Portico, the casual restaurant in Alexandra Road helmed by Singaporean chef Nixon Low, now has a more upmarket sibling.
Portico Prime replaced steak restaurant Prime Society in Dempsey Hill last month, with the chef putting out a menu that continues in the vein of Portico's style of classic Western cooking with a slight twist.
But there is also something of Prime Society in the new restaurant.
The restaurant design is left practically unchanged, with the same layout. It's not quite fine-dining - there are no table cloths or dress code and the exposed brick pillars give the place an edgy, slightly industrial feel that works whether you are there on a dinner date or a business lunch.
Part of the appeal of the building, which is converted from colonial army barracks, is its high ceiling and this continues to give the restaurant a lofty sense of space that is rarely found in restaurants here.
01-20, 10 Dempsey Road tel: 6474-7427
Open: 11.30am to 3pm (Tuesday to Sunday), 6 to 10.30pm (weekday), 6 to 11.30pm (weekend). Closed on Monday
Food: 3.5 stars
Service: 3.5 stars
Ambience: 3.5 stars
Price: Budget about $100 a person, without drinks
The glass chillers at the entrance, where Prime Society's steaks were hung, remain too. Portico Prime reserves a section on its menu for steaks, offering three selections of beef each time. The meats, Low says, will be changed periodically.
Some of the dishes are reminiscent of what I have eaten at Portico, but are more dressed up or use more premium ingredients. In place of a salad of vine-ripened tomatoes, for example, you get a Collection Of Heirloom Tomatoes ($24), which is composed of fancier tomatoes and comes with a frozen honey lemon dressing. It is good, especially with the shavings of Serrano ham that are certainly a cut above the prosciutto in the old version.
It provides a clean-tasting, healthy start to the meal and I'd recommend this if you plan to have a heavy meat dish for your main course.
If you prefer something a bit heavier, however, you can split a pasta dish with your dining companion. The Capellini With Pan Seared Hokkaido Scallops, Grilled Tiger Prawns, Black Lip Mussels, Spanish Chorizo And Fresh Herbs ($32) is a good choice, with enough seafood for two people as there are two pieces of everything. The pasta is cooked just right and infused with the sweet flavours of shellfish.
For my main course, I decide against a steak and order the 260g "Dingley Dell" Pork Chop ($45) instead. The pork comes from Britain and boasts good flavour as well as a firm texture. I especially like the end, with a thin lining of fat, which gives the meat more succulence and a nice aroma.
The pork comes with smoked apple vanilla puree, asparagus, whisky pork jus and, my favourite, apple fritters - chunks of soft apple encased in crispy batter.
The Locally Farmed Chicken - Done Two Ways ($38) is an extension of the chicken confit from Portico. Here, the dish has an added chicken roulade with foie gras for a gourmet touch. Both ways are good and a better alternative to the boring grilled chicken breast that many Western restaurants put on their menu. The meat is juicy and has a bit of bite - even the confit - which is how I like my chicken.
The dish comes with maple scented sweet potato puree, braised purple cabbage and spiced chicken jus.
My dessert of "Naphung" Honey and Thyme Creme Brulee Coconut Tart ($15) does not show much of the characteristics of a tart, except for being baked in a shallow dish. I would actually prefer a thicker creme brulee.
This one has a strong thyme fragrance, but does not stand out otherwise.
- Life paid for its meals at the eateries reviewed here.