Taking roots along Jalan Besar, Subrosa Private Dining is now a possible location for your secret rendezvous and underground meetings. The glass panels are screened and no menu is displayed on the walkway. Apart from the restaurant’s name on the front facade of the shophouse and a rose emblem on the glass door, you would not have noticed that it is a place to wine and dine. Subrosa or rather, ‘sub rosa’ in Latin translates to ‘under the rose’, which denotes confidentiality, and the old symbolism of roses on tables requires those present to be sworn to secrecy. Serious business. However, I’m about to break the code of honour by writing this article.
To dine in Subrosa, it would be wise to make your reservations at least 48 hours in advance for good reasons. The restaurant strives to find the best ingredients on the day of your booking and then curates a menu that aims to fit your palate and dietary requirements. Fresh produce is guaranteed by adopting a farm-to-table approach; for a start, the company owns a lobster farm and herb garden in Singapore. The latter is important as herbs are integral part of the dishes here. You can choose either a five- or seven-course menu, priced from $108++ and $148++ respectively.
The amuse bouche stays true to the restaurant’s mantra, “Fresh is Best” (pictured above) and preludes Executive Chef Steven Snowdon’s culinary chops for subsequent courses. The scallops are brined for four hours to give them a firm texture and after which, they are cured for 20 minutes to lock in the flavours. Upon serving, the scallops are accompanied with lemon and ginger fluid gels, tiny fermented melon balls, cucumbers, smoked trout roe and various herbs, one of which is the oxalis, an edible weed that looks like a clover. It lends a lemony taste to the dish. Generous drizzles of dill-and-parsley oil add another layer to the taste. The brined scallops are nothing short of fresh. Despite numerous ingredients, the dish is light and zesty, proving to be a great appetiser. The effort in researching and using different cooking techniques is commendable.
The tomatoes, which take 3 to 4 weeks of pickling, are part of The Cocktail ensemble that consists of soft crab meat, crunchy coconut flakes, and foamy aerated shrimp, made from kaffir, lime and curry, all layered neatly in a double-walled glass. Freshly-cut fennel pollen are scattered on top for a tinge of spicy, floral fragrance, similar to anise. With all these ingredients in place, it looks like a granola jar but of course, it is way more decadent. You can pop one of those Bloody Mary tomatoes in-between bites to reduce cloyingness. This is absolutely my favourite dish for the night. Despite its name, The Cocktail contains no alcohol.
Quaking Cod That has both duck and cod. You are probably familiar with the usual Chinese-style of steamed cod with ginger and soy sauce. In this variation, the cod is sous-vide with a sheet of seaweed and is rested on a bed of shimeji mushrooms. Instead of soy sauce, they use a full-bodied duck consommé that is flavourful but a tad salty. The cod is tender and moist, delectable. Topped with an unruly bunch of deep-fried banana parsnip and shallot strips, the umami flavour of the fish and consommé is further pronounced.
Working alongside with Chef Snowdon is Consulting Chef Francis Lee who is familiar with the local palate and resourceful in finding the freshest and best ingredients in Singapore. He is the man behind Remember Mee, his version of Hokkien prawn mee that does not use prawns but lobster. Chef Lau makes his own lips-smacking sambal chilli and fried pork lards. More stock is added to the dish upon serving. The flavours hit the right spots but we wish the noodles are firmer and for stronger ‘wok-hei’. Nonetheless, the lobster pincer is tender and delicious.
Who Niu comprises of a nicely seared foie gras and a sous vide piece of Australian wagyu that takes four hours to prepare. The beef is less fatty than its Japanese counterpart but it holds a meatier flavour. The spherical croquette is made up of cheese and mashed potato, with strong traces of wasabi. The skin is crispy while the hot filling is soft and savoury. The dish is drizzled with a special sauce made of beef bones and spices.
For dessert, Tropical Passion is a passionfruit jam sorbet with a circular block of coconut mousse. They are dressed with mango slices, toasted nuts, chocolate shavings, lime jelly gel, more oxalis and to my surprise, coriander flowers. It is not just about putting a sweet ending to a meal; the chefs have taken heart to tease our olfactory senses as well.
On the night of visit, the tables and chairs are set close to each other in the dining room. I was told that this is not the usual set-up. Hopefully, they will be able to position their tables further apart to allow more privacy for their guests.
Overall, the food quality and creativeness of the chefs make the private dining experience in Subrosa enjoyable. Every ingredient they use has a purpose in the dishes. The prices are also reasonable and unlike fine dining, the serving portions are way more than substantial.
Subrosa Private Dining
369 Jalan Besar, Singapore 208997
Tel: +65 6610 0555
11am – 12am, daily
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Written by Cheang Shwu Peng.