It’s always nice to see, in these tough economic times, people you admire taking risks. In the cases of Chef Travis Masiero and Keith Loh, that would be opening two of Singapore’s newest and coolest restaurants.
I’m a big fan of Travis’ food. Have been ever since my first visit to Wine Garage, where he used to be both Exec Chef and GM. I especially like Travis’ unwavering commitment to using the very best produce — even if that means convincing his suppliers to grow things just for him. The Wine Garage burger is, in my opinion, one of the best found in Singapore; I was also a regular customer for the brunch — again, one of the best (a la carte options) in town.
A couple of weeks ago, Travis opened his own restaurant, an ambitious restaurant cum bar cum barkery that is open 7 days a week from morning til night (yup, they actually serve breakfast, lunch and dinner). My always hungry wife S, an even hungrier friend M, and I went to check Spruce out for lunch last week. It’s very centrally located on Tanglin Road, near the Embassy of Brunei (near Margaret Drive). Travis has taken over some old run-down buildings and created a lovely, rustic-chic hideaway akin to the PS Cafe at Dempsey Road. The mid-Century furnishings work well with the wood floors, the barn-like ceilings, and modern light fixtures.
The food, as you would expect from Travis, is simple, solid and satisfying. It’s a mix of New American standards, simple pastas and some lovely dishes designed to be shared. During our meal, we tried a variety of yummy items, including Travis’ kurobuta pork ravioli, his signature burger, a fantastic grilled squid and rocket salad, the fish and chips, and onion confit rolled in a crepe, among other items (yes, we over-ordered as usual). The food was really nice. I especially liked that you could taste the fresh ingredients in the food. We also really enjoyed the homemade mint lemonade and the ice teas.
Right now, Spruce is a nice alternative to the overcrowded Dempsey Road area. But that’s also because not that many people know about it yet (although during our lunch we saw at least 4 other local restaurateurs). And hopefully, even when it does get packed, Travis will be able to maintain his already very high standards.
I was looking forward to going to Bedrock, Keith Loh’s new restaurant, for several reasons. First, I was excited to try the food. Over the years, Keith, who owns Aerin’s at Raffles City and started Whitebait & Kale at Camden, has become a stronger and stronger player in the F&B scene here. Secondly, he hired one of my favourite NY-based design firms, AvroKo, to design the restaurant. Within days of its opening, friends had already been emailing me that it was the cool, sexy, dark and intimate New York-style restaurant we’ve always complained that Singapore was lacking.
S and I, with two friends, decided to check it out for dinner. Upon arrival, Keith stopped us and wouldn’t seat us in the main dining room until we had sampled a few of his signature cocktails. One of my colleagues had raved to me about his Bloody Marys, but I’m not a tomato juice person. I opted for a Whiskey Sour instead, which was excellent. S had a Moscow Mule, which was even better. The secret? Keith makes his own ginger beer for this deliciously spicy and somewhat naughty classic cocktail. While sipping our drinks, we also noticed that Keith was stopping every customer that entered, making them “pay toll” by ordering a drink. And here we had thought we were special (totally kidding).
Bedrock is a steak house. Its design is somewhere between a mafia-den and an ultra-swanky Dan Ryan’s. Now, that might not sound like a compliment, but truly, I really liked the look and I can’t think of another way to describe it (I guess y’all just need to go). It had that dark sexiness that makes some restaurants perfect places to take her royal hotness and ply her with martinis and bloody meats.
The food is good. I think it has the potential to be great, and some dishes were (the truffled mac & cheese was sensational), but right now, I’d have to say it serves well-conceived, good food. I started my meal with a seared scallop and chorizo salad. The combination of flavours worked very well — salty and sweet with the greens giving just the right amount of bitterness. I then had a pepper steak, at the recommendation of Keith. Unfortunately, while the steak was very good, I didn’t like the sauce at all. It was way too peppery for me — which I know is kind of silly too say considering it was a pepper steak, but the sauce was closer to a pepper crab sauce than it was to other pepper steak sauces I’ve had in steakhouses overseas. The fries also could have been better. I suspect they were refried right before service. But the creamed spinach was delicious and (as I said) the truffled mac & cheese will have me returning over and over again.
In all, we were very impressed and had a great time. Bedrock is definitely the kind of restaurant we needed in Singapore and I take my hat off to Keith for having the cajones to open in today’s economic climate. Please support him and Travis as well. In times like these, we need to rally around the guys who are doing the right thing, and doing it well.
Spruce restaurant bar bakery
320 Tanglin Road, Phoenix Park
t: 6836 5528
Bedrock Bar & Grill
#01-05 Pan Pacific Serviced Suites
96 Somerset Road
t: 6238 0054