Last Updated: September 25, 2019
“Would you say the premise of Kausmo is to encourage sustainable dining?”
I was politely corrected, while the soft beams of sun rays fell upon my cheeks, as I sat at this cosy 16-seater restaurant that’s Les Amis’ latest project. “We try to stay away from describing it as ‘sustainable’, as the term carries with it a lot of assumptions,” Herman Low, Senior Executive of Group Marketing and Communications for Les Amis clarified.
“Through our food, we hope to educate diners to be more conscious of what they consume. We also hope to promote thoughtfulness, for example, by showing them how to use produce that is over-ripened, in-excess and to fully utilise parts of the plant or animal that most people wouldn’t think to cook with”, he went on.
The stark-white dining space feels more like a homely kitchen, and I’d just been invited for a casual catch-up with friends. Everything here is made from scratch, sourced personally by Lisa and Chew, the two female partners who run this ship by themselves—even the utensil holders, which are cut and sanded by hand (by them!).
Delivery day is every Tuesday, and that’s when they feel the most pressure because the produce is never the same week to week. As such, the menu is never repeated either, with intense R&D occurring the moment they discover what ingredients they have to work their magic on.
It’s S$75++ (with an additional S$20++ for a kombucha pairing) for a six-course carte blanche menu that’s highly-curated, fusing European techniques with Asian influences.
Take a cue from their Batoko butter, made from the plums of Batoko trees, apparently flourishing almost everywhere. The duo gets their loot from a local farmer who doesn’t use pesticide. The result is a jam-like centre nestled in air-whipped butter that glides on effortlessly on their sourdough bread. Seconds were hard to refuse.
One of the challenges of ensuring that the menu is kept fresh and exciting is having to overcome the volatility of what’s available on a weekly basis. Produce aside, there is also the hassle of handling a potential logistical nightmare, especially when there are many more layers of filtering that’s required, from producer to supplier to retailer.
And the produce they handed me was only skimming the surface of ‘unwanted’ produce that gets thrown out even before it reaches consumers. For example, a mushroom here that’s lost part of the underside of its cap would be deemed ugly and unfit for cooking, simply because it isn’t whole.
Granted, most of us wouldn’t bat an eyelid if the entire underside was exposing the mushroom’s gills, but the reality is, there are those which are discarded because of this very simple aesthetic setback.
To fully utilise this common but underrated fungus, it’s churned into Mushroom Pâté | Almond Crisp. I’m a paramour of all types of mushrooms, so this sensational snack was incredibly satisfying. I revelled in the mild crunch of the circular almond disc, and worked my way through the senses to finally reach an earthiness that’s incomparable.
Another case-in-point: brussel sprouts that are “too large” and radishes that are scuffed and bruised slightly. The team had taken these two otherwise abandoned vegetables to create a plate of beauty.
The char on the brussel sprouts is something I always anxiously await, and this one didn’t let me down. There wasn’t a hint of bitterness, while the preserved lemon brightened up the dish for a light finish.
When I posed the question, “What’s the most underrated produce in your opinion?”, Low’s response, I found, encompassed the premise of Kausmo wholly. “Native flora for most plants, and secondary cuts for meat,” he replied. It wasn’t a complex answer, but it helped to solidify what Kausmo stands for in my eyes.
This led him to express his thoughts on why there’s evident resistance from consumers to adopt a more conscientious method of consumption—convenience. Our lives today are supported and encouraged by the need for efficiency, hence the sprouting of services which bolster a mentality of ‘I need this now and I want only the best’.
But in their quest for cooking with a heightened sense of awareness, they’ve also made plenty of new friends along the way. They have gained more insight into sustainable methods of urban farming and have come to nurture within themselves, a deeper sense of appreciation for nature’s products as they are.
Imperfections and surplus aren’t seen as unfavourable at Kausmo; they’re celebrated.
The Roasted Tomato Tortellini | Kampung Chicken Brodo | Ulam Raja was my favourite by far. It was dainty and fragile, yet packed a deep, full-bodied broth that hit close to home, a la chicken soup when you’re under the weather.
It’s dishes like these that serve as a precursor to honest conversations about how much wastage and excess there is in the food business. It enlightens diners, and helps connect the chefs to those who have a wealth of knowledge about how best to make the most of our scarce land for urban farming.
There’s also fundamental importance to have diners be appreciative of said unsung heroes, who overcome the odds to pursue the tiresome work they do, especially in a climate where toiling in soil isn’t necessarily a vocation one would sign up for willingly.
But what about cattle, you ask? We still have to import our beef, pork, and chicken, but there are still plenty of conscious decisions we can make when it comes to its source. In recent times, less favourable cuts have made their way to be a mainstay on menus, showcasing the versatility of an animal’s slaughter.
This Chipotle-Berry Glazed Wagyu Beef D-Rump | Veg Jus | Smoked Eggplant was an ideal representation of this. It wasn’t a sirloin or a ribeye or even a thick onglet. The D-Rump cut has a very attractive colour—partial to bright red—with lean and fine texture, and is characterised by somewhat equal part fat and equal part meat, and its tenderness.
The bite was gratifying. Now, you have to bear in mind, just because they gather produce that supposedly is unwanted, doesn’t mean that Kausmo gets its ingredients at a reduced price. In fact, it’s one of the biggest misconceptions that they face.
There are logistical hurdles to overcome when wanting to ensure that all processes have an impact on the environment in mind, coupled with the consideration of reducing wastage as much as possible. They want to make it clear that conscious dining isn’t mere hype; it can lead to a thriving Mother Earth, which will, in turn, repay us, its people.
Their Wild Fish Congee | Preserved Plum | Native Greens truly, was the crowning dish of the afternoon. It was deceptively simple-looking, but its flavour was anything but. It reminded me of soothing porridges I’d have when my appetite was lacking, or when pastoral dishes were what my palate craved.
To wrap up, my final inquiry was, “To what end do you see this endeavour going? What is the long-term vision for Kausmo?”
The short answer: there doesn’t seem to be one. However, it’s not a serious concern, nor does it imply their lack of commitment. It simply means they’re here for the now—to educate, to encourage, and to simply do what they do best, which is to cook.
They wish to continue as long as they can sustain themselves but imposing a deadline or end-goal for them isn’t, well, a goal.
Their sweet ending, the Banana Cake | Yoghurt | Marigold & Native Flora, summed up the session splendidly. I came, I ate, I imbibed great knowledge and even greater flavours, and I took away a better understanding of what Kausmo’s premise is.
It’s hard to contain its identity to simply being a conscious dining establishment; it connects people—both informed and uninformed—and opens up a dialogue about what ‘living well’ is. The lunch was more than a means to appease my hunger, making me compelled to return at the soonest opportunity that arrives.
With this newfound appreciation and gratitude for raw ingredients I’d never thought I’d feel, I was on my own mission to share my thankfulness with my social circles. And so, from me to you, paying a small fee to support Kausmo’s endeavour is a minuscular gesture.
However, listening to Lisa and Chew’s mission of teaching us that there is more to grocery shopping than undimpled tomatoes and perky kale would be a far greater honorarium.
Price: $ $
Our Rating: 5 / 5
1 Scotts Road, Shaw Centre, #03-07, Singapore 228208
1 Scotts Road, Shaw Centre, #03-07, Singapore 228208