Fine Dining

Kaarla @ CapitaSpring

On the Golden Shoe Carpark lot bloomed one of the tallest building in Singapore, and on the top bloomed an edible garden and farm-to-table restaurant. That’s definitely a good choice to spend my birthday celebration.

View from the 51st Storey

Located at 88 Market Street, CapitaSpring is a 51-storey, 280m-tall integrated development which boasts a hawker centre, offices, serviced apartments with a pool, two gardens and an observatory deck. With its stunning skyline views, Kaarla is a quintessential Australian farm-to-table experience that just opened at the top of this brand new building.

Kaarla meaning ‘where the home fires burn’, is a restaurant and bar that puts the spotlight on ‘Coastal Australian’ produce which represents the bounty of seafood and agriculture along the coastal regions of this giant island continent.

Cooking with fire

At Kaarla, the use of fire is central to the craft, which is the trend these days. The cooking represents a vibrancy which is quintessentially Australian, young and modern with a sense of adventure.

Open fire oven

The centrepiece of the Kaarla kitchen is the wood grill and oven built by Samuel Fraraccio “The Brick Chef”. A trained stonemason who spent time working in kitchens and restaurants around Victoria to understand better what chefs require from wood-fired grills and ovens.

Elevated Grill

Moving away from the more common elevation grills seen through Spain and South America, where cooking and temperature control is limited due to the fixed cooking surface. This unit utilizes a large hearth with adjustable hanging levels to cook our produce at various temperatures and give a more precise flavour profile. That may be root vegetables directly on the coals or shellfish raised high from the heat cooking gently while taking on more smoke flavour.

The Food Forest

1-Arden, which own Kaarla, together with Christopher Leow of Edible Garden City, a social enterprise that designs, builds, and maintains edible gardens in Singapore, came up with the Food Forest.

Roof-top Garden/Farm

A place to educate on sustainability through carefully curated gardens, Chris is the Urban Farmer that created the multi-layer bio-diverse roof-top garden. Through regenerative farming and a closed loop approach, the sections include the Singapore Food Heritage Garden, The Wellness Garden, The Mediterranean Potager Garden, The Japanese Potager Garden, and The Australian Native Garden. Unfortunately the lightning warning was on during this visit, I could not really walk around the lush garden which provided the herbs and microgreens for the dinner.

Chef John-Paul Fiechtner

Australian-born John-Paul Fiechtner is a chef and restaurateur with over 25 years of modern cuisine experience, known for his deliciously inventive dishes, use of locally-sourced ingredients, and sustainable practices. He has travelled across four continents, and spent time immersing himself in the local flavours of Germany, France, Dubai, Columbia, Hong Kong, Beijing and Singapore.

Appetisers

We wanted to order oysters and a few more starters, Nigel, the friendly Manager in charged of the entire operations of the restaurants in CapitalSpring, warned us about the portion sizes, which according to him, Chef John-Paul can be quite generous.

So we settled for two starters to share and one more to go with the mains.

Seasonal Australian Crab

Fennel, Marjoram, Crab Miso

Seasonal Australian Crab

Mud crab meat from the OZ waterways is always a sweet catch with its unbelievable crustacean sweetness and umami. Dressed with a aioli made with its tomalley, the result was absolute deliciousness.

Fennel, Marjoram, Crab Miso

Kani miso (かにみそ) is a grey/green coloured paste, and usually you’ll get a good-sized spoonful or two from a single crab. And topped with open fire roasted fennel bulb, the appetiser was complete. Garden-harvested marjoram provided the garnish and minty fragrance.

Salt Cured Kangaroo 

And Condiments

Salt Cured Kangaroo 

The salad did not smell good. In fact, it smelled terrible, like sewage or food gone bad. That’s because of the house fermented sprouted black barley, an ancient grain from Western Australia.

Condiments from the garden

The rest of the salad included boiled beetroot, house cured capers, boiled banana stem, pickled red cabbage from the garden, and finger lime from WA. We totally forgot the attraction was cured kangaroo meat. Slightly acidic and very lean, salted kangaroo carpaccio was not exact good eat because it was very chewy and not much fats.

Mixed it like a salad

We were advised to mix it all up to have a more balanced taste. And in fact, that totally changed my initial impressions of this salad. Just like stinky tofu, fermented grains are an acquired taste. I was pretty sure it was good for you one way or another, but the smell was a real cut-off.

The Main Attraction

Nigel was quick to remind me not to order too much as everything on the menu was meant for sharing. The individual portion of steak was enough to be shared by two.

We order another appetiser as Princess loves beetroot and roasted potato for carbs. The steak came with a garden salad dressed with salsa verde.

Coal Roasted Beetroot

Davidson Plum Vinegar, Golden Trout Roe

The entire beetroot was roasted in the open fire to intensify the sweetness. The skin was peeled and the beetroot sliced and placed on a creamy sauce enhanced with the acidity of the Davidson plum vinegar. The beetroot was topped with a generous scoop of golden trout roe that burst with umami like ikura, and finished with fresh grated horseradish. Sweetness of the beetroot, balanced with acidity of the aioli, and the umami from the trout eggs all worked well together.

Davidson plums are native of Australia and are not used as a fresh fruit due to the intense fruit acid and low sugar content. The deep dark purple fruits contain a soft juicy pulp and the aroma is earthy, like fresh beetroot with slight pickled notes. 

Aged King Island Beef

Braised Onions, Garden Salsa Verde, Kampot Pepper 600G

Aged King Island Beef with Au Jus and Kampot Pepper sauce

King Island Beef is sourced exclusively from grass fed cattle raised without the use of hormones, antibiotics or GMO’s on the pristine grassland of King Island, Tasmania. The cattle graze on these pasture for their entire life to produce a lean and flavourful beef. The dry-aged cut was a beautiful ribeye on the bone grilled to medium rare on the open fire. The result was a tender and juicy piece of steak, and served with a wonderful sauce made from au jus and Kampot pepper from Cambodia. My favourited was the fat and meat combination on the side of the ribeye, the fat has been rendered perfectly by the fire, and the caramelised crust was sublime.

Braised Onions, Garden Salsa Verde

Served with a side of braised onion and garden salsa verde, the salad and herbs were gathered from the roof-top garden. The salsa verde was not spicy, and the herbs were perfect with the potatoes, which were a separate ala carte side.

Baby Potato

Koji Butter

Baby Potato with Toasted Quinoa

Two superfoods were used here – red quinoa and koji 糀 (wine lee from sake making). Koji butter was used to bump up the flavour of the roasted baby potatoes as a dressing. It could easily be mistaken as miso, but the flavour was simpler and cleaner. Just be careful to spread the koji evenly amongst the potatoes on you will get a salt shock.

A full plate

Take a bit of everything and you have a proper full plate of steak and potatoes with a couple of superfoods as vegetables. There’s enough food to be shared by 3-4 small eaters, and Princess and I were filled to the brim.

Dessert

But this being my birthday celebrations, we decided to indulge with desserts. One sweet and one bitter to balance the choices and mimic life.

Arden Grown Tigernut Ice Cream 

Single Origin Chocolate

Oabika Foam, Santarem 65% Sorbet, Cacao Nib Tuile, Micro Praline, Sherry-Soaked Muntries

Single Origin Chocolate

The entire dessert was made of chocolate in its multiple manifestations. Cacao Nib Tuile (cookies) are a dark chocolate lovers dream. Cocoa nib are seeds of the cocoa plant that are left to ferment, which modifies the bitterness, and their colour darkens. They are then roasted and separated from the husks as two halves of the seed known as cocoa nibs. The tuile was topped with a scoop of Santarem 65% cocoa sorbet (i.e. no milk or cream was added), and little choc chips which were elegantly referred to as mini pralines, bits of house grown and sherry-soaked berries called muntries, and Oabika foam made from a choc concentrate called Oabika (“Gold from the pod”). Bitterly good, but it’s still dark chocolate ice cream 😉

Arden Grown Tigernut Ice Cream 

Tigernut Nougatine, White Chitose Corn, Calamansi Jelly, Poached Oranges

Arden Grown Tigernut Ice Cream 

The tigernut is a tuber that has a sweet, almond-like flavour which was a food staple eaten in ancient Egypt. Since it’s rediscovery in 2013, this has been promoted as a superfood. I guess anything that was ancient is now considered super as there were less diet related diseases in the past. The tiger nut was grown in the garden and used in the ice cream and the tigernut nougatine (wafers). The calamansi jelly provided the tartness and the poached orange added another dimension of sweetness besides the ice cream. I did not taste the Chitose white corn, which was supposed to be very sweet as well.

Drinks

The Kaarla wine list features a broad selection of iconic Australian wines including natural and bio-dynamic labels, as well as a comprehensive variety of old-world wines. I had two by the glass, a 2019 Yering Station Estate Chardonnay (Yarra Valley, VIC), a rather forgettable choice, and a 2016 Brothers In Arms Shiraz (Margaret River, WA) that was deep purple in colour with raspberry coulis and plum fruits with a hint of vanilla on the nose. The palate was generous and mouth filling fruits of cherries and blackberries upfront, with firm yet fine velvety tannins providing great structure and length, paired perfectly with the steak.

But it was the non-alcoholic choices that attracted me. Non identifies as a zero-alcohol alternative to wine. A brainchild of ex-Noma chef William Wade and branding whiz Aaron Trotman, NON is built with similar production methods and flavour profiles to wine, offering sippers a beverage that’s just as deep and complex as the real thing. NON 5 Lemon Marmalade & Hibiscus tasted like dry herb, leaf and citron grasses with aromatic hops to create a balanced mouthfeel. NON 2 Caramelised Pear & Kombu tasted cinnamony and Princess called it braised pork belly. She decided to mix the two together to come up with a new blend.

Afterthoughts

I had to say the food was good, rustic Australian, nothing pretentious like the French fine-dining, nevertheless as enjoyable. The service was impeccable, and I was treated to a kitchen tour and saw first hand the custom open fire grills and oven.

Main Dining

However with all new restaurants, there’s always teething problems. The air-condition was central and CapitalSpring set the thermostat at 25˚C, which was too warm to have a proper meal especially with an open fire oven. The table was too small for communal dining and to flimsy for fine dining, so they need to think of their positioning more carefully. Thankfully these can be fixed rather easily. At least they have nailed the food and service down.

Kaarla Restaurant & Bar
88 Market St, #51-02, CapitaSpring 048948
Tel : +65 8518 3763

Visit in Apr 2022

1 comment on “Kaarla @ CapitaSpring

  1. Pingback: Oumi @ CapitaSpring – live2makan

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