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Preludio: What we think about the latest fine-dining restaurant in town

How do the various ideas behind the newly-opened Preludio stack up? We dissect the cuisine at Preludio to find honest, good cooking at its core.

If you’ve already read about the newly-opened Preludio, your first impressions might be confusion. There are more than a few concepts and ideas to wrap your head around: Author’s cuisine, monochrome, themed chapters, produce-led cuisine. But make a reservation, eat, and — depending on your proclivities for culinary discourse — everything begins to either make sense, or just melt away into the background. Helmed by chef Fernando Arevalo, the restaurant aims to present a new style of fine-dining by working in “chapters” — 12-18 periods which follow a theme that informs every level of your experience.

Themed dining

The elephant in the room is perhaps the restaurant’s ongoing theme of “monochrome”. Everything from the decor of the space and the way the front of house is dressed, to the food and even the drinks programme is inspired by black and white. While themed restaurants tend to get a bad rep, Preludio gets it right with a strong foundation of stellar flavours and service.

Rather than foisting upon diners some misguided notion of “progressive dining” with awkward gimmicks, it seems like these labels exist to limit Arevalo and his team, and act as guide for each person to act upon. It’s necessary too, if you understand Arevalo’s way of working — each department: pastry, beverages, front of house, and art (yes, they have an in-house designer taking care of the aesthetics of the restaurant) gets the freedom to explore their craft. A freedom that risks running rampant if not for a theme to centre everyone’s ideas.

The results of this approach shows in the spirit of the space. Preludio is, for all intents and purposes, a full service fine-dining restaurant; but the atmosphere is decidedly relaxed. A subtle sense of whimsy permeates every moment there: from the custom-made “monochrome”-inspired table centrepieces and a concrete wall feature designed to look like a velvet curtain; to dishes meant to invoke a sense of deja-vu and wine glasses with too-long stems.

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  • Autumn: smoked eel, lampascioni bulb, chanterelle mushrooms, sunchoke, crosnes, salty fingers
    Autumn: smoked eel, lampascioni bulb, chanterelle mushrooms, sunchoke, crosnes, salty fingers

What is Author’s cuisine?

Author’s cuisine is a relatively new genre of cooking that, similar to a cinema auteur, follows the absolute vision of the creator rather than pre-defined genres, geographic location, or cultures. It’s nothing like Jordan Khan‘s rejection of all things earthly though. Arevalo chooses to celebrate the farmers and producers — be it balsamic vinegar made in Modena, or Iberico from a family-run farm in Salamanca, Spain. While most of the ingredients are distinctly European, Arevalo insists that it’s only the beginning as anything is fair game as long as it’s delicious.

Throughout your meal, some of the ingredients of note are brought out for guests to touch, see, and smell. Many of these you will probably be encountering for the first time, unless you’re a particularly well-travelled gourmet.

Piennolo tomatoes, also known as pomodorino vesuviano, come to your table strung together in a tight bunch. The thick-skinned grape tomatoes are grown on Mount Vesuvius, and are lightly dried and smoked before they’re used. While the meaty fruit possess a rare, intense sweetness and acidity, they’re commonly used in pasta sauces due to their unwieldy skins. Arevalo circumvents this by blistering the piennolos in a Josper, then dipping them in seasoned, concentrated tomato water to add a further layer of flavour. These tomatoes get served alongside Iberico presa that has been slow-cooked, then coated with squid-ink bread crumbs.

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Novel produce

Other instances of new produce you might encounter include lampascioni (the bulbs of the tassel hyacinth), and crosnes (tubers of the Chinese artichoke). Both of these, in addition to grilled sunchokes, roasted chanterelles, and a yuzu-mustard egg yolk emulsion hide under a round rice cracker. Meanwhile, fresh green almonds — vegetal and almost fruit-like — comes pickled and served alongside Patagonian toothfish, dehydrated olives, and leek and almond milk foam.    

Unexpected flavours hide around every corner too. The first two dishes each come with a neat quenelle of caviar, but of distinctly different profiles. Young Primeur Sturia caviar — delicate with a finish of green hazelnuts — play nicely with white beetroot and burrata it sits with; while the richer, more aged Oscietra Sturia holds its own against roasted veal marrow and porcini-potato foam.

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How does one run a drinks programme with a “monochrome” theme? For drinks manager Chip Steel, it’s about categorising the wines by the substrate they’re grown on — black granite or volcanic soil, white chalk, or pale sand. Expect a mostly left-field selection that might include a crazy skin-contact, unfiltered Czech pinot gris that pours a hazy light-red, a very solid, aromatic dry Gamay rose, or even sake. Like with the produce, it seems like the goal here is to have the diner discover new, delicious things.

Even dessert takes the chance to showcase provenance. Pastry chef Elena Pérez de Carrasco takes an unpasteurised sheep’s milk cheese called Idiazabel from her home region of Basque country, and puts it front and centre in a dessert with blueberry mousse, yogurt sponge, yogurt ice cream, blueberries, blackberries, and milk foam.

 

182 Cecil St, #03-01/02 Frasers Tower, Singapore 069547. Tel: +65 6904 5686