When Australian chef, Sam Aisbett, decided to open his first restaurant, it wasn’t the shores of Sydney or the laneways of Melbourne that called to him, it was Singapore. With a long-standing appreciation for Asian cuisine and culture, the cosmopolitan city was the perfect place in which to launch his first venture: Whitegrass.
A collaboration between Sam and hospitality group, H Dining Concepts, Whitegrass opened in the historic Caldwell House at CHIJMES in early 2016. Originally built for a magistrate’s clerk in 1840, the neoclassical- style house became part of a convent in 1854. After the convent closed in 1983, Singapore’s government redeveloped the site, converting it into a unique lifestyle venue.
The fine dining restaurant is the culmination of Sam’s passion and appreciation for modern Australian cuisine. Born into a family of butchers, he had an innate love and respect for food. At the age of 16, Sam began his career as a chef, working his way up the ranks in kitchens in Australia and Europe. However, it was his time at Quay and Tetsuya’s in Sydney that proved most educational. Respect for produce was paramount at Tetsuya’s and during his time there, Sam was exposed to a variety of specialist Japanese produce and cooking styles. While at Quay, he worked closely with neighbouring farms to grow specialist produce for the restaurant and learnt all about the importance of incorporating differing textural elements into a dish.
Now in Singapore, Sam is introducing diners to his version of redefined, modern Australian cuisine with a distinctive Japanese influence. Joining Sam in the kitchen is Peruvian Head Chef, Diego Cossio. A trained pastry chef with a passion for cheese-making, bread- making and fermenting, Diego previously worked at The Ledbury in London and brings his extensive knowledge to the Whitegrass kitchen.
In order to deliver a unique dining experience, Sam and Diego place emphasis on using the best produce available, whether that be from Australia or Europe, or more locally grown. Urban farmers in Singapore supply fresh ingredients to the restaurant and the chefs also visit local markets regularly. Sam and Diego also import unique ingredients from around the world, including 20-year-aged Japanese soy, native Australian sea succulents and wild game from Europe.
The menu at Whitegrass is constantly evolving, so there’s always something new to try. That being said, one of the most popular dishes is the slow-roasted Iberico pork jowl, served with scallop silk, white turnip cream, cabbage stems, black moss and aromatic pork broth. The dessert of young coconut mousse, jackfruit ice cream, fresh longan, sugar-coated almonds and ginger cake has also proven to be a hit, not least for its use of local delicacies – jackfruit and longan.
In bringing Whitegrass to life, Sam worked tirelessly with design firm Takenouchi Webb to conceptualise a space that would showcase sophistication but still convey a relaxed side to dining. The decor was inspired by the neo-classical architecture and history of Caldwell House as well as Sam’s contemporary cuisine.
In the main dining room, Singaporean artist, Messy Msxi, has hand painted a fascinating wall mural featuring sea creatures, land animals, plants and herbs. Handmade ceramics, bespoke tableware, custom-made marble tables, sofa seating, rugs and free-form native Australian floral arrangements add to the contemporary feel, resulting in a relaxed yet refined space.
Whitegrass presents a contemporary Australian fine dining experience within one of Singapore’s most iconic locations. With a fun and playful vibe and seasonal menu, it has everything you need for a delicious day out.