I’ll admit, I was pretty sceptical when I first heard that the newly-opened Preludio was following a monochrome theme, or ‘chapter’ as they called it, mixing ingredients and flavours not according to geographical region, but according to ‘Author’s cuisine’.
‘Oh no,’ I thought, ‘Another expensive, pretentious restaurant with tiny portions, that focuses on being insta-worthy over quality.’
I was so happy to be proven wrong, as executive chef and owner Fernando Arévalo and team delivered in all areas: taste, experience and indeed, insta-worthy dishes for those of you who snap before you eat.
Located on the third floor of Fraser Tower, Preludio’s space curves around the outdoor fountain and patio.
Walking in, we’re greeted by a statement bench from Colombia (where chef Fernando is from) that resembles a twisted rib cage. To the right is the bar, which seats 10 comfortably and where guests can enjoy a sip or two before being seated.
The dining area to the left is spacious, minimalist and intimate, with shades of brown, grey and cream - perfect for date nights. The origami centrepieces on each table were specially made to fit Preludio’s current theme, by local art studio Division HQ.
The first of our eight-course menu, named ‘Elude’ looked like a beautiful cloud against the black plate (all tableware was also custom made for Preludio). French white beetroot, chosen for its sweetness, is baked whole in a tray with olive oil, salt, pepper and water for 2.5 hours under moderate heat. It is then removed from the oven, peeled, sliced and marinated in olive oil, parsley stems and lemon juice.
Together with the Caseificio Artigiana burrata from Puglia, Italy, walnut crumble, Sturia caviar and dill-marinated cucumber, it is covered with yogurt foam. An interesting combination, that works with the sweetness and acidity of the beetroot and cucumber, the lightness of the yogurt foam and the saltiness of the caviar.
We did a double-take at the second dish, ‘Allude’, which is identical to the first - apart from the smell. We guessed the chef was messing with us (he confirmed we were right), but it was no less delicious than Elude.
While I’m not a fan of bone marrow, the veal marrow used was seasoned with thyme and lemon juice, its jelly-like texture blending well against the thickness of the smooth fragrant mushroom potato mousse, with acidity coming from the fermented black trumpet mushrooms and saltiness from Oscietra Sturia caviar. More savoury than the first course, this was my favourite of the two.
Resembling coral, ‘Autumn’ sees dehydrated jasmine rice deep-fried, decorated with coriander and viola flowers, set atop a bed of pickled organic lampascioni (i.e hyacinth) bulbs, French root vegetables, roast chanterelle mushrooms, smoked eel and a refreshing egg yolk emulsion made of mustard and yuzu.
Yet another dish with great textures and flavours, but the best dish came in the form of ‘La Cortina’, a truly indulgent dish that sees homemade pasta - agnolotti in this case - filled with rosemary marinated butternut squash, thyme, garlic, olive oil, honey and lemon juice.
The pillowy agnolotti was truly a treat; the touch of white wine to the parmesan sauce adds a slight kick, and the 25-year-old balsamic vinegar drizzled on top added a touch of sweetness, rather than pure acidity. Almond ‘snow’ was light and added another savoury touch to this highly addictive dish. Seriously, if this was a main all by itself I’d order it again and again.
The ‘White Opal’ was next, with smooth, fatty Patagonian toothfish coated with pulverized olives. We were told the fish was vacuumed in a brine of clear tom yam broth comprising of lemongrass, kaffir lime, chilli, basil, olive oil and salt, before being brined overnight for 24 hours and briefly sous vide, then finished off on the plancha skin-side down.
I’m not a fan of olives, and while I loved the clean flavour of the fish, the olives were a little too salty and overwhelming for me, but the cauliflower puree helped tamper down some of the saltiness. The fish is surrounded by bubbles of leek and almond - also very subtle - and a pickled almond which was very tangy, and not in an unpleasant manner.
The other contender for best dish came in the form of thick cuts of juicy Iberico pork shoulder, rubbed and marinated with garlic and a spice mix of cumin, cayenne, paprika, salt, pepper, brown sugar and lemon juice, before being roasted and covered in squid ink panko bread crumbs.
The shoulder was so tender, my knife slid through like butter. The juxtaposition of the black crust and the red meat inside was beautiful; together with the base of white apple and carrot puree and charred Italian Piennolo tomatoes it was both sweet, sour and savoury.
If all this sounds like a lot, pace yourselves, for Preludio treats you to not one, but three desserts. The first, ‘Irezumi,’ sees a quenelle of sea salt and black sesame ice cream on a bed of sesame snow, and yuzu white chocolate ganache, with French strawberries that have been marinated with simple syrup, lime juice and lime zest. A light and refreshing dish.
Paying tribute to pastry chef Elena’s Basque heritage is the pretty ‘Gorbea Mountain,’ where delicate milk foam crisps add crunch to the creamy yogurt ice cream, blueberry mousse and milk foam. Fresh blueberries, blackberries and Idiazabel cheese (made from unpasteurised goats milk) also feature in this multi-texture dessert, that isn’t overly sweet.
With our bellies close to bursting, the staff walked out with heavy-looking clay globes in hand. Placing them on the table, they were divided into three parts to reveal teh halia and whisky bon bons, vanilla chantilly choux and white truffle macarons. The little piece of candied ginger in the teh halia bon bon helped keep it from being too cloying, and the choux were airy and crisp, and not heavy at all.
Together with the eclectic selection of paired wines (and one sake) from a variety of regions, Preludio’s debut into Singapore’s dining scene has been a successful one. While the premise sounds stuffy, the experience is anything but - our table was filled with conversation and laughter; the nearby table was having a roaring time smashing their edible birthday pinata.
While the Monochrome chapter ends in February 2020 (note: dishes may change due to seasonal ingredients), we’re excited to see what comes next for this innovative restaurant.
Lunch is $55 for four courses, $98 for seven; dinner is $168 (additional $132++ for wine pairing) for six courses and $218 for eight courses (additional $158++ for wine pairing).
182 Cecil Street, Frasers Tower #03-01/02. Tel: 6904 5686