SINGAPORE — On 17th August 2020, Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister, Heng Swee Keat delivered a ministerial statement announcing further help doled out by the government to help Singapore businesses and citizens ride the economic downturn caused by COVID-19. In the same speech, he also all but sounded the death knell of Singapore’s vibrant and oft lauded nightlight scene.
“For these businesses,” he said, “the Government will help them transition to other activities or ease their exit," referring to nightlife operators who are waiting for Phase 3 to be announced before resuming commercial activities.
It is a statement with serious repercussions as places like karaoke joints, cocktail bars, and nightclubs are now given the confirmation they needed to pivot to a business model that is not only sustainable but also falls in accordance with governmental regulations of safe distancing.
Where pivots are concerned, no one needs it as urgently as Zouk. Having been forced out of their original Jiak Kim Street outfit (authorities cite incompatibility with plans for the Robertson Quay area) and finally finding a home in Clarke Quay in June 2016, to say that Zouk has weathered the worst of storms would be an understatement. Yet, if there were an organisation that could best manoeuvre their way out of a pandemic, it would be Zouk.
Zouk’s most recent and audacious pivot is, of course, Capital Kitchen. What was once a space dedicated to working professionals and guests with a preference for the finer things in life, has now been transformed into a 100-seater dining destination helmed by the kitchen of RedTail next door.
It’s not hard to see that this space used to host the ultra-cool, nonchalantly gyrating along to dope House music, occasionally joining friends in clinking their champagne glasses to friendship. Adding to the lounge feel are huge leather sofas that are obviously not meant for dining, not with its deep seats that make leaning back for support almost impossible—at least not if you want to hold a decent conversation with your dinner date.
There’s also no worry of insufficient safe distancing here. The seat assigned to me could have easily accommodated eight diners comfortably (pre-COVID-19, of course), which makes dinner here at Capital Kitchen, an ideal option for people who truly value their privacy.
The food, while not excessively creative or experimental, is familiar, accessible and in portions big enough to justify the premium you’re paying. It starts with appetisers that see-saw between bold and simple. Bold is a plate of Pan-seared Foie Gras (S$30++) that comes served with a drizzle of balsamic glaze and bright mango chutney on the side.
There’s a beautiful char on the thickly cut foie gras and, as far as this delicacy goes, makes for an acceptable nod to premium ingredients—at least for a club turned restaurant. There’s also a Crab Meat Tartare (S$18++) that’s as good as fried-anything gets. This also feels premium-ish with rounds of crispy cauliflower croquettes holding some moreish crab meat in the centre and up top.
Mains come by way of an icon Australian Wagyu XB Ribeye (S$88++) with an impressive marbling score of 7. The Wagyu is of the Kuroge Washu breed from Tasmania, Australia, a breed so precious for its ability to marbelise fat internally that in 1997, the Japanese government banned all export of its DNA and live specimens.
You can cut through the meat like a knife to butter—which is expected for meat this exquisite. I liberally dipped my slices in the Dijon mustard for a pleasant hit of sharp acidity that makes the enjoyment of this beautifully fatty meat that much more pleasurable.
Elsewhere, a giant-sized portion of Lamb Shank (S$30++) looks like it has been doing some serious weight lifting at the farm gym and then slow braised such that it’s off-the-bone tender. Although it looks like a lot of value for money and could be a struggle to finish for a moderate eater, it tastes almost one-dimensional—in fact, it’s a dish with a lot of ‘almosts-s’ without ever reaching the realm of being full flavoured.
It comes with a brown sauce with hints of mushroom but only mildly so. There are also carrots, and leeks that are a tad pedestrian, perhaps to pair with the underwhelming mashed potato. I want to like this more, but I find the biggest pity of this Lamb Shank is in its potential to be something great.
Dessert comes by way of a Paparch Burnt Cheesecake (S$15++), a great and perfectly acceptable option if you’re the type of restaurant with a clientele that loves themselves some straightforward sweet treats. I also tried the Churros (S$12++) which, quite honestly, is a little demode for 2020. Nonetheless, it’s a great option for people who just want something easy, quick, and when in a slightly drunk stupor (they serve great drinks here), a safe choice that requires very little nuance to appreciate.
I don’t foresee discerning diners flocking down to Capital Kitchen anytime soon, but I hardly think that is a problem at all. On a Wednesday night, the restaurant was abuzz with patrons partaking in merriment and a night of convivial company.
Website | 3C River Valley Road, The Cannery #02-05 S179022
Wednesday to Saturday: 5pm to 11pm
Balancing the New Normal: