A bathroom with an entire wall dedicated to a blown-up cow. A horizontal TV screen playing a comic sequence with religious undertones. A voodoo doll staring at you from one of many towering paintings hanging on the brick wall. An enclosed stuffed bull as the centrepiece of a surgical-looking open kitchen.
It takes a twisted sense of humour to be injecting that huge dose of ominousness in a restaurant at a mainstream address like Amoy Street. It takes an even stronger sense of pompousness from its owner to be naming a restaurant after his own last name, and a whole lot of guts to be bringing an entirely unfamiliar cuisine to an adventurous but fickle Singaporean dining crowd.
Yet, rapport and warmth builds up slowly but surely throughout a lesson in Alpine cuisine at Zott’s, under the watchful eyes of its ernest staff decked spiffily in teal jackets.
To start it off, a doppelgänger of an apple is served above a shower of pistachios and a spread of Swordfish Carpaccio ($28) – it reveals itself to be a red gel-wrapped apple mousse, whose foamy sweetness cuts the oily funk of the fish slices. A salad of pickled and grilled fennel and orange slices ($26) would have been lovely on their own, but a log of goat cheese mousse and an olive sphere complicates the mental journey to the Alps with bursts of modernist twists. The learning curve is steep.
It’s when 29 year-old Austrian Chef Lorenz-Maria Griesser stays true to his ingredients that finally allows the ice to be broken. Bavarian-style Bondage Chicken ($36), whose name still maintains stubbornly an unnecessary shock factor, is a juicy roasted poussin wrapped with a blanket of paprika, curry and cayenne pepper – the meat is tender and sufficiently fatty, tasting extra flavourful with just a meek spiciness. A three-course Tellerfleisch ($75) offers essentially different cuts of beef in three forms – fritter, raviolo and simply boiled. The most outstanding is the first crumbed iteration that melts instantaneously upon contact with the tongue, gelatinous to a point that it almost feels meatless. The boiled version is middling, and appeals only to authenticity as the only excuse for zero flavour.
The bad habit of veering toward the experimental distracts occasionally, sometimes worsened by prices that are hard to swallow even in these trying times for the restaurant industry. A petite John Dory ($56, gulps) has an impossibly taut exterior even without the slightest hint of char, fresh, flaky and clean, with a floral kumquat sauce and crisp snap peas as complements. It’s jeopardised by a final touch of ‘plum coal’, which tastes like a stretchy raisin bread that burst in the oven with proportions of flour, egg and water all mixed up. Textbook-perfect as a Bouillabaisse of mullet, dory, red scorpion and seabass is, with a traditional serving of crisp mini-baguette and saffron-accented potato puree, it’s at best a substantial soup not quite worth its $87 price tag.
Justifiably, some attempts at texture plays yield considerable success. The potato foam served with its Veal Schnitzel ($48) attains lightness and creaminess simultaneously in multiple satisfying bites, jazzed up by crunch from discs of radish. The oscillation between salty and sweet, hot and cold with a starter of pickled anchovies paired with melon sorbet ($22) is a thriller for the tastebuds.
Zott’s has amazing personality, but it’s also rare to a point of obscure. When Zott’s starts to leave desserts in the pastry kitchen (not on book shelves), and drawings of animals eating humans for art class (not a restaurant), it should find a sweet spot for Singaporeans to warm up to. And a more accessible price point always helps.
Written by Mr Nom Nom
On this occasion the meal and photography were compliments of Zott’s