A pity that I have already published Best Food in Singapore 2021 because Club Street Wine Room (hencefore CSWR) would have made that list (although it’s another pity that they miss the opportunity of a good name, they should have been called Club Street Wine CLUB. Wouldn’t it be more fun? Like, you know, Anti-social Social Club? Also an anadiplosis, that would be cool.)
From its name, you know that CSWR is a wine bar but what differentiates it from others is the excellent food it serves. It is under the Cure Concepts headed by Andrew Walsh whom I was enamoured with long ago since his days at Esquina. But with each new Cure Concepts restaurant he opens, from Cure to Butcher Boy to Catfish, from being mindblowing to mediocrity, my infatuation is chipped away bit by bit. But CSWR renews my love for food and my joie de vivre. It gives me that spark of life.
The head chef Ho Jun Yip runs the show at CSWR. There is no specific cuisine here and the food could be cateogorised generically as “western food” with a focus on wood-fired grills. They have three menus here:
-On weekends, it’s buffet roast days at $98/pax.
-3-course set lunch is available only on Thursdays and Fridays at $38.
-For the rest of their opening days, it’s a la carte menu: appetisers range from $7 to $16; bar grub from $6 to $22; mains from $26 to $84, and desserts (including cheeses) from $12 to $44.
We were there for the set lunch menu.
For the appetisers, the beef tartare ($16 on a la carte menu) is fantastic. It comes with a sous vide confit egg and rye bread sliced with ridges like Ruffles chips. The beef tartare, when mixed with the egg, is slimy – so those who dislike slimy food may want to avoid it, although we didn’t mind it – and, with the wasabi and ponzu dressing, tastes like a Big Mac, said in the best complimentary way. The bread is amazing, crisp. Definitely one of the best beef tartare I have eaten.
I dared my friend to say she want the “chickpea panisse” because it sounds like the male genitalia. It’s pronounced as pa-ness, as opposed to pee-niece. It looks like tau kwa, but it is more like a french fry made from chickpea. Normally, I don’t like the earthy taste of chickpea, but this chickpea french fry, topped with burrata curd, resting on salsa verde, creates an intense, umami sensation. Didn’t know vegetarian food could give me a high.
Thinking back, one of us should have ordered the woodfire snapper, but we both chose the short rib steak au poivre for our mains. It is brined for 24 hours before it is slow-cooked for another 24 hours. Brining a meat helps to retain its moisture when being cooked. People who are accustomed to fine dining would know that a steak is a steak; it is difficult to do anything innovative with it. But this one is outstanding.
Although a little salty (due to the brining), the salt brings out the umami in the fat of the cut. It’s tender but still keeps its nice chew. This steak is a cut above steaks in other fine-dining restaurants.
The sticky toffee pudding is presented in an old school way, in a faceted glass, not on a saucer, which is really classy and stunning. If I nitpick, the pudding could be warmer and less sweet to create a deeper contrast with the homemade vanilla ice cream, and the ginger in the chantilly cream could be bolder. But it is already excellent and I wouldn’t mind eating it every day for the next week.
The service was also great. We were served by a white man (Australian?), who introduced the dishes to us as he served them. That is the proper etiquette, but a pity not many fine dining restaurants do it these days because of their untrained staff.
They don’t serve complimentary bread here, so that’s an auto-deduction of 20 points. But they have plenty of points to spare and I’m glad that Walsh bounces back after a string of lacklustre restaurants. We paid $56.50 each.
Decor / ambience: 8.5/10
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–Osteria BBR by Alain Ducasse, Raffles Hotel: Change Soup, Didn’t Change Medicine
–JU95, Boat Quay: One of the Best Food We Ate This Year
–Umami 10, Telok Ayer: Awaken Your Fifth Taste with Japanese-European Cuisine
Written by Dr. A. Nathanael Ho.