It’s Smellin’ Rosemead
“It’s beautiful, it’s difficult and it’s as close to heritage cooking as you can get. Working with an open hearth is a feeling that can’t be replicated. Raw, untamed fire forces your attention and must be respected.” - co-owner & executive chef David Tang
It’s a modern Californian fine dining restaurant with an open wood fire hearth at the “heart and soul” of it. Rosemead is set to turn heads for its one-of-a-kind cuisine, taking liberties with the cold & stuffy concept of fine dining and adapting “refined, relaxed and convivial” in a 1920’s heritage building (that was once a long time ago Kwangfung Provincial Bank). Co-owner and executive chef David Tang, hailing from Rosemead, California, braves the fire side by side chef de cuisine Ammie Khoo. The 5,000+ square foot space can seat up to 80 diners inside and 40 pax at decked-out alfresco area with new wooden floors and fairy lights (not open yet). The indoor pocket bar (read: extremely limited high chairs) tucked away in the far corner is manned by bar manager Davide Boncimino who can be spotted quietly mixing, shaking and pouring a repertoire of drinks and such (first-come, first-served basis). General manager James Moon, once at one-Michelin-starred Esora, effortlessly works the floor. Of course there’s a sommelier at your service. Read on to find out more.
Redefining this day and post-pandemic age of fine dining is the award-winning homegrown Jigger & Pony f&b group which is more famous for the “b” than the”f”. The nine-year-old namesake bar stayed at no.9 on the illustrious World’s 50 Best Bars 2021 list, the only local brand to be listed in the top ten. Nonetheless, they have gone to great lengths for us.
You’re right to be led into thinking that drinking is taken very seriously here (and so are the different genre’s of music playlists to mark different moods of the day). Marcus Tan (pictured above), under-30 sommelier formerly from Odette and Restaurant Euphoria, has compiled over 170 wine labels from around the globe. Let’s zero in on American wines since we’re here - 12 red’s and 22 white’s. Principal sommelier Marcus drew our attention to Harlan Estate 2012 cabernet sauvignon ($2,448++/bottle) that’s apparently a fabulous match for grilled meats and gives a smoky finish to the sweet tannins. The prized Napa Valley deep red is rated extraordinary by Robert Parker at 99 points out of a perfect 100.
But if you’re sniffing out other options, then these come highly recommended :
Au Bon Climat, ‘Knox Alexander’ Pinot Noir 2016, California ($48++ per glass / $238++ per bottle)
Zind-Humbrecht, ‘Brand’ Grand Cru Riesling 2011, Alsace ($338++/bottle)
Gravner, Ribolla Gialla 2012, Friuli-Venezia Giulia ($278++/bottle)
We started with grower champagne - Marie-Courtin “Resonance” Extra Brut Champagne NV ($168++/bottle). Simply put, this genre of champagne means the same person who cultivated the pinot noir grapes also made and bottled the champagne, i.e. Dominique Moreau. Employing biodynamic farming and stainless steel first fermentation techniques with no added sugar, it is a bright and light bubbly (bubblin’ that went on for a while) that tasted of dark red and fleshy orchard fruits. I mean if you know nothing else, just drop the trendy phrase “grower champagne“ in front of friends and look darn cool saying it. This went great with the seafood catch such as chilled king crab and grilled hand-dived scallops.
I’m not a wine connoisseur or anything remotely close to it. But I’m beginning to realize that a meal can become more complete and fuller with complementing bottles. I’m still discovering my way through this in small doses. So it’s really nice to share a few bottles with a group of 3, 4 or 5 people ‘round the table. Conversation becomes richer with more than just the usual to talk about.
We moved on to Moon Rabbit from South Africa ($24++/glass) that’s a pinotage original to that part of the world. A cross between pinot noir and cinsaut grapes, the usually ‘heavier’ and darker full-bodied wine category actually tasted a lot lighter and was so easy to drink. It was also low on tannins. (I remember using a portable aerator in Australia when pouring medium to high-tannic reds. The result was a smoother and sweeter drink. I never did buy it. I should have!). The accessible wine “for dreamers” did really well with dark meats such as the grilled half duck we had. Can you taste the barbeque sauce in this? Wild, huh!
Of course we had to take a swig at one of the eight cocktails created by bar manager David Boncimino. With eight years of experience under his belt, we couldn’t resist on trying at least one. Trigona honey bellini ($28++) is really a type of stingless bee (trigona)’s honey, kinkan (aka kumquat), Christian Drouin VSOP calvados and Jansz “Premium Cuvée” sparkling wine. Check out the ‘legs’ on this the next time you’re there. I’d recommend having it before the food arrives.
Are you hungry yet? Let’s dive right into the menu which is a tight one…for now. Seven items under ‘chilled’ and ‘cooked over orange & lychee wood embers’, and four dishes under ‘vegetables and grains. The separately presented dessert menu is all of three things. Seeing that the bakery is not fully up and running yet, I suspect the dessert spread will expand in the near future when it opens. This is so exciting especially for those working in the CBD! It’s always such a privilege to smell butter and coffee in one breath during a work break, and even better when they are delivered to your desk. I don’t know at this time when the bakery will open and if they’ll be listed on any food delivery app’s, BUT I’m hopeful. (I don’t even work in the CBD 🤷♀️)
Okay, now for the perennial question : what to order? No one I knew ever said no to bread. Soft dinner rolls glazed with shiitake, sprinkled with sea salt, and matched with shiitake cultured butter ($19++) is a yes. What if I told you this is Japanese milk bread - shokupan?! And the glaze is not just a glaze. It’s a shiitake mushroom stock reduction with konbu and smoked bacon 😍 Wait, the butter is house-cultured churned with caramelised shiitake. It’s a little sticky on the top, but you’ll be licking those fingers soon enough. And ordering seconds and thirds.
Unless you’re allergic, these big and juicy shucked oysters from Hama Hama Farm in Washington’s Olympic Peninsula (USA) will set the tone for the rest of the night. Chilled and nicely dressed in salmon roe and horseradish, they’re sold in three’s at $27++. This vaguely reminded me of the $2 oysters I used to go for at the previous concept (The Black Swan) that occupied the very same space for nearly a decade,
I’m one of those who scans all kinds of seafood on the menu, and I just want to try all of it. The second of the crustacean trio is Hokkaido king crab, fingerlime and fermented chilli ($68++). Presented on ice, a WHOLE CRAB LEG was used for this pair served in-shell. Also known as red king crab, it was caught in Okhotsk (meaning hunting in Russian) Sea in the northeast of Hokkaido, Japan. It can grow up to a meter, and have long, thick legs. It tasted just as it should super chilled with so much natural sweetness. Check out the thick slices and that vibrant color. The boring squeeze of lemon was switched out for some fingerlime for that much-needed acidity, and fermented chili.
If you’re feeling baller or about to propose to the love of your life, you need caviar - Caviar d’Eden’s Russian ($255++/50 grams) or Oscietra ($325++/50 grams). I do keep a small tin (or two) of my favourite caviar at home in the coldest part of my fridge and break them out when I feel like it. They’re great on everything, fo’ real! I’ve had them on plain white toast and french butter, and and every kind of poultry eggs and even got my husband to make buttermilk mix for blini’s because caviar is so easy to eat yet so precious. I take my time when having those umami shiny pearls, and prefer to enjoy them with champagne. Long story short : Carpe Diem.
The last of the three was one JUMBO prawn. Smoked king prawn sliced and laid on Carolina bbq-vinegar sauce topped with sliced musk melon ($42++/not in picture). If you must pick only one, order the king crab.
Photo by : Husband
Chitose farm tomato & basil, and crackling pork skin ($24++)…mmmmmmm….Such juicy and sweet cherry tomatoes which is more often served on its own, drizzled with a heavy vinaigrette or even pickled, is left to its own natural devices. The seasonal Japanese fruit is grown in Cameron Highlands, Pahang in Malaysia. I remember taking a trip with my relatives when I was a kid. We plucked and ate strawberries by the punnet, and was forced to take pictures with weird-looking ear mushrooms cultivated by hydroponics. I can’t remember where or what the farms’ names were. Fruit flies would convene in droves and chase me around the hilly area. This was decades ago. How time flies. The 10-year-old Chitose farm also grows Japanese strawberries (since 2014), corn, mustard greens and a whole lot more. And of course, yes! to crackling pork skin, always.
Now things are starting to heat up as we get to the “hearth and soul” of the menu. As you’ve seen so far, Californian chef David has a burning desire for the open wood fire grill. That massive custom-made modular open hearth furnace took almost a year to find, after fruitless attempts to buy one off the rack locally and in Europe. So the grill you see right here in Singapore was built in Atlanta, Georgia (USA) by Grills By Demant. It took approximately four months to complete, and just over an hour for assembly and welding onsite. “Every piece of hardware on the grill can be moved and/or swapped out. Platforms can be raised or lowered to create different zones; traditional grilling, slow-roasting, broiling, searing directly over embers, even sauté ingredients in cast iron pans,“ added chef David. Just look at the stainless steel beauty below.
Can you see the chargrilled meats? I wondered how long does it take to set up something like this where the kitchen is not cooking over raging fires but embers. Chef David very kindly explained his daily routine :
”We start the day with igniting a small pile of charcoal (mangrove charcoal from Malaysia) and several logs of wood. It takes about 45 minutes for the pile to settle into slow embers (300 degrees Celsius). We continue to maintain this throughout the day and use it to slow-roast and smoke. When we are ready for service, we would turn the hearth into a furnace by pushing the embers to the back of the grill and feeding wood into the brasero (or heater). The igniting wood combusts at a much hotter temperature (up to 950 degrees Celsius), warming up the back wall and eventually carbonating into wood charcoal embers. This process can take upwards of 1.5 hours depending on how much fire is required.” All this backbreaking, sweaty work just to get it started to cook for you!
I think we’re ready for what’s coming next - “cooked over orange & lychee wood embers”. (Orange wood is from Australia and lychee wood is from Vietnam.)
Grilled hand-dived scallops from Hokkaido ($88++/3) with a nice char at the top, a covering of nantaise sauce (mostly butter) and ’prickly ash’. Curious? The latter is green Sichuan peppercorn from Japan. Have them altogether for the full mouthfeel of umami.
200-gram grilled Canary Island bass, chioggia beets and chermoula ($68++) is a good-sized filleted fish to share or to have on your own. It’s meaty yet check out the fat line (top picture). Dressed in tangy chermoula, cut into the very crispy and nicely charred skin then have a mouthful of everything including the sliced heirloom beetroot (which is an acquired taste for some). Get a little fiery kick from Kampot white peppercorn grown locally by Hong’s Spices. Want to know more?
”Wild-farmed Atlantic seabass is dry aged a minimum of seven days to intensify its flavours and improve texture. Treated simply to showcase the ingredient, the fish is seasoned with sea salt and grilled over orange wood, which imparts delicate smoke and floral notes. The seabass is accompanied by moorish flavours of beetroot — roasted over flame until tender — and chermoula, a North African and Moroccan sauce loaded with citrus and fresh herbs such as fennel and coriander seed.”
Another stunning signature is embedded heirloom pumpkin, squash seed & Mexican mole ($29) using whole organic pumpkin from Weeds & More in Cameron Highlands, Malaysia, and pairing it with homemade mole (chocolate, guajillo chile, golden raisins and, charred squash & seeds).
You could go for slow-cooked wagyu short rib with black truffles ($68++) or skip the usual and try the 14-day matured Long Island duck and apricot barley miso ($70++/half duck). 38-year-old chef David shines some light on dry-aging meat and fish, “This helps to remove excess moisture, develop flavor, tendering the flesh, and dries the skin allowing for extra crispness”. The fatty skin was a good balance of crispiness and that fat! Pickles were given to cut the fat if it got too much. It’s approximately 1.5kg on this huge platter with three different condiments including Szechuan salt. I was tempted to wrap each meaty piece with lettuce.
Since you’re duck‘ing away, you might as well hydrate with Rosemead old-fashioned ($33++). It is “21-day dry-aged duck-fat-infused Old Forester 1897 Bottled in Bond Bourbon, Californian raisins, a port reduction, garnished with smoked pickled walnuts”.
Here’s an important PSA : Smoked doesn’t mean overly smoky here, but nuanced. “Smoke is created when fat drops onto the hot coals. We take care to control the heat to avoid flare ups and excess smoke, I enjoy cooking over fire because it adds a certain warmth and aroma to the food. And we use beautiful ingredients that can stand on its own as well, that we wouldn’t want to cover with smoke”, informed chef David who’s worked at Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining Group and two-Michelin-starred Mélisse (California, USA). I know that some peeps may lean towards strong and overpowering smoky taste to take over the produce, and then douse them in heavy sauce - that’s totally fine. But the flavours here are refined and celebrate provenance. Personally, it’s easier to enjoy this style of cooking with a long drink or a bottle, as opposed to chugging beer off a can after inhaling bbq steak.
Alright, time for a break. Wanna take a virtual walk with me to the alfresco area and then to the basement to witness a stunning transformation? Come!
The evening breeze, the fairy lights and 40 seats under the starry night sky, it’s so romantic to sit outside and catch up with friends, or go on a casual date. It’s not open yet, but hang tight. A shelter might be put up so that rain or shine, It’s business as usual. And the floors are now laid with outdoor deck flooring! That means no need to tread on soggy mud under the feet or give up on heels.
I hope you get a chance to dine in the basement! It‘s transformed into a private dining room for up to 10 people with its own kitchenette of sorts. For more information on booking this space, please call/email the restaurant directly.
And we’re back to the table for dessert made by pastry chef Elena Pérez de Carrasco. She “has worked with Joël Robuchon and Jason Atherton in Europe, as well as Singapore restaurants like Iggy’s, Artemis Grill & Sky Bar and Preludio.” We had to have all three desserts : burnt honey meringue & malted milk chocolate, sudachi lime & white chocolate and the restaurant’s signature Chitose Farm strawberry & heirloom beetroot at $18++ each.
Can a restaurant ever get away for not having any chocolate on the menu? Here we shared a chocolate tart topped with meringue. The burnt honey used here is a different one from the stingless bee honey incorporated into the Bellini we had earlier.
I’m pretty sure there’s licorice in here. Sudachi lime zest for the meringue shards that cheekily cover what laid beneath.
This might be our most favorite dessert yet. Tangy, a little sweet, pink and so pretty, it’s hard to pass up on Chitose Farm strawberry for the fruit and sorbet, heirloom beetroot for the meringue.
“It’s an original creation by Executive Pastry Chef Elena Pérez de Carrasco, who wanted to create a playful dessert that is reflective of California, where 90 percent of the US’ strawberries are grown. A sweet and earthy combination of vanilla cream, strawberry and beetroot sorbet is served with various textures of strawberry (fresh, crisp and vinegar) and meringue. This dessert incorporates two unique ingredients sourced from producers in Cameron Highlands, Malaysia — strawberries from Chitose, a farm that grows Japanese quality strawberries, and red beetroot from Weeds & More, which works with ethical smallholder farms to grow cold climate European vegetables.”
If you’re celebrating a birthday, make sure you state that on your booking. I’m keeping this as a surprise, but please tag me on Instagram if you post it. I’m just kaypoh 😂 It’s the cutest all-american birthday cake that reminds me of living in the States, more so now (almost) post-pandemic and being grounded for two years.
This restaurant brings all the feels of west coast hospitality. It’s the posture it takes towards cooking and fine-dining in general. The emphasis is on local & regional produce, and sustainability; “These include BlueAcres Aquaponics, Edible Garden City, Crab Lovers Farm and Ah Hua Kelong in Singapore, and farm collective Weeds & More and Chitose Farm, both in Cameron Highlands, Malaysia.” They also use local Kwong Woh Hing soy sauces fermented in Singapore.
*Text in quotes were taken from the official press release, and individuals who were attributed accordingly.
BOOK NOW: Click HERE
19 Cecil Street, Singapore 049704
Open daily (except Monday)
Reservations are highly recommended.
Dinner : 6pm - 10.30pm (last seating at 9pm)
Phone : 9781 9084
Email : email@example.com
Cuisine : Modern Californian fine dining
Seating Capacity : 80 (main dining room), 40 (alfresco/not open yet),
up to 10 (private dining room/pre-book)
Dress Code : Smart Casual
Payment Mode : Visa, Master, Amex, UnionPay
Parking : CapitaGreen - 138 Market Street, Singapore 048946
Instagram : @rosemeadsg
Facebook : Rosemead.Singapore