Go On, Fool Me.
Updated: Nov 24, 2021
The Full Book
"The brainchild of Chef-Owner Rishi Naleendra and Group Beverage Manager Vinodhan Veloo, FOOL is a modern wine bar that champions unpretentious and explorative drinking. With our exuberant and witty personality, we harmoniously marry exceptional wines with playful, wine-friendly plates, all of which are seamlessly distilled through our signature warm hospitality.
“Our name, FOOL, is a cheeky reminder to not take yourself, and the wines that you drink, too seriously.” – Vinodhan Veloo"
It seems like this year is ending with much abuzz in the F&B forefront. Not only was the ban on (recorded) music lifted recently (live music is still not allowed), but as of 22 November, Singapore is back to 5 pax for dining out. I nearly cried, for real. The 2-pax restriction went on for too long if you asked me. So let's cross our fingers and hope our favorite tze char stalls and bars can survive this challenging year. Yet new bars keep on bubbling up.
One such modern wine bar is Fool, and their opening could not come at a better time. Chef-owner Rishi Naleendra has created another new concept at the very same spot that marked him as the chef to watch since 2016 - Cheek By Jowl and all-grown-up Cheek Bistro. Both casual dining brands were awarded one Michelin star. Where the predecessors failed, the 36-year-old Sri Lankan-born continues to win over the media and customers alike. (Sorrel and Wattleseed had to shutter after less than lukewarm reception.) Other integral parties to this vision is group beverage manager Vinodhan Veloo (or just Vino), head sommelier Wolfhart Knipp from one-Michelin-starred Cloudstreet, head chef Marcus Tan formerly from Cheek By Jowl, and operations manager Julia Lamb. All concepts mentioned here are under Unlisted Collection.
Can you see another star rising in the clear view horizon? Situated at 21 Boon Tat Street, the community of the financial and creative sectors would want to find themselves in the state of Fool after punching out the clock. The vibe is seventies'-led - the pop art and bold colors give it away. What exactly is a seventies' vibe? To me, it was a coming of age decade that was synonymous with an explorative nature in being, exuding exuberant individualism, and loosening of self-inhibitions to just let it flow. Yeah, baby.
There are 20 things on the food menu compared to the wine list that's spilled over 70 pages in a book divided into 26 categories; Some playfully labeled as "Just Don't Call It English Sparkling Champagne", referring to the rising trend of English sparkling wines which should not be mistaken for champagne since it's not from the namesake town in France. (Note : Champagne can only be made using chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot meunier grapes.) "Sekt-To None" is another category offering sparkling wines using German grapes. Other notables are 'Betting On Climate Change' and 'Beaujolais Not Nouveau : Gang Of Four" where the latter is really just made up of four wines and as gleaned from vinepair.com, "Dubbed the “Gang of Four,” they are generally considered the standard-bearers of cru Beaujolais production, and include Marcel Lapierre, Jean Foillard, Jean-Paul Thévenet, and Guy Breton." Only bottles are offered on this list from $98++, and a careful handful of wines poured per glass from $14++ each. I'd just grab a bottle, and let time wait. (Above pic : head sommelier, Wolfhart Knipp)
Dark rye rolls glistening in vegemite caramel glaze, studded with pickled thyme, and a slab of vegemite butter ($12++) were so soft and pillowy. My husband is a huge fan of vegemite so it's no surprise he had most of this. It's a thick and dark vegetarian spread (leftover brewers' yeast) from Australia, whilst a similar one I had growing up in Singapore is Bovril that's a beef extract. My tween self used to make soup of it (pour hot water and stir) when I got hungry in the middle of the night. Oh, bread. How could anyone shun such an innocent carb? Sticky fingers guaranteed.
French brown crab on cream cheese topped with long slivers of raw onions, mandarin kosho and mandarin peel ($24++). Take a big swab of this with the crisp and fresh yellow endive leaves. I enjoyed this a lot with champagne. But then again I'm all about champagne 🥂
THIS MADE US WEAK IN THE KNEES. A dozen to go, please. From chicken liver parfait rolled in a cigar, then on waffles with date jam and pickled mustard seeds at Cheek Bistro (now closed), the smooth blend now finds itself piped into the most indulgent eclair ($16++) this side of town. Gold leaf, pickled mustard seeds and madeira jelly on the choux make this so exquisite. I want this for my birthday cake! 🎂
Can I also say you're gonna order this again and again? Charred shishito peppers ($12++) are wrinkly little things and usually mildly spicy. They're the perfect accompaniment to whatever wine you're sipping on. Lying in a shallow pool of citrus soy, these bright green peppers are covered with an umami blanket of katsuoboshi. Once bitten into, they do give a little fiery kick but after the umami sinks in. Now sip some wine, smack lips, repeat.
In the most unlikeliest of places, I find that spaetzle cacio e pepe ($$18++) peeking at me from the menu. Spaetzle is German egg pasta that's handmade into squiggly noodles. They're chewy and starchy, the beacon to empty drinking tummies. Like a mac & cheese of sorts, it's a tad less guilty version and a lot greener. My husband polished this off in seconds.
If I see sweetbreads, I must try it at least once. Deep fried veal thymus gland submissively laid on burnt eggplant puree, then wrapped in a blue corn soft shell taco. Are you an adventurous eater? Technically sweetbreads refer to the thymus gland (throat/neck area) and pancreas (aka heart sweetbreads) from the younglings because as calves grow up, "the gland degenerates into a mass of connective tissue and fat". Read more on this here. If you're feeling a little jittery about biting into a baby cow's organs, Fool's is offally good. It's mild-tasting with a little smoky-ness from the purée, and earthy and sweet from the corn. Pickled onions cut through any richness and gives a crunchy texture to each bite.
All 150 grams of the Black Onyx hanging tender ($58++) from the upper belly of the Rangers Valley cow was cooked medium, and tasted so juicy and tender. I know many would go for intense fat marbling but I like to taste more of the beefy-ness than anything else. The hanger steak is also referred to as the "butcher's steak" since they would keep this part for themselves to consume. Dip each cut slice into fermented soy sauce, and pair with, you guessed it, champagne! Generously seasoned potato scallops (spicy too) and mixed greens complete the picture.
There are three desserts on the menu. We landed ourselves a not-so-common one, Wattleseed rum baba and smoked vanilla ice-cream ($16++) presented like an open-faced sandwich. People, wattleseed smells and mildly tastes of coffee AND chocolate. What is this traditional french dessert all about? In Slavic, it means old woman or grandma. Typically, dried fruit is added to the cake and then it's soaked in rum. Whipped cream is served on the side. At Fool, the modern twist involves ice-cream and more than a splash of rum to soak each cake bite with. YASSSSSSSS!
Chef-owner Rishi shared with us that the kitchen was pulled back a little to make space for very limited front row kitchen counter seats. That would be my go-to seats. Then there's the secret hideout called the "love hole". If you want privacy in a very special corner of the room, request for that.
What should you drink, in what sequence and what pairings to follow? Either get the very friendly sommelier to recommend, or just go with the flow and try wines you've never encountered before. Wine snobs might be taken aback at a rather nouveau attitude of this whole drinking situation, be forewarned. To them I'd strongly advise to unclench and recline. The food are described as "wine-friendly" plates from $6++ and is best shared between two people at least. Do note that the portions are mostly snack size except for the bigger plates, My hungry husband and myself went through eight different dishes plus 4 glasses of wine, and we were adequately satisfied. If not for the drinking curfew (cut-off time is at 10.30pm), we would have stayed on and gotten a bottle.
One visit is never enough. So slow down and enjoy each bottle. You'll be back again and again for good wines only, and that chicken liver eclair that nearly made me forget my name.
BOOK NOW : +65 6221 1911/ Chope
21 Boon Tat Street, Singapore 069620
Open daily (except Sunday & Monday), reservations are highly recommended
Tuesday - Thursday : 4pm - 10pm
Friday - Saturday : 12pm - 10pm
Seating Capacity : NA
Dress Code : Recommended Smart Casual