Subrosa: a furtive location where freshness is foremost!

At a particular shophouse along Jalan Besar is a signboard that simply says ‘Subrosa Private Dining’. Subdued next to a louder sign shouting ‘PONGGOL NASI LEMAK’, it barely catches the attention of most passers-by. But the venue embodies the name; ‘sub rosa’ is a Latin figure of speech that literally translates to ‘under the rose’, a phrase that holds the meaning of discretion and secrecy.

Underneath the windows painted a dark rose red, my photographer and I walk in through the unlabelled stained glass door to find ourselves in a cosy space that probably seats only around 20 people on the ground floor. A red serviette in the shape of a rose is accentuated by the immaculate white tablecloth it rests upon. We are introduced to the two brilliant chefs reimagining the best food they can prepare with the freshest ingredients to be found in Singapore, Chefs Steven and Francis.

They honed their culinary arts at different parts of the globe; Chef Steven brings a wealth of experience from his time working in Michelin-starred restaurants in London, while Chef Francis has been quietly working in Singapore for the bourgeoise as a private chef. Together, they bring two worlds of cooking into one fine restaurant.

After meeting the chefs, we sit down and await our first course with anticipation. A basket of Artisan Bread is served warm, just minutes out of the oven, barely cool enough to touch. Both brown and white buns with different toppings — with oats, sesame, or a light white dusting — can be eaten with a bit of truffle butter, which is made inhouse. In fact, one of the things that was stressed on while I was at Subrosa was how everything, from the butter to the other preparations, are all made from scratch in the kitchen.

Freshness is emphasized most nakedly in the salad named Fresh is Best. Small sliced and diced root vegetables have been fermented for at least a month to bring out the best flavours. Each piece is sweet, crunchy, and popping. As you eat the vegetables on top to the salty roe and scallops below, it’s as though your taste buds are travelling from land to sea.

The harvest from the sea continues with the next two dishes. The Cocktail is named after its inspiration, the shrimp cocktail, but in appearance it is anything but. The shrimp has been profoundly transformed into an airy orange foam layered over a shrimp-flavoured crumble. Underneath at the very bottom is a creamy foundation of sweet, hand-peeled, shredded crab meat. The whole cup is an explosion of sea salt and umami, but with a lovely variance of textures, especially if you manage to capture all three layers in one bite with your spoon. Fermented, skinless cherry tomatoes at the side provide a strong sour kick to cleanse the palate between the intensely savoury morsels.

The oddly named Quaking Cod That is essentially Chef Steven’s recreation of the steamed fish he had once in a Chinese restaurant. The cod is sous vide with a strip of seaweed replacing the fish skin to impart a bit of that sea saltiness. The result is soft and tender flesh that breaks easily when grasped with chopsticks. The cod acts as a smooth tabula rasa for stronger flavours to be added to; in this case, a a bit of ginger gel and a reduced duck consomme that is thick, earthy, and salty, a level of complexity above the simple soy sauce that usually marinates steamed fish. Shimeji mushrooms shyly peeking from underneath the fish is sharp with balsamic vinegar and mildly pungent with truffle oil.

With a menu of strong flavours already tasted, a palate cleanser shaved iced flavoured with mojito lime and mandarin orange is necessary to fully enjoy the courses to come.

Remember Mee is an unforgettably great plate of hokkien mee. Besides the addition of some grilled lobster acquired from a farm in Changi, this is the humble hokkien mee we know and love, but prepared to utmost perfection by Chef Francis. He told us about how he used to cook in the tough conditions of a hawker stall, where he honed his craft on this dish.

We move on to typical fine dining fare: Who Niu, ****another playful name for a dish with prime cuts of wagyu beef and foie gras. The beef is has undergone four hours in sous vide before a light torch. Chef Stevens opted for a slightly less fatty cut than usual to give us a chunkier piece of meat, cooked till medium and hinting of chocolate. The foie gras is fresh and buttery smooth, with a thin crisp crust. For sauce, salty gravy has been carefully poured into tiny cups of caramelized onions, and light brown shallot puree circles the plate.

A refreshing tropical fruit dessert concludes the marvellous food we’ve had today. Tropical Passion has a set coconut mousse, sweet and soft mango slices, a passionfruit sorbet, and a little dollop of lime, with a few coarse chocolate flakes ground to look like tree bark. It’s a refreshing end to a rich meal.

After our lunch, I had a brief chat with Chef Steven, who showed me around the kitchen. This is one of the privileges of private dining; you get to interact with the people who make your food. I could feel Chef Steven’s passion and excitement for Subrosa’s potential as he discussed their efforts to procure the best ingredients and prepare everything fresh, and their plans to make the restaurant even better. His enthusiasm bodes well for the future of this new restaurant. Its impressiveness might not be apparent on its unremarkable shophouse exterior, but perhaps that is what Subrosa’s name encapsulates: a place with wondrous secrets beyond the first glance.

No walk ins; reservations have to be made at least 48 hours in advance online at https://www.subrosa.com.sg/#reservation. Food photography by James Hii. Thank you Subrosa for the invitation.

Subrosa Private Dining
369 Jalan Besar
Singapore 208997
Website

From Cassia to the Knolls, the Christmas feasts begin at Capella!

We had been invited to dine at Chef’s Table tonight, hidden within the upscale hotel the Capella on Sentosa, apart from the hustle and bustle of the mainland. When we walked into the small room which contained the entirety of the kitchen and a long table that only sat 24 guests, I didn’t feel like I had just entered a restaurant. I felt like I was in the chef’s house. I could smell the food the chefs were cooking a few metres away from me as Michael Bublé’s Christmas album played in the background.

We were here tonight to sample a few of the dishes that were going to be available for Capella’s Christmas and New Year menus at their various restaurants: The Knolls, with Mediterranean-style cuisine; Cassia, their Chinese specialty restaurant, and also their festive sweets.

They were really proud of their seasonal cocktail from Bob’s Bar, the Christmas Carol ($22++): a refreshing cocktail mixed with inhouse Navegante rum from Barbados and champagne. They had also mounted a slice of pear on the edge of the glass and sprinkled ground cinnamon on it, so when the glass is brought to the lips, the nose catches a whiff of the spice straight away.

From the starters for the Knolls Christmas Eve & Day Lunch, they gave us the well-crafted Pink Pepper Caramelised Foie Gras Mi-Cuit. A thin strip of mashed pineapple is shaped around a round slice of foie gras terrine. Sugar is sprinkled on top, then promptly blowtorched. The sugar sizzled, bubbled, and darkened into a deep purple colour as the flames danced on top of the foie gras. The fragrance of burnt sugar wafted into the air. The result is like a crème brûlée: a soft savoury foie gras base with a thin crisp covering of hardened caramel. The pineapple was soft, sweet with a subtle tartness. Whole pink peppers were added to be eaten with the foie gras. When cracked, it doesn’t burn the tongue, but releases an atomic hint of floral spice. A painted stripe of dark brown sauce adds a sweet and salty element.

The next thing to be served was something from the main course of the Knolls Christmas menu, the Halibut Confit with Citrus Junos. The halibut is sweet and uniform in its perfect doneness, not flaky or powdery, but soft and fleshy. It paired well with a creamy hollandaise-style sauce made of lemon, butter, and fish juices. Plated together with the fish was the Pumpkin and Corn Gnocchi, a separate option on the same menu. These orange molded balls of a pumpkin and corn mash had the comforting texture of a scone.

From the Cassia New Year’s Eve and Day Dinner, we were treated to the Braised Bird’s Nest with Crabmeat. A small island of shredded crab meat tops a foundation of bird’s nest, surrounded by a sea of thick, chicken and pork bone broth. A few eggs of fish roe round the dish completes the experience with bursts of saltiness. I love the creativity of using bird’s nest away from its traditional usage in a sweet cold dessert in a warm soup instead. The texture of bird’s nest resembles that of shark’s fin minus the guilt, so when your soup crumbles the island into the soup and everything is eaten together, it reminds one of the pleasant times eating warm shark’s fin soup at special occasions with the family.

I was gladly surprised by the succulence of Capella’s tandoori-style Exquisite Turkey. It’s a Christmas turkey with a twist: the bird is seasoned and marinated with classic masala flavours and roasted inside an actual tandoori oven. The result is a turkey that is more juicy and tender than the typical roast turkey. Served alongside is a tasty stuffing doused with fragrant truffle oil, spicy green chutney, and roasted root vegetables.

You’ll have a chance to taste it as well at the Festive Open House at Chef’s Table on 24 November and 9 December 2018. If you purchase it on 24 November, you get a 10% early bird discount of the usual $138++ for the whole turkey, which is still available for orders after 24 November.

The evening is brought to a sweet close by a panoply of sweet delights taken from Capella’s Festive Afternoon Tea. From the moment I touched the chilled plate, I knew that Capella’s efforts in giving the best dining experience extended even to the desserts. The Pecan and Pistachio Carrot Cake was adorable with a carrot-shaped almond-flavoured icing.

The Hazelnut Praline Tart is best enjoyed whole by biting the thin praline case to release the flowy chocolate ganache inside. Vanilla Chantilly Slice with Raspberry Preserve and Lemon Zest Biscuit is a delicious combination of sweet and sour on a soft sponge cake. The Chestnut Cheesecake is royal on top with a gold flakes, but hides a down-to-earth chestnut core inside. And the Almond Marzipan Stollen: it’s like a cold-served slice of thick bread, and it’s sweet and crunchy with marzipan sugar.

These sweet treats — and more — will be available for Capella’s Festive Afternoon Tea from 3-31 December 2018.

As we were eating our dessert, musicians were brought in to serenade us with a joyous rendition of ‘Feliz Navidad’, which got our Spanish chef de cuisine Ignacio Moreno dancing and singing along. Great food plated with love, with a convivial atmosphere; it certainly felt like Christmas at Capella.


The food tasted today comes from Capella’s various seasonal offerings from November to December: the Festive Open House, Christmas Eve and Day Lunch and Dinner at Cassia and The Knolls, Christmas Afternoon Tea at Chef’s Table, and many more. See the full list here.

We thank Capella for the invitation.

Capella Singapore
1 The Knolls

Sentosa Island
Singapore 098297

Cassia (Website link)
The Knolls (Website link)
Bob’s Bar (Website link)
Chef’s Table (Website link)

A-Sha Dry Noodles are now available in Singapore!

Taiwan’s favourite dry flat noodles, A-Sha Dry Noodle, is finally in Singapore! From its humble origins as a simple noodle manufacturer opened in 1977, Asha Foods is now recognised and available globally, and the noodle brand has been winning various awards in Taiwan too!

A-Sha Dry Noodles has history. Made from a family recipe that is a 100 years old, the noodles are these days prepared in a 15-hour process that also involves air-drying the noodles before it is packed. Free of preservatives and MSG, fibre-rich, low in carbohydrates and calories, A-Sha Dry noodles in itself already sounds amazing.

Yet, what ultimately is the most important are the flavours. For its launch in Singapore, A-Sha Dry Noodle will be available in its two most popular flavours, the Hakka Chilli and the Mandarin Oriental. The former features their wide-noodle variety, while the latter, the medium sized flat noodle variety.

This time round, I took to trying the Mandarin Oriental version. The noodles are clearly superior, and when cooked, are springy, firm, and with a certain body that speaks “premium”. Mandarin Oriental carries a soy-sauce based flavour that is light, clean tasting and not overly indulgent. It can get a little salty, however, so I highly recommend adjusting the seasoning to your liking before pouring everything in. That said, the noodles seem to go very well with sliced green onion, maybe slices of char siew or chicken, and a delicious egg by the side.

For all its worth, the noodles are unfortunately priced at 5 packets for $10.90 – which is certainly not the cheapest instant noodles on the block. (You could almost get 3-4 bowls of Mee Pok and perhaps even more value since Mee Pok has toppings). Still, for A-Sha dry noodle fans, you’ll be happy to know that the noodles are now available at all NTUC outlets islandwide.

Thank you A-Sha for the noodles

Plum CBD Food Delivery Service with affordable and curated menus!

I am hooked on Plum. For over the past week, and ever since the Plum team reached out to me to check out their new food delivery service within the central business district, me and my colleagues have been ordering lunches from Plum 3 times out of the 5 working days last week. It is a terrible addiction, and some of us remember and lament, when will we get to see the sunlight, the noonday warmth, and the frequent jostling for seats at the nearby food centre. Seriously?

But Plum certainly knows how to please. The menu is curated, changes daily featuring 10 of the best delights from notable food outlets around town, and the variety of options available meet almost every price point for the office worker in the CBD. The most expensive option I ordered so far might be the Unagi Truffle Rice Bowl ($13.90) or the Salmon Sashimi Salad ($10.90) to one of the cheapest, Chwee Kueh ($3.90).

Food comes by between 12 noon – 12.30pm, and when they do, you get that friendly notification on your mobile phone telling you that your food is just downstairs at the central pick-up point ready to collect. I’ve also noticed that sometimes, the Plum menu differs for my colleague and myself!

And the best part about Plum? Delivery is free! It is certainly a sweet thing to hear the words “No Delivery Charges”. Because the Plum team orders in bulk, they are able to absorb the delivery fees. And for all you lucky diners in Raffles place, Marina Bay Financial Centre, Metropolis, and Fusionopolis One, you can start getting onto Plum!

Out of all the three times I tried Plum so far, the food has always been good. The unagi truffle rice bowl invited stares from colleagues wondering why I was able to indulge in something so offensively fragrant. The salmon sashimi salad was great for those gym days. And the Teriyaki Pork rice bowl had slices of pork belly that literally melted in your mouth. I was so tempted for one day to double order lunch for that Indian Rojak I spied on the menu, and my colleagues gave in to some Nasi Biryani to warm their tummies.

I am hooked on Plum. And, maybe it’s time for some moderation from the app to get a bit more Vitamin D. But then again, it is just so convenient. Let me see what’s on the menu for tomorrow to decide if I’m “plumming”.

Yes, “plumming” is now a word.

Thank you Plum for the first meal!

Plum
Available now on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store