WHERE CULTURES. CUISINES AND CREATIVITY CONVERGE
Get used to flavour bombs right from the get-go, with snacks like Mini Corn on Fire (S$10), a twist to Brazilian-style corn on the cob that blackens and turns locally grown baby corn into a moreish treat with grated pecorino, smoked paprika and an antioxidant-rich aioli made using fermented black garlic. Dadinhos de Sago (S$11), meaning “little dices” in Portuguese, are deep-fried dices of tapioca granules jammed with salted cheese in between. Chef Mariana makes this everyday Brazilian snack relatable and instagrammable all at once with a sweet, striking red dragonfruit chutney dip.
Starters are a deep dive into the cultural mosaic of chef Mariana’s culinary DNA, which stretches back from the South American and African tapestry drawn on growing up and being largely based in Rio de Janeiro—Brazil’s spiritual centre—to her time spent studying and working in Paris, where she paid her dues in the gastronomy circles after graduating from Institut Paul Bocuse in Lyon, to Singapore, where trips to the wet markets are a constant source of inspiration for the 28 year-old chef.
While Our Own Goat Cheese (S$17) appears to be a classic French pairing of goat cheese with honey, chef Mariana designed every aspect of the dish to be farmed, fermented and made entirely from scratch on Singapore soil. Raw goat milk from Hay’s Farm is transformed into a creamy cheese using Kefir grains—a type of mesophilic symbiotic culture that gives the milk a thicker consistency and a sour taste—and strained for several days to take shape. The two-week long process reveals real, freshly made goat cheese that’s 100 per cent local, rich in texture and taste, and packed with significant amounts of gut-cleansing beneficial bacteria. Keeping the trimmings trim but unabashedly in theme, only local raw honey sourced from 13 Honey’s own bee farm and freshly baked walnut and buckwheat bread from “Oh My Goodness!”, a local e-bakery specialising in gluten-free bakes, are presented with the all-local, no-gluten dish.
On the other end of the spectrum, Tucupi Tiradito (S$22) is an exploration of her South American heritage by combining tiradito, a Peruvian-Japanese variation of ceviche where sashimi-sized, carpaccio-thin slices of raw fish are traditionally accented with a spicy citrus sauce; and in its place tucupi, a Brazilian cuisine staple of fermented acidic juice extracted from wild cassava root. From there on, the flavours hit a little closer to home: tongue-tingling Sichuan peppercorns and sweet local winged bean pickles bring balance to the acidity, laksa leaf oil perfumes the broth with notes of coriander, and what’s remaining of the wild cassava root is thinly sliced and fried into tapioca chips for a satisfying, minimal-waste crunch.
Gluten-free pasta is often riddled with a bad reputation, which is why chef Mariana insists on creating everything from scratch – a philosophy that she carries throughout the pantry, be it pasta or bread, ketchup or kombucha.
When you make your food from scratch, you’re doing right by your guests. You know what goes in it. You know there’s no chemical, or additive, that you used the best raw ingredient there is and you can season it however you want. Yes, it’s tiring to make each gnocchi by hand when you’re also fermenting your own bread, ketchup or kombucha. But if we can leave guests with a positive experience of what gluten-free cooking could taste like, that, in itself, makes it all worthwhile.
Created for comfort, pasta dishes at The Butcher’s Wife cater to homespun tastes. Sweet Potato Gnocchi (S$22) trades in regular potato starch and wheat flour for antioxidant-rich sweet potatoes and buckwheat flour, resulting in lighter purple pillows with a rustic, earthy sweetness that are pan-fried for a good crisp before being finished in a rosemary butter sauce with local mushrooms and pea shoots. Buckwheat Tagliatelle (S29) was inspired by a staff meal where one of chef Mariana’s chefs introduced her to Sinigang na Baboy, a rich and hearty Filipino pork and sour tamarind stew. Replacing pork with a traditional French duck confit, Mariana set out to recreate the same comforting flavours and made fresh tagliatelle out of buckwheat flour to get a good al dente texture that would hold its own in the broth.
Mains on the menu are far from just a well-cooked piece of meat. Land or sea, chef Mariana presents a deft balancing act of flavours and textures on each plate. Grilled Octopus (S$27) comes in meaty parcels of a tentacle that’s been tossed on the barbecue, served alongside house made white kimchi tucked beneath a viscous layer of sweet manioc puree and sturdy stalks of blasted broccoli. Wagyu Picanha (S$38) features the round cap of an Australian wagyu, hankered as the choice cut at any Brazilian barbecue for its tender meat and outer layer of flavourful fat, which she pairs with a salsa—another quintessential Brazilian condiment—made out of Thai green papaya, a fruit she discovered while exploring the local wet markets. Burnt cauliflower puree serves as a smooth, smoky base for a lining of dehydrated banana that’s been crushed into a sweet, coarse powder – together they’re reminiscent of her favourite side dish back home of fried plantains coated in manioc flour.
Neither are desserts an afterthought, with Warm Chocolate Cake (S$14) sliced open to reveal a molten lava of 72% Ecuadorian chocolate—rich, intense, velvety—from local bean-to-bar chocolate maker Lemuel Chocolate, served with buttery pili nuts and a caramel miso ice cream that’s churned in-house. Lemongrass Panna Cotta (S$13) is infused with ginger and lime kaffir leaves, served with pineapples that’s been sous vide in its own juice, in a creamy calamansi curd with a butternut tuile for crunch.