|Whitegrass – exterior|
I love how modern Australian has evolved over time to be an all-encompassing cuisine that embraces the country’s melting pot of cultures; how it integrates pristine Australian ingredients with distinct Asian nuances; and how chefs have the liberty to juxtapose just about any other ingredients, make the cuisine their own and still call it mod. Oz.
So it was with no preconceived notions that I visited the wondrously decorated Whitegrass at Chijmes where Australian chef-owner and former Quay head chef, Sam Aisbett, calls home.
Like a real home, the 70-seater bluish-green Takenouchi Webb-designed space comes with several distinct spaces – a “blue” main dining room with a feature wall of hand-painted mural depicting Aisbett’s nature-seeking mind; this adjoins to a “green” dining room on the left, a circular “pink” dining room to the north and a spacious marble-topped kitchen to the right.
A quick word about the service staff, they work the floor with a polite but polished air much like in a fine dining restaurant although you will not find any starched table linens here. Best of all,
they know the two menus here like the back of their hands
Yes, there are only two tasting menus (5 courses for S$170++; 8 courses for S$265++) at Whitegrass and no a la carte. The courses are well paced, the dishes highly original and the assembly of multiple ingredients / flavours curiously experimental.
|Alaskan King crab|
Take the crab-inspired course (from the 8-course menu) – Alaskan King crab slices arrive with silken tofu in a not-at-all spicy chilli crab consommé flecked with junsai and tapioca pearls. The layering of textures in a savoury, crustacean-based broth is riveting even if the consommé in no way comes close to Singapore’s famed chilli crab dish. Paired with an XO sauce-flavoured Sri Lankan crab brix pastry with nori, this course wins raves for originality, tip-top execution and ethereal textural play. (4.25/5)
The slow-cooked Mangalica pork cheek (available in both menus) is another standout. Not one to adopt a minimalist approach with plating, Aisbett fields the fork-tender pork with cubes of perfectly chewy Jade Tiger abalone and a riot of crunchy vegetables – including fermented cabbage, fiddlehead fern, lotus stem and baby radish – in a shallow pool of pork broth-enriched dashi with creamy turnip puree. Again, the play on textures comes to the fore without pushing the organic flavours of the ingredients to the backseat. (4.25/5)
The momentum sustains with the plump butter-poached quail breast (also from the 8-course menu). In an interesting show of deftness with local ingredients, Aisbett serves the bird with yet another ethereal textural play of chopped century egg white, toasted nuts and seeds, piquant black garlic puree and shards of roasted milk skin. The use of gelatinous century egg white may invite stinging reviews from naysayers but it works marvelously in my book. (4.25/5)
But there are moments when the juxtaposition overwhelms you.
The fillet of Cape Grim grass beef from both the 5 and 8-course menus is a case in point. It arrives with an enthusiastic mound of toppings that range from beef tendon, beef tongue, fermented shitake mushroom, pickled Chinese artichoke and samphire (an Australian succulent) that, in my humble opinion, detracts from the sheer glory of the red meat. That said, the red meat is not the glorious meat with “pure beef flavour” one expects. (3.5/5)
Or the Hokkaido scallops dish, which shows potential if the produce is given a greater opportunity to shine. Lightly marinated in Chardonnay vinegar and white soy, the scallops rest on a bed of refreshing fresh cultured cream with subtly sweet fennel jam. It’s a brilliant spread but it does not stop there. The shellfish arrives with an avalanche of ingredients – including folds of pickled honeydew, Australian emu apple, chrysanthemum petals, sliced pistachio nuts and little daikon cones packed with caviar – that it becomes quite difficult to taste the brilliance of the scallops. (3.75/5)
On the whole, Whitegrass’ tasting menus demonstrate Aisbett’s flair at creating textures through the marriage of a multitude of disparate ingredients. Even if the results are mostly successful, I do think some ingredients deserve a quieter presence.
Aisbett answers that prayer by fielding a singular chocolate dessert completely smothered in chocolate gel. Now, even for a non-chocolate lover like me, this dark chocolate-based sweet, titled “black gold”, is a sheer work of art. Absolutely delicious. (4.25/5)
#01-26/27 Chijmes, 30 Victoria St, Singapore 187 996 |+65 6837 0402 | whitegrass.com.sg
© Evelyn Chen 2013
Please note that the reviews published on this blog are sometimes hosted. I am under no obligation to review every restaurant I’ve visited. If I do, the reviews are 100% my own.