Chef Sujatha's new menu at Botanico is a mood-lifter
The first time I tasted Sujatha Asokan's food was in 2018, when she took over as head chef of Botanico at Singapore Botanic Gardens.
I left that meal convinced by her abilities.
Last year, she was named Rising Chef of the Year (Female) by World Gourmet Summit and she got a chance to work at the Michelin-starred Mugaritz in Spain.
Chef Sujatha has a new menu at Botanico.
You would think spending time overseas might make her offerings more international. Instead, she has looked inwards and doubled down on her food's Asian-ness, creating dishes with distinctly Asian flavour profiles.
An excellent way to start the experience is with a serving of the Corn Pani Puri ($10).
It is spiced baby corn inside a freshly fried panipuri shell, topped with spiced foam. This deftly combines airiness and textures.
Also outstanding is the Rojak ($15).
The ingredients are familiar - seasonal fruits, shrimp paste and calamansi - but the overall approach to this is restrained and elegant.
The prawn paste sauce - always the reason I crave rojak - is present but subtle, and ties in all the different elements.
Purists may not be too happy, but give it a chance.
These two dishes form part of a credible Appetisers menu, and lift your expectation of the meal to come.
Many of the main dishes also impress, especially the Crab Rissoni ($32).
Crab meat takes centre stage, with a combination of Japanese deep-sea red crab and blue swimmer crab.
The meat is mixed into rissoni that has been cooked with garlic, chilli and toasted Japanese nori. The sauce is egg yolks and comte. Finally, it is topped with octopus bottarga.
It does sound like a lot, but it all comes together as a plate of umami goodness.
Because the Herbal Chicken ($29) is so successful in what it sets out to do, it ironically ended up on the bottom of my list of tasted dishes.
I am not a fan of any herbal chicken, and while the texture of the chicken works, the flavours do not.
I do not like angelica root (dang gui), but if you are a fan of herbal anything, this should be on your list.
Luckily there are other options for me, such as the "Assam Pedas" Snapper ($32).
The fish is placed in an Inka charcoal oven on a banana leaf, and finished with lime and salt. It is as tender as one would hope.
The accompanying saffron risotto, okra two-ways and assam pedas gravy contribute largely to the dish's triumph.
The rice is rich and aromatic, the deep-fried okra is delicious, and the assam pedas put me in such a good mood.
A meal at Botanico is certainly a mood-lifter with the lights, alcohol and cuisine.
And if you just want to snack, head to The Garage - the complex where Botanico resides - and try Bee's Knees, as Chef Sujatha heads the kitchen there too.
If you have the stomach space for only one option, try the Spicy Duck Loaded Fries ($17) with its duck fat/sriracha/mozzarella sauce. It is one of the best things you will eat anywhere.