Tiong Bahru’s favourite gourmet spot, Open Door Policy (or ODP, as the regulars call it), introduces a brand new dining concept that will change the way we look at our
Noticing a gap in the Singaporean gourmet scene for hearty and delicious fare that is gluten- and dairy-free, and inspired by her travels in the United Kingdom, Cynthia Chua, the dynamo behind the Spa Esprit Group, worked closely with executive chef Ryan Clift to revamp ODP’s menu.
“We wanted dishes that are one hundred per cent gluten-free, and dairy-free,” says Cynthia. “The new menu is based on a philosophy about treating our bodies with respect, about being ever mindful of our relationship with nature, but without ever sacrificing an ounce of taste. Eating healthily doesn’t have to mean dull, flat flavours. We really wanted to show that flavours can be elevated, especially when they replace familiar gluten-rich ingredients such as pasta.”
The result is the first Singaporean bistro that offers tasty, contemporary comfort food that is specially cooked up, as it were, for diners who either have gluten- and dairy-intolerances and allergies, or who simply want to eat in a sustainable, healthy way.
Riffing off the Spa Esprit Group’s push for green initiatives – including the somewhat revolutionary idea of growing your own food in urban Singapore – ODP’s new culinary direction is complemented by an indoor vertical farming programme where leafy vegetables are literally grown in-house for the bistro’s revamped menu.
Flavours, flavours, flavours
While staying true to ODP’s DNA of wholesome Western and contemporary Asian flavours, the new menu features a delectable range of gluten- and dairy-free dishes that are achieved by tapping into an intriguing mix of Cynthia’s, Chef Ryan’s and ODP’s head chef Daniele Sperindio’s knowledge of alternative food sources, substitute ingredients, and fermentation and pickling know-how.
“Each ingredient has been painstakingly selected to contribute to the overall great flavours of the dishes,” says Chef Ryan. “The challenge of executing a menu like this is to find alternative methods to replicate the same flavour and texture experiences that are associated with gluten and butter. By working with suppliers and sourcing organic ingredients, including those we grow ourselves, we’ve managed to create a menu that is light and tasty.”
For Chef Ryan, ODP’s new menu has also been a very personal journey. “I have food allergies too. So it was important that we came up with dishes that are appetising and satisfying, where diners can enjoy a hearty full meal without feeling uncomfortable by the end.”
Highlights of the New Menu
ODP’s new dairy- and gluten-free menu, is still firmly anchored by the bistro’s signature style of comfort cooking. Marquee attractions include a rustic tapioca and borlotti beans soup
that’s served with tomato and warm bread, and a vegan macaroni pasta topped with a Portobello Bolognese gratin and béchamel.
The menu offers many other scrumptious temptations. Fresh spaghetti tossed through with artichoke hearts, mountain asparagus, and smoked mackerel make for a satisfying dish
that sings with a vibrant chorus of nutty, smoky and tart flavours. Fermented root vegetables are paired with quinoa, garlic soil and garden herbs. Meanwhile, carnivores will be thrilled by the perfectly grilled 250g ribeye steak that nuzzles an ODP herb salad laced with a hazelnut dressing; and a forktender braised veal ossobuco with a sunny carrot risotto and
smoked paprika, and watercress.
As always, desserts are a great way to end off a meal at ODP. The extraordinary dates and walnut cheesecake with red apple more than holds its own against its dairy and gluten
counterpart, and then some. For a more Asian option, the sago and coconut with fresh mango, and black sesame ice cream is a certified crowd-pleaser.
Taking It All Indoors
Taking its green-fingered cues from the success of its sister eatery, Open Farm Community, as well as the global trend of transforming urban spaces into micro-gardens to meet food needs, ODP is embarking on its own sustainable food journey.
With the help of Edible Garden City, ODP is tapping into the same ‘growing is possible’ philosophy to establish its own indoor garden in the bistro itself. The first phase – converting the walls into vertical green gardens – is already producing results, as rows of fresh watercress and vegetables are harvested daily by ODP’s chefs for salads and cooked dishes.
“When we created Open Farm Community, we had an unusual vision to create a viable urban farming community in Singapore,” says Cynthia. “We wanted to deepen our diners’ understanding and respect for food and its origin. The new dairy- and gluten-free menu at ODP shares the same fundamental philosophy.”
For Cynthia, Chef Ryan and the team, this approach is neither a marketing trend nor a passing fad. Outdoor space is becoming increasingly scarce in Singapore, but, Cynthia believes, “indoor farming can be the future for us and every urban metropolis. The Spa Esprit Group is moving to a new 30,000 square feet corporate office, with the primary purpose to cultivate indoor farming. If we can do it, anyone can – at home, in the office, in school, hotels, even in factories. When you grow food, you appreciate it more.”
As in the indoor farm at ODP ramps up towards its full potential, the bistro will also commit to the philosophy of consuming food that is produced as close to its source as possible – whether from farms in or around Singapore – all with the bold aim of firmly connecting the community to nature.
“No gluten, no dairy, lots of indoor gardening. It’s good for the soul, the digestive system, and the
planet,” says Cynthia. And that’s something she hopes we can all get on-board for.