I won’t lie to you: I had my qualms before stepping into Tono Cevicheria at Duo Galleria Bugis. I did my research and saw their menu online and wondered, How is this ever going to work? Half the menu consists of ceviches. People want variety. And besides, did they really boast to be the first Peruvian cevicheria in Singapore and in Asia? How about Tiger’s Milk and the defunct Sur Nuevo Latino Kitchen?
But after my meal at Tono, I thought, This is brilliant. There is so much joy and playfulness. After all, Tono means party.
Pisco Sour ($14)
Tono is founded by Peruvian Chef Daniel Chavez, and the kitchen is helmed by Chef Mario Malvaez who leads a team of Lima-trained Latin American chefs.
Here’s an interesting story about Chavez. When 3 Michelin-starred Santi Santamaria died of a heart attack at his eponymous restaurant at Marina Bay Sands, he left behind two proteges: Jose Alonso and Chavez. Alonso went on to open Binomio, one of my favorite restaurant in Singaporee in 2013, while Chavez opened Ola Cocina Del Mar. I’ve been wanting to try Ola, and now after trying the brilliant Tono, I want to visit Ola even more.
Tono focuses on fresh, carefully sourced ingredients with a sustainability slant, particularly seafood. Some of the fish are line-caught.
While much of the menu focuses on ceviches, there is much variety. The clasico ($25++, above) uses the freshest fish for the day, tossed in tiger’s milk (which is lime juice, sliced onion, chiles). Surprisingly, they add sweet potato puree, acting as a balance to the sourness, and canchita, a Peruvian corn.
Tiradito is what Japanese immigrants to Peru bring to ceviche. Under this section, yellow pituco ($24) has the tuna fish sliced and arranged nicely on a plate, doused in chilli vinaigrette. Red quinoa provides the crunch. This is sweeter and creamier than clasico.
Pulpo al olivo ($28), or sliced octopus in black olive mayo, has the perfectest texture: the octopus is soft and bouncy. I don’t like olive but the flavor of olive matches the octopus greatly.
I like the Jalea ($32) very much after a series of creamy seafood slices. It’s a celebration of deep-fried seafood. Usually, when we think of deep-frying seafood, it means that the seafood is not fresh. But here, the seafood is extremely fresh; it’s simply a joy to eat this dish.
If there is one dish I wouldn’t order, it is Lomo Saltado ($40), a dish brought to Peru by Chinese immigrants. It’s very delicious and the beef is beautifully stir-fried and has a nice chewy texture. Unlike the Chinese version which has a thicker, starchy gravy, this sauce is easy and delicious. However, delicious as it is, I think it’s too expensive.
The flavor palate of Sudado de pescado ($34, fisherman’s stew) is very different from Asian food. But the cooking principle remains the same. The seafood is grilled on a plancha first before soup is added. I want to say the soup tastes like saffron, but it doesn’t have a earthiness and it is more complex: it’s salty and smoky.
The seafood stew is indicative of how Peruvian food differs from our local tastebuds. Singaporeans and Asians in general prefer sweet food but Peruvian food served at Tono is salty and pungent and sour. There is little subtlety in Peruvian food; it is bold, in your face, and honest. As an adventurous eater, I enjoy the differences in tastes between Peruvian and Asian food. It’s different but it’s still as delicious.
However, desserts are the same everywhere: sweet. At Tono, the desserts are fantastic, one of the best I’ve eaten this year. Tres leches ($12), or three milks, is a coconut cake soaked in three types of milk, undercut by passionfruit. It’s amazing, rich, nicely sweet, and tart.
The Alfajores ($12) consists a trio of butter cookies with dulce de leche filling and mango mousse. It’s delicate and wonderful.
As we were leaving the restaurant, Victoria the Peruvian waitress took Mr Fitness’s hand and started dancing with him. What a hoot! This is the sort of restaurant Tono is: playful and fun without compromising on the quality and taste of the food. It is an education from the start to the end. The dishes are balanced and delightful and delicioso.
7 Fraser Street, Duo Galleria #01-49/50, Singapore 189356
T: +65 6702 7320
M-F 12pm-3pm, 6pm-10pm, Sat 6pm-10pm
You may be interested in…
–Vatos Urban Tacos, South Beach Quarter: KoMex (Korean-Mexican) Food, Best Tacos in Singapore
–Vasco, Hong Kong Street: Latin American Cocktail Bar and Small Sharing Plates
–Super Loco, Robertson Quay: Super Delicious Mexican Weekend Brunch + Super Hot Angmohs
–Señor Taco, Chijmes
Written by A. Nathanael Ho.