Now under Chef Luke Armstrong, the European restaurant in Hong Kong Street is standing tall with a new a la carte menu and a recent Michelin star win
Chef Luke Armstrong sure had big shoes to fill. Having joined The Kitchen at Bacchanalia just six months ago, Chef Luke took the challenge of retaining the stellar status of the European restaurant along Hong Kong Street – a status that bagged one Michelin star from the launch of the Michelin Guide Singapore last year. Six months in, Chef Luke reeled in a repeat victory, and then some.
I could go on about how you must try The Kitchen at Bacchanalia simply because it earned a Michelin star yet again – but I don’t want to focus on that. I’d rather focus on how Chef Luke took The Kitchen at Bacchanalia under his wing – following the departure of former chef, Ivan Brehm – and turned the open-kitchen concept into his own. At just 30 years of age, Chef Luke is passionate and vigorous in his work, as diners watch him cook, inspect, plate and introduce dishes in plain sight – much like what you’d expect from a fuss-free home-cooked meal. The food, however, is anything but simple.
The complexity in Chef Luke’s dishes lie in how he manages to augment the pure essence of his ingredients – enhance, rather than complement with excess. Chef Luke also believes in seasonality in cooking; as such, you can expect the menu to change every three months or so. I had the privilege of tasting his current a la carte menu that introduces seven new dishes.
First up on my recommendations, Chef Luke’s duck foie gras (one of Chef Luke’s signature dishes), which might just be the most divine foie gras I’ve ever tasted. This rendition is neither cloying nor coarse, and has the creamy, delicate texture of pâté. Stuffed with truffle and glazed with Sauternes jelly, and topped with sweet Kyoho grapes, you get a sweet-savoury flavour that balances the gaminess one would expect from foie gras. On the menu, you’ll also find Chef Luke’s pineapple tomato – a firm, almost-meaty chunk of tomato layered with quinoa salad and elderflower cream, and served with a cold gazpacho consommé that’s absorbed by the tomato. As someone who doesn’t normally fancy tomatoes, I am a convert.
Another highlight from Chef Luke’s menu is the wild turbot, served with a small salad that he personally refers to as “vegetables from the sea”. Cooked lightly, the turbot retains a rainbow sheen that glistens; and even when served with a rich Manzanilla velouté derived from sherry, the meat and skin of the turbot remain firm and crisp respectively.
Steak lovers might prefer the dry-aged fillet of beef – Chef Luke uses a range of Australian Angus, English Red Ruby beef or Japanese wagyu, depending on availability. All are grass-fed and dry-aged for six weeks, and he drizzles each with a bone marrow and thyme jus that exudes the heady aroma of truffle. Each bite is rich, slightly fatty, and has a milky consistency from the sauce. True to the open-kitchen concept, Chef Luke even took a break from the kitchen to explain that the clean taste of the beef was ensured by the good life and slaughter of the cows, so you can rest assured you’re eating responsibly too.
At the end of the day, despite the temptation to have ornate presentation when one ventures into fine dining, Chef Luke shuns it. That said, the dishes you’ll find here are definitely aesthetically pleasing, but Chef Luke’s priority is 100% taste. If there’s one definitive dish that ticks both boxes, it’s his new dessert, the pistachio parfait. Using Sicilian pistachios that are roasted and marinated in raw alcohol for a month (to intensify the flavour), Chef Luke then grinds these into a paste and serves it with caramelised white chocolate cremeaux hidden inside a crispy, ring-shaped shell. This is topped off with marinated wild berries for a sweet finish. And yes, this finale is a looker.
With such respect for the ingredients he uses, while sporting an intrepid attitude in attempting complex techniques to bring out the best in them – even if these methods take years to perfect – Chef Luke Armstrong certainly has the makings of a visionary who’s set to take the culinary world by storm. Six months in, and a Michelin star under his belt? I say he’s off to a good start.
The Kitchen at Bacchanalia, 39 Hong Kong Street, Singapore 059678, p. 9179 4552. Open for lunch on Tue-Fri 12pm-2.30pm, dinner on Mon-Sat 6pm-10.30pm.