Our editor tries out The Dempsey Cookhouse with her mom and husband in tow; will this much-hyped celeb chef restaurant be a crowd pleaser?
A few weeks after The Dempsey Cookhouse & Bar, the new shining jewel in the COMO Dempsey food and lifestyle complex, opened up, I foolishly decided to swing by with my husband and mother on a Thursday night, sans reservation. The hostess didn’t even bother to give us an estimated waiting time, she just politely said, “Sorry, we’re full!”
Luckily that was at the start of my mom’s visit, so I had to time to regroup and notice that they actually, conveniently offer online reservations, and duly made a booking for the next Thursday. While I initially had to book in for 9pm, when they called to confirm the day before our booking I was able to swap to a much more mom-friendly 7pm, so take heed, mamas!
But enough about the logistics, What about the food?! As you may know, Dempsey Cookhouse comes from French celebrity chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, whose eponymous restaurant in New York has three Michelin stars, and who has built an upscale restaurant empire across the U.S., Caribbean, and Asia.
The “casual-but-refined” concept in the airy, elegant renovated Dempsey barracks offers a range of food, from pizza (this is Jean-Georges, after all, so it’s topped with Black Truffle and Fontina for $26) and the signature Egg Caviar ($38), to mains like Cheeseburger with Brie and Black Truffle Mayonnaise ($24) and Prosciutto-wrapped Pork Chop ($32), or his signature dessert, the Chocolate Lava Cake ($15).
The wine list is duly impressive, and on the night we visited the bar area was positively buzzing (hilariously our servers asked me three times if I wanted a glass of Champagne, despite what I thought was a fairly obvious baby bump). I must say I was quite bummed to be missing out on the Asian-inspired cocktails (the Ginger Margarita particularly caught my eye) and yummy dessert wines.
Speaking of the service, it was highly attentive without being overly obtrusive (I hate hoverers!). I got the sense the maitre’d may have come in from one of Jean-Georges’s other restaurants, and the ratio of servers-to-table seemed to be at least 2, if not 3, to 1.
The atmosphere is airy and ever so slightly languorous, with a black-and-white color scheme that feels more Wonderland than severe (consider yourself warned, though, mama: black and white also seems to be the dress code!), delicate jazz music softly tinkling through the air, and beautiful bouquets of flowers everywhere you turn. Even as you sit back and sip your drink in your high-backed white rattan chair you can’t help but feel just a little bit fancy.But back to the food! Had we been dining on an expense account, we very well may have tried to order each and every one of the delectable-sounding starters. Alas, ‘twas not the case, but we still made a good dent by trying out Burrata with Meyer Lemon Jam ($18), Crispy Salmon Sushi with Chipotle Mayonnaise ($16), shredded Kale and Chili Salad ($15), and Black Pepper Crab Dumplings ($19).
Not only was each of these starters relatively economical (for Singapore, anyway), but all were big enough to share, and the three of us agreed they were a highlight of the meal. The Crispy Salmon Sushi is particularly noteworthy, with its crunchy brown rice and a perfect spicy kick via the chipotle mayo. I also appreciated how they jazzed up the kale salad by adding lemon, green chili, mint and just a touch of garlic. Honestly each of the other four salads on the menu looked equally interesting; just one more reason I’ll have to go back!
All three of us found our mains good, if a notch less spectacular than the varied starters. My Spice Crusted Snapper ($34) was perfectly cooked, but the only flavor that really came through was the pepper of the spice crust – I didn’t feel it absorbed much of its accompanying sweet and sour broth.
My mother, on the other hand, went gaga for her earthy, moreish Pork Chop, and basically cleaned her plate, while my husband found his BBQ Glazed Short Rib ($29) to be delicious, if also a tad undersized (especially in comparison to the massive Pork Chop).
We ended on a high note, though, with three absolutely stellar desserts: I had the Malted Ganache Chocolate Cake with Marshmallow (I’m still coming down from the well-earned sugar high), my husband went for the old-school Baked Alaska (sadly not brought out on fire), and my mom went for Mixed Berry Pavlova. Each was perfectly executed, and once again has me looking forward to a return visit.
Since we dined at Dempsey Cookhouse it’s subsequently started serving lunch on its spacious outdoor patio (the menu is basically identical to dinner, with the added option of having a variety of meats and seafood “simply cooked”).
There’s also a brand new Sunday Brunch that I’m dying to go to, with everything from the famous Egg Caviar with Meyer Lemon Gelée, to a Sunny Side Up Frittata ($18), Crunchy Spiced French Toast with Bacon ($14), and a lovely-sounding Chia and Coconut Pudding with Fresh Fruits and Cacao ($12). Are you hungry yet, mama?
Having dined at the original Michelin-starred restaurant in New York once upon a time and finding it a bit too fancy and over the top for my taste, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with Dempsey Cookhouse. Would the food be pretentious? Overpriced? Heavy and French? I was delighted to discover dishes that perfectly suit our tropical climate while still retaining Chef Vongerichten’s elegant sensibility and passion for a wide range of flavors. I look forward to returning and sampling more of the extensive menu!
Opening Hours: Lunch: Mon to Fri, 12:00pm to 2:30pm; Brunch: Sat & Sun 12:00pm to 3:00pm; Dinner: Sun to Thu, 6:00pm to 10.00pm; Fri, Sat, Eve of Public Holidays and PH, 6:00pm to 11:00pm.
The Dempsey Cookhouse & Bar, Block 17D Dempsey Road, Singapore 249676, Tel: 1800 304 5588, www.facebook.com/dempseycookhouseandbar