Liver in your bak chor mee. Intestines in your kuey chap. Brains in your soup. The typical Singaporean palate is certainly not new to the funk of offal, but to centre a whole restaurant concept around grisly entrails, much less to say in a more refined fashion – now, that’s a first! WOLF at Gemmill Lane is Privé Group’s latest venture, one that is as familiar as it is unprecedented. The fast maturing gastronomic sensibilities of Singaporean diners make nose-to-tail dining – already a trend past its boom in the West – a long overdue concept here.
The 45-seater sits nestled in a calm oasis away from the drunken revelry at the unofficial restaurant row that is Club Street, where Club Street Social and Luke’s Oyster Bar & Chophouse count as neighbour-competitors. Helmed by Chef Alysia Chan whose past credentials include Cocotte and Pollen, WOLF offers flashes of promise that probably just requires a little more of a runway to fully realise.
For one, service is ernest but spotty. From a front waiter who seems to be a walking encyclopaedia of the menu’s ingredients to a runner that equates ‘I’m not done with my entrée’ to ‘Please remove my plate’, there is a slight inconsistency in service competence.
Fortunately for the food, there are slightly more hits than misses. A dish of Grilled Ox Tongue ($38) is meaty yet tender, blessed with a fine hand at seasoning and a bed of braised puy lentil that halts just perfectly short of mushy. A sideshow of Grilled Seabass ($28) as the only seafood entrée upstages the other entrants to the compact one-page menu. It is seared perfectly to yield both a skin that crackles and flakes of fish that are sublime and smooth.
Some items require merely a tweak or two. A stew of Beef Lips and Oxtail Stew ($32) cannot be beaten for its luscious, creamy mashed potatoes, but is a little stingy with its protein, perhaps a tad too generous with the carrots too. A Crispy Sweatbreads and Mushroom Risotto ($34) is unobjectionably well-executed, except that its meek earthiness could hold up more boldly to the sweetbreads it is accompanied with.
Others require a serious facelift. We wanted to love WOLF’s version of Head Cheese ($18), but the aspic-and-pig-parts terrine was bland and one-dimensional, like eating jelly that was neither sweet nor savoury. We were warned of the saltiness of the Octopus and Chorizo Stew ($30) by our Wiki-server, but we weren’t quite prepared for the spikes of chorizo sodium demolishing the delicateness of overcooked octopus.
In all honesty, the restaurant makes for a comfortable, classy date night out. Classic cocktails or tipples from an extensive wine list allow conversations to flow over the appropriately soft jazz music in the background. You can talk about the restaurant’s numerous artistic flourishes – from its ornate cornices, golden ceiling, whimsical comic paintings, to a wall carving of a wolf’s face. You can talk about the little lighted pig heads and pig bottoms that protrude under the bar top, serving creatively as cute bag hooks. Or you could simply lay back on the plush black seats over an adventurous dinner.
There’s a reason why not more restaurateurs are warming up the idea of dishing up kidneys and noses on the plate. Will Singaporeans get it? Will it be repulsive instead of inviting? Will there still be mass appeal? By simply having both the guts and heart to embrace nose-to-tail dining, WOLF deserves your patronage.
Written by Mr Nom Nom
On this occasion the meal and photos were compliments of WOLF