There are two things you need to know about COMO Cuisine.
First and foremost, It does not serve wellness cuisine but a clutch of dishes gleaned from COMO Hotels & Resorts properties worldwide.
Second, and more interestingly, a new female chef, Tshering Lhaden, has been installed as chef de cuisine since last October. If you’ve previously dismissed the food at COMO Cuisine as pedestrian, even uninspiring, notwithstanding its focus on fresh and natural flavours, it’s time you sit up and pay attention.
A native of Bhutan and a 12-year COMO veteran of properties in Maldives, Carribean and Bhutan, Lhaden has assembled a short two-page menu at dinner (and there are different menus for breakfast, lunch and dinner) that not only brings the fresh and natural flavours of ingredients to the vanguard, but showcases her multi-disciplinary cooking that is grounded as it is accomplished.
From COMO Point Yamu Phuket and Metropolitan Bangkok, Lhaden has plucked Spicy Prawn Relish ($12++), a tired-looking dish that belies its complex layering of flavours. Taking her cues from lon, a coconut milk-based relish served in Thai homes or in traditional Thai restaurants, Lhaden adds tomatoes, chopped prawns and grilled corn to coconut milk before finishing with chopped peanuts, Thai basil and kaffir lime leaf so that as you tuck in, you savour a comforting creamy-savoury flavour before the palm sugar-sweet and tomato-esque zesty flavours kick in, and then some (oh yes, the textures!). What makes it all the more interesting are the vegetable crudités (starfruit, pink guava and cucumber) and homemade puffed rice cracker that arrive with the comforting dip.
For your second snack, it’s a toss up between a trio of Bhutanese Momos ($12++) from COMO Uma Paro and Uma Punakha or the Mangrove Crab Salad ($24++) from COMO Metropolitan.
The former, Lhaden’s take on pork dumplings from her hometown crafted with skin made from a mix of buckwheat and plain flour, is homey and downright delicious, even if the skin may come across as a little tough. It’s particularly appealing when paired with ezay chilli, a sambal-like traditional Bhutanese chilli paste made traditionally with Bhutan-grown sun-dried Szechuan peppercorn but here, Lhaden replaces the ultra-numbing Szechuan peppercorns with more subdued Korean dried chilli powder to cater to Singapore’s more delicate palate.
I’m all for a good salad, so I would pick Mangrove Crab Salad ($24++) over dumplings anytime. Inspired somewhat by the Thai som tum, Lhaden uses green mango instead of green papaya and serves it with beansprouts, sliced fresh coconut, other vegetables and a generous helping of plump fresh-picked mud crabs. The freshness of the ingredients are brought together by a simple yet stellar dressing of fish sauce, palm sugar, lime juice, garlic and coriander root.
For carbs, the decision is clear as day. Even if the duck ragout pappardelle ($30++) is faultlessly well-executed, Lhaden’s Maldivian COMO properties-inspired lobster biryani ($48++) is quite simply irresistible. Sustainably-farmed Canadian lobsters are cooked in a spiced tomato bath, then added to basmati rice that has been par-cooked in lobster broth. To finish, the mound is dished into a baking tray, covered with a layer of naan-like pastry and baked for 12 minutes. What you get are fluffy basmatic rice grains rich in the flavour of the broth while the shellfish itself remains suitably plump with no signs of being overcooked. Served with raita and guava pomegranate salad, this lobster biryani could be a meal in itself and it’s available for both lunch and dinner. But here’s a caveat, although they say that it’s been baked in naan, the chewy texture of the naan is none the closer to the fluffy type you get at Indian restaurants.
There you go – three dishes for two pax at a total cost of $84++ and you get a whiff of COMO properties without ever stepping out of Singapore. More importantly, you’ll get to discover an excellent Bhutanese female chef residing smack bang in the heart of Dempsey.
18A Dempsey Road, Singapore 249 677; comodempsey.sg/restaurant/como-cuisine