Venetian leather, rich foliage and slow jazz playing. Chef de Cuisine Desmond Goh greeted me at the revamped The Disgruntled Brasserie, continuing in Chef Daniel Sia’s communal fine dining concept of small and big plates. The new man in this seasoned kitchen presents an impressive portfolio, but what took diners’ breath away was his talent in turning the ordinary, extraordinary. Just like his predecessor, he flips the stringency of structured dining away into a warm, cosy affair, dish by dish.
While the previous menu’s beef tartare and Roquefort ice creams are dearly missed, Chef Desmond welcomed my wholehearted approval with his Gruyere Cheese Soufflé (S$16++ The sweet, earthy cheese was given a new (delicious) lease of life as a fluffy, oh-so-lofty soufflé. It is served in a luxurious pond of Chardonnay fondue, pairing amazingly with the sweetness of the caramelised onions hiding within the mouthful of cheese. Dinner started on a high note.
He continued to impress with the Foie Gras & Peanut Butter Miso (S$18++). On the drier side, it was the flavours behind this dish that left me wanting more. The miso rounds off the peanut butter, bringing out the nutty note we all love. It all blends into the richness of the fatty liver, giving us a delicate dance between sweet and savoury, buttery soft and crisp.
For old times sake, I wanted the Onion Brioche to try. The previous menu featured a Burnt Onion Charcoal Bread with cream cheese that was simply divine; the ultimate comfort food for me. Alas, there was more to come.
Was I glad I skipped on the Onion Brioche? Definitely. What followed blew my expectations out of the water. The Seafood Bouillabaisse (S$38++) here is a wonder to look at, as much as it is to savour. A bowl, overloaded with the day’s barramundi, clams, mussels and shrimps, is served in an appetising tower. Next to it, a crafted teapot. Within it is the magical, creamy French Provencal fish stew that is the very definition of the restaurant – comfort and fine dining, combined.
Dip a crisp rouili toast, or simply have it spoonful by spoonful. Each slice of seafood, sweet on its own, is wrapped softly in the sublime flavours of tomatoes, garlic and bay leaf. The succulent meat of the shellfish aside, it is the well-infused brine from them that gave this creamy stew its addictive quality.
Of the big plates offered, there was one dish I looked forward to the most. The Carbonara Taglierini (S$24++), served with three types of bacon. A parmigiano reggiano crusted egg sits atop, bursting into a gooey mess, joining the simple yet charming sauce. Eggs, no cream I must add, infused with the savoury oils of the three bacon. Pancettta may be the usual choice, but Chef Desmond introduces an unforgettable trio. Each twirl is as robust as the next.
What could only make The Disgruntled Brasserie more worthy of praise is a sweet, rounded ending to this grand prix of a dinner. The first, a Baileys Crème Caramel (S$18++), served with a scoop of Kahlua ice cream. Creamy, toasty and laden with vanilla. An honest-to-goodness pudding perfected.
Another dessert highlighting Chef Desmond’s take on the kitchen has got to be the Lemon Curd (S$16++). Despite its name, the star was a dollop of green shiso leaf ice cream. In between mint and basil, with a hint of citrus. Shiso is a herb ubiquitous in Japanese dishes, fresh and pickled. You have seen it with your sashimi platters, wrapped around sushi (a style famous in Nara, Japan) or with the springtime favourite, sakura mochi. Here, it is presented as a creamy accompaniment to the tart lemon curds and crisp biscuits. A daring combination, working in unison.
Still, one cannot end the night at The Disgruntled Brasserie without an elegant Chocolate Fondant (S$18++). Looking different from my usual adventures with the gooey dessert, it is served with root chips and a scoop of pistachio ice cream. A quick crack to the crisp exterior unveiled a chocolate wonderland, softened by the crème anglaise (a light custard). Before I could reach for my cup of tea (in a desperate attempt to feel less guilty), I could already hear the sharp clanking of spoons scraping for its remnants.
A stubborn one, I was. I was apprehensive about a new chef in a kitchen I’d grown to love over the years. Chef de Cuisine Desmond has proven himself, over and over, with every dish he presented that night. My stomach was full, with room for nothing more. Yet, the waffling aroma of the neighbouring table’s pasta dish continued to fuel my gluttony. I guess a second trip is necessary.