When the masterminds behind one of the best bars in the world (Jigger & Pony ranks ninth in the world’s top 50 and second in Asia’s top 50), people pay attention. On the Wednesday we arrived, just three weeks after opening, Rosemead was already teeming with a bustling crowd of industry folks, society ladies and creative personalities.
If Jigger & Pony Group were setting up their latest concept in a top-notch shophouse, hotel, or dining enclave, it might not seem so remarkable: just another one of those casual fine-dining establishments with an open kitchen, unfinished walls, copper accents and an extensive wine list. But here, context matters. Rosemead has taken over the sultry and glamorous bar and restaurant from the Black Swan, Lo & Behold Group, housed in a 1920s heritage building that once served as a bank. Jigger & Pony Group has big shoes to fill, literally. Working with his longtime design partner Hui Designs, he transformed the previously dark cavernous space into a warm and bright 80-seat dining room filled with neutral colors, soft furnishings and natural light streaming through the windows. . There’s also an open fireplace built right in the middle of the restaurant, which, thanks to a technical prowess, doesn’t raise the temperature of the room (but you can feel the heat if you stand directly in front of the kitchen). The transformation is night and day, and the backstory really makes the experience.
At the helm of the household is Asian-American chef David Tang, who grew up in Rosemead, Los Angeles. The restaurant is an ode to its roots. Like many of Singapore’s most interesting chefs today, he cut his culinary teeth working in Michelin-starred establishments, including the two-star Melissa in Santa Monica and the Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining Group in the United States. Before opening Rosemead with Jigger & Pony Group, he prepared neo-Italian food at Caffe Fernet. Here, he cooks above all, over an open fire and with deep respect for the products he uses, mostly local and sustainable.
It all sounds very stylish and trendy, but there’s no doubt that Chef Tang’s “modern Californian” dishes are bright and polished. We start with fresh canned entrees: grass-fed wagyu tartare seasoned with Cambodia’s precious Kampot pepper and Thai powder mix, served with raw lettuce leaves and flower petals to wrap the meat, Korean barbecue. Next comes a pared-back California maki with mangrove crab toast wrapped in sliced avocado. The fusion of fresh, ethnic flavors in these plates sets the stage for the rest of our dinner, which is truly an education in California cuisine.
With an open fire pit as the centerpiece of the restaurant, the “Cooked Over Orange & Lychee Wood Embers” section is, naturally, the highlight of the Rosemead menu. We have the stewed wagyu short ribs that fall apart in your mouth after being braised for 48 hours. It is covered with aromatic black truffle shavings and a rich bone marrow emulsion. It really is decadence served. There’s also a seasonal grilled fish (Ora King Salmon was on the menu) with ground chioggia beets and herbaceous citrus chermoula for a delicious riot of contrasting flavors and textures.
But what takes my breath away are the vegetables and grains, especially Chitose Farm tomatoes and basil with crackers, and the most exquisite rolls I have ever eaten. The first features a heap of juicy tomatoes that will invigorate you with its spicy dressing and sweet, crisp interiors paired with crispy pork skin. This glorious, fluffy milk bread, covered in a mushroom and smoked bacon glaze and served with shiitake-infused whipped butter, is courtesy of pastry chef Elena Pérez de Carrasco, who worked with Joël Robuchon and Jason Atherton in Europe, as well as in Singapore. restaurants like Iggy’s, Artemis Grill & Sky Bar and Preludio.
Its culinary pedigree is also found in the desserts, which are all real pieces of pastry. Strawberries and cream take on an earthy twist in a dish of plump Japanese-style strawberries from Chitose Farm, served with heirloom beet sorbet and a pool of vanilla creme fraiche. S’mores come to mind in the burnt honey and malted milk chocolate meringue pie that is a crowd pleaser and capped off our meal. With such good produce, it’s hard not to have high hopes for Rosemead’s soon-to-open bakery and take-out counter, which of course will be led by Chef Pérez de Carrasco.
For drinks, ask lead sommelier Marcus Tan (an Odette and Euphoria alum) to recommend California wines, which he hopes to have more of, in time. Otherwise, you will be spoiled for choice with the list of 170 labels which also includes European names. Or – pst – head upstairs to the revived Sugarhall when it reopens for your postprandial cocktails.
Mead19 Cecil Street, Singapore 049704