Wine bar RVLT proves it’s all grown up with a new anniversary menu
The four-year-old gastro bar still encourages passionate consumption of its expertly curated natural wines in a fun and boisterous setting, but its new menu shows just how serious bar food can be.
by Charmian Leong /
December 1, 2021
Natural wines tend to be thought of as the fun (or funky), purity-driven, maybe even slightly rebellious alternatives to conventional wines. So it follows that the bars that serve them usually conceptualise themselves around similar themes. RVLT, one of the first bars in Singapore to champion minimal intervention wines, is a classic example that eschews the highfalutin bells and whistles of an intimidating wine bar for approachability and — gasp — playfulness.
But what founders Alvin Gho and Ian Lim didn’t expect on RVLT’s four-year-journey was for all that perceived poshness they were avoiding in its atmosphere and bottles to end up in its plates. As the bar’s popularity grew, the pair knew they had to beef up its food offerings to satiate the country’s perpetually hungry citizens, so they brought Chef Sunny Leong on board two years ago to handle the chow. “We started a tasting menu last year which, to be honest, was not something we had in mind when we first started,” admits Lim. “But we want to show that we don’t need to live in the shadows of the wines just because we’re a wine bar.”
Based on what we sampled from its latest eight-plate tasting menu, “Four Ever RVLT”, we dare say it won’t easily be overshadowed even by actual restaurants. Chef Leong enjoys Asian ingredients, which explains menu staples like lobster tail pasta with house-made XO sauce, wagyu cured in shio koji (a fermented marinade made from malted Japanese rice) and honeycomb cookie with koji-fermented cream cheese and corn with truffles and seaweed.
There are new dishes that continue in this vein. The Goat Cheese Cream is a rich, moreish mess that uses crispy pieces of apam balik, french green beans, mixed herbs and local peas to add brightness (and reduce guilt). Don’t expect to eat this delicately. For those seeking even bolder flavours, there is the ‘Roos’ Tartare — dry-aged and cured kangaroo meat that’s been diced and served with ginger mustard, chives, shallots, and a ginger and scallion vinaigrette. A sous-vide egg yolk smoked with applewood chips removes any hint of gaminess.
The Smoked Parsnip Agnolotti uses fresh pasta as pockets for a light puree of smoked parsnip. Served with king oyster mushrooms, petit pois and blanched Chinese greens in a mascarpone and parmesan sauce, this, says Lim, will be positively magical paired with a BK Ovum Gruner Veltliner. A sizzling plate of cheesy baked corn came with all the gooey comforts of macaroni and cheese (which is what inspired the dish) without the macaroni, but makes up for the missing carbohydrates with a glossy koji bechamel sauce.
The lightest thing on the menu is probably the Frozen Coconut Donut, where a frozen espuma of coconut milk and cream sits on a coconut crisp and is topped with a surprising — but not unpleasant — dollop of caviar for a dessert that will refresh your palate enough for another round of bar bites.
Except these aren’t really bar bites, no matter how casual the setting. “Just like our wines and hospitality, Chef Sunny has been evolving his ideas and techniques, redefining and challenging the concept of bar food, and that has been an exciting development,” says Gho. This, in turn, explains RVLT’s evolving clientele. The bar’s first patrons were young locals looking to party with wine, says Lim, but the customers now are older, and include food enthusiasts and more wine-educated drinkers who don’t much care for natural wine’s “trendiness”. In other words, come for the funky wine, stay for the fancy food.