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665°F makes the cut
Level 38, Andaz Singapore,
5 Fraser Street
Tuesday to Saturday: 6pm to 10pm
GOING by the rate at which steakhouses keep popping up all over town, you can almost hear the vegetarian movement heaving a collective sigh in disappointment. One broccoli step forward, two lamb chops backward. It's the perennial dilemma.
For every chef who succeeds in turning vegetables into a satisfying main course, there is another who extols the virtues of wet and dry-aged, prime-quality beef. And for those who sit awkwardly in the middle, torn between being politically current and wanting to tear into a beautifully-marbled, medium-rare ribeye, the surfeit of choice is too much to bear.
You can mull over this from the 38th floor of the new Andaz Singapore hotel, where 665°F captures the concept of fire and meat in very stylish surroundings. Created from the imagination of designer Andre Fu, the tiny dining room gets its look from Savile Row, so think clubby gentlemen's hangout in tan and brown, leather accents and two-tone walls punched with brass rivets.
Any British stiff upper lip will likely be extinguished by the roaring fire that burns under the Pira oven, a giant furnace that consumes the tiny open kitchen and burns at 665°F, hence the restaurant's name. If we were in Europe in the winter, the warmth that radiates into the dining room would make us nice and toasty. But if you are seated at a table nearby, you're going to get a little toasted.
While we've seen chefs around the world centre their cooking on fire and do pretty amazing things with vegetables as well as meat, it's only animal protein that we see going into the oven. The asparagus with truffle butter seems to be the only green that's cooked in there, while the creamed spinach, vegetable dauphinoise, and mushrooms are either cooked in a pan or baked.
Still, the food is rather promising, kicking off with a very acceptable lobster bisque (S$20) - a tomato-based seafood broth that's only slightly creamy, so it's got enough richness without hitting you in the gut. Chunks of fresh lobster add to the effort, and splitting the soup into two portions is a thoughtful touch. While the two young women serving are quite inexperienced and clearly speak English as a second language, they make up for it with their sweet and helpful dispositions.
The crab cakes here are also made with care (S$32) and are a genuine attempt to use proper crabmeat, loosely packed into three large patties and coated with chunky crumbs for extra crackling effect when you bite into it. There's just a tad too much grain mustard in the filling that detracts from the crab, otherwise it's one of the more decent versions around.
They must be the work of the tiny female chef who mans the kitchen, flanked by a bunch of hefty men who do much of the hot work with the oven. We see hunks of lamb and steak going in there, with three of the lamb chops (S$55) landing on our table.
The double chops are cut unnecessarily thick, which we are required to hack into with a mere dinner knife. But what makes us more anxious is that when it's so thick, the chances of being over cooked on the outside while waiting for the heat to reach the middle is extremely high.
Which is exactly what happens to our otherwise juicy chops, which come with a minty salsa verde as a fitting accompaniment, and a whole bulb of roasted garlic. Once we get to the centre and close the bone, we hit the juicy jackpot.
We prefer the lamb to the 350gm ribeye, although the Irish steak is well-priced at S$49. Being grass-fed, it lacks the oomph and tender bite of a grain-fed animal, but it's environment-friendly and healthier.
This one is done nicely medium-rare, and cuts easily albeit making a chewy mouthful. It doesn't really need the mushroom sauce on the side and we regret ordering the side of creamed spinach (S$15) for its oddly perfumey, coconut milk-like taste rather than the simple, indulgent, creamy vegetable were expecting.
We don't understand why dessert has to be made in portions for two to four people, which means if only one person has a sweet tooth, dessert would be a waste.
So we forgo the baked Alaska, floating island and bitter chocolate mousse, and concede to wait 15 minutes while the chef rustles up some chocolate and pear sorbet (S$6 a scoop) in a Paco jet we hear whirring furiously. Served with granola and some kind of butter cake that must have emerged from a foil packet, the dark chocolate sorbet beats the pear by a mile.
665°F still has some way to go, and pitching itself as a steakhouse may have a nice ring but why put itself under such arbitrary limits. Vegetables do equally well under fire, as will imagination and creativity.
Nothing wrong with striking a happy middle ground that. While it won't make the vegetarian movement happy, it would at least warm up to the idea.
WHAT OUR RATINGS MEAN
10: The ultimate dining experience
7-7.5: Good to very good
Our review policy: BT pays for all meals at restaurants reviewed on this page. Unless specified, the writer does not accept hosted meals prior to the review's publication.