One Rochester is no longer just about drinks.
The plush retreat at Rochester Park is better known as a place for chilling out, but in recent months, the gastrobar has taken steps to position itself as a dining destination, thanks to its new executive chef Refaie Kee, 29.
Chef Refaie Kee, otherwise known as Chef Reif, was one of the partners of modern European restaurant Reif + James, and has trained under celebrity chefs Gordon Ramsay and Jean Paul Naquin. He decided to follow his passion for cooking after his 'O' levels, and got his big break when he was selected to represent Raffles Hotel in 2002's Black Box Competition. Despite it being his first culinary competition, he emerged as the 1st runner up.
Chef Reif describes his culinary style as 'Modern European with an Asian touch'. If you think that Modern European cuisine is light and delicate, think again. Chef Reif's interpretations come across as robust and hearty - food that is meant to satisfy not just your taste buds but your tummy as well.
A recent tasting session saw the use of tropical fruits in a stuffed squid salad. Pitted lychees added a burst of sweetness, while the arugula salad's bitterness balanced the assortment of flavours.
The deceptively simple oven baked miso cod was a fulfilling main course. Simply prepared and presented, the smooth, buttery taste of the fish was enhanced by the slightly sweet miso glaze. My dining companion's lamb shank was flavourful and hearty - good for those with large appetites.
Desserts stole the limelight though - the smooth and delicate creme brulée was set off by a not-too-sweet cherry compote, while the robust coconut panna cotta was dense, rich and smooth. A must-try is the deconstructed apple crumble - tart apple slices, plump raisins, and crunchy crumbles served in a bowl with a side of homemade vanilla ice-cream.
How does he come up with these dishes? "By daydreaming in the kitchen or at home and eating out in new restaurants."
AsiaOne has a quick chat with Chef Reif.
A good chef is...
One who is passionate, versatile, creative and sensitive to the needs of his guests.
What gives you most satisfaction as a chef?
There are two things actually - cooking excellent food for all my guests, and inventing new dishes.
What is your favourite ingredient?
Chilli - its flavour is very versatile. Seeded, it's only mildly spicy and infuses a dish with sweetness. As a whole (with seeds), it gives a kick. I use it for my homemade chilli jam which I serve with succulent squid and arugula, spiced braised lamb shank with truffle mash, and also in my grilled scampi with chilli & fresh oregano with spicy lemon dressing.
What is your most essential kitchen tool?
Knives. Without them, it'd be impossible to present vegetables and other foodstuff elegantly. Don't forget that they are also handy for filleting fishes.
Where do you get your ingredients from?
I source them from France, Italy, and Australia. I also shop at Tekka Market in Serangoon Road.
What are the must-haves in your fridge at home?
Milk. It's my energy-booster since I hardly have time to eat or cook for myself.
What is your favourite local dish? Where do you get it?
Chicken rice at Tanglin Halt coffee shop.
One Rochester is located at No 1. Rochester Park. Call 6773-0070 for reservations or visit www.onerochester.com