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TAKING SPRMRKT TO A NEW LEVEL: Roasted Brussels sprouts with sambal mayo.

TAKING SPRMRKT TO A NEW LEVEL: Spanish octopus with red pepper-almond romesco sauce.

TAKING SPRMRKT TO A NEW LEVEL: Flat iron steak with blue cheese dressing.

Learning the hard rules of upscale dining

SPRMRKT Kitchen & Bar tries to be too many things in its new Robertson Quay premises.
12/09/2016 - 05:50


SPRMRKT Kitchen & Bar
The Singapore Tyler Print Institute
41 Robertson Quay
Tel: 9736-4170

Open for lunch and dinner Mon to Fri: 11.30am to 3pm; 6pm to 10pm. Sat: 9am to 4pm; 6pm to 10pm. Sun: 9am to 6pm.

GROWING up is hard - regardless of what stage of life you're at. Whether you're on the cusp of adulthood; tackling married life; accepting that you will never, ever, "catch 'em all"; or taking your restaurant to a new level - it's not easy. That's why for SPRMRKT - that little restaurant with the scrunched up name that does the wholesome indie cafe-deli thing so well - moving into upscale dining is a whole new ballgame for which they're clearly still learning the rules.

SPRMRKT Kitchen & Bar sits above its breezy, new casual sister on the ground floor of the Tyler Print institute - which is an upsized version of its McCallum Street original. Take the stairs or lift upstairs and you're greeted by slightly more posh, art gallery-like surroundings. Vibrant wall-sized still life paintings make you want to reach in and pluck a fig off a lusciously drawn fruit plate, while soothing pink-grey tones are a pleasing alternative to the dark-grey-and-wood uniform of modern eateries.

But what jolts us out of our pastel-hued reverie is the jarring, incessant hip hop music that plays during our meal - the yos and yeahs sinking into our subconscious till we involuntarily want to rap as we dig into our starters of grilled oysters (S$15) and tartare pastrami (S$18). Like, yo, oysters ain't no escargot, bro. They sweet on their own, don't need no butter no cheese, dohh. Yo, I got a beef with your salt overload, get a handle on that shaker don't let it break ya. Yeah, yo . . .

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Ok, to translate: perhaps inspired by the classic baked escargot, the chef drowns perfectly good oysters in a flood of greasy melted butter, garlic and parmesan, forgetting that while snails need all of that to be remotely palatable, oysters don't. And yes, the beef tartare interspersed with very thin bread crisps is terribly salty.

While the original SPRMRKT sails on a smooth trajectory of simple food with little embellishment, the menu at its Kitchen & Bar has a less clear directive. It ends up making stabs at different genres - mod-Sin, European, Aussie, deconstruction are just some of the influences we detect, but there's no one voice to bring them all together.

There are so many things going on on each plate, it's like inviting Forrest Gump to dinner - you don't know what you're going to get. A flat iron steak (S$32) is itself well-executed - done medium rare and tender enough to cut through and chew without getting tangled in sinews. But it's the overpowering blue cheese dressing, and a rocket salad tossed with hard toasted quinoa grains that don't do justice to the meat.

What we really like, though, is the Brussels sprouts side dish, where the midget cabbages are roasted till tender and charred, mixed with a sambal-infused mayo that gives it a nice heat and richness.

Meanwhile, the pricey Spanish octopus (S$65) starts out as such with its prerequisite red pepper-almond romesco sauce but takes a detour to unknown lands - places where deep-fried stringy water spinach aka kangkong is at odds with really sour sauteed kiwi and a shower of crispy fried batter bits. Even the octopus itself - a little tired from all that virtual travel - is further pan fried to crisp its surface, and dries out in the process.

That said, the freestyle approach works quite well with dessert, especially the broken apple pie (S$15) - a delicious mess of buttery crisp sable cookies, boozy caramelised apples, and vanilla ice cream. And if the little sponge cakes in the Liquid Nutella (S$16) were less dense, it would have made this concoction of cake, ice cream and nutella sauce even more enjoyable.

But as they say, SPRMRKT Kitchen & Bar is still in its first flush of youth, with plenty of room to grow. And oh, if you're still harbouring Pokemon Go ambitions, there are a couple to be caught here.

Rating: 6


     10: The ultimate dining experience

9-9.5: Sublime

8-8.5: Excellent

7-7.5: Good to very good

6-6.5: Promising

5-5.5: Average

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