You might have heard of the Fat Prince at Peck Seah Street but what about the The Ottoman Room that once shared the same address? It’s a dark, windowless, candle-lit room with an almost underground-like aura that one could access only via Fat Prince.
It’s just as well that you didn’t for the The Ottoman Room has been rebranded The Ottomani. While the 40-pax dining space has remained pretty much the same, the layout has been slightly reconfigured and beautiful standing table lamps placed at every table so that guests finally get to see what they are eating.
The kitchen has also gone through a turn of leadership since its rebranding in September. Heading up the bijou kitchen now is Californian chef de cuisine, Beau Churchill, an unfamiliar name and the former sous chef of The Ottoman Room that has stepped up to the New Middle Eastern challenge with admirable kitchen chops.
Instead of hummus, pita bread, dukkah and labna, the revamped menu for Ottomani now puts the focus squarely on Middle Eastern flavours in “Over Charcoal” and “Pit Roasted” dishes, and rightly so given the restaurant’s renewed focus on foods cooked with or over fire. The changes may be skin-deep but what’s clear is that the flavours – and cooking – are distinctly improved.
The one dish you should not miss is sticky pork ($31 per 100g, served in multiples of 100g starting with 200g). The belly of the pork is brined for 24 hours, marinated for another 24 hours and rubbed with Turkish coffee, palm sugar and Szechuan pepper before being slow-cooked in the earth pit for between 12 to 14 hours. The result? Meat that cuts (or rather shreds) like butter with an intense flavour of sweet coffee given a subtle kick of spice from the peppercorn.
|Cabbage sprouts, sweet potato “dumpling”|
From “Over Charcoal”, cabbage sprouts ($28) cooked directly over the fire are an obvious winner. The beautifully charred sprouts are served with nuggets of sweet potato gnocchi enriched with refreshing dollops of leek kashk (drained or reduced yoghurt) and crushed macadamia. While it could pass as a for-sharing vegetable dish, this is worth demolishing with no help.
|Walnut bread, smoked date butter|
Before you order anything on the menu, break the bread literally with the Ottomani bread ($6), thick slices of homemade walnut bread that comes with an intoxicating spread of smoked date butter. It’s the kind of jam that you wish restaurants could bottle and sell.
|Adana “kebab” tartare|
If you jump right into mains now, you’ll be missing out on some stunning starters, not least the Adana “kebab” tartare ($19). Taking its cue from the hand-minced grilled lamb kebab mounted on flat metal skewers made famous in Adana, Turkey, Churchill serves the quenelle of grain fed beef tartare enrobed in an alluring melange of spices including that of roasted chillies and sumac. To justify the price, it comes with some caviar, not that it needed that bit of luxury.
|“Spring & Winter”|
Should you need help with additional recommendations, look up the restaurant manager, Andrew, who would most certainly recommend the vegetable forward dish of “Spring & Winter” vegetables ($21) of asparagus, broccolli and hazelnut dukkah served with a dazzling pool of smoked green mussel sauce. Churchill understands the law of diminishing returns and has kept the portion for this savoury dish decidedly tiny, well before diminishing returns set in.
|Hokkaido scallop, mojama, fennel, pomelo|
I can’t speak with equal affection for the Hokkaido scallop ($24 a piece) with mojama (salt-cured tuna), fennel and pomelo pulp, which arrives with a blatant lack of flavour (yes, even with all the toppings). For a dish that charges this much, the diner deserves something, other than the price, to remember the mollusc by.
On the whole, discovering the Ottomani is sheer delight, indeed far more that of the Ottoman Room. The tab will not be light on your wallet but the dining experience, elevated by Churchill’s mostly pitch-perfect cooking, will – hopefully – make it all worthwhile.