Tiong Bahru has become a haven for cafe hoppers and foodies alike; the revival of one of the oldest residential estates in Singapore is seeing the emergence of specialty coffee bars, modern bistros, and quirky lifestyle stores. Joining the ranks of this gentrified renaissance is Open Door Policy, a chic bistro serving comfort food with finesse.
Early this year, the eatery launched its revamped menu showcasing Daniele Sperindio’s growth as head chef. The new menu is a symphony of different elements from across the continents, drawing inspiration from Asia, Latin America, and Europe. This “taste revitalisation” was paired with a refurbished interior, bringing a cosy Manhattan-chic vibe with an amalgam of rustic wood and metallic elements.
Head Bartender Kamil Foltan concocted a stunning Grapefruit Julep ($20) followed by a Green Punch ($19). The former was a refreshing minty citrus blend, with the potential overload of sourness from the grapefruit and lime juice being balanced by the sweeter hints from the homemade honey vodka and grenadine. The latter is a mix of Hendricks gin, cucumber, mint, apple juice and lemon. One of my dining partners likened the drink to “fruit juice”, protesting the seemingly low alcohol content.
As someone who appreciates when the alcoholic aspect of my drink is masked by the much more pleasant fruitiness, the Green Punch could very well be my favourite cocktail. The apple juice and lemon work well together in a sweet and sour embrace with the cucumber and the mint topping it off, making it refreshing and almost cleansing. Now who could turn down a cleansing cocktail?
Moving on to the starters, we encountered a similarly cleansing experience in the form of the Kale Broth garnished with Crispy Kale and Quail Eggs ($18). This is such a great, healthy option – being completely dairy-free with the creaminess of the deep green broth derived from watercress and potato.
Joining the broth in the nutritious category is the Wakame & Romaine Salad with Hamachi sashimi ($22). The leafy base was made up of the Holland-imported butter head lettuce, served whole, topped with tomatoes and onions. The crunchiness of the vegetables all complemented the delicately tender sashimi. The sumptuous seafood flavour from the raw fish was finally highlighted by a Japanese inspired miso dressing.
Another seafood starter – the Crab Cake ($20) – was an undisputed crowd favourite. A slightly more indulgent dish than the first two, the fresh jumbo crab meat was coated with a fried bread crumb layer and garnished with the unique combination of pea salad, sauce gribiche and mint oil.
Yet another seafood specialty was the warm Octopus Terrine ($21), both a personal favourite and a favourite of the chef! The octopus is amazingly tender and masterfully sliced to give thin, flower shaped discs. This dish is also on the healthy end of the spectrum with a mix of garlic, parsley potatoes, cherry tomatoes and romanesco served with it.
The Latin American inspired Guacamole Risotto ($20) is also one of Chef Daniele’s favourite dishes. The bright green risotto had a distinctly cheesy taste and texture which might be a bit too overpowering for some. Sitting atop of the creaminess was a slow-cooked hen’s egg with crème fraîche, red chilli, and nacho chips. Though perhaps the most unique starter, it wasn’t the most impressive.
An old favourite on the other hand, didn’t fail to impress; the much loved Spicy Lamb Spring Rolls with fresh salsa, yoghurt and avocado ($20) managed to sneak back onto the new and improved menu.
The huge variety of dishes seen in the starters is mirrored in the restaurant’s mains; from vegetarian, pescetarian to carnivore, Open Door Policy has your palate in mind. We started with the Paglia e Fieno Taglierini ($26), which was homemade pasta with hand-chopped lamb ragout and shaved pecorino cheese. The rustic nature of the pasta made it seem like we were tucking into a good home-cooked meal, with the boldness of the pecorino cheese and the flavoursome ragout adding a more sophisticated dimension to the already-perfect setting.
For the more adventurous meat eaters, the Kangaroo Fillet ($34) is the way to go. The tenderloin was incredibly lean and had practically no fat. The meat was served with roasted brussel sprouts, pine nuts, baby onions, sautéed warrigal greens and vinegar jus. Although the kangaroo was a unique option, my favourite meat main hands down was the Braised Beef Cheek with black truffle mash, roasted mushroom and red wine jus ($32). The meat pulled apart with the graze of a fork and each exquisite mouthful practically melted on my tongue. I’m not usually a red meat person but this dish was sublime, with the truffle mash and red wine jus complementing the flavoursome juiciness of the beef.
Despite being spoilt by meat choices, the vegetarian option is by no means less tempting; the Watercress and Macadamia Stuffed Plin Ravioli with feta cheese, pearl onion and romaine lettuce ($26), was one of the highlights of the meal. The ravioli itself was a mix of nutty and bitter flavours and the dish as a whole was incredibly refreshing and light.
Venturing from land to sea, Chef Daniele stresses the significance of cooking his Lobster Bisque Risotto ($28) separate from the rest of the seafood. Each ingredient has a different cooking time and by searing the mussels, scallops and prawns individually, he can ensure that each element is cooked to perfection. This arduous process definitely paid off as we are treated to delicious seafood and a thick, creamy risotto flavoured with saffron rouille to finish.
For Daniele, appreciating food is not just for the tastebuds but for the eyes as well. Though all the courses were artistically presented, his desserts were the true testimony to his flair for detail and composition. He garnished his Espresso Espuna ($18) with violet petals, dehydrated prance and a buckwheat caramel bar not just for the taste but also for the vibrant colour it adds to his masterpiece.
Another eye candy was the Passion Fruit and Chocolate Tart ($18), which actually had pop rocks candy buried in the dark chocolate filling. Despite the traces of passion fruit in the tart as well as the frozen passion fruit custard, the chocolate element was a bit too overpowering and the balance was not quite struck. That being said it really was an experience for all the senses.
Last but definitely not least was the Eight-Spice Apple Crumble with vanilla custard ($18). One of my dining partners is British and has had his fair share of top-notch homemade crumbles, so it really meant something when he sang nothing but praises for this version. The cubed apples are a bit more al dente than the usual crumble which means that you can really appreciate the natural flavours, highlighted by a light dose of sweet vanilla custard. The only downside in my opinion is that the crumble is a bit sparse and only covers the top of the huge bowl, which was filled to the brim with apples.
Through Chef Daniele’s growth, the eatery is able to hold its own and is no longer Tippling Club’s little brother. Offering gourmet comfort food with just the right amount of sophistication, it’s not often that you get such quality food without having to cough up a painfully large sum of cash. But don’t let the affordable prices fool you; every ingredient is meticulously chosen from the best and the stocks, pastas and breads are diligently handmade. Ultimately, Open Door Policy is all about quality with no corners cut.