Whitegrass is first-time restaurant owner, Chef Sam Aisbett’s step into Asia, sitting quaintly in the historically rich and picturesque CHJIMES enclave. Known best for his work at some of the world’s most highly regarded restaurants under the tutelage of respected chefs including Tetsuya Wakuda at Tetsuya’s and Peter Gilmore at Quay, Chef Sam combines this pedigreed background, his instinct as a seasoned forager and his curiosity for Asian ingredients with a deeply personal culinary interpretation to create an unforgettable Modern Australian fine dining experience.
Whitegrass is fine dining without the stiff, formal and uptight vibe. Service is top notch yet casual, the interior is classy yet laid back and down-to-earth. The space, designed by Takeouchi Webb and contained within Caldwell House, is draped with hues of blue, pink and green comfortably seating up to 70 diners across three distinct rooms with an alfresco dining and bar area hosting an additional 24 diners.
A feature wall becomes the canvas for local artist, MessyMsxi, transforming Chef Sam’s culinary ethos and love for nature into a stunning mural. The artistic details permeate the rest of the dining experience in elegant Australian tree-inspired tabletop vases by Studio Asobi and German beech wooden spoons handcrafted by close friend and artist, Rodrigo Hernández, who also happened to come up with the Whitegrass name and logo.
Food and drink
The restaurant offers five (from S$170) and eight (from S$265) course degustation menus, drawing a delicate balance between native Australian produce and ambitious Asian ingredients. Creativity is only limited by imagination and Chef Aisbett has tonnes to spare, focusing on not just on flavour palates but also on tinier details of colour and a mesmerising array of textures.
Chef Sam’s Tetsuya-training is evident in the chawanmushi-inspired Alaskan king crab, which is bathed in a chilli consommé alongside steamed tofu and decorated with the naturally-gelatinous junsai or water shield from Japan. This is juxtaposed with the Sri Lankan mud crab which is piped and wrapped with seaweed and homemade XO sauce resembling a mini spring-roll and placed inside a golden crab, a cool find by Chef Sam in his explorations of Singapore.
The hugely popular Mangalica pork lives up to the hype from opening day; slow cooked and braised in salted chicken stock producing heavenly melt-in-mouth jowl cubes. Resting in a seaweed and pork broth poured from a teapot during serving, the dish is complemented by diced Jade Tiger abalone sourced from Victoria, fermented cabbage, a white turnip puree, fiddlehead ferns and hasu imo.
What stole the limelight for us however, was the layered composition of butter-poached quail breast, which seems indicative of Chef Aisbett’s willingness to not only embrace his new home and all its different food quirks but also experiment and be excited by the versatility.
He seems utterly fascinated by the egg – the yolk’s strong aroma, the texture of the egg white – and has a laundry list of plans to salt, freeze, pickle and dry them for research. Peel back dainty layers of lightly toasted milk skin to reveal the quail breast with a medley of toasted nuts and seeds, diced century egg whites, a black and white garlic puree and endive heart.
While we felt a bit overwhelmed by how many types of chocolate were used to create the decadent Black Gold log, we adored the the pre-dessert, a representation of Chef Sam’s time in Singapore. This was a construction of ginger sponge, mousse and ice-cream drawing on Asian influences by utilising tropical fruits like jackfruit, young coconut, longan and mangosteen.
Early Instagram posts on Chef Aisbett’s personal account had us anticipating Whitegrass before it opened. There’s been no shortage of visual stimulation and beautiful food temptation since. Now that we’ve had a chance to visit, we’re happy to report that looks aren’t everything.
We’re sure the Whitegrass brand will only continue to evolve with a non-conformist, experimental attitude. The creativity and interest in local influences is refreshing and we can’t wait to see what comes next.
Whitegrass, #01-26/27 Chijmes, 30 Victoria St, Singapore 187996, +65 6837 0402, whitegrass.com.sg
This post was originally published on Lifestyle Asia, Whitegrass: Unpretentious and creative fine-dining on 31st March, 2016.