When restaurant Preludio first opened, it was received with some amount of skepticism – a fine-dining restaurant that would work in “chapters”, where most aspects of the restaurant – from the food to the staff uniform – would be themed accordingly. The first chapter, the black-and-white themed “Monochrome”, quelled most doubts with clever but delicious cooking, intriguing ingredients, and stellar service.
Now, the restaurant is back with its second chapter, Time. In all fairness, time’s a pretty easy concept to work around compared to having to cook largely in black and white. Many of the world’s most treasured ingredients and beverages require ageing; food and wine changes as it sits on your plate. That said, the restaurant has also taken its theatrics up a notch with new table centrepieces, uniforms, and dishes.
Dinner starts with a tray full of snacks, each with an ingredient that’s been aged or cured for different periods: beginning from just an hour – the time it takes for raw scallops to marinate in tiger’s milk for ceviche – to 8 months, the period for which the Sturia Vintage caviar that they use is aged. In this time, the caviar develops its flavours and texture, and ends up on a dish together with pea puree and burrata.
The restaurant’s also undertaken a couple of ageing projects themselves – with house-cured amberjack that deepens in flavour over a month; fermented garlic; and fermented mushrooms.
The lattermost appears in Preludio’s first ever bread course – a moreish rye bun that’s glazed with bacon, honey, and juices from the fermented mushrooms. This get’s served with a caramelised onion and grape must butter.
Old friends make an appearance too – with Arevalo’s signature, pork pressa, appearing in the guise of a starter. Wrapped in obsiblue prawn that’s been beaten and coaxed into a thin, marbled sheet, the pork comes served on tomato relish and white carrot puree.
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Just like Preludio’s previous crowd favourite, La Cortina, the pasta dish in this new chapter seems to be destined for similar greatness too. Mieral duck, traditionally hung for three weeks, is confit in pork fat before being turned into a pillowy farce with plums, and stuffed into pasta parcels. Served atop buttery Jerusalem artichoke puree and balanced out with syrupy agrodolce – an Italian sauce that literally means “sour-sweet” – the pasta dish recalls its predecessor: which featured squash agnolotti in a creamy parmesan sauce, drizzled with 25-year-aged balsamic.
One of the most eye-catching dishes on the menu though, is also a nod – the first so far – to Arevalo’s Colombian heritage. Marinated wagyu ribeye comes served with smoked cauliflower puree and piquillo peppers. This gets served with a chimichurri-inspired sauce that – thanks to the magic of immiscibility and viscosity – looks like a psychedelic palette of oils. Oils that, were one predisposed to a lighter palate, could be a little much for the buttery wagyu.
Similarly, pastry chef Elena Pérez dives into her past for a little inspiration. Dessert sees “Chotto Matte”, a dish that draws from the first Japanese phrase Perez learnt, comprising layers of seaweed, yuzu, and matcha in different forms and textures, all balanced out with grapefruit and almond.
Now the big question: does the new chapter measure up to Monochrome’s strong start? In some ways, yes. Flavours are balanced and easy to understand without being pandering; the change in pace – with the trayful of snacks and the way the courses are structured – is great fun. But the concept of time can be pushed further, beyond just how long ingredients are aged. Time can happen in front of your eyes, like how wine changes in a glass; time can also be immediacy and freshness – and it would be cool to see those happen on a plate.