01 | Restaurant Gaig
Since Restaurant Gaig opened in Singapore in 2017, the 150-year-old Catalan institution has kept itself fresh by reinventing its menu and interiors, adding modern touches to its plates and taking over an adjacent shophouse unit last March. Its latest menu has kept up with the times too, taking a more interpretative approach with the recipes and jazzing up the presentation.
Right out of the gate, the Salmorejo soup with burrata and jamón ice cream — yes, ice cream infused with dry-cured ham — hints at the surprises to come. A conventional Salmorejo is served cold with sliced jamón and hard-boiled egg, but Gaig’s version is colder, creamier and simply more fun.
A play on the Mediterranean salmon tartare salad, the smoked Ora King salmon — wrapped with local Chinese spinach, and served with avocado sauce and Feuille de Brick crisps — brings with it a burst of freshness, a change of pace from the garlicky Salmorejo. (Plus, it doesn’t hurt that it’s a delight to behold, like a cross between gunkan maki and contemporary art.) Duck foie gras terrine with anchovies counters the former’s sweetness with the latter’s brininess, a powerful combination overall — it may take a few bites to acclimatise to its delicious intensity.
Based on the classic tapas, Bomba de la Barceloneta (a mealy deep-fried breaded potato ball with spicy minced beef, served with aioli and brava sauce) is coated in squid ink breading so it more closely resembles the universal shorthand for a dangerous explosive. (Speaking of explosive, the brava sauce, modified to suit local palates, packs a fiery punch.) And Pa Amb Oli i Xocolata turns a nostalgic Catalan treat — chocolate spread and olive oil on bread — into a sculptural wonder composed of chocolate mousse, olive oil ice cream, crispy chocolate bread, and chocolate ganache.
But there’s one thing that has stayed the same: Gaig’s traditional cannelloni — pasta sheet stuffed with beef and pork and drenched in an intoxicating black truffle cream sauce — a recipe unchanged since 1869. “If I do it wrong, I’ll be fired,” quips Executive Chef Martí Carlos Martínez.
16 Stanley Street; singapur.restaurantgaig.com
02 | Zafferano
Zafferano isn’t a place you’d describe as homey — perched high above the Collyer Quay crowd, the sleek, chic joint makes no apology for being exactly the kind of place serving upscale Italian plates designed to impress a potential business partner. Head Chef Andrea De Paola has combined that modern flair and his yearning for travel and channelled them into a refreshed five-course Chef’s Menu, a gastronomic journey that brings together ingredients and influences from Asia and Europe.
Gambero Rosso e Fegato d’Oca — an explosively sweet Mazara del Vallo red prawn resting on a disc of foie gras — brings together the bounty of southern and northern Italy, respectively. Housemade pasta is smothered in Alaskan king crab and bisque and topped with Amalfi lemon zest, resulting in the Neapolitan-style Tagliolini Granchio Reale.
Coconut and basil emulsion, which pools under a generous slab of grilled kinmedai in Alfonsino, is a playful tribute to Thai green curry. Mushrooms and beef, a traditional combination in Italy, appears in Manzo Giapponese by way of A5 Miyazaki Wagyu striploin with girolle mushroom cream, and is deftly accented with jus of timur berry, a relative of the Szechuan pepper. And Foresta d’Autunno recreates a walk through the woods during autumn in northern Italy, with elderflower jelly and dehydrated shimeji mushroom hidden among the Itakuja dark chocolate mousse spheres.
Level 43, 10 Collyer Quay; zafferano.sg
03 | Min Jiang at Goodwood Park Hotel
Min Jiang at Goodwood Park Hotel has emerged from an involved refurbishment, and we must say, it wears its new look well. With a lighter, contemporary palette and an airier ambience, the Cantonese and Szechuanese cuisine stalwart brings renewed energy into its updated menu, an impressive spread of fresh creations by Master Chef Chan Hwan Kee.
Dim sum takes on a whimsical appearance, with prawn and carrot crystal dumpling fashioned into a rabbit, and pork char siew and pine nuts stuffed into a carrot-shaped pastry. Building on the theme of familiar flavours and textures presented in unexpected ways, the roasted chicken skin with prawn paste in sesame pockets is reminiscent of Peking duck and shaobing flatbread at the same time.
Once a seasonal item, the crispy fried pumpkin strips with salted egg yolk and pork floss is now a permanent fixture, and just in time too — it’s practically the best flavours of Chinese New Year in every bite. And ingenuity comes to the fore in the dessert of deep-fried purple sweet potato crispy milk, with warm, sticky spheres of blended tuber enveloping a creamy milk filling and drizzled with gula melaka.
Level 1, 22 Scotts Road; goodwoodparkhotel.com
04 | Violet Oon Singapore Satay Bar & Grill
For those who started the year pledging to eat more sustainably, this one’s for you: Violet Oon Singapore Satay Bar & Grill launches an extended menu of plant-based adaptations of Peranakan classics, so you can still indulge while eschewing meat.
Garam assam tau kwa replaces barramundi with flame-grilled firm beancurd, and completes the dish with a compote of diced pineapples and julienned ginger flower. Babi pongteh becomes Mushroom Pong Tay when pork is swapped out for shiitake mushrooms and bamboo shoot in the soybean stew with cinnamon, cloves and green chilli. Buah keluak fried rice is a riff on ayam buah keluak, except that chicken is dropped in favour of oyster mushroom, topped with kaffir lime leaf and chopped candlenut. And the VO Impossible Satay sees the vegan meat alternative skewered, marinated in spices and grilled, then served with pineapple puree and steamed rice cake.
3B River Valley Road; violetoon.com