UsQuBa: Scottish Restaurant & Bar at One Fullerton, where the bar is the real deal

I did mean to talk first about the expansive selection of whiskies and various collectors spirits procured by dark horse of a bar manager Fong Chan Teng (previously from La Maison Du Whisky) - behind the bar; there's just about something great for everyone. A lesson we learn first-handedly by introducing UsQuBa's refreshing Gin & Tonic into the adolescent encyclopedia of our greenhorn tastemaker seated at our table. He loved it. And so did we love our classic Negronis, stirred up using award-winning London Dry Gin, NB Gin and a rather intriguing bottle of sweet white vermouth del Professore from Piedmont, Italy.

I digress. Because, what you're really here for is the food. The menu at UsQuBa (pronounced as us-kew-bah) offers a little for everybody, especially the person curious for fresh insights into New Scottish cuisine. A very detailed food map in the front of the menu depicting the various local produce and zones in and about Scotland; building anticipation for diners as they browse the premium ingredients featured. Chef Guven who helms the kitchen is the enabler in this extraordinary enlightenment process - his portrayal of Scottish ingredients with unique creativity stemming from his tour of Claridge's kitchen, Maze Restaurant and Newport Room, under the mentorship of Thomas Keller.

Lunch rolls off with Focaccia with Truffle and Cherry Tomatoes; the bread hailing a rich scent of olive oil despite its crumbly dry texture. Butter could have used some VIP treatment with a little fleck  of salt to elevate its creamy propensity.

The strongest dish is an exquisitely controlled plate of Orkney Islands Scallop Ceviche ($25), the freshest of produce paired with compressed cucumbers and apple, horseradish snow and sea urchin. The audible conversations between the separate entities on the plate; intimate and on the same plane. Seared Foie Gras ($21) seemed to be straining to prove its leadership qualities on a plate adulterated by an eggy quarter of waffle. Spice persimmon and pickled apples jolt the heart-attack with much tenderness; however, my advice would be to - leave the waffle-peddling to the cafes.

The Lobster Ravioli Soup (offered during set lunch only) is remarkable. Creamy lobster filling sandwiched between silky pads of thin pasta and bathed in a luxurious lobster broth that reeks of compressed crustaceans. Things were starting to look up.

Continuing in the same laps of luxury is the Duet of Aberdeen Angus Beef ($56) - grilled tenderloin presented alongside a succulent hunk of braised short ribs, in ominous shades of black and brown. A sluice of plum jus connecting the two. UsQuBa reinvents the Scottish pub grub classic dish, Fish and Chips ($32) by sous-viding cod and pairing it with the ubiquitous mushy peas and mint - albeit refined and smooth. I can't say I'm a huge fan; the texture reminiscent of seared scallops left a rather quizzical impression.

The dish that everybody talks about is the Butter Poached Lobster ($58) - despite it missing a few degrees of heat from traipsing across the restaurant during the photo shoot; the lobster glistening from a milk bath in luscious butter inherited a immaculate texture of certain turgidity perforated with pockets of richness in between bites. Caramelised peaches and pickled beetroot a welcome relief.

When a dish falters, its not because their too simple. It wasn't the accompanying calamari and peas that threw me off track, rather the gamey pigeon that did not play in the dish's flavor. A fairly subjective dish and acquired taste if you ask me.

In UsQuBa's desserts, there's nothing but sophisticated pleasure. The Tastings of Strawberry ($15) is a medley of spring flavors conveyed thru pistachio biscuit sprawled over pistachio cream and a perfect quenelle of strawberry sorbet. Strawberry juice foams a moat around the pile-up and it is as delicious and complex as it is pink. The same can't be said about the Chocolate Delice ($15) which supposedly mousse representation is replaced with a chalky dense block chock full of too many nuts. 

As where the bar is concerned, it's a paradise. I shall leave it to be better half and partner in crime at @thedrinkseekers to give you the low down.

"I love scotch. Scotchy scotch scotch. Here it goes down, down into my belly." 

Truer words have never been spoken, more so if one chances upon the newest Scottish restaurant in town UsQuBa, a deviation of the gaelic Usquebaugh, or Water of Life. I don't know about you, but that sounds like Scotch whisky to me.

Resplendent in its glory, the restaurant bar stocks up to many independent and much heralded single and blended malts, enough to make the most hardened whisky connoisseur have a "moment". And what a moment it is, for a wee dram of the 1995 Samaroli Speyside bottling of Tormore distillery. Sensual, rich and buttery, the mouthfeel of the golden water trickles down your throat, with a satisfactory aftertaste. Congruent with the collection, the Samaroli Speyside 1973 Glen Grant bottling and 1967 Tomintoul seem the perfect bedfellows after a meal. All drams are estimated below a hundred dollars, with the 1995 Samaroli a mere 40 SGD.

And did we mention that you can savour these drams with your friends in the whisky room overlooking the river at no cover charge?

Doubtful of your next beverage? How about the traditional Hauf-and-Hauf, or a glass of whisky and a half-pint of beer as a chaser? And not just any beer - the Clan Brewing Company of Scotland has a showcase of three distinct craft beers aged in whisky casks. This lovely Spruce Ale, smoky peat, resinous full-bodied beer aged in Islay whisky casks seems the perfect counterpart to the Bowmore whisky. So is the Red Rye Ale, a complex Speyside aged beer that boasts of fruits and a fun peppery note. Ask for a trusted Speyside whisky to complete the light and sweet touch. To round off the trinity, there is the Golden Ale that pairs with a Highland whisky. Our hearty recommendation rests firmly on the Islay pairing with the Spruce Ale.

Speaking of craft beers, the bar also stocks ales from Traquair House, dubbed Scotland's oldest inhabited house and a brewery in Innerleithen, Borders. The original House Ale features oak and sherry flavors. A gentle bitterness rises but the complexity and umami makes it the perfect pairing to a hearty Shepard's Pie. The more robust, full-bodied Jacobite Ale is the winner with its malty, biscuity, almost herbal notes with aftertastes of chocolate and subtle dried fruits. One of the best beers that we have tried this year thus far.

Last but certainly not least, the classic and signature cocktail lists shine, thanks to the hard work and ingenuity of the resident head bartender, Fong Chan Teng, and his team. Presenting the Braveheart, a potent concoction of spirits and lager all brought together in a seemingly innocuous teapot, ready to spring a surprise on a party of four. If caution be thy name, let your tastebuds be surprised with the botanical NB Gin that features in their cocktails, specifically the Negroni. UsQuBa stocks more than one gem in its spirits collection, and some are uniquely available only in this establishment. 

and there you have it. Too many reasons to visit the new New Scottish restaurant and bar housed in the swanky One Fullerton.

Thanks UsQuBa for hosting us.

UsQuBa Scottish Restaurant and Bar
1 Fullerton Road
t: 8723 6378

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