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

An Audacious 16 Dishes for a Communal Sunday Brunch at Audace Bar & Restaurant!

It is not often that I leave a meal satisfied and with a longing to make a return visit with friends or family. Oftentimes when I search for a place that caters to groups, the places of choice can widely swing from cafes to the more prim and proper fine-dining establishment. And usually, when the meal is over, there is always the awkward pressure to vacate the place with little chance for banter. Yet, this is not the case when one considers the communal Sunday Brunch at Audace Bar & Restaurant at the Wanderlust Hotel along Dickson Road.

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Foraging for new flavours at Audace!

Audace takes over the space held by the much vaunted Cocotte, housed in the eclectic Wanderlust Hotel just off Little India. The outfit is helmed by Michelin-starred chef Jeremy Gillon, a passionate and affable maverick in the kitchen.

Gillon experiments extensively with techniques that extract the essence of the more than 28 rare foraged herbs that he has in his store, each gathered, dried and shipped to Singapore by his friend in the French Alps. A distinct flavour profile is identified for each herb. It is then carefully coaxed from the plant, with certain taste dimensions amplified and others dialed down. Some are made into syrups, others into crunchy bits of crumble, yet others turned into pastes and sauces. Each is unique, wild, and a fine specimen of food alchemy magic.

Delight in contemporary French Cuisine

We started off our afternoon with the Green Peas Salad, Apple, Reine Des Pres, Almond, a refreshingly green appetizer that exhibits the bright tanginess of green apple alongside the earthier flavours of almond and peas. Reine Des Pres can be found in the damp meadows of the west, and brings with it a subtle, sweet aroma in the form of an amber syrup.

The Egg Yolk Confit, Smoked Foie Gras, Mushroom Consomme arrived next, a show-stopping force of distilled umami essence. It is a play of smooth textures and deep flavours, each ingredient coming together into a comforting whole.

Our third dish of Braised Octopus, Grilled Onion Salad, Roasted Hazelnut, Basil was competently cooked, with the octopus braised to just the right bite. However, while the browned sweetness of the onions and hazelnut aromas worked well together, I find the nuttiness didn’t have the same complementary effect on the octopus.

Following not long after was the Steamed Mediterranean Seabream, Broccolis, Salted Lemon Paste, Black Olive Powder; delicately cooked fish dusted with a black olive powder that surprises the palate with a bittersweet affect.

Arriving next was the meat dish of Striploin Beef, Banana Shallot Papillote, Tarragon Coulis, Dry Capers and Anchovy; the beef was succulent, and imparted with a sweet-salty depth by its accompaniments.

A Ganache with Sorbet to look out for!

Dessert came in the form of the Dark Chocolate Ganache, Roasted Coca Nibs, Monarde Sorbet, a wholly refreshing sorbet set atop luscious, silky-smooth ganache. The Monarde doesn’t shy away, with its bright red petals and alluring, floral fragrance. Together with the crunch brought by the roasted coca nibs, this was one addictive way to round off the meal.

As we sit back with some coffees and pat our satisfied bellies, Gillon walks over and greets us with a wide smile. After a brief round of introductions, he invites us over to explore his extensive collection of herbs. It is an impressively diverse range of flora, and you can tell from the excitement in his voice the profound joy he has from not only bringing in precious specimens harvested from the wild by hand, but also from discovering new ways to unlock surprising flavours from each of these gifts of nature.

It’s rare to find such a combination of passion and skill in taking what the wilds have to offer and making this accessible to diners the other side of the world whom may never have tasted, let alone heard of some of these herbs. But that’s precisely why we should be rooting for mavericks like Gillon, and why we can’t wait to see what alchemy he works next at Audace.

Thank you Audace for the invitation.

Audace Bar & Restaurant
Wanderlust Hotel
2 Dickson Road
Singapore 209494

Reservations: 6298 1188
Website

Opening Hours:
Tuesday to Saturday
Lunch 11.30am to 2pm
Tea 2pm to 6pm
Dinner 6.30pm to Midnight

Sunday Brunch
11.30am to 4pm

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Indulge in an Explosive Liu Sha Bao at Swee Choon Dim Sum Restaurant!

sweechoon

Happy 48th National Day Singapore! For all Singaporeans, let us all reaffirm our own individual meanings of what it is to be Singaporean. For those who are overseas, remember that his is home truly, where I know I must be. And for all of us here in Singapore, let’s take some time to reflect what we have did for ourselves, our families, our community and our nation all these years. My island home, there is no place I would rather be.

Mention midnight dim sum, and patrons who know will probably mention Swee Choon. Swee Choon’s late operating hours has always been a draw for supper crowds. As the restaurant opens from 6pm to 6am from Wednesday to Monday, this is probably one of the best places to visit for that late night dim sum craving. Founded almost 50 years ago, Swee Choon Dim Sum Restaurant is located at Jalan Besar, just a short distance from the heart of Little India. It features a variety of Hong Kong and Shanghai dim sum selections, and is well known for its innovative dishes as well as freshly prepared La Main. The biggest draw for me after my visit? Definitely the mouthwatering explosive Liu Sha Bao. There’s something about a sweet salty fragrance in runny custard that is particularly attractive when enjoyed piping hot.

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