The venue is now closed.
Hearty, American diner cuisine has managed to hold its own against the wide breadth of choices offered in our F&B scene, and this Duxton Road newbie looks to expand our understanding of the united states of food into New Orleans territory.
Life is Beautiful, located in a spacey room in a corner unit once occupied by a karaoke bar, serves up the rich, fusion Creole cuisine of the American South, though in execution, scales back on the momma-loves-you portion sizes and warm hospitality you tend to associate with the region. The decor exudes more New York cool over cowboy saloon, with polished concrete, exposed brick and grainy woods dominating the aesthetic in the dining and bar areas, and the restaurant seems perpetually filled with the who’s who in the fash and DJ sets. A bit of glam comes in with some plush red sofas, which seats clubbers when the bar switches to lounge mode after dinner hours.
The offerings are listed on an aptly-titled ‘Page of Food’, put together by chef Robert Staedler, a 17-year industry veteran who’s racked up experience in Australia, KU DE TA Bali and the defunct Supperclub (but surprisingly, not in the US or New Orleans). Some of the options don’t give much insight to the chef’s skills – for example, the vegetarian plate of burnt corn and tea-smoked tomatoes ($21), or the addition of bitter salad greens uninspiringly piled on just about every dish – but order the right things, and you’re in for a treat (as well as a hefty bill).
Come in a group and order the double portion of fried, buttermilk- soaked chicken ($38) and 700-gram hangar steak with butter-poached shrimp salad ($78) for sharing. The former encases incredibly juicy chicken in a paper-thin, paprika- spiked batter that comes with a racy red four-chilli sauce, and the latter, if flamed right and served medium-rare, features a big beefy flavour. The shrimp salad could use fresher fish – there was the unmistakable tinge of bitter metal in ours.
The expensive trio of lanky, bacon-wrapped garfish ($32) was a minefield of bones to navigate around for its delicate, salty meat – but when paired with a tiny dollop the innocuous-looking Scotch bonnet sauce, it’s a big, bold and beautiful taste in the mouth. And don’t shy away from the main of croc and fennel boudin ($28) – which comes in the form of a minced meatball – it’s a must-try (and palatable enough for the squeamish).
The master plan of bestowing a beautiful life here sadly doesn’t include dessert yet, or friendly server patter. The sullen and surly staff is a stark contrast to the chirpy enthusiasm of restaurant manager Gustin Mahtani or New Orleans-transplanted lady bartender Tyler Hudgens, who made us a gin fizz ($18) and sazerac ($18) – they unfortunately lacked balance – to finish. Dishes are plonked down with little fanfare, and enquiries on the spirits in our drinks were initially met with a dismissive remark of ‘it’s our secret recipe’, followed up with a hastily scrawled list of ingredients sourly dumped on our table.
The air at Life is Beautiful is thick with American accents hungry for a taste of home (and for some reason, fashion mavens there to see and be seen), plus early adopter locals looking for yet another new food experience. Before the reservation books fill up, let’s hope they fix the service and instil some keenness in the staff to educate the local eater about the unabashed cuisine of New Orleans. The words on the menu may initially seem strange, but once acquainted, this is a taste that will leave Singapore hankering for more.
|Venue name:||Life Is Beautiful Kitchen & Bar (CLOSED)||Contact:|
99 Duxton Rd
|Opening hours:||Tue 6pm-midnight, Wed-Sat 6pm-3am|