Bacchanalia's new home

(From left) Bacchanalia co-owner Raj Datwani, chef Ivan Brehm and co-owner Alex Chew at the restaurant's new premises.
(From left) Bacchanalia co-owner Raj Datwani, chef Ivan Brehm and co-owner Alex Chew at the restaurant's new premises.ST PHOTO: TAN HSUEH YUN

Two-year-old restaurant moves from Masonic Hall to Hongkong Street and will open the kitchen to diners

Two-year-old Bacchanalia, an award-winning restaurant at the Masonic Hall in Coleman Street, is relocating to Hongkong Street.

It served its last meal at the old premises last Saturday and will re-open at the new place in the middle of next month. The new restaurant is on the same stretch as some hip restaurants and watering holes, including bars Vasco and 28 Hongkong Street, and Spanish restaurant FOC.

With the move, the focus is now firmly on the food. At Coleman Street, the restaurant also had a bar and a lounge area.

The new 1,360 sq ft premises at 39 Hongkong Street, vacated by a spice trading company, seats 36, compared to 100 before.

It will continue to serve the kind of progressive, vegetable-centric food that head chef Ivan Brehm, 31, a Fat Duck alumnus, has become known for. He was named Chef Of The Year at this year's World Gourmet Summit's (WGS) Awards of Excellence. The restaurant was also named Restaurant Of The Year this year and New Restaurant Of The Year last year.

Co-owner Raj Datwani, 33, says: "The way Bacchanalia has evolved with Ivan, it deserves a setting that matches the food. At Coleman Street, it was a bit unbalanced. The new place fits in a lot more with what he is doing."

Brazil-born chef Brehm, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in New York, looks to be creating a restaurant unlike any in Singapore. He is doing away with the separation between dining room and kitchen, so that diners feel like they are eating in a kitchen, with cooks doing their work just metres away.

As Mr Datwani puts it: "We are taking the kitchen and putting it in the dining room."

The chef adds: "We cannot curse as much but one night, we were dancing during service. I don't want that to change."

He aims to remove what he calls the "massive division" between diners and chefs.

"Connection is at the heart of what we are doing," he says.

Translating that concept into reality is design company Distillery.

At the new place, the chef's team of eight in the kitchen, which includes Australian chef Mark Ebbels, 28, with whom Brehm started the restaurant, will serve some of the courses to diners, and explain ingredients and cooking methods.

These initiatives are being introduced in part because at Coleman Street, curious diners have asked for kitchen tours. Special guests would also sometimes have their meals in the kitchen, and they relished the experience.

At the new place, all guests will have a kitchen tour. Once they go past the host stand at the entrance, they enter the cold kitchen, then past a counter where artisanal coffee and loose leaf tea is made. Tables are interspersed among the other kitchen stations.

At the far end of the restaurant is a table which seats 12. It can be separated to seat three tables of four, but the chef plans to hold a chef's table meal there once a week, possibly on a Tuesday or Thursday.

He says the idea comes from former Noma head chef Matt Orlando, who now runs Amass in Copenhagen. Brehm plans to do as he does, getting single diners or couples to book seats at the communal table, and share a special meal with strangers.

Although prices have not been nailed down yet, at lunch, a set meal is likely to cost $48 to $55 a person and there will also be a la carte selections. There will be three-, five- and seven-course menus at dinner, with a la carte selections too. A five-course dinner is expected to cost $95 to $115.

Eventually, the restaurant will serve lunch and dinner six days a week, closing on Sundays. However, for starters, lunch will be served only Wednesdays to Fridays.

The wine list, for which the restaurant won the Old World Wine List Of The Year award this year at the WGS, will feature more grower champagnes and wines from small producers.

Because the restaurant is located on a street with two cocktail bars, the chef says it will focus on three to four good cocktails to go with the food.

Produce will be sourced from around the region. The restaurant will continue getting vegetables and herbs from Hatiku Agrikultur in Cameron Highlands. Some 70 per cent of its fish and other seafood are sourced locally too.

Some of the new offerings include pickled Japanese sardine with sweet corn, spring onion puree and chickpea cream, and snapper carpaccio with Penang mace and Sichuan leaf dressing.

Brehm says: "I don't want this to be perceived as a new restaurant, but an evolution of the restaurant."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 20, 2015, with the headline 'Bacchanalia's new home'. Print Edition | Subscribe