Situated away in the slightly snazzy and heritage rich Aliwal street area is A for Arbite, the restaurant of petite gastronomic proportions paired with unique craft beers. Conceptualized and revamped from the traditional way of enjoying meals, the restaurant emphasizes that each guest try an assortment of flavours, across dishes and be sated from knowing that you have tried just but a small selection of the menu. Highlights like the Jar of Duck (with black truffles and foie gras) and the Lobster Thermidor are prime examples on how intense flavours can get in small portions. I was literally blown away! If you are game for a unique dining experience that redefines what it means to have a meal while still retaining what is familiar, A for Arbite might just be right up your alley. I’m game to go back for more. Are you?
I wouldn’t have known about A for Arbite if it was not introduced to me. When you are located at the heart of bugis, amidst winding lanes that almost never sees the light of heavy traffic, you would never even think about heading to Aliwal street for a meal escapade.
A for Arbite is decked in what is most familiar to many Singaporeans, albeit with a playful touch. The classroom/canteen like environment with simple ‘educational’ touches here and there is a novel, cheesy charm that strikes a comforting atmosphere that almost expects you to be rowdy and have a good time. For those who need instructions on how to enjoy the food at A for Arbite, read off the instructions found on the chalkboard. I’m sure this will be something (secretly) appreciated.
This is a must order when I’m back at A for Arbite! The Lobster Thermidor ($12) is a teacup serving of maine lobster, crabmeat, mushroom, cream, mustard, brandy and parmesan cheese. When this dish was served, I was crestfallen to note the portion size. I took the spoon, tucked into the first sip, and was blown away. Short spurts of intense savoury umaminess. The top, creamy and thick only to reveal the fragrant broth within. Flavours of slight truffle, sea sweet Lobster and melted cheese come together in a wonderful combination. Furthermore, pairing the broth with toast makes for a perfect matching in flavours and play of textures that leaves a hearty aftertaste in the mouth. Importantly, as I started off the meal with this dish, the concentrated, savoury flavours just left me going ‘wow, wow, wow’ and definitely raised the bar.
Gets on well with: Steenbrugge Tripel, Jasmine Dragon Pearls Tea
Next, the Deep Fried Quail ($8.50) with Moroccan spices, chilli jam and sumac. The quail, scented with curry and sweet spices, is presented crisp to the bite. The chilli jam was an interesting play of tender, sweet flavours with some freshness thrown in. In overall, the dish was ok, something interesting but not outstanding.
Works best with: Steenbrugge Dubbel Bruin, Rochefort 8
The Portobello and Lentil Stack ($9) was much better with a unique combination of grilled eggplant, zucchini, lentil and mushroom ragout, portobello confit and my favourite, torched brie. The portobello is not as earthily strong as I expected with a rather light flavour throughout complemented by the textured creaminess from the lentil. It reminded me of a ratatouille! Still, my favourite part of the dish was the torched brie that simply contrasted the deep bold flavours of lentil and portobello with a distinct clarity and milkiness that had flavours that blended well with each other.
Happiest beside: Steenbrugge Dubbel Bruin, Osmanthus Oolong tea
The Beef Onglet Tataki ($6) sounded unique, presented with class, but left me undecided whether I liked the dish as a whole or simply appreciated the meat. Beef onglet is served with shoyu, sesame oil, mushroom, onion soil and shiso. Meaty, full bodied clear and crisp flavours that was tinged with sesame and truffle. The meat, slightly chewy yet still juicy can be a draw for some.
Good friends with: Steenbrugge Dubbel Bruin, Rochefort 8
I can’t emphasize how excited I am to recommend the Jar of Duck ($19.50). Duck rillettes, black truffle, foie gras, smoked duck breast, roasted grapes is served alongside a smattering of crackers. Expect bold, intense savoury flavours with the beautiful aromatics of foie gras and smoked duck standing out as key ingredients. The texture, creamy to the bite, is well contrasted with the crisp cracker. A wonderful play on textures with simple, clear cut, strong savoury touches. The serving is also generously oily, but that is what makes the dish all the more tasty. Have one, indulge in the sinful portion, then finish the jar. I’m sure you can.
Enjoys spending time with: Jasmine Dragon Pearls Tea, Mixed Berry Sangria
The Scotched Egg ($8) was a little disappointing. Presented as a poached egg, wrapped with minced bacon and pork, breaded and deep fried and then served with soba hollandaise, this was ordinary to say the least. But if you are discerning, the real draw of this dish is the sauce that had a surprising presence of citrus sweetness.
Has a crush on: Palm
The Braised smoked pork belly ($7) would be a familiar dish for those who love the taiwanese pork belly and bun. Here, the chunky piece of streaky bacon is braised for 36 hours and then topped with kimchi just before serve. Lusciously fatty, with a melt in the mouth goodness that leaves a hearty aftertaste. The kimchi, a little sweet and a touch spicy complements and cuts through the fattiness, making this a refreshing portion of pork belly that deserves another bite.
Plays nicely with: Rochefort 8
Those seeking a petite burger option can opt for the Wagyu beef slider ($12.50). Hand chopped wagyu rump is moulded into a circular patty, topped with caramelized onions, chilli jam and slice of cheese. The wagyu patty is definitely juicy and meaty, but was quickly overpowered with the sweetness from the caramelized onion. Still, the toasted sesame seed buns used in this dish is both sweet and crisp to the bite, making it an impressive contrast with the layered ingredients. The side of fries is lightly scented with truffle.
The Pan-fried scallops ($8) were good. Three pieces of hokkaido scallops is layered atop each other and served with prune, balasmic puree and crispy parma ham on the top. The result? Fruity sweet, tangy bursts, sparkle of sea sweetness and delectably meaty. Note the use of olive oil in each serving that is distinctively compatible with the scallops. Enjoy this dish layer by layer or go for the entire mouthful? I leave that up to you.
Best buddies: Yuzu Mojito, Lindermans Peach Beer
The Green Tea Spaghettini ($7) gains top marks for its colour. The green tea pasta is handmade and served alongside slices of smoked duck breast, wasabi tobiko and lapsang souchong broth. The flavours were generally refreshing, light and spiced up with a touch of hotness from the wasabi infused fish roe. The smoked duck was fatty, with a crisp texture, adding to the yin-yang combination of this dish.
On very good terms with: Jasmine Dragon Pearls tea
For a dish that is slightly more substantial, order the Squid ink risotto ($16.50). Relatively generous amount of seafood was incorporated into the risotto, with pops of seafood such as prawns, squid, mussels and crabmeat appearing along the way. I noted the squid ink flavour to be quite light and not very rich in its alkaline uniqueness. The serving of fried halibut, generally neutral in flavour on its own goes very well in bringing out the heavier flavours in the rice. Pairing this dish with the drink of Jasmine Dragon Pearl tea sweetens the dish by a notch, cleansing the tongue thereafter and then allowing one to enjoy even more flavours from this dish developing in the mouth.
Likes working with: Jasmine Dragon Pearls tea, Corazon Loco Blanco
I am quite divided in my opinions for the Salad Nicoise ($6). Tuna loin tataki is served with shaved egg, potato confit, tomato and olive agar, and Cabernet Sauvignon dressing. Served deconstructed, I thought the most interesting part was the olive agar for its rustic tree flavour and bouncy texture. My friend, Sarah, loved this dish and especially enjoyed the dressing complementing the tuna’s chunky meatiness.
Plays nicely with : Estaminet, All That Jazz Sauvignon Blanc
Thatchers Old Rascal Apple Cider ($14) – Light bodied texture with a fragrant, intense apple aroma. A little rounded on the tongue, easy to drink. Rose the Fruity pink beer ($10) – Strong and intense, with a sharp floral sweetness. A hearty drink.
Desserts at A for Arbite are in relatively more substantial portions. The Cookies and Cream Cheese Cake ($8), served deconstructed and layered, redefines my impression of what an ordinary cheese cake should be like. I generally enjoyed the cream cheese mascarpone and milk espouma giving a light overall texture but found it a little challenging to appreciate the overtly salty yet seductive cookie.
Paired with: Melon and Mangosteen Tea
My wife’s chocolate cake ($8).
French Toast with G.M. Mascarpone ($5). My favourite dessert for the night has to be this! A piece of fluffy, soft brioche is served with a jar of gula melaka mascarpone mix that brings a unique dimension of sweetness to the dish. A little musky, craftily aromatic and elegant plated, this dish was a winner.
A close friend of : Rochefort 8
The Ginseng panna cotta ($7) is definitely an acquired taste. Not everyone can appreciate the herbal, pronounced bitter sweet flavours. However, if you are open to these interesting mix, this is an excellent dessert on its own with a degree of robust flavours that stand out distinctively from each other. If acts as a quaint way to end the meal, in manner of flavours that is sometimes unthinkable.
Has a strong friendship with: Yuzu Mojito
I give my dining experience at A for Arbite an ‘A-‘. The savoury dishes are generally better, interesting and unique with notables like the Jar of Duck, Pan-fried scallops and Lobster Thermidor standing out clearly from the rest. The sweets are decent, and those looking for unique alcoholic ciders and beers will be pleased to note the substantially extensive range available. Still, I am very much intrigued and curious by the concept of serving tapas like portions to make up a meal. Generally, one needs to order about 3-4 dishes for a good dinner portion. When one notes the serving size against the price for the dish, the idea of value becomes more pronounced. That said, the concept as a whole is definitely refreshing from the norm and would do good for those who love to try a variety instead of being stuck with one single main for the day. If you can reconcile that, and wish to be adventurous in flavours with a couple of friends, A for Arbite is the place to check out. Just remember to order the Lobster Thermidor and have it before anything else.
Thank you A for Arbite for the invitation.
|A for Arbite
28 Aliwal Street
#01-01 Aliwal Arts Centre
Tue-Fri 11.30am to 2.30pm, 6pm to 11pm
Sat 11am to 11pm
Sun 9am to 9pm
Closed on Mondays