Moosehead Kitchen-Bar has changed its head chef again, but most diners would not know.
That is because the concept and style of cooking laid down by co-owner Glen Ballis - whose partner, his son Daniel, manages the restaurant - stays the same, whoever is helming the kitchen.
It is "Mediterranean-based cuisine with global flavours", which means you find ingredients such as sumac and feta that are commonly used in Mediterranean countries, but put together in original combinations.
Many of the dishes are charcoalgrilled in an Inka oven, giving them a distinctive smokiness that characterises the cooking here.
The man in the kitchen now is Seumas Smith, a young Scotsman who was previously with Esquina. His introductions to the menu blend with the old dishes quite seamlessly. This is a good thing because I have always loved the food at Moosehead and would not want to see it drastically altered.
110 Telok Ayer Street, tel: 6636-8055, open: noon to 2.30pm (Monday to Friday), 6 to 10.30pm (Monday to Saturday), closed on Sunday
Food: 4/5 stars
Service: 3/5 stars
Ambience: 2.5/5 stars
Price: Budget about $50 a person, without drinks
Among his new dishes, I find the Bacon-wrapped Chargrilled Dates, Aioli, Pine Nuts ($9) the most inspired. I would never have thought of rolling dates in bacon and grilling them, but the combination of sweet and salty makes them a very good match. To best appreciate how the dates and nuts balance the aromatic oils in the smokey bacon, pop a piece in the mouth whole. Each order comprises four pieces.
Another favoured dish is the Cauliflower, Garlic Miso, Leek Confit ($14). The chunks of the vegetable, which are grilled till slightly charred, are bland on their own. But scoop on them a generous spoonful of the mix of garlic miso, bonito, nori, creme fraiche, sesame seeds, spring onion and leek confit, and they are transformed into one of the tastiest vegetables I have eaten.
There is still quite a bit of bite in the cauliflower and the serving is generous, so it feels almost like eating a vegetarian steak - a healthy and delicious one.
Vegetable lovers can also check out the Beetroot, Sumac Yogurt, Spiced Ponzu, Almonds ($14). Again, there is a pleasant mix of sweet and savoury flavours, with a smattering of pomegranate seeds to provide acidity as well. What I like is that the beetroot does not have a strong earthy taste, which usually puts me off the root vegetable.
If you want some meat, the Slow Cooked Pork Belly, Apple, Roast Turnip, Cavolo Nero ($31) is what I'd recommend. The pork, while tender, retains its shape and is chargrilled in a final cooking step to give it a smokey aroma. I prefer to eat it without the accompanying apple puree so I can taste the meat better. Cavolo nero is an interesting dark green vegetable with a slightly bitter taste. Together with the baby turnips, it works to balance the fat in the pork.
If the cavolo nero is not enough vegetable for you, get a side order of Roast Pumpkin Salad, Rosemary & Balsamic Dressing, Parmesan ($9). It looks beautiful, covered in a snowy coat of the shaved cheese, and tastes good too. The dressing is lovely, with the balsamic mellow and not tart. I can happily eat this as a main dish. It tastes that good.
The 4-hour Slow Cooked Beef Cheek, Celeriac, Wild Mushrooms ($32) cannot be faulted, but does not stand out from what can be found in many other restaurants. The beef is suitably tender and flavourful, but not distinctive.
My dessert of choice is the Roasted White Pear, Citrus Yogurt, Pistachio ($12), which I like for the poaching liquid of sugar syrup, cinnamon, star anise and vanilla. The spices make you think of yearend holidays, but the zesty yogurt lightens it. The result is a refreshing end to the meal, something very welcome in the current heatwave.
Moosehead has been renovated recently and now boasts a lighter colour scheme that makes the tiny corner shoplot appear a bit less cramped.
The furniture has been changed to a row of banquettes against the wall. This creates more space for diners to walk along the room.
It is still too squeezed and noisy for business discussions. But friends and colleagues will love the underground feel of this tiny eatery.
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•The Sunday Times paid for its meals at the eateries reviewed here.