The Place When we visited Bee’s Knees at The Garage few weeks ago (read our full review here), its other dining concept Botanico is the other new restaurant we were looking forward to checking out. Unlike Bee’s Knees, Botanico at The Garage is the formal dining space, housed in the same heritage building built since the 1920s. The surrounding space used to be an Economic Garden, whereas level one was where college professors parked their cars, hence The Garage.
The interior of Botanico is a harmonious balance of elegance and simplicity, with modern touches from its table wares to the lights, a nice juxtaposition with the colonial feel at first glance. The surprise didn’t stop here. Walk towards the outdoor dining area and it transformed to an outdoor bar where diners can choose to have their dinner as well. My threshold for heat is low but Botanico has an ingenious solution to combine alfresco dining in a cool setting in Singapore which sounds oxymoronic – there are ample outdoor air conditioning installed at the side walls, sufficient to create that pseudo cool ambience to make alfresco dining a pleasant experience in our tropical climate.
The fairy lights at the outdoor section further adds to the awesome ambience. I thought I was in La La Land.
The Food We initially thought the cuisine at Botanico leans towards European but it is not all that. It’s hard to pinpoint a specific cuisine to the food here, but it stands by the spirit of Bistronomy. Much of the menu is inspired from natural flavours and seasonality. The combination of ingredients we saw in most dishes we tried were bold, exciting and filled with pleasant surprises.
The Idiazabal CroqueBes (S$14) from the starters was a promising start. What’s unusual about this croquette is that it is filled with smoked Idiazabal cheese emulsion from sheep’s milk cheese, which turned out to be so delicious. The bread crumbs coating was crispy, topped with chorizo slices which complimented the flavours very well. This is easily one of the best croquette I ever had.
The Calamaritos (S$12) may seem like a simple crispy squid dish, but was nevertheless a good dish to snack on with the along with the garlic mayo sauce.
For something refreshing, go for the Botanico Salad (S$18) which has a garden-like presentation. This healthy salad is packed with Heirloom tomatoes, pickled beetroot, radishes, charred cucumber, fresh peach, edible ﬂowers with olive oil dressing. A worth mentioning ingredient here is the cañarejal cheese, a type of Sheep’s milk cheese from Northern Spain which was delicious yet not too overpowering for the salad.
Sardines are usually not my favourite type of fish but the Smoked Sardines (S$20) caught me by surprise. Using Iwashi (a type of Japanese sardine) as the main ingredient, it wasn’t as fishy as I imagined, yet it played along well with its acompanying chorizo bits, Kyoho grapes and Migas. The migas was fried in iberico fat to give it that nice, crunchy taste. Mix everything well on this plate with the Ajo Blanco and the overall flavour will not disappoint.
Similarly, the Lamb Tartare (S$20) served with pickled onions and nasturtium was another dish which literally threw me out of my seat, not in a bad way. Never a big fan of lamb, let alone a tartare version, this dish wasn’t gamy at all and it reminded me of fresh sashimi. The other element of surprise in this dish was the Mustard ice-cream, another ingredient I dislike but worked its magic through here. This is definitely one of the most interesting dishes I tried in Singapore in recent years.
A more luxe option on the menu is the Chargrilled Carabinero (S$34), whereby the prawns were charcoal grilled in an Inka oven to give it that smoky taste. The prawn was fresh, but what stole the thunder instead was the rice served alongside with it. The use of Bomba rice gave it a paella-like texture, though it also leans towards a risotto texture with its moistness. The secret formula here is by cooking the rice with rich prawn bisque made from the stock of Carabinero prawn heads, which gave it a nice sweet aftertaste.
We also tried the Japanese Scallops (S$27) from Hokkaido, served with Topinambur (Jerusalem artichoke) puree; and the Roasted Pigeon (S$27), whereby the French pigeon leg was cooked sous vide, while the pigeon breast was pan-seared. Pigeon meat is a acquired taste and I still cannot bring myself to like it after trying it multiple times at different restaurants and cities. The Japanese scallops will always be a safer bet.
For desserts, the must try item for us is undoubtedly the Tropical Fruits (S$14) instead of the eponymous Botanist (S$12). The Tropical Fruits has a rarely seen ingredient on its plate – Jackfruit, a pungent fruit which you either love it or hate it. The jackfruit found a strong footing on this plate, blending well with the unique Laksa leaf ice cream, coconut, longan and white chocolate turmeric ganache. The tip is to have all the ingredients at one go, I was surprised by how much the flavours grew on me.
Alternatively, the Botanist is a more refreshing and lighter option in terms of flavours. Expect cucumber sorbet, granny smith apples infused with gin and juniper berries along with coconut foam.
For chocolate fans, there is the Ceiba (S$14), a mix of organic chocolate foam served with brownie croutons, ginger ice cream, hibiscus powder and mint leaves. Although all three desserts we tried were vastly different, it all took reference to the surrounding Botanic and stayed consistent to its theme.
Rants If you are not driving, the nearest MRT station to Botanico will be the Botanic Garden MRT. Now, it takes some map-reading skills to navigate your way through the park to get to Botanico. Here’s a trick, walk via the side road outside of the park, down Cluny Park Road. The first public carpark on the left will lead you directly to The Garage. Don’t say thank you too soon, at least, till you manage to find yourself safely at The Garage!
Will I Return Again? There is no doubt that the space at Botanico is beautiful. The food is inspiring, and it managed to change my perception towards certain ingredients. In all senses, it opens my mind and palate. For its unique location within Botanic Gardens and reasonable prices, we are sure Botanico will be set to be a dining destination.
This was an invited tasting, though all opinions expressed are our own.
Make your reservations instantly at Botanico here.
Taste bud: 4/5
Hole in the pocket: 3.5/5
Overall Experience: 4.5/5
Wednesday to Sunday: 6pm to 10pm
Ranted by The Ranter