It's hard not to be charmed by the flavours and nuances of Australian cuisine. While it lacks the unique defining features and culinary history of say, the French or Italian (Australian chef Luke Mangan, of the Luke Mangan restaurant empire, once quipped Australian cuisine as "stealing influences from rest of the world"), its use of fresh ingredients, light and natural flavourings, all tossed together with a laidback charm gives the food hailing from Down Under its loveable whimsicality.
What is it: Graze at Marin 38 is the sister restaurant of the popular original Graze at Rochester Park, and like its predecessor, offers Australian cuisine with an emphasis on fresh, quality produce.
Besides all-day casual dining, Graze is clearly also gunning to be the location of choice of the hip and the trendy for a leisurely afternoon tea, after-work relaxing and weekend brunches. The Graze restaurants recently also saw the employment of Australian born, award-winning executive chef Chris Donnellan to take the helm and inject a dose of fervour and energy into the restaurants.
The look: It's casual-chic dining at its best. The restaurant is reminiscent of typical Australian bistros, bright and airy with the use of panoramic glass panels, contrasting timber and oak finishes, and white colour palette accented with blue and grey hues. Quirky touches can be seen sprinkled throughout, such as the "chair room", a private dining space with wall installations of suspended chairs.
PR speak: "I wanted a fresh new look, fresh produce, fresh ingredients on the plate, together with a little bit of Japanese, Mediterrenean and Europe influences," says chef Donnellan of Graze's new menu. "The menu is basically a mix of all that -- nice clean food to go with the restaurant's concept."
Must-try: Chef Donnellan's penchant for consistently pushing the envelope on the cuisine front is evident in his new creations. The starter of crispy smoked eel, beetroot rémoulade, wilted kang kong, pickled fenne (S$21) for example, isn't the most conventional of starters, espcially with the use of beetroot, but its play on the sweetness of rémoulade and the slightly salty eel makes for a surprisingly palatable appetizer. The soy cured snapper with yogurt, salad of spring pea and green pea cream (S$20) is another favourite, a medley of savoury and tart flavours that had us wolfing down everything in minutes.
While meats are clearly the attention-grabbers of the menu, with dishes such as the 300g kurobuta pork chop (S$36), 240g Wagyu rump steak (S$48) and the absolutely massive 1kg black 250 day grain-fed Angus rib (S$128), it was love at first bite for us for the fresh sea catch. The jumbo tiger prawns with skinny frites and house sea urchin (S$34), though simple enough in its execution, presents four beautifully seared prawns infused with the smoky aroma of the grill whilst retaining the juiciness and plumpness of fresh prawns.
And what would an Australian bistro be without a signature barramundi dish? The pan-seared barramundi in chorizo broth with salad of ruby red grapefruit (S$34), also one of chef Donnellan's favourite creations, ("I like the smoky broth. The barramundi is quite a meaty fish, so I tried to balance that with the creaminess of the avocado and the grapefruit.") is the highlight of the menu for us, the barramundi expertly cooked to perfection with tender flesh and crispy skin and complemented by the flavourful clear chorizo broth.
We don't say this often, but dessert is an absolute must at Graze, especially with the piña colada coconut parfait with toasted coconut, spiced pineapple and crispy wafer (S$14), Chef Donnellan's take on the rum cocktail -- the "deconstructed" dessert is light on the palate, and we could totally do seconds even after the heavy meal. The black and white combo of Valrhona dark chocolate cream and vanilla bean ice-cream (S$15) is straightforward enough, but it's the accompanying side of freeze-dried compote of mango, rambutan and mangosteen that elevates the dessert to truly inspired levels.
Verdict: Graze presents everything we love about Australian cuisine: simple and wonderfully-executed food with uncomplicated yet delicious flavours, all set against a charmingly laidback enviornment. Chef Donnellan's culinary expertise and creativity also clearly shines through -- we can't wait to see what he's got up his sleeves next.
Graze, Martin No. 38, 38 Martin Road, +65 6509 1680