The Dempsey Cookhouse & Bar by Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten is the third restaurant to open at the Como Dempsey food and retail zone on Dempsey Hill. The Candlenut Peranakan and Ippoh tempura restaurants had been open for several months. The Dempsey Cookhouse opened quite recently and it looks like things are starting to look even more interesting at Dempsey Hill.
Walking into the Dempsey Cookhouse & Bar felt like entering a giant patio. The white rattan chairs, marble-topped tables and splashes of leafy plants made me think of the cliché often used by interior designers – “bringing the outdoors in”. In this case, the concept had been executed well. The designers have capitalised on the simple and spacious space of the former military administrative building to combine the attraction of dining on an elegant terrace with the coolness of air-conditioning. There are some tables outside for those who prefer actual patio dining with authentic tropical temperatures and humidity.
Dempsey Cookhouse & Bar had started with just serving dinner and brunch on weekends. Their website promises that lunch is “coming soon”. I believe that can happen anytime now, so do telephone to check. I tried making an online brunch reservation on the website but it did not seem to work. So the booking was made by phone and a table was offered, with the condition that we gave the table back within two hours. If you are faced with the same condition, do not worry as they do produce the food quick enough. Two hours is more than adequate even for a leisurely lunch.
Dempsey Cookhouse & Bar menu
Here is a picture of the Dempsey Cookhouse & Bar lunch menu. It is a simple two-page publication. Not a long list which takes up too much deliberation time but there is enough variety to make us have a short discussion to co-ordinate which sharing plates we were going to have. In the end we ordered a mixed bag of items.
We had two appetizers. The crispy salmon sushi ($16) was highly recommended to us. The highlight of this item is the crispy rice that replaces the regular rice at the base of the sushi. The rice was either deep-fried or toasted till the surfaces were crisp. The small switch made enough of a reason to try this dish even if you are tired of the common sushi version.
Fried calamari ($16) is a starter that can be found in many restaurants. The one at Dempsey Cookhouse & Bar was better than most in two areas. The squid was fresh and cooked just right with the slightest coating of batter. The yuzu flavoured dip added a zesty Japanese tone to the squid.
The crispy fish taco ($22) was the least favoured dish of the day. It felt like small filet-o-fish inserted into the taco shells. Very plain tasting and we thought it was quite out of character with the rest of the dishes.
The Gruyere and Spinach Omelet ($18) was a small omelet with a side of fries. What it lacked in size was made up in flavour. This will make a good light breakfast with a cup of strong black coffee.
The cheese burger with brie and black truffle ($24) was the most ‘normal’ dish of the meal. No frills, other than the truffle flavour. A straightforward, well-made burger.
Finally, we tried both pizzas on the menu. The pizzas here were not big, more like 10 inch specimens rather than the full-sized ones at Italian restaurants. The black truffle pizza ($26) was the better pizza. It had a complex taste and a well-balanced texture – lightly crisp and soft, chewy inside.
The tomato pizza ($15) was more basic, like a Neapolitan pizza. Just tomato, mozzarella and basil. Simple but well made. It is actually a value for money pizza. We never thought we would use this description in a restaurant associated with a multi-starred Michelin chef.
Finally, some desserts – almond cake ($12) and salted caramel sundae with popcorn ($14). They were both very good. Eating popcorn coated with chocolate hot fudge with caramel ice-cream – what can go wrong right?
Going to a new restaurant is always exciting, especially one that is headlined by a famous chef. Brunch at Dempsey Cookhouse and Bar was enjoyable. It was good that they did not make this into a serious place. It was more smart casual than formal. It somehow felt like a restaurant out of South Beach Miami. And that is just a feeling based on my stereotype of the place from watching Miami Vice. I have never been there. Cheers.