Over the past decade, many excellent fine-dining restaurants have opened in Singapore.
But unless you are willing to pay $200 and more a head - a lot more, in some cases - chances are, this change in the dining scene here would not have meant much to you.
Which is why I wish there were more restaurants like Cure.
The modern Western restaurant, which opened in Keong Saik Road last month, offers a four-course dinner menu for $95 from Mondays to Thursdays.
From tomorrow, it will also introduce three-course dinners at $75 and five courses at $115. That is not cheap but, for me, the meal is as good as or even better than some that cost twice the amount.
21 Keong Saik Road, tel: 6221-2189
Open: Noon to 3pm (Thursday and Friday), 6 to 10pm (Monday to Saturday). Closed on Sunday
Price: From $75 a person for dinner. Check menus and prices at www.curesingapore.com/
On Fridays and Saturdays, five courses are offered for $120 because more snacks are included. Lunch, available on only Thursdays and Fridays, is a la carte.
Chef-owner Andrew Walsh was last heading the kitchen at tapas eatery Esquina nearby, before venturing out on his own.
But his cooking at Cure - which is taken from the Latin word "curare", meaning "to take care of" - is more fine-dining even though the ambience and service of the restaurant are kept relaxed.
The single shophouse unit looks casual, with small wooden tables laid out between an open kitchen at the back and a small bar counter in front. There are no table cloths or elaborate place settings.
Service is casual and friendly, but you also get dishes served with detailed descriptions by various kitchen staff, just like in fine restaurants.
But what impresses the most is the chef's creativity.
Every dish is a well-calibrated composition of textures and flavours, where the result is much more than the sum of its parts.
The menu changes every month and every dish on this month's menu tastes original to me. I do not get the feeling of tasting anything similar somewhere else before - which is quite something these days, as food trends are picked up faster than a post on Instagram.
The meal starts with various snacks, but what steal the show are the bacon butter and fermented chopped cabbage that come with the house-baked sourdough bread.
The bits of bacon sprinkled over the butter turn the humble fare into such a heart-stealer that I would be surprised if the idea doesn't get copied soon.
The courses that follow are further revelations of good but uncommon food matchings.
A cold almond soup is poured over cubes of cured salmon, strips of cucumber and a pile of vanilla snow. Stirred lightly, you get a strange but wonderful combination of flavours, with a spot of iciness from the snow tickling the palate.
The server leaves some extra almond soup on the table and drinking that on its own leaves a quite different sensation. For me, it's like a chilled version of Chinese almond cream, albeit with a heavier nutty flavour.
The next course comprising discs of foie gras pate topped with plums is more conventional. But it comes with duck buns that look like deep-fried mantou but have the tender crumb of brioche, and they are lovely.
The Iberico pork loin that follows is nicely tender and flavourful. It is plated with a smoked mussel as well as pickled cauliflower florets, which provide the acidity the meat requires.
A side plate of pork crackling "popcorn" is wildly addictive and I can only imagine how decadent it would be to have that as a movie snack. My doctor, of course, would have a fit at the idea.
There is an additional course of Irish beef that you can add to the menu for an extra $25. The meat is not premium wagyu, but for the price, I don't expect it to be. It is decent though a little too lean for me, but the dish works because of how well it is put together.
Besides two pieces of seared beef, you also get two scoops of tartare mixed with bits of oyster. Then there's a dollop of oyster mayonnaise that tastes intensely of the shellfish, which I love. And a piece of burnt but really sweet onion that prepares you for the sweets to come.
The dessert of chocolate, pistachio, Irish moss and Connemara whisky jelly does its job, but is not very memorable except for the jelly.
My favourite course is the pre- dessert - a cup of yogurt topped with a mix of curry granola and mint granita. It is so good I cannot stop eating it until it is all gone. And even then, I find myself putting down the spoon very reluctantly.
It is not just delicious but every spoonful also yields a different sensation in the mouth as the ingredients combine in varying amounts. The crispy granola, too, provides the perfect texture to pep up the yogurt.
That is why the food at Cure works so well.
The way flavours and textures play variously with one another in each dish means you never get bored with it. Yet nothing feels forced or gimmicky.
That, for me, is true art.
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- Life paid for its meals at the eateries reviewed here.