It’s a personal belief that when it comes to food, less is truly more. Stripped off the highfalutin concepts and elaborate platings, these new dining movement is all about: strong flavours and uncomplicated menus. New multi-concept dining establishment Element recently introduced Basque cuisine right in the heart of Tras Street – rustic, regional flavours from Spain that may seem a little unfamiliar to the local palate, but is scrumptious at once. &Sons brings a taste of Venetian small-plates and boasts the bragging rights to being the only restaurant in Singapore to make its own specialty cured meats. Gattopardo shifted its culinary focus to seafood with its move to Tras Street, bringing a slice of provincial South Italy along with it. The oddball of the group, Afterglow, takes the back-to-basics approach to a whole new level with its literal farm-to-table concept of raw vegan dishes painstakingly made right off the garden to your plates.
Concept: Moulded after Venetian bacaros (taverns), &Sons is probably the most traditional and genuine Italian bar experience you can find on the island. The star here is the small-plates, which are basically tapas. Classics include a selection of homemade artisanal pastas and old-school grilling made from freshest and finest cuts of meats no less. Incidentally, it’s the only place in Singapore to make its own salamis and specialty cured meats on site, just like Italian taverns in Venice; underscoring the authenticity of the establishment’s Venetian roots.
Chef: If chef-owner Beppe DeVito’s previous stints at Il Lido and Latteria aren’t enough to convince you, the rather egalitarian pricing should sway your opinion.
Interiors: Plushness dominates the restaurant’s theme. The walls are awashed with jewel tones: teal, ruby red, mandarin orange and a smattering of citron yellow, giving the space a warm, convivial vibe that befits the bacaros it is inspired by.
Signature dishes: Paccheri, Iberico Pork and Truffle, Tagliolini, Crab and Nduja,
China Square Central, 20 Cross Street, #01-19, tel: 6221 3937, www.sons.com.sg
Element/Element on Tras Street
Concept: The concept of Element is about integrating your dining experience (bar, buffet spread, café and reataurant), but the crown jewel is undoubtedly its Basque menu. Apparently a friend of the owner of Amara Singapore Hotel was so enamoured by the food prepared by the chef while he was in Spain that he decided to collaborate wihth the hotel owner to open up the kitchen in Element for the culinary prodigy.
Chef: Helmed by an extremely young 22-year old chef Mikel Badiola – a native of Basque country and former alum of Restaurant Martin Berasategui back home in Spain, Badiola is a virgin to Singapore’s culinary scene, which makes it the perfect excuse to taste his unsullied native recipes.
Interiors: Open, fun and playful, the hipster-meets-industrial chic décor is conducive for communal-inspired dining, evident by the constant sound of chatter while we were dining there
Signature dishes: Basque Fish Soup, Spanish Omelette and Cod Fish Béchamel filled in Piquillo Pepper.
Amara Hotel, 165 Tanjong Pagar Road, tel: 6879 2607, www.facebook.com/Elementatplay
Concept: While the menu isn’t authentic to any region per se, the pop-up turned full-fledged restaurant is all about going back to the basics – raw, organic and vegan ingredients that stay true to their natural wholesome flavours and nutritional value. This farm-to-table concept turns into a with a bespoke selection of craft beers, small-batch wines and a handful of hard liquer.
Chef: though all dishes are created In consultation with Czech nutritionist and raw food advocate, Adela Stoulilova, it’s prepared by owners Carmen Low and Lionel Ang, self-taught vegan chefs who were forced to go green during China’s food scandal scare when they were based in Shanghai.
Interiors: It’s hard not to call it hipster – but it’s a touch irreverent, with a sparse assembly of barely-there furnishing: a table made from recycled materials here, a wrought iron rack there and of course the exposed hanging light bulbs for that touch of deconstruction.
Signature dishes: Drag Pom Salad, Deconstructed Sushi Bowl with Avocado and Miso Dressing
24 Keong Saik Road, tel: 6224 8921, www.facebook.com/afterglowsg
Concept: Tatsu’s doing a little merry-go-round at the moment. It recently transplanted from its home since 1996 in CHIJMES to Asia Square, and it’ll be reopening in CHIJMES with a new outlet in the second half of the year. But despite the changes, the food remains authentic, simple and unpretentious. Doing away with haughty culinary concept, the focus is on freshness: the seafood on the menu is seasonal and is air-flown from Japan four times a week.
Chef: Sushi Chef Jack Kwa, who has received formal culinary training in Japan, remains at the helm of the kitchen as he did for the previous location.
Interiors: As expected in a Japanese restaurant. Everything is sleek, simple with clean lines and predominantly wood furnishing and motif.
Signature dishes: Teppanyaki Flambé Wagyu with Foie Gras Sauce, Crispy Swordfish Cheese Maki and Savoury Pitan Tofu
Asia Square Tower 2, #02-16, 12 Marina View, tel: 6844 9855, www.tatsu.com.sg
Gattopardo Ristorante di Mare
Concept: Formerly located at the Fort Canning Hotel, Chef Lino Sauro’s contemporary Italian and Mediterranean cuisine Gattopardo Ristorante di Mare recently reopened in a brand new location, right in the trendy heart of Tras Street. Gattopardo’s new move also marks a slight change to their old identity with the addition of ‘Ristorante di Mare’ to its name, which translates to “Seafood Restaurant”. This new identity goes back to the roots of Chef Lino’s culinary style with dishes inspired by South Italian seafood.
Chef: Expect authenticity from Chef Lino Sauro’s dishes, given his upbringing in a tiny mountain village of South Italy. An alum of DOMVS at Sheraton Tower, he was noted for implementing an authentic taste of the Italian region when he helmed the kitchen there.
Interiors: Clean, inviting, minimalist modern décor with hints of warmth that befits its South Italian heritage. Exposed brick walls, dark wooden furniture and panels, external wine racks and mood lighting lends the dining area a cosy feel.
Signature dishes: Risone Con Polipo Brasato e Midollo di Bue, Zuppa di Pesce “Gattopardo” and Branzino al Sale
34/36 Tras Street, tel: 6338 5498, www.gattopardo.com.sg