Old F&B favourites keep it fresh
NEW restaurants come and go, but some veteran chefs/restaurateurs are still sticking around doing what they know best.
10 Biopolis Road, #01-01, Chromos Block
Lunch: Tues to Fri, 11.30am - 2.30pm; Brunch: Sat to Sun, 11am - 3pm; Dinner: Tues to Sun, 7pm - 10pm
Closed on Monday & certain public holidays
In today's fickle dining scene, where new restaurants are opening up nearly every week and others closing just as fast, 11 years in the business is a major achievement that few can claim, especially one that is not a household name and has been operating in an off-the-radar location from day one.
But for the past decade and a year, husband-and-wife team Freddie Lee and Purdey Poon have been quietly toiling in the kitchen and dining room of Infuzi, depending on regulars and a non-compromising approach to cooking to get them through the ups and downs of a finicky business.
Chef Lee and Ms Poon were both working at Les Amis before venturing out on their own.
Infuzi's location at Biopolis has been both a bane and a boon. It is close to Holland Village, a mere five-minute drive away, and "there was a strong focus on R&D in Biopolis, and we saw potential here", says Ms Poon. But 11 years on, unless you live in the Holland area, or work at Biopolis, few know that Infuzi exists.
"We are still getting people who are surprised to find a restaurant here," says Ms Poon. "But at the same time, our regulars like that we are under the radar and Infuzi is like their neighbourhood restaurant."
The restaurant which serves modern European cuisine, leaning towards French, is popular for weekday lunches with the neighbouring working crowd, made up mostly of researchers. For dinners and on weekends, it is mostly the residential crowd.
Two years ago, they introduced a weekend brunch menu, including a duck rillette, Croque Madame, eggs done in different ways and steak for those who want something heavier.
The set lunch menu, priced from $32, changes every week, while the a la carte menu is entirely changed every three to four months. "We change everything, except for the Maine lobster pasta," says Mr Lee, of his signature dish. The pasta, $56, is tossed in home-made lobster oil, and the whole lobster is served without its shell.
Some dishes on the current menu include a swordfish belly carpaccio ($28), which comes with a little kick from the use of horseradish, and the pan-roasted Iberico pork rack, served with morels and a little veal and beef jus. A small watercress salad cuts through the richness of the juicy pork ($48). It also happens to be Mr Lee's favourite dish.
He also uses seasonal ingredients when they are available, such as white truffles, white asparagus and red mullet.
Ms Poon admits that the restaurant does suffer from lull periods. They have thought about relocating to a less obscure location, but have been put off by high rentals. "We very much like this location, and don't want to lose our regulars too," she says.
Chijmes #02-01, 30 Victoria Street
Mon to Thu, 6pm - midnight; Fri & Sat, 6pm - 1am
Closed on Sunday
After 11 years of running her restaurant Coriander Leaf at its Clarke Quay location, chef Samia Ahad finally decided it was time to shake things up a bit. Last July, she closed the restaurant and spent the next few months updating her concept and preparing it for a relaunch this year.
"We had got stuck in a rut and were just plodding along," says Ms Samia, the founder and culinary director of the 14-year-old Coriander Leaf. "If we had stayed (at Clarke Quay) we would've been fine, but I had really been frustrated and bored in the last three or four years. We'd had no growth - there was no inspiration or motivation."
So just earlier last week, she finally re-opened Coriander Leaf at the newly renovated Chijmes with a refreshed menu, a more modern interior complete with an open kitchen and a larger studio for her cooking school arm. She had also started a catering arm at the end of last year as part of the entire brand's revamp.
With the help of her new chief executive, Aun Koh, and chef de cuisine Iskander Latiff, they also redesigned their menu from a traditional one with appetisers, main courses and dessert, into one made up of small plates categories of five "flavour verticals" - Fresh, Familiar, Spicy, Umami, and Sweet.
It is partly a way to stay true to Asian cuisine in general, since Asian food has always been about sharing and not about each person ordering one main course for himself, explains Ms Samia. It makes the menu more trendy too, she adds.
As for the cooking school, it can now have up to 12 classes a week on its new premises, as opposed to the three a week that it did in Clarke Quay, and future plans include bringing in big names such as Tetsuya Wakuda and David Thompson as guest chefs to teach classes.
"I hope this (relocation) will take us to a different level," says Ms Samia. "I've always looked to sort of expanding although not necessarily in Singapore. But, of course, for now we're still concentrating on this and treating it as our flagship."
THE BUSINESS TIMES