Once a starchy affair of white tablecloths and dress codes, Singapore’s food scene has let loose in recent years. A far cry from elegant tunes and an arsenal of silverware, the gastronomy is moving towards a relaxed and lively experience, supported by fun games of flavors. And nowhere is this shift more evident than in the Jigger & Pony Group’s first foray into fine dining: Mead.
Considered a mod-California dining concept, the Rosemead is housed on the first floor of a 1920s heritage building along Cecil Street – the former space of The Black Swan. With its warm wood and earth tones, the 80-seat space has the comforts of a country house, highlighted by weathered concrete pillars and a massive centerpiece of an open-hearth kitchen. Walk past the blazing fire topped with golden roasts and you’ll feel the heat from two meters away.
There’s a certain air of laid-back hospitality that breathes life into all of the group’s concepts – Caffe Fernet and Gibson, to name but a few – and it’s very much present at Rosemead too. When we went down there on a Wednesday evening, the place was loud and buzzing with chatter – a far cry from the low-key atmosphere typical of fine dining.
Against this convivial backdrop, Executive Chef David Tang’s menu of California comfort food shines. Named after his hometown of Los Angeles, Rosemead cooks up a slice of his memories of flavors from California, while remaining grounded in the context of Singapore. That means taking advantage of plenty of local and regional produce – lettuce from BlueAcres Aquaponics, seafood from Crab Lovers Farm, cherry tomatoes from the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia – alongside seasonal gems from global growers.
Above all, his culinary philosophy is to be in tune with seasonality and maximum freshness. Not only will the a la carte menu change from season to season, but a dish you have one day may change the next, depending on what’s in your pantry. It’s an approach that will keep your taste buds awake at every visit.
Right off the bat, the homemade bread steals the show. A fluffy, Japanese-style pudding with a crispy crust, the House Rolls & Shiitake Cultured Butter ($19) is worth the hefty price tag, with its smoky mushroom glaze and shiitake-infused whipped butter umami side dish. It’s good enough to eat on its own – but unfortunately we’re told it won’t be available to take away at the upcoming Rosemead bakery counter.
The flavors here are big and bold, as the Chitose Farm Tomato ($24) proves. Accompanied by lightly spiced ‘nduja sauce, basil and crispy pork skin, these Cameron Highland tomatoes burst in the mouth like sweet and juicy bombs. Equally daring is the Grassfed Wagyu Tartare ($52) with its marinade of smoky Thai spices and Kampot pepper, well balanced with lettuce leaves.
For a more refreshing bite, go for the Mangrove Crab Toast ($33). These pieces of local crab are rolled sushi-style in slices of avocado, then drizzled with a yuzu vinaigrette. Each silky, tart roll melts beautifully on the tongue.
There is no doubt that the meats are the main stars of Rosemead, cooked over embers of orangewood and lychee in the open fire. If you’re ready to savor black truffle season, dive straight into the pure decadence that is the Slow-Cooked Kagoshima Short Rib ($85).
This little plate is loaded with flavor, with four ribs slowly braised for 48 hours to an exquisite buttery finish, then a crispy finish over the open fire. Soaked in a rich black truffle and bone marrow bath, the ribs are completely covered in black truffle shavings. We suspect Heaven smells a lot like that.
Another black truffle dish worth savoring is the Whole Roast Chicken ($80) – a butterfly chicken that has been smoked, roasted, and lined with smoked leeks and black winter truffles. The result is flavorful, chewy meat through and through – yes, even the oft-avoided chicken breast.
The fish options are also impressive. Our Ora King Grilled Salmon ($68) offers flesh so moist and tender it practically dissolves into flakes on our tongues, delivering a citrus burst of chermoula and the sweetness of Chioggia beets. The wild-farmed Canary Island sea bass ($72) is equally scrumptious, and the Iberian ham and green peppercorn butter sauce—finished with a little nutmeg for depth—had us fighting the urge to lick our plates.
The desserts are hit and miss – a trio of abstract creations ($18 each) that feature meringue prominently. Sudachi Lime & White Chocolate is a pleasant but forgettable refreshment of lime sudachi ice cream and meringue chips, while Chitose Farm Strawberry & Heirloom Beetroot gets grassy with beetroot sorbet in a pool of vanilla creme fraiche . It’s the burnt honey meringue and malted milk chocolate that steals our hearts – a rich frangipane tart, enhanced with five-spice powder and covered in meringue in a cheeky take on s’mores.
This is a Jigger & Pony concept, so it’s no surprise that the tips are strong. Curated by bar manager Davide Boncimino, the small cocktail menu offers variations on classics like the Trigona Honey Bellini (S$28). Think Trigona honey puree from Johor, Japanese kumquat, Calvados VSOP and Jansz Premium Cuvée sparkling wine blending together in a tangy, silky potion. There’s also an extensive wine list featuring California wines, curated by Senior Sommelier Marcus Tan.
Mead is located at 19 Cecil St, Singapore 049704, p. +65 9781 9084. Open Tuesday to Sunday from 6 p.m. to 10.30 p.m. Closed Mon.
This article was first published in City Nomads.