Wednesday, 17 September, 2014

 
Published July 26, 2014
Dining
Fresh re-makes
With new restaurants opening on a daily basis, pompous is the industry stalwart who refuses to keep up with the times. BT Weekend looks at familiar brands and venues that have recently unveiled refreshed looks
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COMPLETE DINING EXPERIENCE
Above: At Match, customers can get their fill of dinner, drinks and dancing - a concept known as vibe-dining, according to Ms Schwartz

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Match Restaurant

7 Raffles Boulevard, Pan Pacific Singapore, Marina Square Tel 6337 0800

Hours: Mon & Tue: 6pm-1am Wed & Thu: 6pm-3am

Fri & Sat: 6pm-4am

www.matchdining.sg

ROYAL Room and Mink Club may have closed their doors earlier this year, but nightlife junkies need not fret just yet. You can still get your fill of dinner, drinks, and dancing at the same location with the newly opened Match Restaurant and next-door commercial dance club Bang Bang.

Match is a New York-style restaurant serving American cuisine, still run by Royal Room's owners Prive Group and Massive Collective, except with the addition of two new partners - 28-year-old Sarissa Schwartz and her husband, Joshua.

According to Ms Schwartz, the main aim of the newly-renovated Match is to provide customers with a complete dining experience in the form of a "vibe dining" concept. The latter, she says, is a concept that originated in Europe, where a late dinner is combined with a DJ spinning in the background, before diners move the party to a club.

She explains: "We noticed there was a need in the market for an establishment that bridged the gap between dining and late night. We serve our full menu until midnight and bar snacks until 3am. It is vibe-dining as we have a DJ and the energy will slowly increase as the night goes on."

The restaurant's name comes from the menu's concept, where diners get to mix and match their main course, choice of sauce, a side and a vegetable, all for $29 to $95 depending on the final components. Too much fussing? Diners can also order off a regular a la carte menu.

"By constantly dining out, we realised it was very difficult to find quality healthy items at a restaurant that served yummy decadent food as well," says Ms Schwartz, who moved here three years ago from New York. "My husband always said he would love to find a restaurant where he could have a healthy option. So we give suggested pairings, but it's ultimately what you decide."

Of the reason for the revamp, Philip Poon, director and co-owner at Massive Collective, points out that Royal Room's clientele are now being served at other outlets owned by the group, such as premium bottle-service lounge Fenix Room at Clarke Quay.

"We felt there was an opportunity to do a dining destination with a bit of a vibe, linked to a club. Match is a one-stop destination that you don't get anywhere else in Singapore."

By Rachel Loi

Corner House

1 Cluny Road, EJH Corner House, Nassim Gate, Singapore Botanic Gardens Tel 6469 1000

www.cornerhouse.com.sg

Hours: 12-3pm, 6.30-11pm (Mon-Sat), 11.30am-3pm and 6.30-11pm (Sun)

LOCAL chef Jason Tan has lately been so taken with the concept of "gastro-botanica", he wants to pioneer the movement here. A cooking philosophy that goes beyond a mother's well-meaning nag to finish the vegetables on your plate, gastro-botanical is, in chef Tan's interpretation, botanicals-inspired cuisine that melds primarily French techniques with global flavours.

"Vegetables will not be treated as mere garnishes, but as important as the proteins that share the plate too," explains Mr Tan, a Les Amis and Saint Julien kitchen alumnus who last headed Sky on 57 at the Marina Bay Sands as its executive chef.

So you may get, for example, a plate of carabinero prawn flanked with tomatoes marinated with Thai basil and plum, a quenelle of tomato sorbet and a light-as-air marshmallow of tomato essence. In another signature dish, the French Cevennes onion is singularly showcased in four ways: confit with black truffles and egg, made into a filo pastry tart, dehydrated into a chip, and infused with tea and served as a broth. Edible chocolate pebbles and lemon juice-pickled shimeji mushrooms in your dessert? All par for the course.

This all marries very well with the Botanic Gardens surrounds of chef Tan's new venture, Corner House, he says. Opened to the public from last night, the casual fine-dining affair seats 70 over two floors of the black and white villa that formerly housed French fine dining restaurant Au Jardin, which closed in March.

In chef Tan and business partner Renny Heng's hands, the space has now been fashioned into a homely but handsome eatery that pays tribute to EJH Corner, a leading botanist and former assistant director of the gardens in the early 1900s, and for whom the house once served as a private residence. The pair spent over two months researching archives here and in the United Kingdom, including in-depth correspondences with Mr Corner's son, John, to find elements that link the restaurant back to Mr Corner's residency.

Photographs of the late Mr Corner and his watercolour artworks kit out the restaurant reception - once the latter's study and dining room - alongside William Farquhar-commissioned sketches by Asian artists of the fungi and local botanical monkey species that Mr Corner was credited to have founded.

Upstairs, glass-encased verandahs offer 180-degree leafy views of the gardens in full air-conditioned comfort. Granite-coloured chairs bring the outdoors in and even the tableware bear botanical elements: porcelain plates resemble oyster shells and lily pads, glass plates are finished with a volcanic glaze and table-side salt holders are carved out of whole rocks.

Mr Heng, a self-professed lover of all things vintage, says he's had his eye on the iconic site for a long time. "If I wanted to do another modern restaurant, I would have done it in the city," adds the founder of wine importers, Wine Culture, of the S$1.5 million venture. He also owns winebar Verre on Robertson Quay and French tavern Shelter in the Woods, which is closed for refurbishment until September.

Expect, naturally, a winelist spanning 600 carefully curated wines from the Old and New World, including 50 labels available by the half-bottle. Dinners start from S$98 for a four-course menu, and lunch sets, which start in a month, begin at S$38 for three courses. Or go the whole hog with a eight-course degustation menu for S$248 per person.

By Debbie Yong

debyong@sph.com.sg

@DebbieYongBT

Shima restaurant

Goodwood Park Hotel, 22 Scotts Road Tel 6734 6281

Hours: 12pm to 3pm and 6pm to 10pm daily

www.shimarestaurant.com.sg

TONY Chng, chief operating officer of JR Group Holdings Pte Ltd, has fond memories of the first time he ate at Shima restaurant when his then girlfriend (now wife) took him there almost 10 years ago.

"At that time we were still dating. She was in healthcare and among the medical fraternity they liked coming to Shima for the fresh sashimi brought in every Tuesday and Friday," he recalls.

So when he heard the original owner, Katsuhiro Watanabe, was retiring to return to Japan, he decided to buy over the business and try to revive it for a younger generation of customers. "Shima is quite well-known among people who patronised the place during the 80s and 90s. But over the years the awareness is lacking. The younger generation doesn't really know the brand," says Mr Chng, whose company runs food-related businesses including catering, manufacturing as well as restaurants Imperial Feast and Oceanspoon Dining.

The teppanyaki restaurant has been at its current location at Goodwood Park Hotel since it opened its doors in 1980, and has since received multiple awards including "Singapore's Top Restaurant 1998/1999" by Wine & Dine Magazine.

And after closing for a two-month renovation, Shima reopened about a month ago with a more modern look and brighter decor.

But that's pretty much all he intends to change about the 34-year-old restaurant, promises Mr Chng. Other familiar elements like the custom-made teppanyaki griddle, the food suppliers, and the chefs, will remain.

The menu will also stay the same, so regular diners can still get their teppanyaki buffets of tempura, sashimi, and an assortment of teppanyaki items for S$49.90++ on weekdays and S$59.90++ on weekends. However, they did add a few items, like a range of Aburi sushi (S$10-S$35), and an Australian lamb tenderloin option for the set meal (S$45 per 120g). Retaining the original recipes and dishes while modernising the brand image are all part of how Mr Chng hopes to make the restaurant more relevant for the new generation.

He says: "As a customer myself, I would not go to Shima every day. But it was a place I would visit for special occasions or to bring Japanese friends for dinner. Now we hope to connect with younger customers, so Shima can go back to those days when it was one of the best restaurants for people who wanted good Japanese food."

By Rachel Loi

rachloi@sph.com.sg

@RachelLoiBT


More makeovers

Wild Rocket

Hangout Hotel, 10A Upper Wilkie Road Tel 63399448

Hours: 12-3pm (lunch), 3-6pm (tea) 6.30-10.30pm (dinner) from Mon to Sat

WILD Rocket has re-opened in the same space atop Mount Emily after a seven-month hiatus. Gone are its corporate grey interiors and in their place is an uber-trendy, Japanese teahouse-inspired space that reflects chef-owner Willin Low's fascination with Nippon culture.

"The ingredients in Japan are so good that you can go to a supermarket and get inspiration straightaway," adds Mr Low, who spent over a month living there. Looking to keep abreast of competition, he closed the eight-year-old restaurant in December in search of a new space, but returned to the same spot for nostalgic reasons, he says.

Menu-wise, Wild Rocket still flies the Mod-Sin flag with popular classics seamlessly integrated with new creations bearing Thai, Cambodian and Filipino influences from his various travels around the region.

To best take in the self-taught chef's culinary evolution, opt for the omakase lunch and dinner sets at the chef's table that seats six to 10, where you will get a span of old favourites such as a Thai pomelo salad with ice-cream dressing, to new-fangled creations of local salted egg yolk crab-inspired crab cakes, and the cheekily dubbed "Singapore fried noodles", an ever-changing course showcasing Mr Low's varying takes on noodles. The restaurant's signature laksa pesto pasta - which over the years have come to epitomise mod-Sin cooking - gets a 2014 update as a richly aromatic laksa risotto topped with pan-seared Hokkaido scallop. End off with homely desserts such as a matcha sugee cake, or a peppy pineapple sorbet topped with crystalised soy sauce from a small-batch local brewer and a sprinkle of chilli - a tribute to the way the chef's grandfather enjoyed his fruit.

By Debbie Yong

2am : dessertbar

21a Lorong Liput Tel 6291 9727 Hours: 10am-2pm (Mon-Sat)

AFTER years as Singapore's dessert stalwart, 2am : dessertbar closed last week for a 10-day rehaul of the space, its first since it opened in Holland Village in 2007.

When it rolls its shutters back up next week, expect new features such as a full cocktail bar showcasing concoctions designed to be paired with dessert, cosy custom-designed booth seats and "chocolate tables", or chocolate-painted tables that diners can eat directly off, says chef-owner Janice Wong. "We have been constantly evolving for the last seven years and felt we have outgrown our current fit-out," adds Ms Wong, who has gone on to bag global accolades such as the title of Asia's Best Pastry Chef at the Asia 50 Best Restaurant Awards for two years running.

Her notable forays in edible art in recent years, for instance, is now something diners can interact with in the 40-seater space through edible art paintings that line the whimsical mirror-clad entrance hall to a "sweets gallery" that diners can lick and pick at as they wander through. Instead of the space's original brown sofas and minimalist decor, expect a more open, industrial design brief fashioned around an understated palette of black, white and grey.

"The spirit and elements of surprise will remain," says Ms Wong. While the outlet's main focus is still on dessert, expect more savoury additions to the menu in the form of small and large dishes from S$10 to S$30. And if you loathe to join the wait for a spot in the weekends, another new feature at 2am: dessertbar v2.0 is a ground-floor takeaway bar, which will offer churros, beignets, liquid tarts, magnums from S$5 to S$8. Ms Wong also has several large projects in the works, she hints, though further details can only be revealed next month, so watch this space for more.

By Debbie Yong

The Disgruntled Chef

26B Dempsey Road Tel 64765305

Hours: Tues to Thurs: 12pm to 2.30pm, 6pm to 10.30pm. Fri and Sat: 12pm to 2.30pm, 6pm to 11.30pm. Sun: 12pm to 4.30pm, 6pm to 10.30pm

www.disgruntledchef.com

THE Disgruntled Chef celebrates its fourth anniversary by going back to its roots. "We felt this milestone called for a total refreshment in not just the food & drink offerings, but also the main dining hall interior for a rejuvenated dining experience," says founder and head chef, Daniel Sia. The 1,608 sq m restaurant has been redecorating every Monday since the beginning of June. "The new earthy colour palette is inspired by the history of Dempsey Road," says chef Sia. Dark brown plantation shutters have been added, and rattan woven designs now cover the booths, a nod to the original British barracks and nutmeg plantation that once occupied the space, adding privacy to the otherwise airy 12-seater indoor area. The overall look will be complete by the end of August. The team also sees a new additon with Jac Lim, who left the restaurant as sous chef, and returns as head chef.

Replacing the brunch big and small options are 12 new brunch tartines, priced at S$20 or S$25, including vegetarian dishes such as the Turkish (S$25, made with stuffed eggplant on grilled pita bread. "The overall food menu gets lighter and infused with more colours," says chef Sia. This includes signature dishes like the crackling suckling pig (S$68), now served with sauerkraut puree and pickled mustard seeds. Dishes on the main menu are priced at S$8 to S$21 for small plates and S$26 to S$98 for big plates.

By Georgine Verano

gverano@sph.com.sg