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Restaurant Gems

Restaurant Gems

My choice of standout dishes that are above typical cafe fare. They range from semi-formal to almost fine dining.
Veronica Phua
Veronica Phua

H O S T E D

Having dined there several times before, The Dempsey Cookhouse & Bar is a place I know very well. So when Gastrosense PR agency invited me for a media tasting of their seasonal lunch set menu, I readily agreed as I’ve always enjoyed the food, ambience and service there.

A few items from the wide selection of appetisers, mains and desserts were picked for us to try, starting with a very appetising Hamachi Salad. What made this substantial starter of thickly-cut, lightly-cured fish with avocado, mixed seeds and lettuce stand out for me was the dressing. It’s far from typical as it featured a warmed grapeseed oil poured over chipotle, Korean chilli powder, ground cumin, ground fennel and anatto seeds.

I was delighted to find my favourite Samosas offered as a choice of appetiser. Crispy of skin and generously filled with moist, tasty minced chicken (it’s a mix of thigh and breast), they came with a cool cilantro yogurt dip.

If you like soups, do give the Butternut Squash Minestrone a try as it is more complex than the ones out there due to a mellow heat from fresh chili. The sourdough croutons, sautéed in olive oil and seasoned with salt before being dropped in, were a nice touch.

I have never, ever dined at this restaurant and not ordered the Calamari with foamy Yuzu Dip. Loved how light and crunchy the coating was like always.

For the mains, we tried a seafood, two kinds of meat and a pasta.

The Sea Trout - a sesame seed-encrusted fillet plated with blanched spinach, sautéed potatoes, passionfruit purée and black olive oil that came away in nice, large flakes, was light and lovely.

Between the Veal Milanese with sweet potato, dried cranberry and arugula and the Borrowdale Free Range Pork, I preferred the latter as it had a heftier bite and was accompanied by tasty stewed peppers. But the former is ideal for those of you who enjoy your meat with a bright salad.

The vegetarian Fresh Tagliatelle with Pistachio Pesto and Roasted Brussels is something I‘d order again anytime. It had great depth of flavour and a subtle kick from Thai green chillies.

We got to try all four desserts and even though the classic Salted Caramel Ice-cream Sundae delivered in every way, I was distracted by the newer creations. My fave was the Chestnut Panna Cotta with Mandarin Coulis - it’s something different and truly scrumptious. The Cinnamon Apple Cake with Macadamia Nut Crumble rivalled it but call me old-fashioned, I would prefer vanilla ice-cream instead of the green apple sorbet. The Strawberry Sundae with Kaffir Lime Meringue really wow-ed me as well, especially the ice-cream bit.

Priced at $38++ and $42++ for 2 and 3 courses respectively, with top-ups required for certain dishes, the new Weekday Lunch Set is yet another reason to visit the beautiful Dempsey Cookhouse & Bar more often.

H O S T E D

Because of Chef-turned-Restaurateur Marco Pierre White who hosted us for lunch a few weeks ago at his iconic restaurant, I got to indulge not only in English classics but dishes that were inspired by certain flavours he has enjoyed in Singapore. Prepared by Head Chef Andrew Bennett and his team, I found the dishes of the latter undeniably delicious due to interesting twists.

The Quail Scotch Eggs ($5++ a piece) we began our meal with, are a mini version of the original. Wrapped in perfectly-seasoned housemade sausage meat and with the yolk still runny within, each was a joy to munch.

The moment I spotted Pressed Calf’s Tongue ($22++) on the menu, I couldn’t not have it. And was pleased as punch to learn the tender meat was every bit as good as I’d hoped.

The “Honey Roast Pork Belly Marco Polo”, one of the locally-inspired creations, thoroughly charmed me. Set against a backdrop of tasty dark sauce, the pork belly chunks melted in the mouth so beautifully while the airy-light pork skin crackers and silky “hor fun” noodles provided great textural contrast. It is available in two portion options of $42++ and $77++.

But the dish that had me sit up and go wow was the supremely appetising “Braised Short Rib with Singapore Spicy Tendon Sauce” ($40++). Head Chef Andrew revealed there’s chilli padi and soya sauce in there which explains the mouthwatering burn and obvious Asian flavour facet.

To accompany the meat, there was an assortment of sides that included buttered garden peas, beef fat chips, creamed spinach with horseradish and fresh pomme frites that saw our lunch companion Ghillie James, become quickly addicted to. And no wonder, the number of steps taken to make each piece of that delectable French fry is crazy, based on what Chef Andrew told us.

For dessert (each priced
at $16++), I chose the “Champagne-poached Strawberries with Vanilla Panna Cotta” and in a blink of an eye, made it history. Yums.

Even though I had quite a lot of pasta the night before, I still nursed a craving for more. So for my main course, I zeroed in on the “Fresh Tagliatelle with Clams, Chilli and Parsley”.
Besides being really Instagrammable, I found the dish beguilingly tasty. The flavour profile of the perfectly al dente pasta struck me as being light and fresh at first, especially with those soft-cooked sweet tomatoes, but the heat from tiny chillies crept in like stealthy ninjas, creating an even more mouthwatering bowl of pasta.

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If you like or want to try freshly-shucked oysters dressed in bold flavours, the new offerings at Tanuki Raw Orchard Central could be right up your alley. Take your pick of toppings from their fragrant truffle soya sauce with chives and shio kombu, rich mentaiko mayo, pops of ikura and the housemade chinmi-chilli (a zingy green chilli) for $6 a piece.
Purists, you haven’t been forgotten - there is the always option to savour your oysters naked.

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During the lunch with our friends from Hongkong, Executive Sous Chef Bryan was kind enough to send us this special-of-the-day to try.

Pan-seared carefully so it’s only slightly cooked inside, the plump and juicy Hokkaido Scallops came in an appetising blend of Chinese-style black bean sauce, chilli, red capsicum, ginger and soya sauce. With crisp “bok choy” and silky-soft mash filling out the dish, the scallops qualified as a light meal in itself.

Through being served this, I learned that on top of their regular menu, The Dempsey Cookhouse & Bar offers an ever-changing selection of items every day. So be sure to ask about them when you visit. You’ll never know what deliciousness Executive Chef Lisa and her team have up their sleeves.

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H O S T E D
A flavourful consommé with chunks of fall-apart-tender braised beef, woodlands mushroom and shaved truffle, finished with fresh herbs. I really enjoyed this piping hot goodness. It’s also pretty special as Beef Tea isn’t a commonly found soup.

H O S T E D
Confession: Before this, I had never dined here. You can blame it on the “pricey fish & chips” story that made the rounds when they opened about a year ago. But now I feel rather silly to have pegged a restaurant on hearsay about a single dish. Especially after finding out first-hand exactly how exceptional their food is. Executive Chef Andrew Bennett has had time to polish the menu since and it shows. So yes, this place has really come into its own and I think it is brilliant.
T.H. and I had the “Sunday Traditional Roast Set Menu” (2-course: $55++, 3-course: $65++) and were impressed with the quality of the specially-imported ingredients as well as the exacting execution of every dish.
We were told by Chef that we needed to give one of their roasts a try, so shortly after, the “Roast Pork Belly with Crackling” arrived in the company of a large Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes, seasonal vegetables and pickled onions. The meat wow-ed with juiciness and the craziest of crunchy skins, and was simply astounding when eaten with the icy-cold slushee-like sauce made from Granny Smith apples and butter.
Highly recommended.

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These precious little pieces of flesh are remarkably addictive. Smoky and tender from the grill, they are marinated in loads of pepper so they have a low-thrumming white heat that I relish.

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One of the items that Chef Jake sent our way as part of the Chef’s Select Menu we chose was the grilled slice of bread topped with roasted tomatoes and fresh herbs. Yes, it sounds basic but when I bit into it, I knew it was anything but. The raging heat of the fire-breathing beast (also known as the wood-fired ovens of Burnt Ends) had transformed the tomatoes into rich umami-ness.

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The usual sweet treat has the most unexpected of fillings in this version by Burnt Ends - pigeon parfait.
I would describe the warm silkiness cradled in the delicate crunchy tart to taste like a cross between red meat and foie gras in runny custard form. It’s definitely a little strange but in a good way.

H O S T E D

The meats on the new menu, truly floored me. Besides the Aged Duck Breast which was a revelation, the Westholme beef was another that I loved.
Simply seasoned, then grilled and rested, the meat was fantastically juicy and bursting with flavour. It was served sliced, with an eggplant puree and a veal jus seasoned with LeVeL33's housebrewed stout.

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H O S T E D

I have been here a few times but the most recent visit, an invited tasting by Gastrosense PR agency, has been the most enjoyable for me in terms of food.

For some time, Head Chef ArChan been toying with inspiration from LeVel33 being the world’s highest urban microbrewery. And while it was interesting with a few good dishes before, I feel she has truly hit her stride. The dishes make more of a statement with carefully-honed flavours and precise execution now.

Below are a few of my favourites from that meal:

Chawanmushi - I am a sucker for all things egg, so this super-soft, wobbly and piping hot version with wheat beer dashi and a topping of caviar was sublime.

Fresh Ricotta (shown above) - Pairing the creamy housemade cheese with smoked tomatoes, basil and miga was clever and oh-so-delicious.

Squid Noodles - This is a fine embodiment of Head Chef ArChan’s ContemBrewery cuisine as the clarification process used in beer-making is mimicked to produce the broth that goes over the soft, tender ribbons of squid and lager-pickled enoki mushroom.

The Aged Duck Breast with IPA and Orange Glaze - THE major mind-blower, and it’s not just me but my whole table of fellow diners who feel that way. Its presentation, the incredible taste and texture... we were all SHOOK.

Aged Wagyu Tri-tip - Another beautifully piece of meat that was so juicy and full of flavour. The burnt eggplant and stout jus were spot-on accompaniments

Can't cook to save my life but boy, can I eat! 😄 (I pay for all my meals unless otherwise stated)

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