The Garage at Cluny Park Road (Botanic Gardens) used to be an actual garage for professors a long time ago, hence its name. Now it’s a bunch of restaurants under the 1 Group that also runs Alkaff Mansion and, of course, 1 Altitude. On the second floor of The Garage, you’ll find Botanico, a semi-fine dining restaurant that serves contemporary European cuisine with Asian flavours. Yes, it’s fusion food, which can be a hit or miss — but one thing we’re certain — Chef Sujatha Asokan is a delight; she’s charismatic, personable and exudes realness, and that makes her food all the more enjoyable. A new menu was recently introduced and here are the highlights.
“Choice of: Kurobuta Pork Belly or Beef Tongue
Served with jicama slaw, toasted rice, ginger flower, baby bok choy and cashew cream.”
This “taco” was an interesting start to our meal; it arrives deconstructed, and you build it yourself with your hands. The bok choy serves as the shell, which you layer with the cashew cream (this was light), slaw and beef. The beef tongue itself was surprisingly tender and very tasty; like a barbecued beef sausage, but slightly more complex.
CORN PANIPURI (3PCS) $10
“Puffed little pillows of Puri encasing curried Japanese corn espuma and spiced baby corn.”
Above: Corn Panipuri
My favourite dish right until the end of the meal — this was absolutely delicious from the first bite. It is an instant explosion of curry spices and flavours in the mouth; the crispy puff pastry shell is juxtaposed perfectly with the foamy filling — it’s airy, light and bursting with delightful flavours. You’re meant to pop the entire ball in the mouth and eat it immediately when it arrives so the puff stays crispy. While I would’ve loved to follow the PR’s instructions and do exactly that, I couldn’t; I had to break it up and eat it in smaller bites. But who cares… it’s yummy either way. I would return just for this appetiser and order the whole plate of three balls for myself.
Above: an actual corn inside the ball
“Modern interpretation of the local rojak – seasonal vegetables and fruits, kohlrabi, ginger flower, prawn aioli, prawn cracker, tau-pok and peanuts, complemented with shrimp paste foam.”
The ingredients for this dish depends on what’s fresh that day. What’s standard is the kohlrabi, tau-pok and cracker. During this tasting, we had guava, buah long long and caramelised pineapples. There’s also shredded green mango and papaya.
The rojak sauce is less pungent than the standard fare we get at hawker centres, and the sweetness comes completely from the ingredients with no sugar added. The cracker and pineapple were my favourites.
WING BEAN SALAD $15
“Fresh winged beans, onions and eggs, with fish sauce, palm sugar, birds eye chilli, lime aioli and chickpea tofu.”
Above: Wing Bean Salad
This was a staff meal that the staff loved so much, they convinced the chef to include it in the menu. It’s impressive that the winged beans are cut so thin, and the belacan and lime aioli flavours certainly stand out. It was a refreshing salad, but not my first choice of appetiser.
“HERBAL CHICKEN” $29
“Chef’s take on herbal chicken – Sous-vide chicken breast, served with “chicken rice” couscous, kale, pickles, comte and angelica-infused sauce.”
Above: “Herbal Chicken”
This is chicken breast meat that’s actually tender. On its own, the meat is quite plain, which is why there’s a sauce and a side of deep fried kale that adds crunch and a bit of a char flavour. I’m not a fan of couscous and this “chicken rice” version didn’t change my mind — I’m still not a fan of it. NYLON’s Deputy Editor, Amelia loved it though. She says that couscous usually tastes quite healthy (meaning bland), but this one was flavourful, and it was also softer in texture, which she says was nice, as some couscous can be hard and hence hard to chew.
Above: Close-up of the chicken breast meat
“ASSAM PEDAS” SNAPPER $32
“Grilled on a banana leaf, our snapper is complemented with saffron risotto, okra 2-ways, assam pedas and ginger flower.”
The fish was a delight on its own; crispy, perfectly salted and fresh. The assam sauce had a strong aroma that not everyone will appreciate (fermented), but when it hits the tongue, it’s surprisingly light and tangy. As for the deep fried okra, it’s less slimy than usual.
Above: close-up of the snapper
65° KUROBUTA PORK BELLY $30
“Slow-cooked Kurobuta pork belly served with textures of sunchoke, leek flowers and house-made soy-vinegar infused with Szechuan peppercorns.”
Above: kurobuta pork belly
A lot of people will like this one. The pork was tasty and tender, and the sauce went well with it, but I’d recommend to go light on the sauce because like most of the dishes here, the flavour is strong and a little goes a long way.
CRAB RISSONI $32
“Rissoni cooked with nori, served with a mixture of Japanese deep-sea red crab and blue swimmer crab’s meat, complemented with octopus bottarga and comte.”
Above: crab rissoni
I didn’t eat this, but Amelia said “it’s nice”. She says that the pasta is quite unusual; the texture resembles grains, and is almost flavourful like a seafood bisque. The cream also cuts through the richness of the dish.
“Black glutinous rice mochi cake topped with toasted rice ice cream and compressed coconut on a bed of BGR foam.”
Above: “BGR” (Black Glutinous rice)
Most desserts are sweet but this one was mildly salty, but mostly neutral in taste. Unless you’re a fan of black glutinous rice, I’d recommend choosing something else or sharing this if you really want to try it, as it can get filling very fast.
ONDEH ONDEH $12
“Chef’s interpretation of the local ondeh ondeh, consisting of coconut foam, kaya ice cream, pandan glutinous rice cake and gula melaka.”
Above: Ondeh Ondeh
We preferred the Ondeh Ondeh to the BGR, and were told that this dish is a crowd favourite. But again, it’s good for sharing rather than eating an entire bowl by yourself.
CHOCOLATE MERLOT CAKE $11
“Dark chocolate mousse infused with red wine, layered with crunchy feuilletine and chocolate biscuit base.”
Above: Chocolate Merlot cake
It’s hard to go wrong with a chocolate cake, unless you’re really bad. And judging by all the decent dishes above, this cake should be good, and it was. The hints of merlot were stronger than expected, but adds to the unique element of a seemingly standard cake.
Above: Inside the Chocolate Merlot cake
Botanico is located at 50 Cluny Park Road, Level 2, Botanic Gardens, Singapore 257488, tel 98311106. Click HERE for reservations, or email email@example.com. They are also open for pick up and island-wide delivery.
Photos taken with the NIKON DF + lomography petzval 80.5mm f/1.9 mkii slr bokeh control art lens. lit with ROTOLIGHT Neo 2.