We’re always sniffing out the best restaurants for our readers to try. Artemis Grill is a great option for Mediterranean cuisine with a spicy kick.
Many restaurants here get their service staff to ask diners how the food is, which is fine if they are genuinely seeking feedback. But they should also know when to stop.
Ideally, that question should not be posed more than once during a meal. And preferably after the diner has finished eating.
Last week, my dining companion and I were just about to start on our first course – a Gambera Rosso starter of blanched prawns and tomato water ($28) – at Artemis Grill when the server popped the question: “How is the dish?”
My friend replied with an incredulous look: “I haven’t eaten it yet.”
But the server was not defeated. A few minutes later, he was back while my friend and I were deep in conversation.
“Excuse me, excuse me,” he interjected, stopping me in the middle of a sentence. Then, as I turned to look at him, wondering what it was that was so important, he asked: “How is the dish?”
That over-enthusiastic server, however, could not dull my good experience at Artemis Grill, a 21/2-week-old Mediterranean grill on the rooftop of CapitaGreen.
The 40th-floor restaurant, with an adjoining open-air deck called Sky Forest, looks out across the neighbouring skyscrapers in the Central Business District to the Marina Bay area, with the distinctive Marina Bay Sands forming the skyline. In the evening when the lights come on, it is a stunning view, which the restaurant takes full advantage of by keeping its interior dim – so the vista would not be marred by the reflection of lights on the glass windows.
The food, a mix of cuisines from places such as Spain, southern France, Italy and Greece, is not pure Mediterranean, but re-interpreted in interesting ways with bold flavours.
The Gambera Rosso, for example, is inspired by the Spanish gazpacho, a cold vegetable soup, but with the additional of sweet, crunchy prawns and a hearty dose of harissa, a chilli paste that sets the tongue on fire. It is a dish that pushes sensory buttons on multiple levels, all of them designed to please the palate.
If you need to douse the heat, a good follow-up would be the Pomegranate & Pistachio Salad ($19), where sweet and acidic flavours combine in a non-threatening way.
But it is a tad boring for me. I am happier with the Alaskan King Crab Salad ($28), where the sweet lumps of shellfish and slices of avocado get just the right balance of flavours from pimento peppers, which are sweet and aromatic rather than hot.
Seafood is not only what is good here. The meats are excellent too.
My favourite dish is Spicy Iberico Pork Presa ($40). Presa is a shoulder cut that is very flavourful and the thinly sliced grilled pork here tastes really good. A grilled padron pepper as well as tomato and bell pepper relish come with the meat, providing the sweetness that often accompanies pork in Western cooking. But there is a surprise too in the form of a fiery chilli powder on the plate for those who enjoy the spice.
The Welsh Lamb Saddle ($58) is more conventional, with just mint yogurt and gremolata (chopped herbs) with the meat. But the lamb is perfectly grilled – tender, moist and flavourful – so it needs nothing else.
The restaurant offers an interesting selection of side dishes to go with the grilled mains, which you should not miss.
If you are looking for something starchy, the Sweet Potato Puree ($14) is great. It is sweet and smooth and mixed with herbs and spices as well as chia seeds.
The Four Mushroom Pie ($15) is almost a meal on its own. Stuffed with pieces of king oyster and button, cremini and shiitake mushrooms in a creamy sauce with taleggio and brie cheeses, it is scrumptious.
While I love the savoury dishes, I am a bit undecided about the desserts.
The Apricot & Lavender Souffle ($20) is airy enough, but I’ve never been a fan of lavender-flavoured food because the floral fragrance reminds me of bodycare products.
The Pineapple Rhum Baba ($16) has a delicious rum-soaked cake matched with an appropriate rum and raisin ice cream, but the pineapple cannoli on the plate seems superfluous. Those who like variety may see no reason to complain, however.
What I find more objectionable is when I am asked if I want coffee or tea with my dessert – four times in a row.
But the food is generally good and the view is lovely. So I am in a good enough mood not to let that spoil my evening. After all, some of the staff are very professional and the lapses, while irritating, are well intentioned.
Hopefully, though, the restaurant will let the servers know that sometimes, once is enough.
Where: CapitaGreen Rooftop, 138 Market Street, Level 40
Hours: 11.30am to 10pm (Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday), 11.30am to midnight (Thursday and Friday), 6pm to midnight (Saturday). Closed on Sunday
By Wong Ah Yoke, The Straits Times, November 29, 2015
Photo: Artemis Grill Facebook page