Menu makeovers

Menu makeovers

With new chefs taking over the helm at four restaurants, customers can expect interesting changes to their menus.

Moosehead Kitchen-Bar

110 Telok Ayer Street

Opening hours: Mon to Fri, 12pm to 2.30pm, 6pm to 10.30pm; Sat, 6pm to 10.30pm, closed on Sun

Tel 6636-8055

GLEN Ballis, as chef-partner and culinary consultant for Moosehead Kitchen-Bar, is one who believes that change is the only constant.

The two-year-old eatery recently took on a new head chef and in the process launched a new menu as well. "I don't want to have just one person running the show all the time," says Chef Ballis. "The restaurant shouldn't be known for just one chef. Moosehead is about being experimental."

Chef Ballis, together with his son Daniel, who runs the front of house, conceived Moosehead as a living, breathing "project", centred not on a single person, but on the social environment as a whole, encompassing food, music and art, and serving as a platform and "stepping stone" for young talents.

The chef of the moment is Australian Drew Wilson. The 27-year-old had previously worked in the Ripples restaurant group in Sydney and is new to Singapore. He was introduced to Chef Ballis through a friend.

Moosehead was previously headed by Spaniard Manuel Valero Ruiz, who has now moved to Kilo.

As owner, Chef Ballis decides on the menu's direction. While both the previous and current menus carry strong global flavours with unusual ingredient and flavour pairings, the former menu offerings were stronger and more robust in taste. The new menu features more vegetables, fruits and juices and are lighter in taste overall.

The two chefs worked together on creating the new dishes. Among them are the seared watermelon topped with watercress and feta cheese, with a dressing of mirin, lemon and olive oil (S$12), roasted cauliflower with garlic miso, leek confit and creme fraiche (S$14) and roast beetroot with pomegranate, toasted almonds and ricotta (S$12).

A meat dish that is worth having are the pork scratchings, topped with beef tartar and yuzu mayo (S$6). The vegetable dishes are hearty and a welcome change from the usual salad offerings, and will appeal to diners who don't fancy eating greens.

The new dessert on the menu, strawberries and cream (S$12) served with house-made sorbet and grated chocolate, is Chef Wilson's personal creation.

With Chef Ballis away most of the year running his six restaurants and bars in Moscow, the weight of the cooking falls on Chef Wilson's shoulders.

He is already very comfortable shopping for ingredients at Tekka market, and says that it has been a learning experience getting the flavours right in each dish. "Working with mirin, yuzu, and rice wine vinegar is new to me," says Chef Wilson. "So I do spend a lot of time tasting, tasting and tasting."

"Moving to Singapore allows me to develop myself as a chef," he says. Asked about the difference between working in the two cities, he says that while the dining scene in Sydney is competitive, "it is even more cut-throat in Singapore. I constantly have to stay focused, to be on top of the game".

Jamie's Italian Singapore

Vivo City, #01-165

Opening hours: Mon to Thurs, noon to 10pm, Fri, noon to 11pm, Sat, 9.30am to 11pm, Sun, 9.30am to 10pm

Tel 6733-5500

IF cooking was as easy as merely following instructions from a cookbook, everyone can be a professional chef.

Which is why Sardinian chef Alessandro Laconi believes that his heritage gives him an edge when it comes to Italian cooking. "As an Italian, I know the real taste."

The 39-year-old has been cooking since he was six, starting in his mother's kitchen, where he would be playing with eggs, dough and flour. Picking fresh tomatoes and basil from the garden, he would learn how to make his favourite Culurgiones, a dish of ravioli with potato and pecorino cheese.

He entered the professional kitchen when he was 16, and honed his skills at hotels and restaurants in Italy, Germany, and the UK. He came to Singapore in 2012 and headed the kitchens at Pasta Brava and Al Borgo.

Chef Laconi takes over from Alex Barman who is now the head chef for the upcoming Jamie's Italian Kuta Beach.

The restaurant chain was started in 2008 in Oxford, England, in partnership with British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver and his Italian chef-mentor Gennaro Contaldo. There are now more than 50 restaurants worldwide.

Here's how it works at Jamie's Italian. All recipes are created by Oliver and Contaldo, together with a team of chefs. At every menu change, all these new recipes are then sent to the restaurants by the Jamie's Italian International team, based in the UK.

Each restaurant would then pick dishes which they feel would work well for their market. "It is all very strict, down to the type of ingredients we use, which supplier we use and the cooking methods," says Chef Laconi. Some may see such procedures as being very restrictive and not allowing for much creativity, but Chef Laconi says: "This way, I'm able to maintain the Jamie Oliver standard. It is all about ensuring high quality."

New items on the menu, which will be rolled out on April 23, include Crispy Music Bread (S$7.50). This dish has three pieces of thin bread, topped with slices of pecorino sardo and small dollops of chilli jam mostarda on the cheese, finished with sliced chilli.

There's also the Italian Nachos (S$7), which are fried mini raviolis stuffed with three cheeses and served with arrabbiata sauce.

From the mains, the Chicken Al Mattone (S$27.50) looks set to be a winner. The dish features marinated chicken, grilled under a brick, served with wild mushroom sauce, rocket and Parmesan. Disclosing how he has to follow strict guidelines, the restaurant uses only free-range chickens from a farm in Malaysia. "So if we run out of chicken for the day, we run out of the dish. There's no shortcut such as going to the supermarket to buy chicken," he explains.

Chef Laconi is now working on improving his nonna or grandmother's Culurgiones, which he will submit to the international team for approval. Whether or not the team agrees with his recipe will take three months to decide.

Chef Laconi's dream however, is much bigger. "I hope to be working together with Gennaro to create new dishes."

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