17th October 2013.
Written by Liang Wei, Photographs & Illustrations by Xin Li.
Tucked away at 10 Winstedt Road in the compounds of the former Monk's Hill Secondary School, a secondary school that was established in 1960 and lasted till 2007 when it merged with Balestier Hill Secondary School. Further down, parts of the new building of Monk's Hill Secondary School has been demolished for the Anglo-Chinese School (Junior). Skyve itself is located within the old canteen of Monk's Hill Secondary School's old complex which was formerly occupied by District 10.
Skyve is a modern European bistro and bar that offers a quick getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city centre. The eatery is divided into an al fresco area and an indoor area, the latter being further divided into the bar and space for dining. The dining area is dark-walled and has relatively warm lighting, lending a fairly intimate atmosphere suitable for chilling out and wedding dinners.
Thoughtful design was evident right from the start of the dining experience. When we settled at the table, we were quite amused by the placemats, which had lots of tongue-in-cheek musings on food and school life (as it was part of the design concept of Skyve to preserve the identity of the site as a former school canteen). The rest of the space, however, was fairly ordinary furniture and simple geometric motifs on the walls and partitions...which means : the focus is on the food.
The menu at Skyve has been refreshed following the appointment of the Californian Le Cordon Bleu-trained Chef Jachin Tan who was formerly the sous chef of Hummsertons and worked in the kitchens of United States and Australia before his return to Singapore.
We started with a warm onion roll that was absolutely delicious, soft and fluffy on the inside with a crisp crust that yielded easily to our fingers. The aroma of the onions was not too overwhelming and I could taste the roasty sweetness of the onion. It would have been better if the accompanying butter had some salt to lift the flavour of the onion just a bit more.
The first starter was a trio of oysters (from left to right) : Dressed Chilean (serrano, cilantro, lime juice and red wine vinegar), Mentaiyaki (mentaiko, ebiko, lemon juice, aioli) and Kilpatrick (lardon of bacon, Worchestershire sauce, chives) and the oysters were sourced from Coffin Bay, Australia. I liked the Chilean dressing for the light flavours while Xin Li preferred the Mentaiyaki. I did not like the Mentaiyaki because the juices were infused with very herbal flavours that again did not do much justice to the oyster. We both agreed that the Kilpatrick was a little too rich and, with the amount of bacon being greater than the oyster flesh, the bacon stole the limelight from the oyster and really overpowered the latter with its meatiness and grease.
The next starter to reach was the Petuna and Ume Somen. Our host, Sasha, explained to us that petuna was a type of fish quite similar to but a catch more premium than salmon. Both Xin Li and I liked the seared petuna coming off in perfect chunks and having the right degree of done-ness i.e. not too rare but not overcooked, either. The petuna did not have much of the oiliness that one could get with salmon but that is just one minor quibble a big fan of oily fish (in other words, me) can have with such wonderfully executed fish. I did not quite like the somen because it seemed to be a little undercooked or had been cold for too long.
To round up the starters, we had the Skyve Beef Tartare. I thought that the meat was well-minced and deliciously perfused with the bright yellow and creamy goodness of the truffle egg yolk and the lightly spiced flavours from the compliments of cilantro dust, ancho chilli aioli and thyme sea salt. Together, the mix went well with the flatbread. (But, in all honesty, I could have the truffle egg yolk alone over and over again because the amorphous yolk was just so perfectly infused with the aroma and flavour of the truffles!)
The Polenta Mushroom Stack was a hearty vegetarian dish with two moist and substantive polenta cakes packing a grilled portobello, complimented with mushroom fricassee, pesto and vegetables (with a notable roast zucchini thins). The portobello mushroom was juicy and earthy in flavour and the other vegetables were prepared sous vide and served tender and flavourful.
The Sous Vide Poulet was a tasty leg of chicken glazed with an apricot sauce and came with baby vegetables and potato mash. I liked the caramelised chicken skin together with the bits of candied pecans that were in the dish, which produced a lovely amalgamation coming from the fruity sweetness of the glaze, the robust pecan flavour and the aroma of the chicken oil. The meat was tender and lightly perfumed by herbs.
The third main course we sampled was the Spicy Kalbi Beef Short Ribs, whose glaze had a nice spicy kick redolent of its Korean counterpart. The flesh was flavourful and came off the bone easily and its appearance reminded me a little of the coffee ribs at kopitiam zhi-char stalls. We were also enraptured by the crispy root vegetable ribbons that were perfect for munching and would have gone well with a beer (Unfortunately, due to the intense labour needed to make the ribbons, they cannot offer it as pub grub. Sad!).
Moving on the dessert courses, we dug into the Mango and Cheese Semifreddo and the Snicker Bar. The semifreddo was a nice icy treat with a good dose of cheese. The choice of sablee cookies as the base also made it fairly unique in that the dessert had a strong buttery taste in addition to the creaminess of the frozen mousse. I prefer less creamy concoctions and even the frozen lime foam did little to cut through the cloying cream.
A much stronger dessert was the Snicker Bar, a sneaky deconstruction of the famous confectionery that appeared 'kueh lapis'-esque with layers of salted caramel pudding, peanut butter, rich chocolate ganache and feuilletine, topped with flambed bananas and vanilla gelato. We liked how the distinct layers melded into the familar taste of Snickers with new textures introduced by the smooth peanut butter and slightly coarse and crumbly feuilletine.
I also had a pretty good shot of Australian Vittoria espresso that came close to what I remembered of Monmouth in London while Xin Li enjoyed his cappuccino.
Many thanks to Sok Yi from Food News for the invitation as well as Shasha and Cyndiana for the enthusiastic hosting.
10 Winstedt Road