Two new eateries at COMO Dempsey bring historic food brands to town

Tempura from Ippoh Tempura Bar by Ginza Ippoh.
Tempura from Ippoh Tempura Bar by Ginza Ippoh. PHOTO: COMO LIFESTYLE

Will century-old tempura and Michelin-starred Italian cuisine win over the taste buds of finicky Singapore diners, wonders Tay Suan Chiang.

SINGAPORE (THE BUSINESS TIMES) - Considering how spoilt for choice Singapore diners are when it comes to sushi restaurants, it's surprising there are hardly any upscale tempura joints in town. While that title is currently held by Tenshin at Regent Hotel, a brand new Osaka import is about to make its presence known. Located at the new lifestyle destination COMO Dempsey, this is the brand's first restaurant in Singapore. It currently has two branches in Osaka, one in Tokyo and in Hong Kong.

A spokesman for COMO Dempsey says that Ippoh was picked "for its legacy, its pursuit of culinary excellence, and commitment to the fine of art tempura cooking".

Masaru Seki, fifth-generation member of the founding family, will bring Ippoh's light, crisp and delicately-battered Osaka-style tempura to Singapore direct from his Tokyo Ginza restaurant, together with strict culinary traditions dating from 1850.

Ippoh Tempura Bar by Ginza Ippoh uses only the freshest and most premium ingredients seasonally available. About 90 per cent of the ingredients, mainly seafood and vegetables, will be imported from Japan.

The tempura is cooked in prime safflower oil so that the integrity of the flavours is maintained, without the greasiness that is usually associated with tempura.

  • Ippoh Tempura Bar by Ginza Ippoh

  • Block 17B Dempsey Road

    T. 1800 304 3388

"To ensure that every piece of tempura is crisp yet cooked to perfection on the inside, each piece is fried individually, allowing the chef to control the temperature of the oil and how long each ingredient stays in the fryer," says chef Seki.

He adds that opening Ippoh Tempura Bar by Ginza Ippoh at COMO Dempsey is a great opportunity for the family to introduce lightly-battered Osaka-style tempura to a wider audience that appreciates the intricacies of this Japanese culinary art form.

"Guests can expect the same level of quality and service that's synonymous with all Ippoh restaurants. That's the Ippoh promise," says chef Seki, who will be in Singapore every few months.

The restaurant can seat 18, but the best seats would be at the tempura bar where guests can watch the cooking up close and have their tempura at its freshest.

The 1,200-sq ft restaurant is designed by world-renowned architect and designer, Paola Navone. The décor boasts an elegant yet organic aesthetic that exudes tranquility in an urban setting.

The lunch set menus are priced from $60 to $100, while dinner set menus are from $140 to $200.

Italian chef Davide Oldani believes that fine dining does not mean elitist dining. According to his Cucina Pop philosophy, which he conceptualised at his flagship restaurant D'O, fine dining should cater to every kind of diner and that each element on the plate must have reason and intent.

No dish is overly elaborate as the ingredients should be the star." -  Chef Oldani

For the past 13 years, he has helmed his one Michelin-starred restaurant in Cornaredo, just outside of Milan, and counts high-profile clientele such as Giorgio Armani and Andrea Bocelli as regulars.

Now, he's set to step foot outside Italy for the first time - with the 128-seater FOO'D by Davide Oldani, set within Victoria Theatre & Concert Hall.

Why Singapore and why now? "I believe in cultivating the right partnerships and that takes time," he says. "I also believe in fate, I am close with my family and believe that my late father sent me a sign to take the next big leap."

He finds Singapore "an extremely cosmopolitan city which is diverse, adventurous and very discerning" and "it is a great opportunity to launch in a city receptive to new interpretations of a much-loved cuisine".

The menu at FOO'D will be very similar to that at D'O and it will carry some signatures including the Caramelised Onion with 20 months aged Grana Padano, served hot and cold. It features steamed onion halves baked in crisp puff pastry topped with cheese gelato and hot cheese cream.

There will also be the visually arresting Lemon curd, meringue, lettuce ice-cream and cocoa crumble that demonstrates chef's penchant for blurring the lines between sweet and savoury courses.

  • FOO'D by Davide Oldani

  • 11 Empress Place, #01-01 Victoria Theatre & Concert Hall

    T. 6385 5588

"As we believe in keeping our food accessible, our team is dedicated to respecting and sourcing for ingredients that are native to the region, or that have a lower carbon footprint but still achieve the same quality and taste profile," says chef Oldani.

"No dish is overly elaborate as the ingredients should be the star. This is why the menu at FOO'D revolves around simple ingredients that are presented or paired in new and interesting ways that we hope will surprise diners in Singapore."

The FOO'D kitchen is led by Sardinian executive chef Simone Depalmas, who has been based in Singapore for five years. Working in close collaboration with Chef Oldani, the core FOO'D kitchen team spent two months in Milan, training in the kitchen at D'O to be fully immersed in the philosophy and practice of Cucina POP.

Chef Oldani will be in Singapore in January for the restaurant's official opening. "I will be visiting a few times, however, the Singapore team also takes its turn to come to D'O in Italy every year for development."

In line with his philosophy to make fine dining accessible, lunches start from $45 for three courses, while dinners cost from $138 for five courses.

"I am really excited to be cooking in Singapore," says chef Oldani.