is doubly true for the theatrics-filled world of cocktail bars. But, far beyond that, clear ice has practical benefits. There are no air bubbles trapped in it, so it is harder and denser, and its large size minimises surface area, keeping your drink cold for longer.
What really blew me away though was the amount of craft and effort that goes into producing this relatively tiny detail in a cocktail. This takes days to make and involves a technique called directional freezing – when water is slowly frozen from one single direction. Doing this pushes the impurities towards the end of the block. Without these extraneous particles, there are no nucleation points for the water to crystallise around, resulting in clear, glasslike ice.
Once frozen, it is cut to fit neatly into corresponding glassware: cubes for tumblers and rectangular “spears” for high ball glasses. Sometimes, they are even painstakingly carved a la minute into multifaceted “jewels” for not-inexpensive orders of Japanese whisky.
It turned out that every subsequent encounter with this new form of ice was followed by exceptional boozing. Cocktail bars that bother with good ice also tend to have it all together: incredible attention to detail, great service and quality ingredients. And, unlike those gold flakes, I have come to associate clear ice with enjoyable experiences and, at the risk of hyperbole, some of the greatest nights of my life.
It's the difference between being served wine out of glass instead of plastic – and there's no way I'm ever drinking wine out of plastic.