It isn't frequent you come across a chef with as much passion and enthusiasm for food as I do consuming his dishes, and ever-effusive Alsace-born chef—and now also co-owner—Stephane Istel is one such man.
Pursuing his dream of owning his own restaurant by the age of 35 and serving up home-style cooking like his mother, the former Executive Chef of DB Bsitro Moderne teams with life and business partner, New Zealander Kori Millar—who recently left her role as General Manager of Sky on 57—to set up the unassuming Bar-Roque Grill on 2 July 2013.
Located within Amara Hotel, the modern rotisserie and bar doles out some stellar all-homely, unpretentious grub—a mix of seasonal produce and Chef Stephane’s mum’s recipes interpreted with modern techniques—at reasonable pricings in a cozy, convivial setting.
To start off the meal, I’d—or the genial chef himself would, as he’s often seen personally explaining the menu to patrons—recommend the Tarte flamees (starts from $12). Prepared in a specially imported oven, the typically Alsatian dish—think thin crust pizzas—boasts slightly chewy centres with gooey cheese, and delightfully crisp edges. Go for the
Other great nibbles include the Bar-Roque chicken wings ($9) served with their own homemade chilli sauce that starts off sweet and is surprisingly robust, and the Braised pork belly bun ($6 each). Tender pork marinated in pineapple juice for a sweet tang, and contrasted by crunchy pickle.
While the menu is mostly French-influenced, the Spanish-leaning Char-grilled Fremantle octopus salad ($24) is a must-try. Chef's amazingly vibrant yet smooth Romesco sauce pulls together the different layers of textures—I especially enjoyed the contrast of almond flakes on tender octopus—and would have people waiting outside their doors if, and when, they decide to sell it by the bottle.
Combining the very best of fresh seafood with mixed mushrooms and homemade garlic pork sausage for a slight twist, the generously portioned and charmingly rustic classic French dish of Moules Mariniere served with grilled sourdough to soak up the rich, tasty sauce is something I'd gladly have every other day.
And just as I was about to yet again poke fun at my voluntarily pescatarian friends' dietary restrictions, Chef Stephane serves up a disarmingly delicious Trevally carpaccio. Beautifully seasoned with a gusting of herbs, spices and piquant white balsamic vinegar, the brilliantly bright flavours dances on the palate, and was a definite highlight of the evening.
However, the very best of the menu are the meat dishes crafted around the Rotisol, a huge electric-powered rotisserie oven centrepiece that can hold up to a magnificent 60kg of meat. We watched as the Rotisserie Challans duck ($250 per 2.5-3kg duck, call for availability) with a lip-smacking, savoury five spice glaze turned a glorious bronze before being sliced and perched on a pillowy, light mash.
The French free-range rotisserie chicken ($20 half, $38 whole), served with side of velvety, creamy Ravioles 'Royan' ($12, also available as a main course $24) is satisfying tender under its crisp skin, but it was the Australian pork knuckle ($58, whole pork knuckle) that was the real stunner. Gratifyingly unctuous and succulent under a sinfully crunchy, crackled skin—so good, it should be illegal—the luscious meat is paired with fine homemade Alsatian sauerkraut that possesses just enough crunch to relieve the oiliness without distracting from the flavour.
The desserts menu is kept simple and fuss-free, though the chef swoops in with an Instagram-ready platter of traditional Apple pie topped with cinnamon crumble ($12) and rum & raisin ice cream much to the envy of our neighbours. Following his mum's recipe to a tee, this wonderful touch of home makes for a heart-warming, sweet end to the meal.
My experience at Bar-Roque Grill has been nothing short of spectacular, and despite it being only 8-days old when we visited, but Chef Stephane has already charmed and terribly impressed us with good ol' honest food from the heart. I've already made plans to revisit the establishment, and if you're headed down, bring more friends—it's the only way to truly savour everything they have got to offer.
Bar-Roque Grill Amara Hotel, #01-00 165 Tanjong Pagar Road, Singapore 088539
Tel: +65 6444 9672
Opening Hours Tuesdays - Saturdays: 12 pm – 2.30 pm, 5.30 pm – 10.30 pm Sundays: 12 pm - 3 pm, 5.30 pm - 10 pm Closed Mondays