That music. The menu. And that incredibly tempting drinks trolley. It’s heady vibes at hot new dining spot The Ottomani, and we’re hooked.
Straight up: this is one of the standout meals I’ve enjoyed in Singapore this year. The dining space tucked behind Tanjong Pagar fave Fat Prince has evolved into a jewel box of a restaurant, The Ottomani – serving a mod take on Middle Eastern cuisine. Head chef Nic Philips hails from The Gold Coast – another Aussie who’s set to make an impact on Singapore’s food scene. He’s been in Bali and Thailand for the past few years and did a stint in London before taking on The Ottomani. It’s still early days here, and we can’t imagine what he’ll do when he’s in full swing…
Billed as Singapore’s sexiest supper club, the space is all low-key lighting and luxe leather sofas. Peggy Lee’s ‘Fever’ throngs in the background. There are glints of light bouncing off the chrome and crystal from the drinks trolley; head bartender Tomas will glide over to your table to mix you a white negroni served with a cloud of smoke, or a pineapple-spiked mojito to help you settle in.
You get the vibe.
We all know it’s poor strategy to indulge in too much bread when there’s a full-on feast rolling in, but this is where I always fall down. And forgive me for going all foodgasm over a condiment, but the smoked date butter that arrives with The Ottomani’s walnut loaf is mind blowing. Apparently everyone’s a little obsessed and begging for the stuff to be bottled. I’d join that queue.
The menu is seasonal, so expect Nic to keep mixing things up. But this is what you need to know: he’s perfected a play in contrasts: silky scallop and delicate fronds are coupled with crisp buckwheat seeds; the crunch of salmon skin comes with a juicy pop of roe; his twist on spanakopita nails the shatter of whisper-thin pastry against light-as-air smoky cheese and fresh kale.
The star of the night? The Sticky Pork Belly with a rub of Turkish Coffee, Palm Sugar and Szechuan Pepper. It’s marinated for 24 hours before being gently cooked in a wood-fired earth pit for another 24 hours. The depth of the coffee is brought to life with the brightness of the Szechuan pepper; cut through the addictive crust of burnt sugar and you’ll find a tenderness that’s proof this dish is absolutely worth those two days of effort.
It’s all so beautiful to look at before demolishing by lamplight. And it’s incredibly subtle, but the presence of fire and smoke curls its way through the restaurant in an elegant, playful way: from that first negroni, to charred vegetables served with a smoked mussel sauce (pictured at top) and that brilliant pork belly cooked over embers. Even the standout dessert, Rose Mahlabi Espuma, is hand-whipped at your table by Chef Nic, and emerges from a cloud of liquid nitrogen with an almost popcorn-like texture.
The Ottomani serves up a sublime, sensual feast. I’ll say it again: this is one of the memorable meals you’ll have in this city. I’ve already lined up my next visit.
www.theottomani.com; 48 Peck Seah Street, Singapore 079317, p: 9231 9316
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