At two new establishments and a relaunched stalwart, you’ll find a taste of familiarity.
by Lu Yawen / April 5, 2022
Modern Asian: Path
Chef Marvas Ng’s new joint venture with 1855 F&B is a casual fine dining restaurant honouring his Chinese heritage, but prepared with the European techniques he’s accumulated while working at French fine dining establishments in China and Hong Kong.
As Albert Einstein said, “you can’t use an old map to explore a new world.” Ng charts a personal map at Path, forging forward with culinary techniques amassed through research and refinement.
When it comes to food, there is no shortage of ideas. In addition to the distinct cultures of mainland China (and its different dialects), Japan and Taiwan offer a smorgasbord of flavours to explore. The trick is in finding the right balance.
Ng’s cuisine for now suggests he hasn’t yet found that sweet spot with dishes that tend to err on the side of caution, staying true to their original flavour profiles.
Nevertheless, there are a few surprises to look forward to, such as the fermented black bean beurre blanc sauce served alongside a tender Japanese Amadai fillet with crispy scales.
Or his raison d’être, the Signature Butter-Roasted Herb-Brined French Poulet. A full fowl prepared in its own diorama, it is brined for 16 hours in a mix of Chinese herbs, blanched Hong Kong-style and smoked; an equal melding of Asian and French cuisine in a plump, juicy chicken.
01-05/06 Marina Bay Financial Centre Tower 3. pathrestaurant.com.sg
Contemporary Italian: Buona Terra
A fine dining restaurant turning 10 years old at the same location where it began is an achievement in an industry where competition is fierce. Even better, Denis Lucchi has been there from day one. A Michelin star was also awarded to Buona Terra in 2019 and 2021, proving Lucchi must be doing something right.
To celebrate, the Italian institution has undergone a makeover that includes natural lighting and blush walls. The starched white tablecloths remain but the main dining area feels much larger; this would make the restaurant more relevant in a climate where consumer preferences are shifting towards casual fine dining.
(Related: Refined Singapore hawker dishes to tuck into)
Faultless renditions of tomato gazpacho encased in a red-white cocoa butter sphere resembling heirloom tomatoes, or a moreish Mancini spaghetti dressed in an indulgent Parmesan, guanciale, grated cured egg yolk sauce, and Perigord black truffle shavings are paired with Italian and Burgundy wines.
The menu changes depending on what’s available, but it gives you an idea of what Lucchi can create when spring brings white asparagus, zucchini flowers, and strawberries.
29 Scotts Road. buonaterra.com.sg
Contemporary Pan-Asian: Willow
An alum of notable fine dining restaurants such as Sorrel, Esora, Robuchon and, most recently, Restaurant Zen (where he was the sous chef), Nicholas Tam’s Willow shows great promise.
While Tam isn’t inclined to reveal too much of the inspiration and style of his cuisine —“I’m just a simple guy, and I just like making simple food,” he says — there’s no mistaking how perfectly executed his dishes are.
What one might call contemporary Asian cuisine, the dishes offer elements of familiarity and intrigue. Sawara or spanish mackerel, for example, is aged for a week, smoked in a tin of straw, seared skin-down on the grill, then quickly popped into the fridge to stop it from overcooking. A pink umeboshi and rhubarb sauce gives it a touch of acidity.
The restaurant plans its menu every Friday when fresh seafood arrives from Japan, using the know-how of tried- and-tested combinations and what Tam deems as ‘good food’ (currently focussing on dishes from the Chinese diaspora).
Even without drawing comparisons to a certain chef incubator at Portsdown Road, Willow’s success in the years to come will not only speak of Tam’s genre of modern Singaporean cuisine, but also of the young country’s search for what it can call its own.
39 Hong Kong Street willowrestaurant.sg