There are no lack of fine dining restaurants in Singapore, but few have ventured into the areas of avant-garde cooking and culinary abstraction such as that in the culinary movement known as cocina de autor, or author’s cuisine. With Preludio opening its doors to welcome diners in the CBD, what kind of fresh perspectives will this contemporary restaurant bring to the table for its debut?
Those familiar with Head Chef Fernando Arévalo might know of his past experience working alongside iconic culinary artists such as Daniel Boulud in New York, before relocating to head the kitchens of Bistecca Tuscan Steakhouse and Artemis Grill in Singapore.
It is no surprise then, that Fernando’s ambition and passion for the culinary arts led to Preludio’s daring philosophy. Long story short, the restaurant and its talented team is unique for having complete freedom to experiment with flavours, colours, textures and styles. Nothing is off-limits in the name of creativity.
The results? A chameleonic menu that changes every twelve to eighteen months according to themes set by the Head Chef.
For its first chapter, “Monochrome” sets the tone, from the table decor to the wine list, where they are categorised by soil-type – are the grapes grown in white limestone or black volcanic soil?
The first two courses were a double take. Despite having completely contrasting flavour profiles, these two dishes were prepared to look almost exactly the same. While the cold Elude leaves a tart creaminess on the tongue with its combination of sweet French white beetroot and crunchy young Primeur Sturia caviar; the warm Allude delivers savoury, earthy tones of bone marrow, fluffy mushroom potato mousse and deep, rounded flavours of aged Oscietra Sturia caviar harvested from Russian sturgeons.
Autumn, the elegantly third course that reminds us of white clouds over a mountain range, subverts things with an explosion of colour hidden under a crispy layer of house-made rice cracker. The savoury smoked eel and earthy roasted mushrooms are balanced by a selection of French root vegetables – pickled lampascioni bulbs with juicy crunch and pieces of fat white crosnes (also known as Chinese artichoke) with their crunchy bite and nutty aroma.
Next comes one of our two favourites of the eight-course menu: house-made agnolotti ravioli done al dente, filled with amaretto: aromatic and sweet ground almonds mixed with toasted butternut squash in parmesan. What La Cortina lacks in terms of visual aesthetics is made up in taste and sensibility – the sharp saltiness of parmesan is delicately intertwined with the nutty aroma of roasted almond snow, melting with a soft sweetness off the tongue.
The final touch, a drizzle of rich, caramel-like 25-year old balsamic vinegar procured direct from Italy, elevates the dish with a complex flavour profile. As with the rest of the dishes on Preludio’s menu, Chef Fernando never forgets to highlight artisan producers and their quality ingredients.
The other star is the decadent Pata Negra. A presa (shoulder cut) of Iberico pork is painstakingly marinated in garlic, lemon juice and spices then lightly roasted to keep the meat’s tenderness and its gorgeous pink hue before entering the pan in a coating of pulvarised squid ink panko bread crumbs. We love the slight kick of cayenne at the end. The sides are worth mentioning as well: a light earthy purée of white carrot and apple, and some charred Piennolo tomatoes dipped in tomato and vinegar reduction to heighten its acidity. The tomatoes invigorates the palate and complements the dark crusty sauce on the pork with its depth of smoky char at the same time. It reminds us plenty of the Chinese-style Char Siew.
Preludio didn’t disappoint with the sweets either.
The Irezumi (salted black sesame ice cream made with a paco jet) had us well convinced of Pastry Chef Elena’s talents, but our hearts belong to the Gorbea Mountain, which is inspired by Chef Elena’s home city of Vitoria-Gasteiz in Basque country
Made of yogurt ice cream and a creamy blueberry mousse that cuts open to a seductive dark red, the dish is both tart and icy sweet. The savoury element for balance comes from the Basque Idiazabel cheese (a farmhouse, hard cheese made from raw sheep’s milk) to complete the stunning dessert.
As you’d expect, dining at Preludio is not cheap. A six-course dinner is priced at $168++ per person, with an additional $132++ for wine pairing; the most affordable lunch set comes at $55++ for four courses (choice of mains) or seven courses (chef’s selection) at $98++. Dining at Preludio is also best done with an open-mind because the experience borders on unconventional and with a flair of the tongue-in-cheek. We are definitely left with something to think about long after we leave the restaurant. The Monochrome chapter runs its course on 1 February 2020 so one does wonder, will their next chapter will be as adventurous?
Preludio is located at #03-01/02, Frasers Tower, 182 Cecil St, Singapore 069547, p. +65 6904 5686. Open Mon – Fri 11.30am – 2.30pm, 6pm – 10.30pm, Sat 6pm – 10.30pm.