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Mixing it up

Michelle Zhu
Michelle Zhu • 6 min read
Mixing it up
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New-found heritage
SINGAPORE (Aug 27): After undergoing a revamp led by the restaurant’s lead chef, Sujatha Asokan, Botanico’s new bistro-style menu is full of twists and turns, often featuring rather odd combinations that prove surprisingly easy on the palate. The majority of these dishes are prepared from scratch in painstaking detail despite their misleadingly simple names. Cauliflower ($10++) is a prime example. The locally sourced low-calorie vegetable is made sinfully delicious after it is deep fried and smoked in an Inka wood-fired oven. It is then tossed in a cream mixture of cañ arejal cheese, a traditional product from northern Spain made from raw unpasteurised sheep’s milk and exclusive to the restaurant. Its creamy texture is contrasted with sautéed almonds and kaffir lime zest and leaves one wanting more.

Paying homage to her Singaporean roots, the chef also offers her own interpretation of assam laksa with a starter of Seabass Ceviche ($17++), a tangy concoction of seabass with green chilli, pomegranate and ginger flower as well as tamarind-dressed glass noodles. The shrimp paste ice cream that it comes with is a definite conversation starter; its hae-ko (shrimp paste) is not salty, as one would imagine, but blends very subtly with the milk to produce an intriguing umami aftertaste just short of sweet.

Local influences also abound in mains such as Iberico Char Siew ($34++) and Curry Lamb Neck ($32++). The former uses a housemade char siu sauce of fermented red yeast rice wine and spices to reproduce the Cantonese dish’s flavours with chargrilled Spanish top loin, while the latter pairs brined lamb neck with vadouvan — in a nod to the chef’s Indian heritage — with tomatoes and extremely light potato foam that has been aerated with an espuma gun to produce a whipped-cream consistency. Although Jalapeno Ice Cream (main image, $11++) might sound like an unconventional dessert, it comes with little bite or heat while still embodying an intense pepper fragrance. It is further sweetened with seared Sarawak pineapple and complemented with micro coriander and crunchy dehydrated bacon financiers, resulting in a dish that is inspired by the fruit salad dish, rojak.

Imbibing is yet another whimsical experience at Botanico. Beyond the bar’s exclusive cocktail mixes and list of 30 premium wine labels, there are also “progressive cocktails” that have been reduced to semi-solid yet extremely potent jelly-like substances. Alternatively, design your own Cocktail Carafe (pictured above, $29++ for two, $49++ for four) from a variety of spirits and mixers, including elderflower tonic and lavender or rose fizz. Each serving comes with a mixture of fresh and dehydrated fruits to nibble on, or to use as a garnish for added flavouring, or simply for the fun of watching the dehydrated berries gradually regain their plumpness.

Botanico @ The Garage
50 Cluny Park Road, Level 2
Tel: 9831 1106
Opening hours
Wednesday to Friday: 6pm to 10pm
Saturday and Sunday: 11am to 3pm; 6pm to 10pm
Closed on Monday and Tuesday

Sichuan goes West
When a local French-trained chef encounters Sichuan culinary traditions, the result is magic. Eugene See, head chef of all-day dining café and bar Birds of a Feather, draws inspiration from his recent pilgrimages to Chengdu to present a new Sichuan flavour-focused menu that goes beyond just the spicy peppers the Chinese province has become so closely associated with.

Western techniques remain at the core of these new dishes, however, as seen from Forbidden Risotto (pictured above, $35++), which uses black instead of Arborio rice. The black rice, nicknamed “forbidden rice”, owing to its past exclusivity to Chinese royalty, is cooked in a broth of Sichuan sour vegetables and pickled ginger before it is served with a medley of ikura, seared scallop, bok choy and shallow-fried soy beans that add to the distinctively nutty flavour of the rice.

On the other hand, the Charcoal Grilled Pork Bits ($15++)is reminiscent of pork scratchings gone posh: a treasure trove of fried and charcoal grilled Duroc pork belly that is complemented with charred green chilli, fried Japanese sweet potato and guo ba (crispy rice). While the clear broth of Sichuan Oxtail Soup ($24++) looks and tastes unmistakably Chinese, chef See puts his own spin on the spring onion pancake that accompanies it: He serves up a savoury, light and flaky arlette made with spring onions and scallion oil.

Those with a preference for spice-laden dishes can still get their fix from updated favourites such as the restaurant’s signature Fortune Skewers ($20++), which is further intensified with Sichuan red oil made in-house, and new dishes such as Sweating Mussels ($29++) with a fiery nage of dried peppercorn and bell peppers. Good Slime Shine, a vegetarian dish, comes in spicy ($24++) and non-spicy ($23++) versions, both featuring Chinese yam noodles from Chengdu that are somewhat reminiscent of traditional mee hoon kueh. Even in its spicy format, the dish’s sour vegetable sauce numbs more than it burns, and brings out the sweetness of the wawa vegetables that are cooked in it.

Birds of a Feather
115 Amoy Street
Tel: 6221 7449
Opening hours
10am to 11pm daily

Saucy creations
The Spot at Marina One promises “contemporary European, Southeast Asian sauce-centric cuisine” by homegrown executive chef Lee Boon Seng. His desire to showcase the flavours of his childhood has translated into sauces made from regional fruits, spices and herbs such as Java peppers and laksa leaves. Think Atlantic salmon with plum sesame dressing; scallop carpaccio with buah long long vinaigrette; and a beetroot salad that combines whipped burrata cheese with hibiscus syrup, cumin salt and laksa leaf sherbert.

As a multi-concept café, restaurant and bar by 1855 F&B, this 3,500 sq ft space also offers a smorgasbord of experiences all day long, from breakfasts as early as 7.30am to bar snacks and beverages late into the night, as well as access to an adjoining cigar lounge.

The Spot
5 Straits View, 01-26/27 Marina One The Heart
Tel: 6284 2637
Opening hours
Monday to Friday: 7.30am to 11pm Saturday: 5.30pm to 11pm
Closed on Sunday

This article appeared in Issue 845 (Aug 27) of The Edge Singapore.

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