I must admit, I was initially quite reluctant to write this post. Why the hesitance? Well, with secrets this good, it’s quite tempting to keep them all to yourself. But in the spirit of the new year, it seemed right to be a bit generous this season. So allow me to introduce you to KUVO—the oasis that you’ve always been looking for, and one of Singapore’s best-kept secrets.
Photo Credits: Kuvo
KUVO sits right along the heart of Orchard Road, but is tucked quietly away from the heat and crowds. It’s almost a little like platform 9 and ¾. One moment you’re in the middle of a busy metropolis, but take just a few steps around an inconspicuous corner and suddenly you find yourself immersed in this hidden magical world.
Your journey begins at the ground floor of Orchard Shopping Centre, where you’ll find an unassuming lectern and menu that belie the wonders within. Ascend the glimmering set of mirrored escalators, and you’ll very shortly find yourself entering the welcoming embrace of what feels almost like a private lounge. With KUVO comfortably occupying the entire floor, the mood is spacious, relaxed, and inviting. An ambient mix of easy-listening jazz and pop drifts through the air, casual yet upbeat.
Photo Credits: Kuvo
By day, this would have made an excellent hideaway for lunch or tea. This time around however, we had heard of KUVO’s new tapas and bespoke cocktail pairing menu and were keen to sample their new creations. We started off our evening with a cool glass of Antica Fratta Brut (S$17); a sparkling Italian wine, bright with fruity and floral notes that makes for a great aperitif.
Brandy Flambeed Beef Cubes; Photo Credits: Kuvo
The first of the tapas to arrive was the Brandy Flambéed Beef Cubes (S$22); a sizzling plate of wagyu and roasted garlic flambéed with brandy and finished with a red wine glaze. One thing that certainty stands out at KUVO is the excellent wagyu that they employ in their dishes—the beef cubes here were moist, flavourful and tender. However, the little alcoholic in me couldn’t help but wonder if the flavour of the brandy was perhaps slightly too faint, leaving it a bit lost amidst the other strong flavours.
Calamari Ajillo; Photo Credits: Kuvo
Arriving shortly after was the Grilled Octopus (S$16); sous-vide octopus and baby potatoes are sprinkled with smoked paprika – a Spanish classic. Octopus, olive oil and paprika together constitute what must surely be one of the culinary trinities, and this dish demonstrates the effectiveness of its simplicity. More seafaring food followed, in the form of the Calamari Ajillo (S$16); calamari is sautéed with garlic and chorizo, creating a lightly spicy whole that accentuates the texture of the calamari. Of the two sister dishes though, my preference remains for the octopus. Rounding off the individual tapas was the Atlantic Cod Meuniere (S$20); an Atlantic cod medallion coated in a sweet pea crust sits atop a pearl barley fricassee and brown butter. The cod is cooked perfectly, flaking gently at the touch of a fork, while the brown butter’s nutty fragrance draws out the sweetness of the fish. The variety of textures from crust to fish to fricassee makes it a consistently exciting experience throughout. Overall, a highly accomplished dish.
Slipper Lobster; Photo Credits: Kuvo
KUVO’s cocktail pairings reflect careful attention to the flavour profiles of the tapas, and feature a thoughtful mix of East-meets-West influences. The first of these pairings was the Slipper Lobster (S$15) and Hello Cel’lo (S$21); the slipper lobster meat is cooked well, firm but yet not tough, and is brightened by a spicy and tangy salsa of habanero, bell peppers and cilantro. Accompanying it is the Hello Cel’lo, a gin-based cocktail with limoncello liqueur, celery bitters and balsamico.
Hello Cel’lo; Photo Credits: Kuvo
The Hello Cel’lo was one of my favourites of the night—well-balanced, piquant, and very aromatic, this is a drink that could almost complement itself.
Kurobuta Yakiniku Donbur; Photo Credits: Kuvo
The next pairing to arrive was the Kurobuta Yakiniku Donburi (S$16) and Tales of Shu (S$21); had together, the two evoke familiar feelings of warmth, comfort and contentment. Cutting into the gently-perched onsen egg yields a custard-yellow yolk that flows casually onto flavourful kurobuta—an immensely satisfying sight. Tales of Shu showcases the talent and craftsmanship of KUVO’s head bartender, Yutaka Nakashima, where he brings the best of his Japanese influence to the table. It is cocktail-making with a touch of theatre—Yutaka prepares the cocktail in a glass vacuum coffee siphon, introducing intriguing combinations like dehydrated orange, pineapple, Lillet Blanc and sake.
Tales of Shu; Photo Credits: Kuvo
Tonight Yutaka took a spin on the original Tales of Shu to create a richly complex, deep and warm sake-based cocktail that made for perfect sipping alongside the donburi. Given how effective this version was, I’d be excited to sample the original Tales of Shu with its genmai extract, where the nutty notes of the tea would quite certainly bring a whole new layer of depth to the mix. I’m already intoxicated by the idea, and will have to come back another time to give it a try.
KUVO’s Coffee Hot Wings; Photo Credits: Kuvo
Following shortly after was KUVO’s Coffee Hot Wings (S$14) and Brewski Yen (S$21). The coffee hot wings are a brilliant alternative to your usual buffalo wings; encased in a lusciously sweet and sticky coffee crust with just the right amount of spice, the wings are tasty all by themselves. But to take the wings to the next level, and perhaps to save the more sensitive ones from the spice, dunk your wings into the accompanying blue cheese dip for some extra indulgence. Now most of us know that nothing much goes better with sticky, sweet and spicy fried wings at a bar than beer. But maybe that’s only because you haven’t yet tasted a beer cocktail. The Brewski Yen is beer taken to the next level, with hand-poured Kirin freshened further by Suze bitters (a product of gentian flowers), lemon and ginger ale.
Wagyu & Camembert Sliders; Photo Credits: Kuvo
The Wagyu & Camembert Sliders (S$17) and Green Iceland (S$21) came next; a cross-continental combination featuring Japanese wagyu, French Camembert cheese, and crispy wantons with wasabi mayonnaise. Once again KUVO’s wagyu creations work their magic, and the beef does not disappoint. The Green Island combines Italian sparkling wine with the plum-based Japanese umeshu, while lime and mint leaves introduce a hint of extra freshness. Although a little light for my taste, this elixir boasts a refreshing tartness that completes the journey of East meets West.
English Scotch Egg; Photo Credits: Kuvo
The final pair to arrive was the English Scotch Egg (S$14) and Captain B.R. (S$21); melted Edam cheese is draped over an enormous English egg layered with minced wagyu and buoyed by a robust red wine sauce base. Crisp on the outside, meaty as you bite into it and molten on the inside, this is food geology at its finest. The Scotch egg blows its everyday cousin of eggs benedict clean out of the water, and was easily my favourite dish of the night. I’d have these eggs for breakfast any day—or at any other meal, for that matter. The Captain B.R. is an Earl Grey infusion of British rum, fresh lemon and soda water that recreates the feeling of afternoon tea, but with a little happy kick at the end. This is a competent pairing that feels a little bit like a very tasty indoor picnic, and which made for an excellent round-off to the meal.
Photo Credits: Kuvo
As dinner came to an end, perhaps my only gripe was that the laid-back vibes were eventually displaced by a live band that started to play what seemed to be a rather incongruously loud set of pop rock and mandopop. The band wasn’t exactly bad, but the sudden shift in mood just felt a little dissonant, having emerged from a relatively relaxed dinner. To create that upbeat mood, a quirky acoustic set, a DJ, or maybe even just a lighter band might have been more suited to the setting. But that’s really just being nitpicky. There’s much to commend KUVO for, from its brilliant location and comfortable ambience, to its thoughtful tapas, creative cocktails and affable mixologist. As a hideaway from the country’s perennial state of busyness, this one’s pretty hard to beat.
So the secret’s out, and Orchard might never seem the same again. Happy to be of service, but now excuse me a moment while I pay this gem a little visit before everyone else does too.
Thank you Kuvo for the invitation.
|Orchard Shopping Centre
321 Orchard Road
Contact: 6733 8272
Sun to Thu, PH
12pm to 1am
Fri, Sat and eve of PH