Restaurant Sommer Review: New Fine Dining Spot Opens At The Sail, Marina Bay
While many of us would be thrilled to learn of a new fine-dining restaurant to add to our list of coveted tables, many would be equally excited by the fact that two-month-old Sommer is helmed by a relatively young toque, who is showing all the signs of a confident but unaffected chef. That man in question is 27-year-old Lewis Barker who makes his debut as head chef at this stylish yet relaxed modern European outfit by the Ebb & Flow Group, located on the ground floor of The Sail on Marina Boulevard.
If the group name sounds familiar, that’s because it’s the same company that was behind the now-defunct Vianney Massot Restaurant, where Barker most recently served as sous chef. But unlike the heavily Robuchon-informed modern French fare Lewis had helped serve under Massot (who coincidentally, was also 27 years of age when his debut namesake earned its Michelin star), the menu at Sommer is less of a calculated visual nod to perfection, yet no-less a deliberate showcase of refined technique and an embrace a more global marketplace.
What stands out early in the meal is the kitchen’s well-executed dishes, accentuated by their modest design and plating. These include the trio of snacks that precedes dinner proper—elegant but not overdressed canapés conceived to make an impression in the mouth.
Interestingly, they lend insight into Lewis’ taste memories. A playful assembly of smoked Japanese saba on homemade crumpet, topped with kaluga caviar (harvested from a 12-year aged sturgeon), we learned, recalls a familiar dish the soft spoke Brit (from Leeds) enjoyed as a child. More smartly constructed yet still familiar is a moreish pairing of glazed foie gras (ethically sourced, of course) with caramelised onions and black truffle.
Purposeful as they are as a means to whet the appetite, we like that this is achieved without resorting to more enthusiastic exploitations of brighter, zestier flavours. Perhaps it was prefigured that the latter would be adequately accomplished with the first course of Majestic oyster, which is complemented with refreshing notes of apple and green chilli ponzu, and more of the house caviar.
Just as noticeably considered is Lewis’ adaptations of accustomed pairings. Like the dish of Irish duck breast that is lightly seasoned with five-spice and slow-roasted, served with a duck leg confit “kromeski” and a tartlet of duck liver, duck skin and buckwheat, finished with a drizzle of jus made with duck bones. Rather than cut through the richness of the dish with something more delicately acerbic (like a plum or a citrus), he chose instead a puree of sweet sand carrot.
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The dish that shone brightest the evening we dined was even less of an intricate play. The Brittany turbot, deftly confit in roasted lardo di Colonnata to elevate the fish’s beautiful flavour and texture, went down nicely with some petit pois cooked with sliced Noir de Bigorre (that finely marbled black pig from France) and black trumpet mushrooms. The choice to accompany it with a sauce of vin jaune, made with bones of the turbot and a touch of wild garlic, was unsurprising but nonetheless toothsome and well-balanced.
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There is no doubt something inherently familiar about these dishes in that they bear elements of the contemporary stylings we’ve come to know and love over the last decade. But there is a sense that the team is still working on finding their unique culinary identity.
And that is perfectly fine. More importantly, the menu hits all its intended marks. Which only proves that it won’t be long before we’re pleasantly surprised with distinctly progressive creations gourmands would return for.
Sommer is located at The Sail, 2 Marina Boulevard, #01-02, S(018987), tel: 6436 3668.