The Kitchen at Bacchanalia scored its first Michelin star under the auspices of Brazilian chef Ivan Brehm last year, so it was to the public’s consternation that he left the restaurant to work on new projects, as well as outright speculation as to who the owners would get to helm the intimate dining concept on Hong Kong Street.
Enter: Luke Armstrong.
Former Head Chef of London’s renowned Maze, Australian-born Luke sharpened his knives in kitchens of a slew of award-winning restaurants, such as The Ledbury in London and Oud Sluis in The Netherlands. With what seems like a stronger and more verbally assertive personality than his predecessor in a very minimalist space, it’s clear that the restaurant is also looking to refresh itself again and take their uniquely interactive dining experience to another level.
Recently, we tried a few dishes from his debut dinner menu – priced at $188++ per person for eight courses, $315++ with wine pairing – and came away quite thoughtful.
The French Sourdough descended quickly and with great aplomb, mostly due to the bright orange hue (nothing radioactive about it, don’t worry) of the carrot butter topped with kombu and chives. This flavour bomb of a butter contains three to four carrots in just one rocher. Bringing us down from the carrot high was the first course of raw Hand-Dived Scallop presented in its shell with an ensemble of créme fraiche, bits of fried tempura batter, and black truffle with yuzu and soy dressing.
Hunted at depths of 1500 metres, these Japanese scallops were firm, plump, and fresh. While we understood the pairing of the delicate sweetness of scallop with the umami of soy, the sort of earthiness invocated by the black truffle didn’t make as much sense to us.
The next dish fare much better. Matched with jalapeño cream and avocado, the flavours of the Hamachi tartare is further enhanced by fresh dashi and kaffir lime. Simply sublime.
It would appear that Chef Luke knows his fish because the Mackerel was my favourite out of the five we had. Caramelised to achieve that crisp skin, the mackerel was grilled over charcoal to continue the cooking process. Adorning the rest of the plate is a Brittany oyster, orzo pasta with saffron sauce, and red meat radish (basically a radish that looks like meat). The brininess of the oyster and the saffron sauce contrasted well with the firm, oily fish. We were quite surprised to hear that this wasn’t what he planned to serve – we were supposed to have the Monkfish, but the catch wasn’t good enough.
Our last savoury course is probably the new menu’s most ambitious dish. Featuring roasted Grass-fed Tenderloin, the fillet of beef was surrounded by a quinoa cracker, two types of aubergine compote (Moroccan-spiced and lemon-steamed), diced bone marrow, bone marrow and thyme jus, as well as a mushroom emulsion in garlic veloute. With so many components, my brain was too overwhelmed to decide if they actually make a dish. At least, each individual item was tasty in itself, particularly the aubergine compotes and the bone marrow jus.
It’s a tad predictable but our meal ended with a Chocolate dessert. Classy and well-executed, think rich chocolate pave with hazelnut feuilletine with refreshing mint ice cream and fresh yogurt.
I can’t tell you who’s better in The Kitchen at Bacchanalia, but I can tell you that with Chef Luke on board, the food is going to take a more explosive (in terms of flavours) turn. Better or worse, head down yourself and find out! A two-course ($55++) and three course ($65++) set menu is available during lunch service.
The Kitchen at Bacchanalia’s menus change on a regular basis, depending on the seasonality and availability of ingredients. For the latest menu, please click here.
The Kitchen at Bacchanalia is located at 39 Hong Kong Street, Singapore 059678, p. 9179 4552. Open Mon 6pm-10.30pm, Tue-Fri 12pm to 2.30pm, 6pm to 10.30pm, Sat 6pm-10.30pm.