Jigger & Pony’s latest concept, Rosemead, is nothing short of an ambitious yet herculean effort to completely transform the space in just over a week. Set in the grand Quadrant at Cecil for communions over modern Californian fine–dining, the tall ceilings and airy dining room finished with earthy wood tones, cushy furnishings, and sturdy tables exude the luxuries of a Californian country retreat. Find yourself jiving to wonders of the Bee Gees to the legendary Ms Lauryn Hill as you marvel at chefs preparing your food in the custom-built open-hearth kitchen over the open flames.
Things are getting hot in Rosemead. Helmed by Chef David Tang and General Manager, James Moon, – both Asian Americans who originated from California – the powerhouse match up embodies the Californian movement through its cuisine where they strive to place an emphasis on seasonality and honouring local and regional produce. This style of cooking typically features wholesome yet healthful dishes that highlight natural flavours from lean cuts of meats and seafood, and an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables. Diners are treated to seasonal menus, diverse wine lists and stellar cocktails to pair as the current seasonal menu leans towards richer earthier flavours as compared to the fresh and bright profiles from the summer months that will soon approach.
The Mangrove Crab Tartine with Avocado and Yuzu Citrus ($38) highlights a fresh sweetness from the crab, creaminess from the avocado, and a slight herbaceous touch from the fennel flowers for a refreshing start that is bound to whet your appetite. Another star starter is the Chitose Farm Tomato & Basil topped with Crackling Pork Skin ($24). Roasted over the embers till they blister, each tomato is a juice bomb that burst in your mouth with crunchy textures of the pork crackling and a subtly spicy nduja sausage spread.
The Roasted Hand Dive Scallop with Sauce Nantaise & Prickly Ash ($98) only excites with each supple bite into its fork-tender middle. Accompanied with a mix of savoury and caramelly flavours from the scallop butter reduction, and seared for a touch of smoke to finish, every bite feels a warm hug from the Californian Coast.
A must order that’s great for sharing is the Wood-Fired Lamb Shoulder with Tahina and Lebanese Pickle ($120). Slow roasted on the hearth, the result is fall off the bone tender meats that reflects a clean-tasting profile – without all the gaminess – accompanied with a mild char for depth. Good on its own but even better paired with the silky tahini while the pickles introduce a tinge of acidity to balance off each bite. A dish so delectable that even ones who typically avoid lamb went back for seconds.
Now you can’t tell your friends about your visit to Jigger & Pony Group’s latest concept without imbibing on a proper tipple. That’s where bar manager, David Boncimino, flexes his cocktail know-hows from his stints in some of the top bars in London, Bangkok and Singapore. Sip on the Rosemead Old Fashioned ($33) that boasts a 21-day dry-aged duck fat-infused bourbon and our favourite, the supposedly lower alcohol Martiny ($28) that drinks brilliantly clean, dry and stiff. The signature Trigona Honey Bellini ($28) boasts bright and refreshing qualities, however, its odd viscosity left an unpleasant finish that unfortunately reminded us of thick water chug challenges. Nothing too egregious, perhaps revisiting the balancing scales will do the trick.
While everything about Rosemead seems to be on point and rosy with respectable food, in the end, we still can't help but feel a disconnect with Rosemead’s conceptual attempt at convivial communion new age fine-dining. With its somewhat unapproachable prices with small plates priced from $20 to $40, this is definitely not the average person’s usual joint but a place reserved only for special occasions.