“Give me the power of man’s red flower, so I can be like you,” croons King Louie, the giant orangutan in Walt Disney’s The Jungle Book. When our ancestors struck the first embers, our evolutionary trajectory was given a boost of adrenaline, paving the way for advanced civilisation.
Newly opened Fireside celebrates man’s love affair with fire by using a variety of open-fire cooking techniques to populate its menu. Wood and binchotan-fuelled heat sources add distinct flavours. The restaurant also butchers, dry-ages and smokes its meat in-house.
At the helm of the kitchen is Chef Miguel Gallo, who was formerly at Aqua Restaurant Group and BBQ haven Smoke & Barrels. He honed his skills in gourmet wood-fire cooking under the guidance of Carles Abellan at Barcelona’s Bravo 24 and even did a stint at the culinary Mecca of elBulli. Chef Gallo skilfully manoeuvres the giant Mibrasa parrilla that dominates the open kitchen, expertly handling the wheel that adjusts the height of the grill.
The open kitchen, complete with wood-fire grill and brick oven, lines one side of the main dining room, while a cosy, eight-seater private dining alcove sits on the opposite side. Designed by Myron Kwan of M.R. Studio, the interior is dark and rustic, mirroring the concept of the menu, which draws inspirations from Japanese, Spanish and Latin American cuisines.
Our counter seats offered a ringside view of all the action in the open kitchen.
Our tasting menu ($1,090/person) – note that this tasting menu was the only option on our visit; there was no à-la-carte menu – began with aromatic sourdough
accompanied by a distinctly flavoured butter dusted in charred leek. Somehow, the flavour and fragrance of the leek mixed with the butter reminded us of the caramel-like undertone of a roasted marshmallow – an utterly delicious way to enjoy bread!
The smoked platter encompasses four house-smoked varieties of seafood. The Hokkaido scallop is accented with seaweed and soy sauce, the ma yau fish has a sprinkling of agave worm salt on top, the ora king salmon is crowned with fennel pollen and the Spanish sardine is served on its own. We appreciate the skills behind the ageing and smoking of fish, as it’s quite delicate work, but we found all the smoked seafood to be oversalted, and we had to take big gulps of water in between bites.
The sautéed celtuce, cooked over embers and steeped in bacon and onion dashi, was hard work when it came to eating it with just a fork. We don’t quite understand the dish’s concept and flavour combination – is it a warm salad or a soup?
The smashed potato with smoked white eel and Oscietra caviar is delicious as far as the potato part is concerned, but we wished the eel had more flavour and was more tender.
The aged Rubia Gallega beef and oyster tartare, topped with Hokkaido sea urchin, is accented with crunchy bits of fat trimmings. We would have enjoyed this dish more if the oyster and beef were served separately; the two textures didn’t work for us in combination.
The sea cucumber intestines are dressed in a blend of parsley and garlic oil, sprinkled with Amalfi lemon zest. We love the crunchy texture of sea cucumber intestines, a popular ingredient in Spain.
As an addition to the tasting menu, we also ordered the king crab legs (+$788). The pricey crustacean is cooked on open fire and drizzled with smoked butter, garlic and herbs. Delicious, but not worth the splurge. Please note that the photo only shows a half-portion of the king crab legs.
The grilled threadfin, otherwise referred to as ma yau, is dry-aged for three days before hitting the grill. The fish is rich, flavourful and succulent, offering crisp, blistered skin.
As the Galician Cachena beef that’s usually part of the tasting menu was not available during our dinner, we opted for the 30-day dry-aged bone-in Rubia Gallega steak from a six-year-old cow. We expected robust flavour from a more seasoned cow, but alas, the beef lacked any prominent taste whatsover; the charred pepper that was served as an accompaniment had more flavour than the beef! The upside is that we got to slice into the steak with beautifully handcrafted knives created by Chef Gallo’s friend in Spain.
A dessert of roasted apricot, burnt cheesecake semifreddo and crumbed biscuit capped off the tasting menu. We enjoyed the slight saltiness of the semifreddo, which balanced well with the sweetness of the stone fruit and biscuit crumbs.
Despite the sizzling grill, we feel lukewarm about Fireside’s menu. We love the concept of open-fire cooking, but we wish the dishes had more spark.
5/F, The Steps, H Code, 45 Pottinger Street, Central, 6610 8689 (WhatsApp)
This write-up is based on a complimentary media tasting provided in exchange for an honest review and no monetary compensation. The opinions expressed here represent the author’s.
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