Forgive Anti:dote for its hipster name; in all other aspects, it was fantastic. It was a comfortable setting: lounge music softly in the background with ambient lighting, tables far apart to enable private conversations. Service was professional and attentive.
American bartender, Tom Hogen, 28, formerly from Bernard’s Bar in Chicago, has some delicate hands for we found both our cocktails delicious and balanced: treat of kings ($23), tangy and sourish from pineapple, Lillet Blanc, lemon, pisco and mint; and a sparkling, refreshing, Asian-inspired Tonic #2 ($19) with lemongrass, ginger, parsley, Gentian, rum and lemon. I liked Tonic #2 so much they ought to name it after me.
The food is handled by Catalan Chef Carlos Montobbio, 26, who has worked 3 years at one Michelin-starred Cinc Sentits (Barcelona) and half a year with the Roca brothers at best restaurant in the world in Catalonia.
Since it is more of a bar, there are only 10 items for small bites and we had 8 of them. Three occupied tables but nobody was eating except my BFF and me. My BFF’s favorite was a bao ($20), inspired by Tim Ho Wan‘s famous char siew bao. The skin could be thinner but the braised veal cheeks within was bold and strong.
My favorite was yellow fin tuna skewers ($16), imported from Japan weekly. It was drizzled with jalapeno ponzu, and topped with green apples, kaffir lime, and Kaluga caviar; its lightness of being was approaching bliss.
One of the Roca brothers came down to Singapore and his favorite was the pizza ($12). The crust was actually a thin crisp of parmesan, topped with pesto, olive oil caviar, and basil “from our garden,” said Montobbio.
Another two dishes that I’d recommend are 72-hour braised short rib ($18), influenced by the Rocas, and clam sphere ($14, below) with crispy bacon, samphire and parsley oil, a play on traditional clam chowder.
Skip this: the most expensive dish, scrambled eggs ($24) with caviar, wasn’t worth the buck for us because the flavor was wholly dependent on sea urchin. I was more interested in the gorgeous artisan mother-of-pearl spoon, used for the dish, which I hope Montobbio will gift me after reading this review.
For desserts, the petit four, passionfruit marshmellow with chorizo ($4/pc), was exciting, with an aftertaste of bacon-like fragrance. The slow-roasted beetroot ($12) was really slowly roasted and took some time to come. It came with goat’s cheese espuma, cucumber and lime sorbet, and a ginger ice cream. Individual items were great, but they didn’t come together as a whole.
For a 26 year-old chef, the food was fantastic, passing the test of my fussy BFF. But we thought the food, in general, was tentative, lacking a certain finesse that comes with experience. For instance, the truffle on the bao was extraneous since the veal overpowered it. So were the green apples on yellow fin tuna, and the langoustine ($16, below) on the peanut tofu in tom yum broth.
Of course, we are being difficult and finicky. In truth, the food was more than delicious, the service immaculate, and the ambience soothing. We paid $215 for two.
Tip: For reservations for two, request for window armchair seats. The rest are benches, which may not be as comfortable.
80 Bras Basah Road, Fairmont Level 1, Singapore 189560
T: 6431 5315
Dinner: M-F: 6-11pm, Sat, Sun & Eve PH: 6pm-12.30am
Rating: 3.563/5 stars
Written by A. Nathanael Ho.