The view from the taxi as we move from ultra-salubrious Orchard through Geylang to Joo Chiat becomes increasingly interesting. After dusk, a street scene that is hot and shabby in unforgiving daylight has become a series of fascinating glimpses into intimate interiors, corner dining-enclaves, fluorescent-lit markets where durians are piled high and dim alcoves where working girls with pale limbs smoke illegal cigarettes and chat while they wait.
In this context, Private Affairs is an apt name for the sophisticated new restaurant in Joo Chiat Place. It’s one of a colourful terrace of Peranakan shophouses built in the 1920s and 1930s and gazetted for conservation in 1993. Joo Chiat and neighbouring Katong are famous for food; Joo Chiat particularly for its Peranakan (Straits Chinese) cuisine. Private Affairs, however, is Western, with a nod to contemporary
In the sleek interior, there’s enough light for trendy types to see and be seen, and a highly mobile, verbal and switched-on staff – particularly our server Eddie (“call me Fat Eddie”) – is making it all happen. A glass of Roederer champagne is poured and we’re brought a basket of warm herbed focaccia bread, made fresh on the premises each day and accompanied with butter, a garlicky mango salsa, dukkah and balsamic vinaigrette.
The seven-course menu, which changes each month, turns on the genius of chef Paul Ng, an intense-looking guy who appears to be about 20. Paul is in fact 32 and has a good 15 years of experience, most recently at Dubai’s Burj Al Arab Hotel.
February’s menu included vine-ripened tomatoes with a sort of horseradish ice cream, a perfectly light and flavourful introduction; an exquisitely mouth-melting carpaccio of duck that had been left in brine for three days and dried in a cold-room for another three; white lobster bisque with a cigar of salmon and lobster cannelloni, a work of art; Hokkaido scallops interestingly combined with several corn-based concoctions; a Wagyu beef cheek – still fetchingly pink after being slow-braised for 12 hours, and served with a dollop of divinely smoky mash and a square of something delicious called Chinese kale royale; and a sublimely light cheesecake-type dessert.
Roy and I have indulged in several multiple-course prix fixe menus in recent months, at least two of them described to us as “award-winning”. We thought this one beat the others hands down – the menu brilliantly balanced, each dish perfectly served. A small range of good wines is available; but if you want to bring your own special bottle, there’s no corkage. It’s $138++ for the six courses.
Private Affairs is at 45 Joo Chiat Lane. Call +65 6440 0601. (closed)