Non-alcoholic beverage pairings shine in Singapore's top restaurants
The non-alcoholic beverage programme ($138 per person) at Chef Zor Tan’s contemporary restaurant includes in-house ferments and juices along with teas from China, Korea and Taiwan. Seasonal selections are inspired by Western and Chinese flavour combinations, as well as the same ingredients used in the dishes.
After savouring the variety of pickles and snacks, diners are served a refreshing, palate-cleansing Celery & Shiso made with sparkling soda, celery, shiso leaves, lemon zest, and a touch of Himalayan pink salt.
Jerusalem Artichoke “Fly” is one of the more unique fermented creations. Fly is originally a sweet potato beverage from South America. Here, the Jerusalem artichoke is naturally fermented with sugar and water and then pasteurised. Despite the concoction’s subtly pungent aroma, it is refreshing and complements the richness of Tan’s Jerusalem artichoke with crunchy lily bulbs and caviar.
On the tea front, diners can enjoy Milk Oolong from Anxi, Fujian, and the delicate Woojeon Green Tea from Jeju Island, Korea.
One-Michelin-starred Marguerite’s non- alcoholic temperance beverage programme ($88 per person) comprises clarified juices and fermented jun teas that reflect the same complexity and characteristics of wine. Chef-owner Michael Wilson conceptualises beverage pairings by first thinking about a dish, and takes inspiration from traditional wine pairings. He says, “We research the predominant flavour profiles of a wine that we think would pair well with a particular dish and find a corresponding fruit that would match before developing a temperance beverage around this.” Moreover, he examines ingredient pairings and what traditionally goes well together to create a perfect match between ingredients.
One such beverage is gala apples and verjuice (a highly acidic juice from unripe grapes, crab apples or other sour fruit) cooked with celeriac. With oak chips infused into the clarified juice, the drink resembles a lighter non-alcoholic version of chardonnay and is typically served with fish.
New Caledonian prawn tagliolini is served with a prawn bisque, dill oil and trout roe that the chef pairs in a way that doesn’t overpower these strong, rich flavours. The dish is matched with a robust jackfruit jun tea with a palate-cleansing effervescence. Green tea and honey are fermented for two weeks before being infused with sliced fresh jackfruit and fermented for another week.
Three-Michelin-starred Restaurant Zén is one of the earlier restaurants here to offer a non-alcoholic programme ($250 per person). Every time Chef Tristin Farmer’s dishes change, the inventive seasonal menu is adapted.
As General Manager and Beverage Director Aaron Jacobson designs new concoctions, he spends a few weeks developing them. He says: “If the idea turns out to be too complicated or the flavours are not exactly what I want, I go back to the drawing board or substitute the ingredients.”
The current beverage menu features seasonal ingredients such as peaches, nectarines and rose apples from New Zealand. The team ages the peaches for five days or until the texture is similar to warm ice cream. To emphasise its sweetness, it is juiced immediately, fermented, and then kept at a low temperature. A combination of peach juice and oxalis stems is then infused with pepper from Batak in North Sumatra and Sarawak to produce a more complex flavour.
For dine-in guests, Restaurant Zén will offer bottled non-alcoholic beverages starting Nov 1. They come in three styles: white, red and orange wines. As an example, the white contains fermented quince, apple, pear, and lemon along with toasted pecan and walnut water. Jacobson says: “After the initial fermentation for white wine, we do a second fermentation with yogurt whey and brown butter, which is meant to taste like a white burgundy.”