Restaurant review: Rosemead by Jigger & Pony Group brings modern Californian fine dining to the CBD

PHOTO: City Nomads

Once a starchy affair of white tablecloths and dress codes, Singapore’s fine dining scene has been letting its hair down in recent years. Eschewing elegant airs and an arsenal of silverware, fine dining is shifting towards a laidback, lively experience, backed by fun plays on flavour. And nowhere is this shift more evident than in the Jigger & Pony Group ‘s first foray into fine dining: Rosemead.

Billed as a mod-Californian fine-dining concept, Rosemead is housed on the sprawling first floor of a 1920s heritage building along Cecil Street – the former space of The Black Swan . With its warm wood and earthy tones, the 80-seater space has the cosiness of a country home, set off by weathered concrete pillars and a massive showpiece of an open-hearth kitchen. Stroll past the blazing fire overhung by golden-brown roasts, and you’ll feel the warmth from two metres away.

There’s a certain air of relaxed hospitality that breathes life into all the group’s concepts – Caffe Fernet and Gibson, to name a few – and it’s much in evidence at Rosemead too. When we headed down on a Wednesday evening, the place was loud and lively with chatter – a far cry from the discreet atmosphere typical to fine dining.

In this convivial backdrop, Executive Chef David Tang’s menu of comforting Californian fare shines. Named for his Los Angeles hometown, Rosemead plates up a slice of his flavour memories of California, while staying grounded in the Singapore context. That means drawing on plenty of local and regional produce – lettuce from BlueAcres Aquaponics, seafood from Crab Lovers Farm, cherry tomatoes from Malaysia’s Cameron Highlands – alongside seasonal gems from global producers.

Above all, his culinary ethos is all about being in tune with seasonality and peak freshness. Not only will the à la carte menu shift from season to season, a dish you have one day might be tweaked the next, depending on what’s in his pantry. It’s an approach that’ll keep your tastebuds on their toes each time you visit.

From the get-go, the housemade bread steals the show. A fluffy Japanese-style milk bread with a crisp crust, the House Rolls & Shiitake Cultured Butter ($19) prove worth the steep price, with its smoky mushroom-bacon glaze and its umami accompaniment of shiitake-infused whipped butter. It’s good enough to eat on its own – but sadly, we’re told it won’t be available for takeaway from Rosemead’s upcoming bakery counter.

Flavours here run big and bold, as the Chitose Farm Tomato ($24) proves. Tossed with lightly spicy ‘nduja sauce, basil, and crackling pork skin, these Cameron Highlands tomatoes burst in the mouth like sweet, juicy bombs. Just as bold is the Grassfed Wagyu Tartare ($52) with its marinade of smoky Thai spices and Kampot pepper, balanced nicely with lettuce leaf wraps.

For a more refreshing bite, opt for the Mangrove Crab Tartine ($33). These chunks of local crab come rolled sushi-style in avocado slices, then drizzled with yuzu vinaigrette. Each silky, tangy roll melts beautifully on the tongue.

There’s no doubt that meats are the main stars of Rosemead, cooked over orange and lychee wood embers in the open hearth. If you’re up for savouring black truffle season, dive right into the pure decadence that is the Slow-Cooked Kagoshima Short Rib ($85).

This small plate is big on flavour, with four ribs slow-braised for 48 hours to exquisite butteriness, then given a crusty finish over the open fire. Drenched in a rich bath of black truffle and bone marrow, the ribs come entirely blanketed with black truffle shavings. We suspect heaven smells a lot like this.

Another black truffle dish worth savouring is the Whole Roast Chicken ($80) – a butterflied chicken that’s been smoked, roasted, and carpeted in smoked leeks and winter black truffles. The result is meat that’s flavourful and moist all the way through – yes, even the often-avoided chicken breast.

The fish options are impressive too. Our Grilled Ora King Salmon ($68) offers flesh so moist and tender that it practically dissolves in flakes over our tongues, delivering a citrusy burst of chermoula and the sweetness of Chioggia beets. The wild-farmed Canary Island Seabass ($72) is just as succulent, and the buttery sauce of Ibérico ham and green peppercorns – finished with a bit of nutmeg for depth – had us fighting the urge to lick our plates.

Desserts are hit-and-miss – a trio of abstract creations ($18 each) that go heavy on meringue. The Sudachi Lime & White Chocolate is a pleasant but forgettable refresher of sudachi lime ice-cream and meringue crisps, while the Chitose Farm Strawberry & Heirloom Beetroot goes herbaceous with beetroot sorbet in a pool of vanilla crème fraîche. It’s the Burnt Honey Meringue & Malted Milk Chocolate that steals our hearts – a rich frangipane tart, jazzed up with five-spice powder and meringue-topped in a cheeky take on s’mores.

This is a Jigger & Pony concept, so it’s no surprise the tipples are solid. Whipped up by Bar Manager Davide Boncimino, the small cocktail menu features twists on classics like the Trigona Honey Bellini (S$28). Think Trigona honey puree from Johor, Japanese kumquat, VSOP calvados, and Jansz Premium Cuvée Sparkling Wine blending into a tangy, silky potion. There’s also a hefty wine list that turns the spotlight on Californian wines, curated by Principal Sommelier Marcus Tan.

Rosemead is located at 19 Cecil St, Singapore 049704, p. +65 9781 9084. Open Tues-Sun 6pm–10.30pm. Closed Mon.

This article was first published in City Nomads.

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