Our team goes undercover to suss out the latest and most talked about restaurants in town.
When Andrew Walsh calls Keong Saik his “hood”, he means it in all seriousness. He not only lives in the area, he spent over three and a half years spearheading Esquina and The Study. In that time, he’s forged ties with neighbours Joel Fraser of The Cufflink Club, and Camiel Weijenberg, who designed The Library Bar and RAW, Andre Chiang’s restaurant in Taiwan. With all that in place, he was au courant to finally open his own restaurant CURE, also in the same neighbourhood. CURE is derived from the Latin word curare, which means “to take care of”.
The entrance to the 1,350 sq ft bistro is a little unnerving with only a narrow entrance left from a large bar flanked on its side, but the clean architectural lines come without frills and there’s a charm in the slightly ramshackle nature of it all. The 40 seats are thankfully far more comfortable than the high stools at Esquina, giving you a cushy view of the narrow open kitchen.
Walsh always strikes me as someone with an unpredictable temper. I’ve seen him bark orders with hauteur on occasion and go on to charm guests with disarming smiles. But beneath the volatility of his moods, there is a certain air in the way he works behind the counters. He and his culinary brigade are perfectly in-sync, almost as if they’re engaged in a choreographed dance.
Dinner menus are fixed (three courses $75, four courses $95 and five courses $115) while bar snacks and lunch dishes are offered a la carte. They’re all rather splendid. It doesn’t mean much when Walsh says he cooks with seasonal ingredients (that’s a barometer all good chefs abide to) but his philosophy carries true weight when paired in the right combinations. That’s the true skill of Walsh, who brings together pairings like ricotta, buckwheat and asparagus with the same finesse that Beethoven composed the 9th Symphony. The ricotta is strained for six hours from Jersey milk and the asparagus is prepared in various ways – brunoise, thinly shaved ribbons and whole stalks – so every bite is different from the one before. Fried buckwheat lends toasty notes and the salty sharpness of aged Comte pulls it all together. Walsh’s clever play on textures is what keeps you excited throughout the meal. You’re constantly left wondering what inconceivable miscellany he’ll dream up next. In the meat course, he gently smokes quail while reserving the legs for a left-wing play on chicken kiev, stuffed in ricotta then breaded and deep-fried.
When we visited CURE in July, we were just in time to catch the harvest of scarlet strawberries and English peas so sweet, they were eaten raw with crisp-seared and cold-cured scallops. Another lunch visit in August rewarded us with seared striploin and mayonnaise made from Galway Bay oysters ($33); succulent pork loin from Dingley Dell in Suffolk with peaches and port wine ($30); and a fabulous pistachio-truffle ice cream ($14).
Fraser oversees the sharp drinks list as beverage advisor (Walsh returns the favour by conceptualising the food menu at Vasco, also owned by Fraser), curating a 110 label-strong wine list. An aperitif menu evokes classic European drinking rituals with libations like pink peppercorn Negroni while Champagne Henri Giraud Hommage is seen to be served by the glass –a first for any restaurant here.
Cure strives to be a forerunner in the bistronomy scene with its high level dishes that are served without ceremony, and is currently touted as the restaurant to watch in the ever-vibrant Keong Saik area. But it’s much more than that – it’s the place that will get you up from the gazing sidelines and going to over and over again. 21 Keong Saik Road. Tel: 6221 2189
Average dinner bill for two, with drinks: $250
Must-tries: House-made sourdough with bacon butter and pickled vegetables. Tasting menus are seasonal and change monthly.