Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Lollapalooza Singapore: Lolla's big sister has more good food!


If you can't get enough of Lolla, you'll be glad she's got a big sister now. Lollapalooza (no relation to the annual music fest in Chicago; it means "something out of the ordinary") continues the practice of well-made food that is sophisticated but not pretentious.

The trio behind this - Thaddeus Yeo, Lee Chin Sin and Pang Hian Tee - are some of the most knowledgeable (and nicest) foodies around. They've parlayed their love for fabulous flavours to secret supper clubs and now successful restaurants. What a great way to share good food -- create some!

The difference is, Lollapalooza is bigger and more suited for communal dining, whereas Lolla is more about small bites.

Lollapalooza is housed cosily in a conservation shophouse at Keong Saik Road. It is decidedly urban with sleek Japanese and Scandinavian aesthetics. The neutral palette is pulled together using unstained birchwood, white Volaskas marble and polished copper accents. It's elegant but casual; there's no fussy formality.

Lollapalooza has an 8m long communal table where groups can sit and dine refectory style. Kind of like the long table in the basement of Lolla.

They have a wood-fired oven that burns applewood all day long. It's a magical place where food goes in and transforms into wickedly delicious things.

The other difference is, Lollapalooza has a daily changing menu, printed daily. Now that's got to have the chefs on their toes all the time, but it also frees them to create what works best from the produce that they have. The cuisine while largely European is "borderless" or "freestyle" as they like to call it.

It's a short menu with about 25 items. You might see some favourites popping back or a couple of dishes staying a few days.  

I love the whimsical geometric shapes. It's subtle but sweet.

But the food - I love so many things on the menu!

Flatbread with Asiago and Pancetta (S$18)
The bread has such amazing texture and smoky aromas from the wood-fired oven. Add to that the deliciously creamy melted cheese and cubes of grilled pancetta...oh heaven!

Dog Cockle Tartare (S$30)
I saw this and wondered for a half second if they meant canine or clam. Fortunately, it's just this insanely umami breed of clams that resemble Japanese akagai but are much more punchy in flavour (and crunchy too). Great marinade.

Burrata with Sundried Tomato Pesto and Apricots (S$36)
This was the dish I just could not stop eating. Stunningly juicy fresh apricots, sweet crunchy French almonds, that cold creamy burrata atop a zingy pesto. Textures and flavours all exploding together. #foodgasm

Tempura pumpkin flowers with parma ham and possibly stinging nettle pesto. This was not on the menu but an extra surprise. The flowers are stuffed with creamy cheese, an even better surprise.

Swiss Chard Braised in Lemon Cream (S$22)
I can see how this some folks might find this comforting, but swiss chard is too close to bok choy for me (not my thing). It was also a little bit on the salty side. I did love the incredible almonds though.

Roasted Lamb Hearts (S$18)
The grilled flavours were actually pretty good, but the dense bite and gamey hint just reminded me this used to be a live thumping heart. I gave up. Blame it on Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

Roasted Australian Wild-caught Scampi (Langoustine) with Seaweed Butter ($21)
Wow, how delicate the steamed flesh was. This being wild-caught, it had all the flavours of the sea amplified. Take your time, lick every morsel off the shell.

Paperbark Roasted Whole Sea Bass (S$56)
Another stunner. The paperbark is not only visually dramatic, it imparts a delicate smokiness to the fish. Seasoning is kept simple - just salt, pepper, garlic, maybe some herbs and that lemon - but this lets the fish's natural flavours take centrestage.

Chargrilled Secreto Iberico de Bellota (Served Pink; S$28)
This "secret" part comes from the shoulder blade of the pig. It's sweet, it's tender, and would probably make great char siew as well.

Duck Fat Potato Terrine (S$16)
Finely sliced and layered, these potatoes are first cooked in butter and then finished off with duck fat. Loved this. Better than rosti.

Purple Artichokes with Bagna Cauda (Anchovy Mayonnaise; S$20)
I always learn a few new things dining with the Lolla folks. Bagna cauda? It's from Northern Italy (Piedmont) and usually a sauce made with anchovies, garlic, butter and olive oil. The name means "hot bath" and it's sometimes served like a warm fondue-like dip for vegetables. The purple artichokes are quite a novelty - more tender than their green cousins but still not totally bereft of the occasional fibrous layer.

Corned Veal Tongue with Salsa Verde (S$45)
This could be an acquired taste (or perhaps a textural thing). It all depends on whether you like beef tongue, and corned beef. But it's definitely interesting to try. The corned tongue is really tender once you get past the slightly hard layer of skin. The way they serve it - whole and unsliced - sure makes an impact.

Tasmanian Leatherwood Honey Ice Cream (S$9)
They make their own ice creams here, unlike at Lolla. Rich, full-flavoured and sweet - should please most ice cream fans. Other flavours include salted peanut brittle, and matcha with white chocolate.

I'm eyeing the Truffled Brillat-Savarin with Oven-Roasted Grapes though. Brillat-Savarin is one of my favourite cheeses and hope they keep that often enough on the menu!

Summer Berry Galette (S$18)
OK, even if you don't like pastries, you gotta try this. It's the magic of the wood fire oven again. The crust, oh the crust...it's baked to hearty rustic perfection.

Head Chef Isaac Lee has done well keeping to the high expectations that the owners of Lolla are known for. Chef is formerly from Kaixo, Guy Savoy and Restaurant Martin Berasategui of Spain (three Michelin stars, and no.29 on San Pellegrino's World's 50 Best Restaurants 2011).

In terms of wines, they have 20 available by the glass or carafe, while another 120 are available by the bottle. See the sample wine menu here. One of the owners, Hian Tee, was recently inducted as a Chevalier of the Ordre des Coteaux de Champagne. He brings in grower-producer champagnes, and I still remember the Legras & Haas champagne pairing experience three years ago.

I can't wait to see what other dishes they will come up with. While many eateries are getting sophisticated, few can give you that wow experience.

LOLLAPALOOZA (website has instant confirmation bookings)
1A Keong Saik Road
Tel: +65 6221-3538
(they take reservations between 11am to 5pm, Mondays to Saturdays)
Email: info@lollapalooza.com.sg

Open Mon-Sat for
Lunch: 11.45am to 2pm
Dinner: 6pm to 11pm

Closed Sundays and PH but Sunday Brunch is coming soon!

Corkage: S$50 per 750ml bottle (still and sparkling wines)

There is no dress code.

Many thanks to Lollapalooza and team for the invitation and fabulous hospitality!


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