Best & Worst 2017

Best & Worst 2017: New Restaurant

Australian chef-owner Clayton Wells (standing, with Dutch chef Joeri Timmermans) of Blackwattle, which serves dishes with odd combinations of ingredients and flavours that work.
Australian chef-owner Clayton Wells (standing, with Dutch chef Joeri Timmermans) of Blackwattle, which serves dishes with odd combinations of ingredients and flavours that work. PHOTO: ST FILE
Bayswater Kitchen surprises with seafood recipes that take classic dishes a step forward.
Bayswater Kitchen surprises with seafood recipes that take classic dishes a step forward. PHOTO: BAYSWATER KITCHEN

BEST

Blackwattle, 97 Amoy Street, tel: 6224-2232; open: noon to 3pm (weekdays), 6 to 11pm (Mondays to Saturdays), closed on Sundays


Australian chef-owner Clayton Wells (standing, with Dutch chef Joeri Timmermans) of Blackwattle, which serves dishes with odd combinations of ingredients and flavours that work. PHOTO: ST FILE

Originality seems to be the trend in the Singapore dining scene this year, with new restaurants coming up with entire menus of dishes I have not seen anywhere else.

Some restaurants do it more successfully than others, however.

Blackwattle is especially memorable because of the way the odd combination of ingredients and flavours in its dishes, while not immediately appealing, grows on me.

Chef-owner Clayton Wells even manages to make cliched items such as grilled octopus fresh by serving it in an exciting spicy ink sauce.

What is laudable, too, is that despite being a well-known name in Sydney - where he co-owns the well-regarded Automata restaurant - he keeps prices reasonable at Blackwattle with a $118 five-course dinner.

Restaurant Gaig, 16 Stanley Street, tel: 6221-2134; open: noon to 2pm and 6 to 9.30pm (Mondays to Saturdays), closed on Sundays

There are few dishes so memorable that after eating them once, I can remember every detail about them. And I can't wait to eat them again.

This year, that dish is Gaig's Traditional Cannelloni at this offshoot of a one-Michelin-starred restaurant in Barcelona.

It is based on a recipe that has been with chef-owner Carles Gaig's family since 1869.

Rolled in a soft and smooth pasta sheet is a filling of shredded roast pork and beef and it comes drenched in a decadently rich and swoonworthy truffled cream sauce.

There are other good dishes too. Stuffed Baby Squid is one of them. The squids are more half-grown than baby and come stuffed with minced pork, beef, squid and egg. They are stewed till tender in a thick, delicious tomato sauce.

The restaurant has the casual feel of a family-run eatery, which makes it even more appealing.

Bayswater Kitchen, 2 Keppel Bay Vista, tel: 6776-0777; open: 11.30am to 3pm (Mondays to Fridays), 6 to 11pm (Mondays to Saturdays), closed on Sundays and public holidays, but will open for Sunday brunch next year


Bayswater Kitchen surprises with seafood recipes that take classic dishes a step forward. PHOTO: BAYSWATER KITCHEN

It is not difficult to dish out good seafood as long as one does not overcook it, which is why it requires a lot for a seafood restaurant to stand out from the competition.

This newcomer in Keppel Bay surprises with not just fresh and perfectly cooked seafood, but also recipes that take classic dishes a step forward.

My favourite is a seafood linguine, where the fresh pasta is simmered with a variety of seafood and tomatoes till it soaks up the delicious flavours. But you do not get soggy noodles either.

Wild Red Snapper has the fish rubbed with a bit of curry spices and scallion yogurt before being grilled to perfection. The spices are used subtly so as not to overpower the fish, yet there is enough to give it a nice aroma.

 

WORST

Bistro November, closed down

This restaurant, which took over Restaurant Ember at Hotel 1929 early this year, was to last only till November – hence its name – because the lease ran out that month. It was just as well because I did not know what to make of its food.

Chef John-Paul Fiechtner was very earnest in pushing out his original cuisine, where ingredients were left to age or ferment.

Some dishes were good, such as a corn dessert that came in the molded shape of a mini ear of corn. But many, while “interesting”, tasted just too funky. There were things, for example, that reminded me of a watermelon that had been left out in the sun and gone bad.

And talking about food rotting, that aged fish probably was.

I know people who profess to love the food there, but – even though I consider myself an adventurous eater – I definitely do not.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 17, 2017, with the headline 'New Restaurant'. Print Edition | Subscribe