So, in the middle of 2014, when I was changing jobs, and was about to sign a contract with one company, an old acquaintance asked me out for coffee. By the end of that coffee, she had offered me a job, and surprisingly, within a week, I had accepted.
I’ve always had a really varied resume, to put it mildly. I’ve been at different times, and sometimes concurrently, a journalist, photographer, magazine editor, illustrator, not-for-profit organisation administrator, arts administrator and civil servant, public relations and marketing consultant, F&B consultant, blogger… to name a few (too many). But now, for the first time, I’ve become a restaurateur. As of September last year, I stepped into the leadership role to restructure and reinvent a local restaurant and bar group.
The flagship brand in our group is Coriander Leaf, a 14 year old Asian restaurant and cooking school. I’m thrilled to let all of you know that as of Monday, 15 June 2015, we’re opening the doors to the new Coriander Leaf, a project that our founder, Chef Samia Ahad, our new management team (made up of some of the coolest and quirkiest people I’ve ever worked with) and I are all really proud of.
Since this is “my” restaurant, I am not going to tell you guys and gals how good the food is. I can’t because I am totally biased. What I can do is describe the project a bit.
Coriander Leaf started life at the Gallery Hotel. It moved a few years after it opened to Clarke Quay and remained there for a decade. Chef Samia’s menu was (and in many ways still is) devoted to showcasing her favourite dishes from across Asia, ranging from Turkey and Lebanon all the way across the continent to Japan and Indonesia. In addition to running a successful restaurant, Chef Samia ran a cooking school in which she taught passionate amateurs and also in which she ran her very popular corporate team buildings. She was so good at the latter that for the last half decade, she’s been conducting approximately 300 team buildings annually.
The new Coriander Leaf, located on the second floor of the building closest to Raffles City (look for El Mero Mero — we’re above it) in Chijmes, has a brand new style. It’s a very consciously contemporary design aesthetic that we feel is sophisticated without being stuffy. Our goal was to design a restaurant that would appeal to different demographics — young hipster foodies and older patrons alike. I could honestly ramble on about all of the interior finishings but by then, most of you would have stopped reading. So instead, I will just point out one design piece in particular that I love, which is a large wall in our main dining room on which we have reproduced a custom artwork that we commissioned respected contemporary painter Eric Chan to create for us. I absolutely love what he came up with, a large part of which you can see in the image below.
In addition to revamping Coriander Leaf’s look, my team and I have also given the menu an overhaul. Working with Chef Samia and our new Chef de Cuisine Iskander Latiff, we have dived deep into Asia’s culinary histories. Our menu now draws from the widest possible range of nationalities — Filipino, Turkish, Indian, Pakistani, Nepali, Korean, Malay, Vietnamese, Thai, Chinese, Japanese, and more. The result, we feel, is a truly regional menu that showcases the very best dishes, flavours, spices, sauces, cooking methods and ingredients from across our region.
We have also decided to serve our food in small (sharing) plates, not so much because we believe in following trends but because through the offering of smaller portions of our food, you will be able to try more things. We have also built and categorised our menu based not on geographical origin but on flavour profiles (specifically Fresh, Familiar, Spicy, Umami and Sweet). By doing this, we hope it helps customers define meals that have greater balance and that are bereft of preconceived biases towards or against certain countries’ cuisines.
Our main dining room can seat over 40 guests, at tables as well as at an ‘L’ shaped counter facing our open kitchen (pictured above). We also have a private dining room that can seat up to 24 diners. Our cooking school, in which we will continue the Coriander Leaf tradition of offering classes for passionate home cooks and team building programs for corporates, can also be converted into a private dining space for up to 50 guests.
I hope to see all of you at our establishment. Come let me and my colleagues know what works and what we can improve upon. Thank you (in advance) for your support.
#02-01 Chijmes, 30 Victoria Street
For a reservation, please click here. Thanks again!
All food photos in this post were taken by the wonderfully talented Dionna and Sean from Studio Oooze. I took the other shots.