SINGAPORE (Feb 14): Nestled on the ground floor of the Goodwood Park Hotel on Orchard Road, the unassuming, low-ceilinged front entrance of the one-Michelin starred Alma by Juan Amador belies a real feast for the gastronomic senses within. Since its launch in 2016, Alma – which means ‘soul’ in Spanish and ‘nourishing’ in Latin – has done an admirable job of maintaining its coveted Michelin star and bringing avant-garde European fine cuisine to local connoisseurs. However, as demand grows for vegetarian options, Alma – headed by executive chef Haikal Johari – has revamped its dinner and lunch menus to include some truly boundary pushing herbivorous offerings. As an unrepentant carnivore, I am often unimpressed by anything vegetarian.

Nevertheless, under Haikal’s careful hands, the new menu takes on an almost playful quality, with root vegetables heartily taking centre stage. I sampled the Salt baked Celeriac with wakame (seaweed), grape and chervil, and the Kaboucha Pumpkin with orange, almonds and galangal (ginger). Both are a part of a set lunch at $49++, or a fivecourse dinner priced at $138++ While celeriac is not my favourite root vegetable, it is nevertheless masterfully presented and cooked.

The celeriac is first crusted in salt then baked up to three hours until it caramelises in its own juices. In keeping with the trend for sustainable dining (and using each ingredient in its entirety to reduce waste), the celeriac skin was also roasted and added to its juice to create a consommé. Parts of the root are made into celeriac biscuits for that added crunch. Clarified apple juice adds a touch of acidity to complement the overall flavour balance, and the sweet grapes, herbal chervil (also known as French parsley) and the umami (savoury) seaweed made it an unusual, bold and interesting blend of flavours and textures.

The Kaboucha squash, or Japanese pumpkin, was also an inspired choice. It is starchy, and sweet, with a mellower, creamier taste and mouthfeel than the usually fibrous pumpkin. Much like a cross between a sweet potato and a butternut squash, it made for a wonderful dish. The smooth, velvety kaboucha is presented inside homemade ravioli with pickled pumpkin adding some tartness to cut through the sweetness. Bits of gorgonzola cheese puree further enhance the taste while hazelnut puree and almond slices lend nutty notes to the dish. Other dishes on the vegetarian menu include the Jerusalem Artichoke with almonds and manchego cheese, heirloom potatoes with epoisse cheese and june plum with elderflower, tarragon and yuzu kosho.


While the vegetarian options were impressive, I also had a sample of the non-vegetarian options from the revamped lunch and dinner menus. First up, there was the Kuhlbarra Barramundi with white kimchi (unusual, crunchy and delicious), Yarika squid and garlic cream. The perfectly cooked fish was still moist while the white kimchi provided both texture and tartness. Then, there was the Iberian pork jowl, served in an inventive scallop ‘taco’. Yes, you read that correctly – scallop taco. Made from a steamed scallop, it is rolled thin and flat then dried out to form a soft taco (very much like a popiah skin). The tender pork was flavoured with hoisin, XO sauce and topped off with daikon (white Japanese radish) for crunch.

But perhaps the best was the aged Hungarian goose, a morsel that was tender, moist and flavourful with a crispy skin and a melt-in-your-mouth layer of goose fat. Goose is a bit of a rarity in Singapore, so this is not to be missed. The non-vegetarian options are available on Alma’s new executive set lunches, priced at $49++ for a three-course lunch menu (add-ons start at $9++ per dish) or a five-course set lunch at $108++.

Finally, the meal ended with Alma’s Petit ‘5’ – a confectionary delight of five tiny bite-sized desserts that is their take on the classic petit four. Many would either love or hate the wasabi and white chocolate confection but I loved it for its unusual flavour combination. Alma is worth stopping by if you’ve not had a chance to treat yourself lately, and feel like you just need some food that satisfies both the stomach and the soul