Restaurant fare with an eco-conscience
THE quest for sustainability is not new and in Singapore, it's near-impossible to find a restaurant that totally walks the talk. However, a wave of new restaurants has been making efforts to narrow that gap, whether by sourcing from international but environmentally conscious farms, lowering carbon emissions by supporting local producers or even reducing wastage by cooking with whole animals.
CapitaGreen rooftop, 138 Market Street Level 40
Open Mon to Fri, 11.30am-3pm; Mon to Sat, 6pm-10.30pm; closed on Sun
Contemporary Mediterranean restaurant Artemis Grill sits on the rooftop of one of Singapore's greenest buildings, the award-winning CapitaGreen by Japanese architect Toyo Ito. So its focus on seasonal organic and sustainable dining is a logical one.
Artemis Grill opened about two weeks ago serving a mix of cuisines from countries like Spain, France, Italy and Greece, and is one of three restaurants owned by The Red Door Group, along with Bistecca Tuscan Steakhouse and Soi 60 Thai.
Some highlights include a spicy Iberico pork presa ($40) served with padron peppers and a tomato-and-bell-pepper relish, a lemon-crusted Loch Fyne salmon ($34) with baby fennel salad and roasted purple potatoes, and a chargrilled Spanish octopus ($22) with confit cherry tomato, preserved lemon and pickled padron peppers.
According to head chef Fernando Arevalo, 100 per cent of the protein on the menu comes from sustainable sources, which means Artemis Grill specifically looks out for certifications like Friends of the Sea when it comes to seafood, or the GLOBALG.A.P. Standard for meats.
It's "not only the fact that it's not harmful to the environment, but that the agricultural practices are also good for the animals", explains the chef.
"It's our job as chefs to make sure that we don't support people that do wrong to the animal or the environment. Basically what you have to do sometimes is just pay a little bit more, and then that will be reflected in the quality of your food."
The price difference can vary quite a lot too, says chef Arevalo. For instance, a regular tuna might cost about $50 a kilo, while a high-grade sustainable tuna can go up to $180 a kilo depending on the season. Because the eatery's salmon supplier has a large farm, its fish costs only about $3 to $4 more per kilo compared with regular salmon.
10 Dempsey Road #01-20
Open Tues to Sun, 11.30am-3pm; weekdays 6pm-10.30pm; weekends 6pm-11.30pm
Supporting local produce is a big deal at three-week-old restaurant Portico Prime in Dempsey. It's the eatery's way of contributing to Singapore's own farming ecosystem, and in turn building a more sustainable industry, says owner Chia Tek Yew.
That's why the restaurant not only uses local suppliers for its main ingredients like fish from local fish farm Tiberias Harvest and quail from Uncle William, but also sources from lesser-known players like Pollen Nation, which gives it honey to use in drinks and desserts, as well as Kin Yan Agrotech for its mushrooms.
Says Mr Chia: "The plus point is that it's sustainable farming, so these are all people who practise the right farming methodology. Our culinary teams can actually go down to the farms and kelongs to look at how they do it. And because it's local, our carbon emissions are low."
Executive chef Nixon Low highlights that it makes more sense as well because the produce is then easier to transport over, takes less time, is fresher and cheaper.
"There's this barramundi from France that ranges from $26 to $35 per kilo, but my local sea bass can go as low as $13 per kilo. And it's fresher. It only takes two hours to get here from the farm in Pulau Ubin," he says.
In other words, if you were to order the pan-seared Pulau Ubin barramundi ($38) served with roasted potatoes and carrot ginger puree off its menu, chances are you might be eating a fish that was just harvested and delivered that very day itself.
Vegetables are a little harder to get in Singapore however, so chef Low gets some of them from a mix of sources such as local organic farms like Quan Fa, and Cameron Highlands - still close enough to leave a low carbon footprint.
Down the road, the restaurant is working on a garden of its own to grow things like garnish for salads and mint leaves for cocktails, while keeping a look out for more local produce to add to its inventory.
12 North Canal Road
Open Mon to Fri, 11.30am-2.30pm; Mon to Sat, 5.30pm-1am
Opens Dec 18
In Jean-Philippe Patruno's hands, one pig's head can be turned into five or six dishes in his new restaurant, Dehesa.
The chef, who previously helmed Bomba and Una, says that his new place is unlike most existing Spanish restaurants here, as its main focus will be on nose-to-tail eating.
That means "we will use whole pigs or whole lambs, or any animals that we have we will use all of their parts to create the menu", says the chef.
"It's more sustainable because you're keeping the wastage and the cost to a minimum. The only thing on a pig you cannot eat is the toe nail. Everything else you should be able to use and once you know how to debone one animal, they're all the same."
So instead of serving the usual Spanish fare like paella and croquettes, he intends to order whole pigs, butcher them and make things like terrine with the kidney and liver, and fresh sausages with the shoulders.
While he acknowledges it is too complicated to be fully sustainable, he is careful to keep his carbon footprint as low as possible by sourcing ingredients from around the region and using fish from a local farm. He adds that even his furniture is made of recycled wood in an effort to help save the environment.
"Yes, it's a bit more work, because you have to be careful where you order from, what you order and what you do. But at the end of the day, you have to realise that those measures also help you save money, so they are good for your restaurant," he says.
THE BUSINESS TIMES