Canadian chef Aaron Foster has been with Cook and Brew at The Westin for two or three years now. In the beginning, I heard lukewarm reviews of the food. But recently, there is a change in the menu: the western cuisine menu takes on some Asian flavors, and, as you shall read in this review, the Asian flavors are unexpected, strange, and delicious.
It is safe to say that Cook and Brew’s most delicious and interesting dishes are the ones with Asian flavors. One exception to the rule is whipped buffalo milk ricotta with truffle honey ($14): the sweet and creamy milk ricotta is spread on sourdough, which is slightly salty, slightly toasted, giving a plethora of flavors in the mouth. Mr Fitness, who is controlling my diet, said, “Two pieces are enough.”
“Okay,” I replied but I knew deep in my heart, that wouldn’t happen. I sneaked a third piece into my belly. It’s difficult to choose a favorite dish at Cook and Brew, but this is probably my favorite because of its complexity. I want to beg Foster for the recipe.
Another great dish, pad Thai fries ($15), is inspired by Foster’s Thai wife who is a chef. She taught him the pad Thai recipe. This dish is of course a play on the Canadian poutine fries, but instead of brown gravy and meat, this dish uses pad Thai sauce and seafood.
However I thought it tasted less pad Thai and more green papaya salad-ish. It’s sourish and slightly spicy, with a surprising sweetness from the sweet potato fries. The fries are soggy because of the pad Thai sauce, but I think the softness of the fries adds to the appeal of the dish, making it more addictive. None of us could stop ourselves from eating it. Willpower 0, fries 1.
The Korean beef carpaccio ($18) is simply adorable with kimchi, gochujang, and tornado potato skewers. But it is too spicy for me and the flavors overwhelm the USDA striploin. The idea is nevertheless refreshing and smart.
I’ve said previously that the best dishes have Asian flavors in them, and I cannot emphasize it enough. Do NOT order the phallic Dean Martin shrimp cocktail ($24), a Western dish. The grilled prawn is hard and it erects on a bed of commonplace mashed potato. It’s ordinary and if I paid $24 for it, I’d be fuming.
Also do not order another western dish, the cassoulet ($42). It is a traditional casserole dish of several meats left to stew with white beans, a dish originated from France but the French parts of Canada would have it too. I didn’t like it because the flavors are confusing; I couldn’t differentiate what I was eating. Sometimes the inability to differentiate tastes is a good thing, that the food is complex, but in this case, it is a mess. Foster adds foie gras into the mix, but I don’t know if a piece of goose liver justifies the price tag.
Ok. Back to the Asian flavoured dishes. The black truffles fried chicken ($32 half a chicken, 5 pieces/ $59 full) takes 5 days to be ready. It has to choose an outfit, put on makeup… Just kidding. It is brined and sous vide, and the whole process takes 5 days. The brining keeps the meat moist and gives it flavor; for fried chicken, the salt should be in the meat and not the skin, as Cook and Brew admirably demonstrates.
But I thought it would be better if it’s black truffle buttermilk fried chicken because the buttermilk would have made the chicken look buffer, like lips freshly injected with collagen.
The Asian flavor from this dish comes from the dip: orange ginger lime pickle dip, which is bittersweet sour, like achar. The chicken is good on its own and the dip is only for when you need it to undercut the grease. (Anyway, this is no grease.)
Mr Fitness liked the maple miso cod ($41), which of course is Canadian (maple) and Japanese (miso), but I’m ambivalent towards it. I like the clever concept, but both maple and miso are sweet, and the sweetness is overpowering the delicate taste of cod.
Nobody at the table liked Anna Olson’s steamed carrot cake ($14) but I. Someone watched in horror and disgust as I devored the dessert with relish. The texture of the steamed cake is smooth like nonya kueh, so it is strange, but once I adapted to the quirkiness, I tasted the carrot and pineapple. The cream cheese ice cream is also very weird because ice cream is supposed to be sweet and this is sour like yogurt. I can see why most people don’t like two queer things paired together.
But for me, there is some form of defiance about the cake, it’s as if it refuses to let you understand it; there is only acceptance or rejection of it. And if you can accept a dish for what it is, if you think there are no fixed rules in life, then try this. But if you have a rigid and immutable idea of what a carrot cake should be, skip it.
On the other hand, the caramel butter tart ($13) is a crowd pleaser filled with caramelized macadamia nut and tonka beans chantilly (chantilly is just a fancy word for… whipped cream!). It’s very sweet, which I love, but if you find it too sweet, it comes with a sourish blood orange sorbet to undercut the sweetness.
By the end of the repast, I began to think that Foster is an exemplar of a chef coming into his own after some time and effort. When he once was a follower of recipes, he is now an innovative and creative culinary master. The tasty meal was full of delightful surprises and showcases Foster’s unique style that no one else could imitate.
I can’t wait for Foster to fully mature and grow into the culinary genius I know he will become. This is one excellent meal and I plan to return to Cook and Brew with 2 or 3 friends and order the ricotta, pad Thai fries, one whole fried chicken, and then piss my friends off by ordering the carrot cake, which they will hate and I will have it on my own, and then we split the bill equally. #GetRichSchemes
Cook and Brew
12 Marina View, The Westin Singapore, Level 33, Singapore 018961
Tel: +65 6922 6948
Overall rating: 3.583/5
You may also be interested in…
–Seasonal Tastes, The Westin, Asia Square: Seafood Indulgence Buffet
–Staycation: The Westin Singapore
–The Belljar, Boat Quay: Har Jeong Sio Bak and Other East-Meets-West Dishes
–Little Bastard, Jalan Besar: The Jon Snow of Speakeasies With Fantastic Canto-Thai Food
Written by A. Nathanael Ho.