Former Les Amis head chef Armin Leitgeb has teamed up with the Esmirada group to open Amuse (short for amuse bouche, so expect small tapas-style bites) in Orchard Hotel, where Bodega Y Tapas used to be. While Armin Leitgeb is the creator and name behind the restaurant, he's only in town once a month to conceptualise new dishes. The kitchen is run by head chef CK Lee, who worked with chef Armin during his Les Amis days.
Our love of tapas, acquired in Spain and reinforced by Esquina, made this a place that we really hoped would live up to our expectations. Luckily, Amuse definitely didn't disappoint. Almost all the dishes were well executed, tasty and interesting.
They have a French Laundry-inspired beef tartare cone, with the cone made of filo pastry and filled with beef tartare and horseradish cream cheese. One order comes with two cones, but next time we're getting an order each. These were really good - the cone, because it was filo pastry, didn't overpower the tartare, which was seasoned perfectly.
Another signature dish is apparently from chef Armin's Les Amis days - the pork crouton with either smoked eel or pork belly. We decided to go with the smoked eel, figuring a surf and turf combination couldn't go wrong. This was superb. The pork crouton was actually a slice of pork that had been roasted till crisp, and it went with the soft, smoky eel perfectly.
The marinated salmon with pickled vegetables was a bit ordinary in comparison. Overall everything worked together, but individually each ingredient was a little boring, especially the salmon.
We read about a hamachi dish that was highly recommended, so we ordered the only hamachi dish on the menu - the grilled hamachi kama. I was a bit surprised when the entire hamachi collar appeared. I love hamachi collar but A doesn't, so I pretty much demolished this single handedly. Nothing innovative about this, but oh so good.
Another winner was the Spicy Lamb Burger. The patty was really juicy and flavourful, and the charred eggplant added a nice texture to each bite.
The Ciabatta-wrapped Crispy Egg, with proscuitto, spinach and mushroom ragout tasted, strangely enough, like a Buko Nero dish; could be the flavourful, slightly Asian-inspired sauce. This is another must-repeat dish.
Portions are pretty small, so unsurprisingly after that we were still hungry. We added a tomato and mussel risotto, which was disappointingly ordinary. Next time we'll try the spicy lobster pasta instead.
The chef told us about the day's special - roasted loin of Iberico pork, and highly recommended it, so we gave it a go. It was a much larger portion than expected, and indeed any of the other dishes. Chef brought it to the table, doused it with a pepper-infused alcohol and flambed it. The pork was still slightly rare in the centre, and had a really sweet, subtle pork flavour. The charred romaine that accompanied it was really good too.
After that, we were too full for dessert, but in any case this place isn't heavily dessert-focused. There was only one in-house dessert, some mixed berry thing; everything else came from Esmirada next door.
The menu isn't very large, and we pretty much ordered most of the items that called to us, so if they don't regularly change it up then I don't think we can go as frequently as we do Esquina. It's a pretty big space, and was practically empty on a rainy Tuesday evening, so getting a reservation doesn't seem to be a problem. It seemed worryingly quiet, but I hope it's because the place is still fairly new, and there hasn't been enough buzz or word of mouth yet.
Great service and food, and surprisingly affordable (not cheap, but superb quality for a reasonable price). I highly recommend it.
442 Orchard Road
#01-29 Orchard Hotel
Monday to Friday: 5pm – 1pm
Saturday: 12noon – 1am
Sunday: 12 noon – 11pm