The first time I heard of Ryan Clift was at Jakarta Culinary Festival and since then, I’ve always been curious with what he has got to offer to the dining scene. Sometime after that, Tippling Club was ranked #12 in Miele’s top restaurants in Asia. Arnold Poernomo seems to praise him a lot on his tweets. And I kinda trust his taste. In short, curiosity maxed out the food geek in me.
It was the first (and probably the only) thing I requested to Miss Googler. Glad that she’s just as adventurous, so after an uber-healthy breakfast, we took a cab to Dempsey to have some tippling time.
This place bleeds hipster.
From the choice of venue to how they set the dining experience, it is an epitome of independent thinking and an act of counter-culture in a way. I see Ryan Clift’s quirkiness stamped here and there. He removes tablecloths from the equation, has the patrons sit in one counter facing the kitchen, and places an artsy alcoholic’s Disneyland on top of your head. He differs himself as “fine dining without the snobbery.”
I love the fact that Tippling Club is placed in an almost hidden spot behind the fancy strip of restaurants in Dempsey. It is surrounded by woods, the kind you’d see in Johnny Depp’s Secret Window. We even spotted a squirrel running from one tree branch to another, but it was too quick to be captured. I felt like a child up in my own treehouse, having fun with my friends. The atmosphere was warm, but the people behind the kitchen were not. When we started the lunch, they looked tense in a way. Good thing, they still served great dishes.
We had three amuse-bouche courtesy of the house. First was Potato Vichyssoise with caviar and dill flower on top. Served in a tiny plastic container, it was a bit awkward to suck it in one go. Creamy texture with light sweet salty flavor. It was like Mario Bros level one. Easy palate starter.
The second amuse-bouche was the chef’s interpretation of Singapore Curry. Served with puffed rice and curry leaves, it packed all the flavors, the spiciness, and the aroma of a curry, all in one small glass. Bravo.
The last was Smoked And Chalked Pepper with soy and wasabi sauce. It was my favorite because it took me by surprise. Despite of the seemingly disturbing burnt chalk aroma, the smoked pepper was pleasing for the tongue. Eating it with a tweezer was an interesting point. It was also my least favorite because I couldn’t feel the wasabi, or maybe the soy’s saltiness overthrew it in a way. When I asked the waiter about it, he said it was meant to be like that to wake up the palate. Good excuse, but true in a way.
Sipping on the wine while waiting for the next course to arrive, conversation and giggles started. Miss Googler mentioned that everyone behind the counter was so attentive when I took every meal to a spot next to the window to take a good picture of it. She also noticed the ‘what-a-weird-guy’ look on their rolling eyes. Words on the street, photo-taking was once not allowed inside Tippling Club. That might be it.
I did not back down though. Here comes the mains.
Heirloom carrot gnocchi. Made from concentrated methylcellulose and carrot juice, I could see the effort but it was still a bit too soft compared to real gnocchi. Served with carrot stock and garnished with compressed heirloom carrot and chervil stems, it was good but definitely not the best that we had that day.
Risotto with lobster, and white truffle. All inspiring cast, but the sum was less than the value of each ingredient taken individually. Or maybe I’m just not a risotto guy.
We forgot what this fish was, but it was awesome. On Miss Googler’s note, “One thing that strikes my palate is sweetness. I was expecting this dish to be savory. The texture was a good contrast between the yellow puff thing and the fish.”
Somewhere along this time, we started to see a change in the chefs’ / waiters’ attitude. Previously, it was more or less one-liner conversation with them telling us what was in the meal, and they did it so fast I couldn’t even catch up with my notes. But somehow they became more attentive and chatty. They began to ask how was the meal so far, then carefully explained what made the dish different and even shared the technique they used. Turns out while I was taking photo, Miss Googler spilled it to them that I’m a food blogger. Aha! She had quite a big laugh seeing how it shocked them, and thus the change of events. As for me, I thanked her for giving me a story to tell. =D
The lunch just got better and better. Not only because of the special treatment, but we were approaching the end of the saga: dessert!
Prior to that, another amuse-bouche was served. A dish that appeared to be a meteorite, but was actually a sorbet. Blood Peach Meteorite as they called it. I loved it. If they sold this in supermarket, I’d buy and snack them while watching movies. But on Miss Googler’s distinctive tongue, it did not ‘explode’ as she expected it to be. Also, way too freezing, definitely not for those with sensitive teeth.
Deconstructed pear tartin 2009. Mock pear made from gel coated sorbet, sitting on cinnamon pastry crumbs and caramel sauce. Miss Googler chose this, and judging from the smile on her face she enjoyed this, especially being a big fan of ice cream and its sisters. I also think this is a definite winner. A creative approach in dividing the ingredients of a tartin into its elements, and letting the brown butter sorbet stood out among the rest.
Interpretation of Dempsey Hill. A forest like dessert with dark chocolate trees, kaya pandan cake that crumbles in your mouth, and sweet mousse. Too good to be true. It had everything I asked for in a dessert, both texture wise and flavor wise, plus it was a feast to the eyes as well.
All in all it was a tippling lunch. A wonderful first experience. I’d definitely be back if they had new menus in play. And when I do, I wouldn’t miss their cocktail pairing next time. You’ve made quite an impression, Ryan. Thank you too, Miss Googler, for making the lunch worth of remembrance.
Cheers to more stories to come,
Food Photographer / Storyteller
38 Tanjong Pagar Rd, Singapore 088461
Open for dinner Monday to Saturday. Lunch on Saturday only.
SGD 55 for Saturday Lunch
SGD 145 – 230 (Lunch – Dinner) for five course classic menu.
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