One would expect an eatery in a supermarket to be a place for just a quick bite and a drink.
But that is not how SPRMRKT (spelt without the vowels but still pronounced as supermarket) turns out.
It opened in McCallum Street in 2012 as a casual bistro-cum-grocer and last year, expanded to a second outlet serving "New American" food by chef Jonathan Ong on the second floor of the STPI.
But Ong has left and last month, the SPRMRKT Kitchen and Bar was relaunched with a new concept and with co-founder Joseph Yeo running the kitchen.
His menu veers more towards contemporary French bistro cooking, which matches the smart setting.
Those looking for a relaxed space to dine in, away from the hustle and bustle that characterises the rest of Robertson Quay, will be happy here.
The ground floor space remains unchanged, though, with an all-day cafe called SPRMRKT Daily. It serves a different menu of salads, wraps and burgers and there is also a small grocer - not quite a supermarket - selling hipster food products such as prettily packaged tea and chocolate from the region.
I wonder why Yeo had not taken on cooking duties right from the beginning because he is a very good chef.
He has worked in Les Amis and Waku Ghin, and though the food at SPRMRKT Kitchen is much more casual than at those fine-dining restaurants, it boasts a finesse seldom found in a bistro.
It is a rare restaurant where every dish turns out so good that you look forward to eating it again. That is the case with SPRMRKT Kitchen both times I eat there, first invited and then unannounced.
I usually would not order a chicken dish in a Western eatery, because it is often bland chicken breast.
So it is fortunate that The Twice Cooked Chicken Roulade ($28) is included in the invited tasting because it turns out to be my favourite dish.
I order it again when I return and it is still as amazing.
SPRMRKT KITCHEN AND BAR
STPI - Creative Workshop & Gallery, 02-01, 41 Robertson Quay, tel: 9736-4170, open: 11.30am to 3pm (Tuesdays to Fridays), 6 to 10pm (Tuesdays and Wednesdays), 6pm to midnight (Thursdays to Saturdays, last dinner order at 9.30pm), 10.30am to 4.30pm (Saturday and Sunday brunch)
Food: 4/5 stars
Service: 4/5 stars
Ambience: 3.5/5 stars
Price: Budget from $80 a person, without drinks
The chef uses thigh meat, not breast, which makes a big difference because thigh is juicier and tastier.
Brined and rolled with chopped spinach and mushrooms sauteed with garlic, shallots and parsley, it is then cooked sous vide and finally shallow-fried.
All that effort results in succulent meat covered in a marvellously crisp skin. And it is delicious, with the chicken very well-seasoned.
The steaks are good too. The Stockyard Cote De Bouef ($98) is tasty and juicy, with a hefty 600g chunk of Australian rib with bone in.
But I'd recommend the Steak Frites ($36) over it because the 200g ribeye is more manageable, leaving you room to try more dishes. Also, it comes with seriously good chips.
French-style steaks tend to come in thinner slices than American versions, which sometimes results in overcooked and dry meat. But the medium rare beef here is tender, juicy and flavourful.
Octopus & Prawn ($24) is a light starter that complements the meats in the main course. The Spanish octopus is cooked sous vide with chopped vegetables and red wine, which explains its tenderness.
It is then seared on a plancha or flat-top grill. The king prawn is simply cooked on the plancha and that is all the sweet shellfish needs before being dressed with the octopus in white wine vinegar.
If you have room for it, squeeze in an order of Malbec Oxtail Pasta ($32).
The housemade parpadelle sheets are suitably al dente and perfect with the oxtail, which is cooked with tomatoes and Malbec red wine until the meat and gelatin bits get really soft and rich with flavour.
Smoked scarmoza cheese is melted over the dish, binding the ingredients perfectly.
It is enough for a main course for one person, but a better idea is to share it as a starter.
Desserts here are not to be missed. Tiramisu ($18) is the chef's own interpretation of the classic Italian dessert, comprising espresso ice cream, hazelnut liqueur granita and mascarpone foam.
The flavours are familiar, but the frozen ingredients make this more refreshing and ideal for hot weather.
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• The Sunday Times paid for its meals at the eateries reviewed here
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