Roost is the kind of restaurant that wants you to feel good about what you’re eating. The farm-to-fork concept is broadcasted as its philosophy, an unflinching shift from the business model of its predecessor, F Concept by Buffalo Kitchens.
The place is easy to like the moment you step in. It’s modern but neither in a minimalist nor a scattered ‘dumpster chic’ way. This one is more… refined English hipster. There is furniture the colour of pinewood against brick, there’s a tall, thin lamp that looks right out of an Anthropologie brochure, and then there are watercolours that feature the restaurant’s mascot, a friendly hornbill.
Young Danish chef Albert Frantzen is a man who understands that less is more. But alas, there are instances of ingredients that have so much potential, but were not given the extra boost to fly. Proof is the pan-seared lemon sole with beurre blanc and cabbage. It’s an idea I can get behind but the fish was left too long on the pan, sapping out its dignity (and flakiness). The beurre blanc is a welcoming accompaniment to the fish, but the sauce isn’t burnt enough and lacks the deep, aggressive amber it would have achieved if left to bubble on the stove just a minute longer. But hey, the cabbage is a nice touch.
The crab claw velouté is light enough, with roasted corn stirred in for texture. I quickly and regretfully become full on bread soaked in the sauce. The apple wood-smoked duck breast is unmemorable, but it comes with a well-executed sweet browned butter onion purée. The rest of the starters sound compelling enough for a second visit, like the lavender-smoked king prawn (a nice twist on teasmoked salmon, perhaps?) and deep-fried frog legs with tamarind jam.
The duck ragout with hand-cut pappardelle arrives to become the best thing on the table. The rough-and-tough thickness of the pasta is comforting, the sauce is tangy from the tomatoes and the (local) ricotta is refreshing. It’s the kind of food I want to eat in a place that is darker and dimmer and less modern, and it’s just a bit frustrating that the best thing I eat at Roost is the most classic thing I order.
At dessert time, the Jersey milk panna cotta wobbles side to side like a good ol’ Baywatch slow-mo. I subscribe to the school of creamy, melt-in-the-mouth panna cotta, but this one is too liberal with the gelatine. The passion fruit dribble steals from the milk, and the ring of cocoa powder that circles the pudding is a bit odd.
And then there’s the matter of the staff. To put it out there, everyone is lovely. But when I want to find out if the sole is local, or which mangrove the crabs were previously habituating, I get nothing but a nervous chuckle from the waiter. For a restaurant that seems indisputably noble about supporting local cultivation, I wish that more energy could have been spent on educating the staff about the exact origins of the food.
As much as this restaurant wins on account of decency and originality, there are nuts and bolts that need tightening. I don’t say this with any snide, but I really, truly wish Roost the best.
Jalan Telawi 3
|Opening hours:||Tue-Sun, 11.30am-11.30pm|