SINGAPORE — Just when you think Ann Siang Hill has seen it all, along comes Persea (pronounced, Per-say-uh) with a unique dining concept that is not only new and novel but very year 2021.
If you’ve read my column enough, you’d know how often I wax lyrical about the whole your-body-is-a-temple movement that has taken Singapore by storm. I’m convinced this worship at the shrine of wellness has reached fever pitch with Persea, a restaurant dedicated to serving up creative grub that boasts low or zero carbs.
I will try as much as possible to avoid the K-word often associated with this diet because there have been numerous studies published that question its efficiency and a personal belief that it’s not the consumption of one thing that makes it dangerous. Rather, it’s in the excess where vice lies.
Vice-less living aside, the menu at Persea also hints at the world’s demand for food that is inclusive. Personal opinions and feelings aside, everyone regardless of diet, religious beliefs or allergies should be able to sit at a table together and partake in a meal. Lines are already so firmly drawn between countries, skin colour, faith, and cultural affiliation—there’s no need for boundaries to be pulled up when it comes to food.
Getting to Ann Siang Hill is one part of the equation. Finding Persea is another. There’s no signboard signalling its presence, save for an avocado decal on the window as an indication that you’re at the right place. Stepping in, the diner is greeted by a spiral staircase that spans the unit’s height, painted in a royal shade of green. The first floor is also where the open kitchen is, with a counter running around its perimeter, should you choose to observe your food cooked. Here is also where Head Chef and co-owner Jason Vito helms the food team, whipping up plate after plate of dishes that embrace all things carb-less.
This mantra of “Fattiness is next to godliness” starts with cubes of Butter of the day (S$8++, 0g carbs), compound butter ball bites, tonight festooned with sun-dried tomato and basil and liberally coated with Dukkha till no trace of yellow peeks. It’s rather strange to eat butter without bread, but as with all the food I’m trying here today, this makes for a fitting opening to an experience centred around all things fabulously fatty and good.
For appetisers, my fellow food writer, Basil, and I chomped on Cauli-hummus (S$10++, 4g carbs) and Eggs muhammara (S$14++, 5g carbs), both carrying an unparalleled depth of flavour that, though teetering on too filling, keeps you coming back for more. We attacked these with a heapful serving of Chicharrones (S$6++, 0g carbs) that has been beautifully seasoned with chilli lime salt. Pack these in a bag, seal it shut, and it’d make for the most decadent snack on a Netflix-and-eat kind of Sunday.
By now, you would have guessed that the menu is Mediterranean-centric which is a little bit on the nose for cuisine that eschews carbs although the Mediterranean diet is a tad less restrictive. From the brief 20 items, 2-pager sharing plates menu, we had a go at the Greek-style burratina (S$24++, 8g carbs), a colourful presentation of San Marzano tomatoes, vegetables, Kalamata olives, and a fat blob of white Burratina sitting in the centre, seasoned liberally with Turmeric salt. This is my first blush with Turmeric salt, and already I’m convinced everyone needs to start using this everywhere this year. Whereas salt on its own is savoury, the addition of turmeric gives it a spice lift I never knew salt needed.
While on the topic of beautiful seasoning, the Foie Gras (S$28++, 1g carbs) come served with hazelnuts and pomegranate and a sprinkling of salt on the surface—a flavouring technique I’ve never experienced with foie gras. Here, there’s a pervading medley of aromas with the inclusion of curry leaves and Turkish yellow spice. I reckon all this spice and salt in some ways is meant to cut through the fattiness of foie gras, but honey, this is Persea—fats must be given some respect.
Basil and I approached the Brussels Sprouts (S$$16++, 6g carbs) with slight trepidation. Not for fear of taste (though we both are registered Brussels Sprout’s cynics), but because this finicky vegetable can prove disastrous in the hands of a less-experienced chef. However, the Persea iteration made us both gasp, pearl-clutching, mouth-gaping, eyes rolling to the back of our heads. The bulbs come covered with burnt peppers and mildly sweet sausage crumbs, dressed in a bright Chorizo Sabayon, tricking the brain into embracing Brussels Sprouts’ bitterness as but one element of the dish. It’s impressive.
Seafood comes by way of Black Tiger Prawns (S$20++, 4g carbs), served with a pleasingly tart creme fraiche that sits poetically with the brininess of prawns. The Calamari (S$24++, 7g carbs) is an ombré delight, but not deliberately nor is it for the ‘gram. It’s a naturally occurring artwork from the coming together of the Yemenite sauce, Zhug, and chorizo fat, here in a shocking hue of vermillion. As you can imagine, there are layers of complexities here with the heat from the Zhug, and the subtle smokiness from the chorizo oil, all in service of incredibly tender Calamari, charred till nice and dandy.
Elsewhere, the Lamb rump (S$28++, 1.8g), though bare in its presentation, made me swoon as I reached for the fattiest parts to pair with a liberal amount of mint chermoula. The Barramundi (S$28++, 2g carbs) is equally deserving of high praise—fish caught from the cold waters of Australia, with a bold fattiness that almost made me tear. It sits on a shallow pool of rich, and buttery beurre blanc with the most impressive bouquet. I found myself scooping this up with the shells of the flower clams. What can I say? The heart wants what the heart wants.
All this creative seasoning and flavouring comes to a head with a polarising dessert—a Rosemary Basque Cheesecake (S$16++, 6.3g carbs) made with cream cheese, Camembert, and Blue Cheese. If you’ve had Blue Cheese, you’d know its efficacy no matter how minute a dosage. In this cake, that signature pungency comes and goes, its creaminess enhanced by the sprinkle of salt on the top. Every possible care has been taken to ensure this is palatable to the general public, including the inclusion of an Almond biscuit and a sprig of rosemary for a temporary herbaceousness. I don’t hate it, though I feel with time, I can grow to love it.
After today’s dinner, I have no qualms in believing that Persea is primed and ready to take on other stalwarts of the street. Don’t let their youth fool you. Behind the kitchen’s food philosophy, lies a concept that focuses on honest dishes that have been beautifully seasoned in a way that most restaurants abstain, especially if you’re the new kid on the block, still wet around the ears. Some might call Persea’s foray into low to zero carb cuisine foolhardy, but the line between recklessness and courage is a fine one, and in this regard, Persea has made this gamble but a worthy one.
Website | 23 Ann Siang Road, Singapore 069703
Monday to Saturday: 4.30pm to 11pm
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