After dinner at Origin, I understood the difference between a steakhouse and a grillhouse. A steakhouse has only one reason to exist: source and serve the best steaks. Everything else on the food menu is besides the point. A grillhouse is different. At a grill house, there’s more than just steak. If you would like just a salad you won’t have to settle for creamed spinach.
And that is Origin: a very good grillhouse.
Every dinner at Origin should start at the bar. Sit at a corner booth, draw the curtains slightly, order your drinks, marvel at the luscious design, shades of first class in the Orient Express. Then from the warm cocoon of the bar to the spacious arrival hall of the dining room. Sit by the windows. Try to ignore the sight of pink half-naked men on their balconies.
Our starters came quickly. There was a Freemantle octopus tentacle with smoked paprika and some chutney. It tasted like a deconstructed octopus curry, and I found it somewhat chewy. My wife liked it. She compared it favourably with another Freemantle octopus tentacle (are Freemantle octupuses only tentacle?) we had recently at Blu Kouzina, which she said seemed even more overpriced now.
The other starter was a salad. This was a glorious salad, a fresh sweet mess of vegetables and herbs. It was tangy, nutty, spicy. All in harmony. Imagine taking a banh-mi bought fresh from a roadside hawker in Hanoi, removing the bread and meat, and eating what’s left. It was that good. The salad came with scallops, which I did not get to try, as my wife had gobbled them down. So clearly quite good too.
Then we had two steaks. The first was a 250gm “Shiro-kin” waygu ribeye from Australia ($188). While the name shiro-kin (meaning “white-gold”) makes me think of snow-capped mountains and pristine pastures of Kobe, it is actually from Australia. More than that, it is a brand of Andrews Meat Industries (which for some reason makes me think of Mr Burns from the Simpsons). Now I am a sucker for marketing. I intuitively like small, family owned farms where the farmer knows each of his cows’ names and his daughters milk them every morning. So the idea of eating wagyu from Mr Burns’s factory felt rather like drinking a wine ending with “Grange” – very tasty but with mixed feelings. But the fat was luscious, rounded, creamy. There was a pleasing bite to the meat. Chew and the juices flow. It was a sterling example of top-grade wagyu. After eating most of the ribeye cap, and most of the ribeye, my wife said “I would love to eat more but I am jerlating”. I resisted the urge to tell her that she had by this time eaten most of the octopus, all the scallops, and almost all the wagyu.
Which left me with the cheaper steak: a 500gm John Stone Grass-Fed ribeye Angus steak, dry-aged for 35 days ($128). It had been expertly grilled. With some imagination, I could even detect the subtle sweetness of the apple wood. The doneness – medium-rare – was right on point. Too often nowadays, at most steakhouses you order “medium-rare” and get blue; order “medium” and get “rare” (the only person I know who has consistently obtained steak to her desired doneness, regardless of venue, is my mother: “Veryvery well-done please”). But the medium-rare at Origin was a perfect medium-rare.
The flavour of the beef was excellent. It tasted like beef would have tasted if stone-aged men had access to grass-fed cows (actually, they probably did), grilled over hot coals and smoking wood. Given the quality of the beef and how beautifully it was grilled, I thought it was quite good value.
The sides. There was a dish of mushrooms that was competent, but otherwise nothing to write about. The fries with truffle aioli were stupendous. These were “Goldilocks chips”. Thin, golden, crispy, hot, dipped into creamy, tangy, aioli flecked with truffle-paste. This was clearly a kitchen passionate about its fries. Then there was the Beetroot Dish. Big. Bold. Bloody. Beetroots. Chopped into big chunks and roasted. I am used to eating sliced, effeminate beetroots. Or having beetroots in my ABC juice. These were beetroots banging me over the head with their Beetrootness. Paired with the goat’s cheese and walnuts, they were delicious. But I ate a single big chunk and could not eat any more.
Then dessert. There was a pretty trolley near the entrance, displaying cakes that caught my wife’s eye when we walked in. These were the “Origin Signature Cakes”. My wife ordered the walnut carrot cake. I think we were too full by that time, so it was only OK. And as I told my wife: “If you wanted to eat carrot cake, we could have stopped by Cedele on the way home.”
A final note on the wine list. It is quite compact, with a wide selection of more obscure grape varietals (Cortese, Romorantin, or Teroldego Rotaliano, anyone?). The more common varietals understandably had greater depth of selection, although I found some selections slightly odd. But put your trust in the wine team, try something outside your comfort zone, and you will likely be rewarded.
Wine List: 7/10
Lobby Level, Tower Wing, Shangri-La Hotel, Singapore
22 Orange Grove Road, Singapore 258350
Lunch: 12noon – 2:30pm (grill)
Dinner: 6pm – 10:30pm (grill)Reservations:
Tel: (65) 6213 4398
E-mail: [email protected]