[Review] Anti:dote.

Antidote - Braised veal cheek, perigueux sauce, black truffle bao

If you’ve always thought that hotel bars were boring, look no further than Anti:dote at Fairmont Singapore to cure you of such notions.

Anti:dote earlier this year replaced jazzy lounge lizard dive Ink Bar in the lobby of the hotel, and combines the concept of a mixology cocktail bar and an open kitchen modern tapas restaurant for a welcome respite from the busyness of the city.

antidote potato crisps

Let’s be open - the food offered by most bars, many which lack proper space for food preparations, are downright abysmal. At best the bar ties up with neighbouring restaurants to provide some food to go along with your drinks, and at its worst you’re likely to get the ubiquitous pub grub courtesy of a deep-fryer (possibly the only kitchen appliance on the premise).

So you know you’re in an uncommon bar when even the bar snacks on offer differs from the norm. Take the Potato Crisps ($12) at Anti:dote, for example, which are handcut and deepfried to order. It’s served alongside a lovely potato and white truffle puree for you to dip in.

Crisp anchovy sticks

Then there’s the Crispy Anchovy Sticks ($8), which thankfully tastes a whole lot better than it sounds. The anchovy-studded bread sticks are lovely to nibble on as you wait for Anti:dote’s award-winning bartender extraordinaire Tom Hogan to mix your drinks. 

antidote iberico ham

For something more substantial, there’s the Paleta Iberica de Bellota ($18), a plate of beautifully cured meat from the acorn-fed Iberican black pig which is served alongside crystal bread - we first encountered the crispy bread at Open Door Policy - as well as with a rather curious tomato essence that you can dip the jamon into.

antidote oysters

Alternatively you can opt for the Sully’s Oysters ($16), the raw oysters topped off with a rather interesting wasabi passionfruit jelly. It’s the first time we’ve ever experienced such an interesting combination but it works, with the fruity spiciness of the jelly helping to cut through the creamy saltiness of the mollusc meat.

Carlos Motobbio

The truth is, one does not quite expect that a cocktail bar - and a hotel one, at that - to boast an experienced and properly trained chef helming its kitchen, but Anti:dote’s Barcelona-born head chef Carlos Montobbio is exactly that. The Hofmann School trained chef has over ten years experience under his belt, serving stints in restaurants across Spain including the famous Cinc Sentits in Barcelona before venturing to Singapore.

At Anti:dote you can see the shy Montobbio (above) quietly running the kitchen, personally putting together some of his pretty amazing modern tapas to accompany your tipple.

antidote beef short rib

Take the perfectly-executed 72-hour Braised Short Rib ($19), for example, at once tender melt-in-your-mouth and yet retaining enough bite for bursts of flavour at every chew that shows off Montobbio’s easy mastery of the modern molecular gastronomy sous vide technique.

antidote chowder

Employing the modern gelification technique is the Clam Sphere ($14), a bite-size gelatinous globule version and an updated interpretation of the homely clam chowder topped with crumbled bacon and chives that tastes altogether familiar yet different.

antidote pizza

And consider the Crisp Parmesan Pizza ($12), a crispy, fall-apart cheese-based cracker atop which sits powdered tomato and cheese, basil cress pesto and olive oil caviar (essentially gellified high quality Spanish olive oil). It’s hardly substantial for an empty stomach and nothing like the Italian classic, but totally delivers on creativity and flavour. 

antidote foie gras

Montobbio isn’t averse to learning from his peers as well - his technique for Caramelised Foie Gras ($18), even in its presentation, is heavily borrowed from fellow chef Moon Kyung Soo of Mikuni. And there’s no shame in that, when the final product is a tasty reproduction of the Mikuni classic.

antidote tuna sashimi

Montobbio’s foray to Singapore also means he gets a lot more exposure to Asian flavours as compared to his time back in his homeland, and on the grazing menu you can find some dishes where he mashes East-meets-West techniques and ingredients. The Japanese-inspired Akami Tuna ($18), marinated in a soy dressing and topped with Avruga caviar, sees the curious use of finely diced apple in the creation, as well as a jalapeno-infused ponzu sauce that you can add for a spicy kick.

antidote tom yum sesame tofu

How about the Langoustine Tartare ($16), with the diced raw prawn sitting atop a egg tofu cube and doused in a spicy-sweet peanut tom yum dressing? It’s not only surprising but also delicious, although it may not suit those with less adventurous palates.

But even the most unadventurous would find the decadent Black Truffle Bao ($20, main picture), with the fluffy bun wrapped around braised veal cheek, foie gras and shallots that’s been caramelized in Madeira sherry, and then graced with a generous slice of black truffle on top, a culinary masterpiece. 

Antidote - Corpse Reviver

When it comes to drinks, Anti:dote has a rather compact but solid menu that ranges from cocktails to tonics that offer a refreshing respite. And having tried a few of Tom Hogan’s creations - such as the Corpse Reviver ($23) and a herb-infused Tonic #1 ($19) - you’ll be in good bartending hands. And many are great pairings with the food on offer.

Indeed the best pairing you’ll find at Anti:dote is actually the dual bar and kitchen mastery offered by both the affable Tom Hogan and his more introverted counterpart Carlos Montobbio. Both Hogan and Montobbio understand how flavours work, and Hogan is able to effortlessly recommend drink pairings for items on the menu. It’s not beneath Hogan to recommend a Triple Karmeliet beer to pair with a particular dish, for example, which shows how - unlike some other more self-absorbed bartenders - he’s more interested in making a pairing work than showing off his own mixology expertise. And that’s a good thing.

In a throw-down challenge I asked Hogan, formerly of Bernard’s Bar at Chicago’s Waldorf Astoria, to make me an Old Fashioned worthy of repute, the American offered me not one but two versions - a classic and a more modern interpretation - to sample. I loved both.

Many of my more culinary-inclined friends have recommended Anti:dote highly, and likewise many of those we’ve recommended Anti:dote to have come back to say they’ve loved the experience. For those of us who’ve always believed that hotel bars aren’t worthy of note, Anti:dote will likely disavail you of such a perspective.

Anti:dote is at Level 1 Fairmont Singapore, 80 Bras Basah Rd 189560.

- Daniel

Tippling Club’s Ryan Clift Launches Exclusive Series of Kitchen and Steak Knives.

Ryan Clift Series Damascus Full

Chef knife collaborations aren’t new - there are the Michel Bras knives, a tie-up between French chef Michel Bras (of Bras Michel & Sébastien in Laguiole, France) and the Japanese knife manufacturer Shun, for example, while Masaharu Morimoto - of Iron Chef Morimoto fame - has his own Morimoto edition of Miyabi Zwilling J.A. Henckels knives.

But here’s one that cuts close to home - Tippling Club chef-owner Ryan Clift has launched his own exclusive series of chef and steak knives in collaboration with Balinese master blacksmiths Blades of the Gods and German craftsmen Windmühlenmesser that may just set the standard in an East-meets-West melding of knife-making traditions. With blades forged in Bali and finished in Germany, the Ryan Clift Series kitchen knives and steak knives are available in two different types of steels – the Damascus Steel and Böhler M390 Steel – and marries the Japanese Kiritsuke knife to Windmühlenmesser’s famous Solingen dry-fine-grinding technique with blades made by Blades of the Gods.

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[Review] Ten-ichi Udon.

Tempura Set B

Udon, that thick Japanese wheat noodle, is normally eaten very simply. It’s usually just served in a light broth, topped with chopped scallions and perhaps accompanied by tempura, nori, or aburaage. Like their ramen brethren they are a favourite among Japanese salarymen (サラリーマン) needing a quick lunch or dinner fix, eaten cold during summer or in hot broth during colder seasons.

Udon dishes can be easily found on the menus of most Japanese restaurants in Singapore, but for a different udon experience one can visit Ten-ichi Udon.

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[Review] Halia at Raffles Hotel - A Communal Dinner.

Communal Feast At The Halia at Raffles Hotel-2

The Halia within Singapore’s Botanical Gardens is a local institution, having established its place firmly as one of Singapore’s top dining destinations where diners can enjoy unique contemporary European-Asian fusion cuisine amidst a background of lush tropical greenery.

But what you may not know is that its sibling restaurant The Halia at Raffles Hotel has been around for more than a year now, and serves up the same high quality cuisine, albeit in a more “urban-casual” setting. 

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[Review] Crystal Jade Korean Ginseng Chicken & BBQ Restaurant.

Specially-fitted grilling stations with vacuum capability on the side of the grills which takes most of the fumes away from under the table

We’re no strangers to Crystal Jade. Which Singaporean is? Before the onslaught of high end dim sum restaurants hit our little island, Crystal Jade was the ubiquitous choice for an authentic Cantonese family dinner. What you may not be aware of is that over the last decade (yes, 10 years!), Crystal Jade Korean Ginseng Chicken & BBQ Restaurant has been serving up home style Korean dishes as a longtime tenant of Takshimaya Shopping Centre, long before the K-pop craze even descended upon us,.

Previously housed on the 4th floor of the famous Orchard Road shopping mall, Crystal Jade Korean Ginseng Chicken & BBQ Restaurant has expanded its seating capacity and moved to the basement right next to the atrium, where its new prime location also enjoys better foot traffic. The dining experience is enhanced by wooden panels which are inspired by the traditional Korean houses or “hanok”.

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[Review] Carvers & Co.

egg toast

I’m severely allergic to Singapore’s hipster cafes. So when we received an invite to Carvers & Co., a bistro cafe that serves gourmet coffees, I was a little hesitant to review it. But since it’s near enough to our home, and there was more than Eggs Benedict on the menu, I popped down to the newest kid on the block along East Coast Road.  

Apart from gourmet coffees brewed with beans roasted by Common Man Coffee Roasters, and pour-overs featuring single origin coffee beans, Carvers & Co. serves up a brunch menu and a range of roast meats that can be ordered whole and shared, offering a slightly different proposition from your typical hipster cafe.

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