For the longest time, Mexican cuisine in Singapore was limited to mostly the low-hanging fruit of Tex-Mex cuisine — copious amounts of melty cheese, loaded nachos, and fajitas. As our foodways started getting more diverse, so have the options. With El Mero Mero’s new menu, one finds some manner of authenticity with plenty of contemporary touches. While they’ve got the usual crowd-pleasers — like extremely good fish tacos made with patagonian toothfish and flour tortillas — it’s the chance to try traditional Mexican flavours; and the use of hard-to-find indeginous ingredients that make the place truly shine.
You’ll find huitlacoche, a parasitic corn fungus that’s a delicacy in Mexico. Said to taste like savoury, earthy mushrooms, the fungus gets turned into doughnuts here; and served alongside grilled baby corn and chilli mayo in a dish inspired by elotes. There’s also a take on aguachile (literally: “chilli water”), the Mexican version of ceviche where hot peppers are traditionally pounded with water to create the base for a raw seafood marinade. El Mero Mero takes this version up a notch, with hamachi, hibiscus flower-infused coconut milk, avocado puree, and trout roe — all served in a halved fresh coconut. Sometimes, the dishes get a dose of cross-cultural inspiration, like pan seared foie gras cut through with sweet vanilla-pineapple puree and pico de gallo; and plated with chicharron, and miso-tinged black beans for a dish that jumps between three continents.
They’ve also got quite an expansive drinks programme that has everything: a bit of theatre, a respectable bit of wine, many agave spirits, and even a bit of haute with a couple of bottles from the hyper-progressive guys at Empirical Spirits. Try the eponymous El Mero Mero, a mezcal and orange-based tipple that they turn into a frozen margarita tableside with liquid nitrogen.
Modern Korean restaurant Kimme has been around for some time now, but they’re really coming into the “Korean” part with their new menu, led by head chef Louis Han. Like much of Korean cuisine, umami, sweetness, acidity, and comforting flavours play a large part at Kimme. To mark their provenance there’s homemade white kimchi — historically made without chilli flakes as the spice was only introduced to the country in the 17th century — mdae with chef’s grandmother’s recipe, and served unadorned; although almost everything else of the menu has some sort of innovation going on.
Snacks on their a la carte menu are particularly well put-together, with bite-sized constructions like meltingly-soft beef rib and fermented cabbage sitting on a prawn cracker; as well as a flavour bomb of seaweed seasoned rice or gimgaru jumeokbap, and uni perched on a seaweed crisp. Other highlights include a signature: an endlessly moreish capellini tossed with homemade XO sauce and king prawns. Han’s also taken beef rossini — basically classic French decadence — and given it some Korean levity. Angus beef and foie gras are tightly swaddled in fermented sweet potato leaves, which give some tang and funk to cut through the richness.
Dessert though, is where Han’s ideas truly shine. There is mille-feuille, but with white chocolate, jujubes (also known as red dates) and actual dates that give the whole affair a caramelly, fruity richness. The dessert is topped with truffle “snow” that adds a welcome layer of intrigue. Han also personally carts back bottles of Korean liquors that you’ll be hard-pressed to fine elsewhere in Singapore: from herbal decoctions of flowers, evergreens, and citrus; to a spirit that’s fermented in bamboo.
You’d think that sticking to a strict “monochrome” plates limitation would already take enough effort, but the guys at Preludio are going one step (or about 6 months) further by bringing their menu from Autumn into Summer.
Favourites from the previous iteration have remained on the menu: a squash agnolotti with parmesan sauce and 25-year-aged balsamic vinegar; as well as Iberian pork presa with charred Piennolo tomatoes.
Just the Autumn’s menu, surprises abound for Summer. There is foie gras, prepared like a torchon before being dressed with a flurry of sweet, aromatic accoutrements: a coffee kombucha glaze, passionfruit spheres, smoked, olive oil powder, mead, and in a rarefied stroke, popping candy. The lattermost works like a charm — with its sweetness, crunch, and tiny, sharp explosions all playing off the rich goose liver. Other highlights include poached halibut, served in a prawn-and-chorizo broth, and topped with shaved fresh nuts, and tiny droplets of white chocolate for a mild, non-lactic creaminess.
Just as how the savouries took cues from what are traditionally dessert ingredients, then desserts at Preludio’s new menu also returned the favour in kind. There’s a very good strawberry (summer!) milkshake-inspired sweet; but also something inspired by the Italian town of Alba — which is famous for truffles, and being the home of the ferrero factory. Guinness sponge is layered with dark stone fruits, caramelized hazelnuts, chocolate, black truffle shavings, and a warm white chocolate, white truffle foam that leans towards savoury.