Monday, June 27

Whitegrass, CHIJMES

KW and I decided to visit Whitegrass before the Singapore Michelin guide comes out. Little in known about the chef who had no prior experience in Singapore, whose name wasn't in the grapevine till he launched his restaurant, Whitegrass. 

According to this Business Times article, Chef Sam Aisbett "spent three years as head chef at Quay in Sydney... he's bankrolled by a Malaysian couple rich enough to kit out a large restaurant in Chijmes with three individually-decorated dining rooms..." 

Cue the "Ah figures!" 


We rolled with the 5-course lunch set (there are 2 and 3 course sets available too) because we felt like ballers on a weekday afternoon. A bottle of Pinot Noir from Yara Valley in Australia pushed the morning's work emails to a faraway dark corner. 

Chef Sam Aisbett's dishes reminded me of plated art installations, but there was a quiet confidence unlike some chefs that rely on bold gutsy flavours to draw affection.

Homemade rye bread accompanied by a creamier-than-thou butter and fancy smancy sea salt served in the cutest pottery from Studio Asobi. The rye was dense but spongey, a perfect canvas for the butter that yielded effortlessly when applied. Against better judgement, I had seconds and they replaced our original butter with freshly cornelled butter for my second slice. It's all about the details, people.

Deconstructed bibimbap

I frankly don't remember half the things in this amuse bouche but there were at least 6 different components - julienned, balls and purees - in this little dish that was no bigger than my Firstborn's palm. Sure, it's a long shot to the original Korean comfort carb, but the deconstructed bibimbap was interesting and a sign of the heavy Asian influence to come. 

Our first course - sashimi of yellowtail Amberjack, horseradish, toasted nori oil, salted radish, nasturtium, white soy dressing - was deeply layered yet gentle and restrained. A thing of fleeting beauty, considering it was gone in 10 bites.

Chef Aisbett might look intimidating, especially with his sleeve all rolled up, but I (and probably everyone else) was won over when he served us the fanciest beetroot salad I will ever eat in my life. Slow-roasted beetroot layered on a bed of cream mixed with smoked eel imported, rosella jam and Tasmanian mountain pepper. I thought the crackling of Tasmanian mountain pepper made the dish pop.

Slow cooked Mangalica pork, tiger abalone, fermented cabbage, white turnip, fiddlehead fern, gourd flowers and pork broth. This was undoubtedly our favourite dish of the day and probably Whitegrass' signature dish. The pork was so tender, I wondered and asked our server why a knife was even served; Lucas' kiddy spoon could have easily pierced through it. Move over, Berkshire. Mangalica is here to stay.

After the Mangalica pork, this grass-fed beef tenderloin fell short of expectations. I know I shouldn't expect much from a piece of tenderloin. The 2- year aged Japanese soy was an unique touch; I told KW we should serve our steaks with kecap manis but he didn't hear a word, probably just saw my mouth contort in a weird senseless movement.

In addition to our desserts, we had an extra cheese course. with Stilton Blue, Comte and third-wheel. Looking back at our visit to Jaan, KW did the exact same thing by ordering an extra cheese course. At least, he is consistent...

Delightfully truly Asia without being condescending, a ginger and almond cake resides beneath an ethereal young coconut mousse, jackfruit ice cream and longan. Again, you can tell Chef Aisbett has a thing for shards and chips. 

We requested for a  different dessert for one of our 5-courses and the kitchen happily obliged with a decadent chocolate-y treat. Valrhona chocolate cake and mousse, topped with sugar coated almonds, with Japanese kumquats. I normally don't like fruits and chocolate but I liked how these kumquats offered a citrusy (not biting or sourish) dimension. 

Our petit fours came just as my stomach groaned but I couldn't resist lapping them up - the chocolate raspberry snowballs were lovely but my heart went out to the manger blanco alfajor (sables with dulce de leche).

I didn't read any reviews beforehand, which saved me any anti-climaxal moments. However, I saw pictures of the restaurant's interior and I was blown away. The musty colours, intricate upholstery details and succulents... My dream dining room! Hey, good news... You can get your hands on these pieces for a pretty penny; you can get more information from their website. 

Last but definitely not least, like the furnishings, the service staff are immaculately polished - friendly without being overly cheeky, smooth without feeling too well, greasy.

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