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Restaurant review: Boathouse and Luke Mangan’s Salt Grill in Singapore

 

Boathouse

The Waterboat House

#03-01, 3 Fullerton Road

+65 6538 9038

For ambience, it’s hard to beat a 1919 colonial Art Deco building right on the river. On one side is a window view onto the Fullerton Hotel; on the other, out to Marina Bay. The eclectic décor is all designer-polished grey concrete floor, exposed pipes in the ceiling, wooden blinds, sepia prints and an elephant head mounted on one wall.

Chef Jonathan Koh must have made his mother very happy, because he just loves his veggies. “I like to showcase the true beauty of the vegetable,” he declares. Our degustation menu has elements of the à la carte menu (starters $19 to $42; mains $29 to $68), the white truffle menu (until 15 January, $240), and a seasonal vegetarian degustation menu ($80).

Clean, healthy flavours come through in each dish, from an amuse bouche featuring a large, white French radish that’s now in season, to a dessert of apple mille feuille with roasted molasses and raspberry sorbet.

Jonathan is obviously keen on mille feuille, and after the first course mille feuille of beetroot with hints of fennel and pineapple, we too are devotees. Then comes ravioli of lobster over which is poured an intensely crustaceous consommé; lightly smoked blue-eye cod with an oyster crust on a divine bed of squid in its own ink; and slow-roasted Bresse pigeon with celeriac cream, date confit and sauce cacao.

This is a lovely spot, for a special or any other occasion. The wine list is varied and excellent, and wine-pairing is available. There’s a set weekday lunch: $24 for two courses, $32 for three. And the food is so fresh and healthy that your hair might just spontaneously curl. 

 

Salt Grill by Luke Mangan

Ion Orchard, Level 55

Orchard Road

+65 6592 5118

“A restaurant is not just about cooking,” says Australian celebrity chef Luke Mangan on the video clip I watched on YouTube. “It’s the whole package: the ambience, the lighting, the music, the service, the wine list.”

Perched 55 storeys high on the top of ION Orchard and with dazzling floor-to-amazingly-high-ceiling views, Salt Grill certainly has ambience. All open-plan, beyond the understated décor of the restaurant area is a wine lounge, and a wide, curved ramp that sweeps you up to the sophisticated Sky Bar. Beyond that is a private area, also with The View, that can be booked through the ION management for events.

“Luke Mangan ground this dukka himself,” whispers our server Tanaka Tetsuya reverently as he presents warm bread with Luke’s own brand of olive oil. As this is Luke’s seventh restaurant, and others are in the offing, head chef Kathy Tindall will probably already have taken over the mortar and pestle by the time you read this.

We try a variety of so-called “free-style Australian” dishes featuring fresh ingredients prepared simply; mainly Western with French culinary techniques and Japanese touches. Our yellowtail kingfish sashimi is dressed with ginger, shallot and goat’s feta; crab omelette with a miso mustard broth; grilled barramundi with miso-wasabi mayo.

Most memorable is the steamed ocean trout, prepared sous vide and served with warm potato salad and salsa verde. Our ribeye from the grill has been grain-fed for 120 days for fatty richness and then dry aged; not to everyone’s taste, and the four sauces offered are perhaps somewhat ordinary.

Of the desserts, we most like Luke’s liquorice parfait with lime, and a feather-light passion fruit soufflé with banana ice cream.

As for the rest of Luke’s List of what constitutes a successful restaurant: I don’t notice the music (a good thing), the service is relaxed, and the wine list has a nice selection of reasonably priced Aussie and Kiwi wines. Some are available by the generous glass from around $16. Tick, tick, tick.

Starters range from $22 to $35, mains from $29 to $60, desserts from $14 to $18. Apart from cocktails at the Skybar, the three-course business lunch ($40) would be a good way to check out this new hotspot.

 

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