A stunning view, gorgeously plated dishes, delicious beers brewed in-house, and maybe a glass of sweet wine to end the night: LeVeL 33 at Singapore’s Marina Bay Financial Centre Tower 1 is probably one of those places in Singapore you would want to visit for that great night’s out to impress and unwind!
Sited on level 33 of the Westin Singapore, Cook & Brew might draw comparisons to another high-rise establishment on the same storey in a nearby building. But that is another article for another time. For the most part, Cook & Brew is an excellent gastro-bar — I liked the quality of the food, the ambience, the knowledgeable bartenders (they expertly customised a gin-based drink after I asked for one) and most of all, their desserts. But I am slightly less enamoured with its main dishes, because I think that while they are a testament to Executive Chef Aaron Foster’s creativity and skill, they can still aim to provide even greater value for money.
I am probably not the most objective diner to comment on the Garganelli Pasta & Duck Confit ($32++) or the Handmade Ricotta Cavatelli ($28++), since I am not a fan of anything other than spaghetti (I find most other pasta varieties to be too starchy). But I find the former dish aromatic, thanks to the inclusion of double-boiled duck broth, dry Riesling, butter, and the duck confit.
I am more circumspect about the ricotta cavatelli, though. I might betray my lack of cultural capital with this admission, but I can’t stop thinking about how this dish can cost so much, but appear to contain so little. A large part of the price can probably be attributed to how the cavatelli is rolled individually by hand, reflecting the artisanal finesse within.
The Meats: Flavourful, but pricey
Meat connoisseurs will probably enjoy the Beef Pot Roast ($39++). The USDA beef short ribs were tender, and I enjoyed the creamy goat cheese, mascarpone polenta, semi-dried tomato jus, and crisp kale that accompany it. But I find—and this is an indictment of the other meat dishes as well—that the serving size is disappointingly small.
The USDA 365-Day Grain Fed Striploin ($61++) is just as good, if not better. The striploin has a distinctly buttery taste and melted in the mouth. Pity about the small serving, though, because the meat will disappear all too quickly. The restaurant will not do itself a disservice if it increases the size of its cut slightly.
If you are keen to try something more creative, go for the Lobster Grilled Cheese ($49++). It is an expensive sandwich, but then you are getting Nova Scotia lobster between fried brioche, topped with tomato jam and sour pickles. Cucumber salad completes the dish. The lobster is good, of course, but I would personally save my money and go for multiple servings of Nem Nuớng Vietnamese Charcoal Grilled Pork Sausage ($16++) instead. This is Chef Foster’s inspired take on Vietnamese street food, and the substantial grilled pork is served with a slice of spicy watermelon. The lime and chilli dip is an inspired accompaniment.
While the main dishes are delicious, albeit pricy, I cannot say the same for the desserts. The desserts are both great and wallet-friendly.
Must Try: Desserts and that Caramel Butter Tart
Anna Olson’s Steamed Carrot Cake ($14++) is not your usual carrot cake. It might even be a polarising dish. Instead of being crumbly, it is sticky and chewy. The accompanying scoop of cream cheese ice cream might also upset traditionalists expecting something sweet. It is a dish I am happy to order alone, but I will not risk ordering it if I am sharing with someone else. Something about the sweet and slightly salty mix is enamouring to me.
The Caramel Butter Tart ($13++) is my favourite dessert at Cook & Brew. I liked it so much that I made a second visit to Cook & Brew to savour this again. I enjoyed the cold and citrusy blood orange sherbet, especially when combined with the hot, melted butter that oozes out of the tart on the first bite. The sweet whipped cream that sits atop the tart also complements the accompanying slices of grapefruit and orange.
Chocolate Raspberry & Hazelnut Crunch Cake ($15++) is made without flour, so it comes with all the goodness of chocolate cake but with considerably less guilt. The star of this dessert is probably the scoop of Valrhona Guanaja, which has an intense and long-lingering flavour. The warm and flowery notes of the chocolate also goes well with the layer of raspberry buried within the cake.
A stellar ambience at night!
Cook & Brew probably has something for everyone. If you are looking for a quiet spot to have an intimate tête-à-tête, come here on a weekday night. The place is virtually empty and should afford you with the privacy you need. But extroverts will feel right at home in this place as well on Friday evenings. The place buzzes with a live band, animated chatter, and well-dressed professionals hitting back drinks. Go for the outdoor seats if the weather is fine—unlike most other high-rise Marina Bay bars, you get to see an almost uninterrupted vista of the sea, instead of surrounding buildings. Just make sure you don’t leave without having dessert.
Thank you, Cook & Brew, for the invitation.
Cook & Brew
The Westin Singapore, Level 33
12 Marina View, Asia Square Tower 2
Reservations: 6922 6948
Monday-Thursday: 11am – 12 am
Friday: 11 am – 1 am
Saturday: 5 pm – 1 am
Sunday: Closed for private events
Friyay! Every Friday night, enjoy happy hour promotions all night long. Housepour wines and beers start from $10 nett, cocktails begin at $12 nett, and bottle deals are from $88++.
Most Singaporeans are probably familiar with crêpes, but not its close cousin the galette. Both are French pancakes, but the former is a sweet pancake made from wheat flour, while the latter is savoury and made from buckwheat flour. Ô Comptoir in Circular Road is one of those rare places in Singapore that serves good crêpes and galettes. And true to its stereo-typically French roots, the crêpe and cider bar takes quality very seriously.
Famished? You will have to wait for your galette. Every single crêpe and galette is made-to-order. The restaurant owners also insist only on organic flour from a mill in France’s north-western Brittany region, because no one else makes it to the same exacting standards they demand.
The restaurant has a line of galettes and crêpes that is inspired by Japanese sushi rolls. I am usually wary of fusion food because the gimmickry often overshadows quality. But Ô Comptoir largely pulls off this fusion attempt with fresh ingredients and piping hot pancakes.
Try out the Chef’s Recommendations
The crab avocado maki galette with cider sauce ($16++) is a chef’s recommendation, and rightly so. You taste juicy crab roe first, then creamy and sweet avocado, before savoury crabmeat registers on your palate. It is a great mish-mash of flavours and textures.
I am ambivalent about the smoked salmon maki galette with wasabi sauce ($18++) as there are too many things going on in this dish. The smoked salmon is strong-tasting, but so is the thyme and wasabi sauce. It does not help that the galette is coated with a layer of black sesame seeds, which adds more complexity to a very forceful dish.
The allure of duck confit and mashed potatoes
I like the Duck confit maki galette with mashed potatoes ($16++) the best. Rich mashed potatoes and fragrant duck compliment the slightly grainy texture of the buckwheat flour roll.
The salted caramel maki crêpe ($8++) is the right amount of sweet and is delightfully chewy with its homemade caramel sauce. But while it is good, I cannot help but wish for a more substantial accompaniment such as ice cream, fruits, or nuts. The dish feels like it is incomplete without one of these or a richer sauce.
Ô Comptoir’s “usual” galettes are good as well. I have the cheekily named Ménage À 3 ($14++), which comprises Emmental cheese, ham, and a sunny side-up. For three more dollars, you get mushrooms and tomatoes added to the mix. The Ménage À 3 was pleasant enough, but I should have gone for the upgraded version. The mushrooms and tomatoes would have added pep to the slightly salty Emmental cheese and ham.
I strongly recommend the Khao San Road ($22++). This is a perfect example of how good a fusion dish can be, done correctly. The pancake is a perfect wrap for the prawns, mango cubes, tomatoes, bean sprouts, sunny side-up, mint and peanut bits. Every bite taken brings me back to Thailand, reminding me of the good street food.
Thirsty? Make sure you try the ciders and the wines. The ciders start from $6 for a 125ml serving. I tried the dry pear ($7++) and the rosé apple ($7++) and found them both great accompaniments to the savoury galettes. Don’t be surprised if the wait staff asks if you would like to have your cider (directly imported from France under controlled temperature conditions) served in a bowl, as is the practice in Brittany.
The restaurant’s mainstay is its pancakes and alcohol, but like any decent bistro, they also serve salads, cheeses, and other sides and mains.
Charming for that date night out!
Ô Comptoir has a charming ambience. There is a cheeky neon quote from Oscar Wilde on one of the walls, quirky light fixtures, and cosy lighting. The young-at-heart should request for the sole swing seat in the house. That spot also happens to be one of the best places in the restaurant to people-watch. When I visited on a Wednesday night, the place was quiet, with the restaurant and bar never more than a quarter filled. But with such an ambience, Ô Comptoir is a good place to have a romantic dinner or an intimate catch-up with friends before a walk along the adjacent Singapore River.
Thank you Ô Comptoir for the invitation
There are brunches, and there are brunches. They’re calling it Singapore’s longest brunch, and at Monti’s, the food starts from noon and the party goes till midnight.
Monti takes over the Fullerton pavilion from the celebrated Catalunya, where it glimmers like an inset jewel on the waterfront. Inside, the ground to ceiling glass facade gives it a soaring, spacious aesthetic that presents the marina Bayfront in its full glory. The trade-off with so much glass though, is the occasional heatwave from Singapore’s characteristic sunny days. But it seems like a worthwhile trade, for the views are stunning — sunlight glistens across the water and flits flatteringly across your dining table; it is an instagrammer’s dream. Inside, the aesthetic is elegant and uplifting, with bright hues of blues and yellows adorning the room.
Singapore’s longest brunch is served a la carte, which means you get to choose what you want, and exactly when you want it. This makes for food that’s always prepared fresh and brought to the table piping hot or nicely chilled, instead of sitting around looking hopeful on an open counter top.
The Seafood Platter
The first thing you notice when you sit down is the massive seafood platter that greets you. It’s a visually-dramatic starter and fitting centrepiece that arrives with a bit of theatrics and smoking dried ice, but nothing too over the top that it distracts from the royal display of king crab, oysters, shellfish, sashimi and prawns. It comes highly recommended that you take a moment here to misdirect your dining companions with gorgeous bayfront views, or by flinging empty clam shells at them, and by doing so buy yourself some more time alone with the fresh, succulent-sweet crab.
One of the many joys at Monti is the tableside chef service. Brunch is peppered with personal touches–our grilled octopus salad is assembled in front of our eyes, with the chef regaling us with origin stories of Sicilian lemons. The salad is bright and zesty, with octopus in abundance; we’re quickly working up at appetite by this point.
Pasta Galore and oh, that Truffle Risotto
The brunch menu is suitably lengthy, and the range of options you could consider are near limitless–you could probably rack up a hundred pasta combinations alone. With an infinite number of possibilities but a finite appetite, it’s important that we introduce some highlights to maximize your dining experience. The first of your selections must be the truffle risotto (i.e. Cacio Pepe e Tartufo). The warm risotto is finished tableside in a giant wheel of parmesan, where the cheese melts gently into the mix with each fold. A generous portion of truffle is shaved delicately over the risotto and served steaming with umami. It almost makes you wonder why all risottos aren’t similarly made in chunks of cheese.
Foie Gras, Iberico Pork Jowl and More!
Other favourites include the Foie Gras — rich, creamy and balanced perfectly with a tart wine jelly that’s made in-house. One item that you shouldn’t overlook is the French Toast from the egg selection. Don’t be fooled by its simple name and humble associations (relative to say, the king crab). It’s perfectly done, and incredibly addictive. I could wake up to this every morning.
The other must-tries include the Charcoal Grilled Iberico Pork Jowl – crunchy on the outside from an excellent char and juicy on the inside. You can tell the quality of meats partly by how the fat tastes — meats of poor origin often have a distinct chewiness and a strong, off-putting odour; on the other hand, the best fats have a luscious quality and a slight sweetness. It is here that the iberico park jowl shines. You may want to get a couple more of these for the table, they’re going to go quickly. The lamb chop and ribeye were tasty enough, but could have been grilled on a higher heat for better char. I’d happily dig into more pork jowl instead.
Along the way, don’t forget to try out the drink-making stations with your friends, where you get the chance to be your own bartender. Hit up a couple of mojitos and bloody marys, all in the name of a bit of good fun (and refreshing boozy beverages, of course). Here’s a hot tip we picked up from the friendly staff: clap your mint leaves, and don’t muddle them — a light pressure releases its fragrance, while abrasive force extracts the bitter compounds.
Stuffed as you may be, there’s always room for dessert. The dessert table at Monti is not one you want to miss. Don’t be fooled by their petite, unassuming stature; each little morsel packs a powerful punch of flavour. Look out for the Peanut Cream Tartlets and the Torta Caprese (chocolate tortes) and their deep, rich chocolate interiors. Try also the Stuffoli with Honey & Nutella, little fried cheese balls which you top with honey and Nutella — it’s like a moreish, chewy, cheesy churro.
Monti has all sorts of good things going for it at its Sunday brunch. And it certain earns its longest brunch title with the DJ sets and live jazz that take over towards the late afternoon and into the night. What I’m actually more curious about are the postmodern jukebox-styled sets that I hear Monti hosts on Thursday nights. Now, if only they served brunch in the evening…
Thank you Monti for the invitation.