For the record, there’s nothing disgruntled or grumpy or grouchy about the Disgruntled Chef. This brasserie/gastrobar in Singapore may sport a gimmicky name, but once you get past that, you discover that the food here is pretty darn good.
Because it occupies a somewhat sunken corner of Dempsey Road (a former army camp and barracks) abutting an overgrown backyard, the Disgruntled Chef has a quiet, hidden-away feel, with its contemporary-style -meets-colonial-plantation-chic vibes. It offers an extensive range of good cocktails and a food menu comprising simply ‘big plates and small plates’ that encourage laissez faire dining.
I loved the delicate scallop carpaccio cleverly served with soy brown butter and konbu to add depth of flavour, then lifted by the pop of ikura and the freshness of lime. The beet cured salmon was a playground of flavours from light gin-infused cucumbers, to piquant horseradish and mustard and I loved the Disgruntled Chef’s Mac & Cheese ($29++) — a savoury mess of calorie busting goodness, made posh with crayfish and black truffle.
I was heartened to see suckling pig on the menu, listed under ‘big plates’. It was rather good, with a delicate crackle of crackling, juicy meat that fell away nicely — but perhaps tasting a little gamey. Unfortunately it wasn’t that big a plate, perhaps the size of a light entree, and I felt it was overpriced at S$68.
But where Disgruntled Chef’s new menu really shines is its range of 12 brunch tartines, which a waitress rather unceremoniously described as “open faced sandwiches”. But these are no ordinary sandwiches, sporting luxurious, sometimes creative toppings, and all you need for a light but no less exquisite meal, paired with a cocktail or wine.
The Victorien Sardou ($25++), filled with hearty chunks of lobster and savoury melted gruyere hits the right spot, and the Turkish, is pita bread topped with imam bayaldi, pinenuts and mint.
But of the savoury tartines, nothing beats the luxurious Hortense Laborie ($25++) which perfectly demonstrates how a simple food can be elevated to heights of indulgence. No doubt named after the main protagonist of the movie ‘Haute Cuisine’, this ‘sandwich’ if one can call it merely that is topped with duck confit, foie gras and a side dish of truffled egg cocotte.
Similarly I love the Elvis ($20++), comprising thick crisp French toast of fruit and nut bread slathered with Nutella, bananas and a side serving of ice cream and well worth busting your calorie quota for. The Marie Antoinette ($20++) is brioche with almond cream, prunes and armagnac ice cream, and the Italian offers balsamic strawberries with ricotta and basil.
There are other desserts too, if bread is not your thing. The most intriguing is the Roquefort Magnum, a blue cheese flavoured ice cream on a stick covered in a crisp chocolate coating – just like the Magnum ice creams that you get in the supermarkets. No indeed, it tastes better than it sounds.
The Disgruntled Chef’s cocktail menu is also worth exploring. Considering it’s not a dedicated cocktail bar, the quality and creativity of its tipples may be a pleasant surprise. I really liked the Sea Salt and Chilli Margarita ($18++) made of Don Julio Reposada, lime, honey and topped with sea salt air. While I needed some persuasion to try this — I don’t like my drinks savoury — this turned out mainly citrusy and refreshing with only a hint of chilli and salt to give it a background zing. The G&T ($18++) is made from Hendrick’s Gin no less, and Thai Basil Caiprissima ($16++) was a nice concoction of rum, lime and soda with a touch of basil.
My only beef with the Disgruntled Chef is that the portions are not big enough to fill you, especially if you came with an empty, growling stomach. That means ordering more dishes, and hence landing a bigger bill to get the job done. I wish the portions were bigger to be in line with the pricing, or the other way round.
Apart from that, credit must go to the creatively delectable food that the chef churns out here, and indeed the solid cocktails which are overshadowed by the new, bespoke bars that have been opening around town. The fact is, despite my grumbling, the Disgruntled Chef is a nice restaurant to go to, and I would return again. But with a half filled belly and the right frame of mind — to have some good drinks and nibbles to warm your belly.
26B Dempsey Rd
Tel: +65 6476 5305