If you have grown tired of starchy linens and fancy cutlery, and prefer dining destinations that are more casual, communal and convivial, we have uncovered two new restaurants great for big group gatherings with real good food to boot. While one warms our hearts and bellies with familiar flavours and aromas of Asian cooking, the other introduces us to Southern Californian cooking with an Italian twist.
Here, we take a closer look at The Dandy Collection’s coolest dining concept California Republic, and Path, a modern Asian restaurant by 1855 F&B (the people behind 1855 The Bottle Shop).
88 Amoy Street Tel: 9784 9487
Brought to you by the creators of Firangi Superstar, Fat Prince and Neon Pigeon, California Republic sends us back in time to the groovy Sixties, embodying the cool coastal spirit of the Golden State matched by wholesome unpretentious So-Cal cuisine.
See also: Gaggan Anand's love letter to Singapore
The newly-opened restaurant, brought to life by EDG Design and creative co-founder Michael Goodman, rocks a mid-century modern living room vibe. Think That 70s Show complete with warm wood fixtures, sunken leather seats, overhanging lamps, Aztec upholstery, vintage movie posters and other retro-cool paraphernalia.
The 65-seater space offers a mix of private booths, small tables and large dining arrangements anchored by roomy chairs or intimate banquette seats. To complete the nostalgia, a fresh scent of pine and dewdrops linger in the air, while a groovy playlist of everything from rock to R&B hits finds diners subconsciously bopping along.
The communal sharing dishes curated by LA-based David Almany (of Osteria Mozza and Angeleno) blend Italian cooking ala New York — where Goodman and operations director Mike Pekarsky grew up — with fresh and bright multi-dimensional flavours of So-Cal cuisine featuring the freshest picks of produce from coast and farm.
If you like spicy Mexican flavours, which is very So-Cal, do try the Charred Broccolini ($14) seasoned with SoCal chilli oil; Tijuana Original Caesar ($21) with Grana Padano, anchovies and garlic croutons; Chicken Fra Diavolo ($34) made with “Devil’s” Marinade and Guajillo Chilli; and the Grilled Oysters ($22) grilled with Chipotle chilli, bourbon and garlic compound butter.
A customer favourite is chef Almany’s famed Meatballs al Angeleno ($28), a moreish dish of cheesy, soft giant meatballs made with pork, veal and Parmigiano served in a delicious tomato base. For lunch, this gets served up sub-style as part of a $38 set which includes a salad, soup and dessert.
Definitely worth returning for are the handmade pastas like the Smoked Bucatini ($34), a penne-like pasta tossed with a revised pork ragu in Bianco with classic Soffritto and a touch of bone marrow; and the Celery Root Cappellacci ($29), a tortellini-type pasta stuffed with celery root puree and cooked in a sauce of roasted mushrooms.
If you’re a fan of seafood bouillabaisse, California Republic offers a sharing portion of Lazy Man’s Cioppino ($48), a classic San Francisco tomato-based seafood stew filled with mussels, clams, calamari and roasted sea bass. Make sure you mop up the leftover sauce with some West Coast Garlic Mops ($18) — inspired by California’s Garlic Knots — which are freshly-made pull-apart bread bathed in a mixture of garlic, oregano, extra virgin olive oil and Grana Padano.
The So-Cal experience transcends beyond just food. The creative cocktails are equally original — labelled according to their alcohol strengths zero proof, half proof and full proof — with fresh names like Shredding the Gnarley, a mocktail mix with elderflower, mint, granny smith and cucumber; Know Your Way To San Jose with Veritas rum, green acid, vermouth and Basito; El Segundo, a zero proof tipple with Lyre’s Aperitif and strawberry-basil lemonade; and Flower Child made with Campari and Aperol.
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#01-05/06 Tower 3 Marina Bay Financial Centre Tel: 6443 0180
Located in the heart of the CBD, modern Asian restaurant Path emits bright energy to the humdrum of the financial district with its light and spacious interiors and buzzy atmosphere.
The food here — worth repeat visits — features contemporary Asian fare coupled with some French leanings, honed from Singaporean chef Marvas Ng’s years at Parisian dining destination Le Pan in Tianjin, China and Hong Kong. Now back in Singapore, Ng charts a new path for himself by dedicating the next phase of his career to revisiting his Chinese roots and inclinations toward East Asian flavours.
A popular hangout for those working in the area, Path is also the perfect gathering place for celebratory dinners and weekend outings. While the affordable set lunches are a definite draw, the ala carte menu of small and big plates is worth trying. There is also an option for an omakase meal served at the chef’s table inside the kitchen (pre-booking required).
A partnership with 1855 F&B, Path delights the palate with layers upon layers of familiar flavours and aromas using arduous cooking techniques such as pickling, brining and smoking. Seafood lovers will appreciate the wide selection of fresh oceanic offerings such as the Wakamatsu Strait Yellowtail ($36) served with pickled zucchinis, arti chokes and spring onion oil; Hand-Dived Hokkaido Scallops ($58) presented with seaweed truffle sauce and pickled kombu pumpkin salad; or “Suan Ni” Hong Man ($24), a yellow eel steamed and deep-fried then braised in a deliciously umami housemade sauce with dried and pickled chillies and Sichuan peppercorn.
A customer favourite is the Premium Kuhlbarra Fish Maw ($35) featuring double-boiled fish maw in a sake-dashi stock served with vegetables poached in a collagen-rich beurre blanc sauce. The most unique dish is the Crispy Japanese Amadai ($75) featuring brined Japanese amadai fish with the scales still intact and fried on high heat so they become light and crispy. The amadai is served with a delicious black bean beurre blanc which we think would really go well with some bread or mantou to mop up the buttery sauce.
The showstopper is the Signature Wild Forest Mushrooms Donabe ($38), available only if you order a meat dish from the mains. The claypot-inspired creation uses premium Japanese rice cooked with chicken stock from braised chicken bones, and combined with oat groats, waxed pork belly, porcini mushrooms and fried cubes of pork lard for that extra kick. Although we had our donabe with the Signature Butter-Roasted Herb-Brined French Poulet ($72) — brined for 16 hours, then massaged with close to a kilo of butter, roasted then smoked — we think a pork dish like the Char Siew Iberico Secreto ($48) might better complement the taste of the charred rice.
Dessert here is an unexpected yet a welcome surprise of French classics with a twist: French Canele ($18 for 3) made with “Chinese Bai Jiu”, Okinawa Brown Sugar Madeleine “XL” ($32), and Whiskey Bombe Alaska ($28) featuring a meringue served with whiskey ice-cream.
With access to a library of popular wines from 1855 The Bottle Shop, Path has the privilege of updating its house wines regularly and also uses the opportunity to showcase lesser-known but critically-acclaimed labels such as Spanish label Dominio del Aguila and South African winery Alheit Vineyards.