When I was recently invited to a tasting by the folks at The Exchange, I was intrigued to see how it would fare because I’m not usually a fan of restaurants smack bang in the heart of a financial centre. BUT I’m delighted to say that on this occasion, The Exchange was a firm exception because it really does serve up some rather good food.
Opened back in November and located in the atrium of Asia Square Tower 1 which big guns like Citibank like to call home, this is far from a stuffy CBD restaurant. More a large, light, open hangout with a buzzy vibe, bar and not to mention a rather large open kitchen.
What I like about this place is though contrary to its location, it really feels like the kind of place that you could enjoy a good meal whether you’re work lunching, weekend lunching, relaxing over dinner, or having a post-work drink or few. It can sometimes be tricky when a restaurant tries to be everything to everyone, but somehow this time The Exchange has lucked in.
Helmed by Group Exec Chef Kacey Whaitiri-Roberts, a Kiwi who perfected his trade under amongst others Gordon Ramsey at Claridges in London, this place is all about the Australasian.
Now before we get on to the food – let’s talk drinks. The Exchange not only offers 80 labels of wine (predominantly new world to accompany the fare) but also 30 whisky labels and a healthy selection of cocktails. Being lunchtime and still feeling the effects of a heavy weekend, I only managed a Mojito. It was not too sweet or wimpy as sometimes they can be, with just the right amount of punch.
And on the wines, yes these guys are serious about wines because they have one of the largest wine fridges in Singapore!
Now on to the main event – the food. We started out with the Duck Liver Pâté ($27) which was served up on sweet toasted homemade brioche and beetroot marmalade. Now I have to warn you this is very moreish and that’s thanks to the rich smooth velvety texture of the pâté, which was complemented perfectly with its delicious port glaze, and the sweet earthy, slightly spicy tones of the beetroot marmalade. Mmmm looks good doesn’t it? Yes, that’s because it is!
Following that came the Prawn and Scallop Ravioli ($20). Served with lemongrass emulsion, the ravioli was perfectly soft and plump like little pillows and the combination of East meets West flavours made for a wonderfully unique slant on ravioli that I have never tasted before.
The starters had set the standard high and so I was looking forward to seeing what the mains would bring.
Speaking of which, have you ever tried a hanger steak? No? Well I have to admit that I was until now a hanger steak virgin. If you’re not in the know, the hanger cut comes from the part between the loin and brisket. It can be hard to get right and requires perfect preparation and cooking to fully capitalize on it’s prized flavour.
And perfect it was. The Hanger Steak ($40 for 220 grams) was just the right texture, tender yet a little bit chewy and very flavoursome making for an extremely satisfying steak experience. The chefs here know how to get it right, sourcing produce that has been fed cut grass for 120 days and leaving the steak to rest for 4-5 minutes before enjoyment, sans the blood. This was definitely a case of steak swoon for me.
A word about the sides. The mashed potato here is probably my idea of perfect mash. It was just the right texture – not to heavy and not too airy but the flavour…WOW! I would love to know what the secret recipe or ingredient behind the mash here is because it is one to be coveted.
Moving on….seeing as The Exchange boasts a tandoor oven and Indian chef, I thought it would be rude not to try the
Chicken Tikka Masala ($24). Now I’m not usually a fan of Chicken Tikka Masala – it’s got very little to do with authentic Indian cuisine and has been bastardized to hell during it’s travels across the globe. But this dish had a lovely smokey flavour and spice blend which was more akin to Chicken Tikka (which is actually an original India dish) and the chicken was perfectly tender.
Dessert time! Well I’m going to save the dessert that stole my heart for last, and I can’t believe that it actually trumped the Warm Chocolate and Cherry Cake ($12) being the chocolate fiend I am. Break into the middle of this naughty little thing and let the molten chocolate ooze out. The beauty of this number is that the cherries give the dessert a different feel to most other molten chocolate desserts I’ve indulged in, lending a little bit of tang. It also comes with homemade vanilla ice cream – because all ice cream is made on site.
And now for the dessert that left me weak at the knees – the Hokey Pokey Parfait ($12). With a name like that I had an inkling that this one was going to come and bowl me over from the left-field, and that it certainly did.
There is something about the genius combination of the caramel-cum-melon flavour and silky-smooth texture of the parfait along with the crack and crunch of the honeycomb that make this dessert a sensory winner. It’s extremely more-ish so even if you’re full you will want to keep on spooning this sinful sweet into your mouth until it’s all gone.
Sometimes restaurants in Singapore at this price point can be sorely dissappointing and I’m very pleased to say that The Exchange is not one of them. Everything I tried was of a consistantly high and more-ish standard so I really hope the folks at Asia Square don’t manage to keep this one all to themselves. Aside from wanting to go back and try more on the menu, I know where I’ll be headed next time I need to satisfy that steak fix, and I’ll be ordering myself that hanger steak.
Written by Ms Demeanour