Dining in a new restaurant these days, especially Western eateries in the older parts of the Central Business District, often evokes a sense of deja vu.
That's because so many of them are in old shophouses with a narrow but deep space, ideal for a look that involves dim, yellow lighting and dark wooden furniture.
A cocktail bar stretches along one side of the dining area, leaving room to squeeze in a row of small tables.
And on the menu are the usual salads, pastas, a baked bone marrow and various meats from the grill, quite often charcoal-fired.
FYR Cycene Ond Drinc (pronounced as Fire Kitchen And Drink) ticks all these boxes. Except for one difference: The dishes are fired up with herbs and spices from the region.
That, for me, makes it stand out from the pack. But it's also clear that the cooking is Western. Apart from a couple of sambals, the use of spice is subtle enough not to confuse the diner.
A starter I like a lot is the Breaded Kaffir Lime Fresh Oysters ($15). Three deep-fried oysters come with dips of sambal belacan, cilantro gribiche and lemongrass chilli. Each dip provides a different taste, from the tart gribiche to the moreish belacan, but none is overly spicy and burn the palate.
The Roasted US Bay Scallop ($13) is nicely done too, with the lightly charred shellfish still soft and moist inside. The grilled fennel provides a contrasting crunch and has a slight bitterness that is not unpleasant. Rounding out the flavours are a raspberry walnut vinaigrette drizzled over the fennel and a local basil pesto you can smudge with the scallops.
Other starters are less memorable, but okay nonetheless. These include a Roasted Duck Foie Gras ($13) that is supposed to be sweetened with gula melaka, but I couldn't pick that up.
The Baked Aubergine & Chickpea Ragout ($10) is rather heavy for a starter because of the dense chickpea stew spread on the eggplant. But I reckon it could work as a vegetarian main course option.
For non-vegetarians, however, what the restaurant lists under the main courses are more alluring.
All the dishes are fired in a Josper oven and turn out nicely charred and infused with smoke from lychee wood.
Even the Seafood Linguine ($18), which is served on a stone platter, has that smokiness. The lobster bisque sauce is also unique as laksa leaves and Thai basil give it a slightly Asian flavour. They are not very obvious, though, and it takes me a while to figure out why the sauce tastes different from the usual Italian recipes.
Still, I wouldn't come here for pasta because the meat and fish dishes are my favourites.
The Grain-fed US Holstein Ribeye 365 Days ($32) is a lovely piece of meat packed with juice and flavour. It comes with a choice of sauces - black truffle, foie gras or tomato cilantro salsa, which are all good - but tastes delicious on its own.
And on the side, you get a choice of mash potato or buttered cassava.
The potato is silky-smooth with lots of butter in it, but the cassava is more interesting. It is tapioca, which is commonly found as a dessert in Thai restaurants, but here, it is cooked with butter and makes a good alternative to the ubiquitous potato.
The Spiced Deboned Red Snapper ($25) is ideal for those who worry about fish bones. The meat is moist and aromatic, and the accompanying sambal belacan dip goes well with it. It's almost like an ikan panggang and the closest to an Asian dish.
Desserts are not the restaurant's strongest suit, though those I try are decent. The more interesting is the Baked Pistachio Melt & Pandan Ice Cream ($10), a lava cake that oozes pistachio cream instead of melted chocolate.
The pandan ice cream tastes better the second time around. During my first visit, I can hardly detect the pandan flavour.
This article was first published on April 12, 2015.
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