Fresh ideas to entice the hip crowd
WITH diners no longer content with food alone, food and beverage operators are compelled to think out of the box to create the next hipster dining trend. We suss out some of the latest ideas.
61 Tras Street
Tue to Sat, 5pm-12am
Dining at Chef's Table is like being invited to chef Stephan Zoisl's own home. Not only is he involved in every aspect of it - from the music to the furniture in the dining area, with portraits of people who've inspired him hanging in the bathroom - but his five set menus also feature food that he personally feels like cooking for that day.
"Happy chefs cook happy food, which means good-tasting food," says the 34-year-old Austrian-born chef. "Cooking has moods, that's why an omakase menu works for a chef. What I have, I'm going to work with it, and we can serve the most interesting food we can do because there is no restriction."
The highlight of his restaurant is the 12-seat chef's table, which works as a centrepiece right in front of the open kitchen. This means diners at the table have a clear, unobstructed view of the chefs at work, and are within conversational distance so chef Zoisl can easily interact with them.
He even encourages his diners to walk into the kitchen when the restaurant is less busy, and make casual conversation about his food or equipment. You can even check out the fridge if you feel like it - he won't stop you.
Aside from his set menus, chef Zoisl has an a la carte menu of dishes that are close to his heart, such as his favourite sandwich New York Nights ($16) with beef pastrami, sourdough bread, sauerkraut and thousand-island dressing; and a salad that his father taught him 17 years ago called Pepi's Salad ($16) - with Swiss-style charcuterie (cold cooked meats) and cheese, cornichons, banana shallots, julienne of capsicum and sherry vinaigrette.
To go one step further in his quest to make customers feel comfortable, chef Zoisl is happy to try and accommodate any customer's request, even if it means sharing a recipe or cooking something that is not on his menu.
Maggie Joan's (Opens today)
110 Amoy Street, #01-01
Dinner - Mon to Sat, 6pm-11pm; Lunch (from Sept 7) - Mon to Fri, 12pm-2.30pm; Closed on Sun
The official address for Maggie Joan's may be in Amoy Street, but that's not where you enter. Instead, you have to go around the row of shophouses, duck into a back alley just off Gemmill Lane, and go through a nondescript rusty metal door.
"Just about every restaurant in Singapore has a shop front, so we're trying something different," says co-owner Daniel Ballis, who also runs Moosehead Kitchen & Bar. "When you open the door, the contrast from the alleyway outside kind of draws you in. You get this warm, invited feeling."
It's reminiscent of how Mediterranean restaurants are often hidden away in alleyways, adds Mr Ballis, who is Greek-Australian. His two business partners are his friend Darren Micallef from the Maldives, as well as his father Glenn, who owns a few restaurants in Russia.
"When I think of Greece, I think of my grandma first," explains the younger Mr Ballis. So it's only fitting that the restaurant was named after his grandmother Maggie, and Mr Micallef's grandmother, Joan.
Maggie Joan's is slated to open today for dinner, and lunch service will likely begin on Sept 7. The menu is modern Mediterranean, and was created by the older Mr Ballis along with head chef Oliver Hyde, former sous chef of Pollen.
Dinner will see an a la carte menu with appetisers such as egg with dukkah and saffron mayo ($6); roast sea bass with pesto sauce and tomatoes ($28) as a main course, plus sharing platters including a 400g Rangers Valley strip loin with salsa verde ($88). Lunch will be set meals of $30 for two courses and $38 for three courses.
Says the younger Mr Ballis: "We take elements from the Mediterranean - like the idea of using fresh seasonal produce, and doing a lot of stuff in-house. When I think of my grandmother in her kitchen back in Greece, she's always very hands-on making little jars of sauce, preparing her own lamb and all, so those are the sorts of things we're bringing here."
5th Quarter (Opens next month)
Hotel Vagabond, 39 Syed Alwi Road
Tue to Sun, 12pm-2.30pm, 6pm-10.30pm; Closed on Mon
Come next month, the arts will take centre stage in unexpected territory - Hotel Vagabond, a new luxury boutique hotel in Syed Alwi Road.
Not only will there be specially curated works of art decorating the walls, but it will also be the first hotel in Singapore to offer an "Artist in Residence" programme, emphasising writing, photography and performance art. It will even have an Artist Cocktail Hour every evening at 6pm, where guests can meet and talk with the artists in residence.
"We want guests to feel truly immersed in an artistic and vibrant environment when they visit us," says the hotel's owner, India-born luxury real estate developer and boutique hotelier Satinder Garcha.
It's for that reason that he has chosen to collaborate with hospitality group Unlisted Collection, by entrepreneur Loh Lik Peng, to have the group's latest restaurant 5th Quarter on its premises.
The eatery is a contemporary grill restaurant focusing on cured meats and charcuterie. Its executive chef Andrew Nocente describes the concept as one which showcases "lesser-used or lesser-known cuts of meat, as well as techniques that highlight these cuts". Chef Nocente used to work at the steakhouse Skirt at W Singapore.
The menu will feature meat cooked on a Josper grill, as well as elements of smoking, curing and pickling. Although the selection of dishes isn't entirely fixed yet, some examples include rum-cured pork belly, and salt and pepper tripe. The chef will also be making his own charcuterie like salami, salsiccia, lardo and coppa in-house.
THE BUSINESS TIMES