Joining the ranks of ‘clean eating’ and 2021 diets is Persea. Suitably opened on the first of January, a low-carb menu and sugar-free cocktail selection sit at the forefront of this three-storey establishment along Ann Siang Hill.
We’re nearing the end of January now, and if your resolutions for the new year remain intact, perhaps this is one place to make your culinary vows that much easier to uphold. If not, is there still value in Persea’s offerings? In a society so proud of the derived satisfaction from three dollar plates of chicken rice and minced meat noodles, therein lies the challenge for restaurants like this, which struggle with appealing to the public palate so bewitched by cheap, filling eats.
Now, my love for carbs is one I carry without shame and demonstrate with little restraint, and that is why a visit to Persea becomes all the more justified. I don’t expect to have my mind changed on eating carbs, because, believe me, my stance is pretty immovable. What I do hope to gain, however, is a peek into the options one faces should they make the switch over to a low-carb lifestyle.
One sentiment that is immediately clear—Persea is not afraid to push boundaries. If not evident enough from its menu, the furnishings are visibly unorthodox. There’s no signage, save for a trio of dimly lit spherical bulbs hanging by the door front. Yet, the three-storey shophouse facade remains remarkably difficult to miss.
Further intrigue fills my mind as I step in. A restaurant hardly comes to mind on first glance. Where are the tables and chairs? Instead, a spiral staircase dressed in the pine green of Christmas greets me. Seats reside on the second and third floors because here, you work for your food. It’s a thoroughly refreshing layout, as the first-floor kitchen also means your plates travel upward to you—an irony when you consider how food leaves the body.
What I tried
Persea’s seasonal menu follows the theme of the Mediterranean. It’s a bold move, protesting against carb-heavy flatbreads and hummus, though I soon realise that bold is precisely what the food here strives to be. The restaurant’s low-carb ethos is prominent right from the get-go with a deceiving starter of Fauxcaccia (S$8 for 4) that brims with intensely savoury notes. Bread? I don’t even know her. This one’s gluten-free as well, because these are highly inclusive times and Persea is anything but backwards-thinking.
It pairs lovingly with the Eggs Muhammara (S$14), a sweet and gently smoky spread of roasted capsicum and walnut. Two wobbly eggs sit atop, adding a delightfully creamy richness to the whole dish. Slather on spoonfuls onto your Fauxcaccia, and you have bite-sized eggs on toast that’s all the more delicious. Printed in yellow wordings below each menu item is the nett carbohydrate quantity (this one’s five grams), so the health-conscious can easily engage in aggressive number crunching for some much-needed assurance.
While carbs are shunned on the menu, the folks at Persea firmly believe that fat holds a vital place in our diets. That’s perhaps why an entire section on the menu is playfully entitled ‘Fat Bombs’. Situated here is a Greek-style Burratina (S$24), with a heady combination of burrata cheese on a bed of cucumbers, sliced onions, and San Marzano tomatoes. Curcuma salt attacks my tongue, blasting this cold salad dish with ungodly levels of seasoning and in turn, flavour. I’m beginning to think bland simply doesn’t exist here.
For a menu straying so far away from carb-heavy dishes, one can only expect greatness from Persea’s meat-centric options, and it doesn’t disappoint. The Shish Taouk (S$24) checks all the right boxes in charredness and flavour, cleverly empowered by a pairing of creamy garlic yoghurt. You’ll probably love this, don’t get me wrong, but in the spirit of all things fearless and exciting, this safe bet of a poultry dish becomes quickly outshined by an oceanic affair of Calamari (S$24).
Impossibly tender chunks of squid came with the former, all lavishly drenched in a pool of chorizo fat, proving once again that fat reigns supreme in this arena. It’s all brought together by a bright zhug (Yemenite green hot sauce) that sings with the aroma of coriander. The zhug fiercely grabs me by the neck in a sudden wave of spice, though I can’t seem to stop myself from tossing chunks of calamari into my mouth. The very best dishes often come unexpected, so I’m deeply sorry to spoil this one for you.
Because I’m all for nutrition, health, and wellness (you’re welcome, HPB), here’s a serving of Brussel Sprouts (S$16) to splash some green onto my table. To be frank, the bitterness of brussel sprouts usually put me off, so I approach this with caution.
A silence befalls as I sink my teeth into one, whilst all the world melts away till it is just me and this bowl of brussel sprouts. There’s the savouriness from sprinklings of chorizo crumb and a slight tang from the sabayon, conjuring a crescendo of flavour that leaves me deliriously happy.
I’m utterly astonished by a gentle, nutty sweetness from this once feared vegetable of mine, and as I said before, the very best dishes often surprise. Before my trip to Persea, I would never have guessed my favourite item on a low-carb menu stuffed with meat dishes would be a vegetable dish, so you know this one demands an order.
Ending the night is a Rosemary Basque Cheesecake (S$16), served with a side of blueberries and brimming with mystique. With all the twists of the night, this one takes the cake (pun intended) for the most rigorous. It’s a savoury dessert and the kicker? Blue cheese, in all its signature pungency that seeps through each bite. It’s a love-it-or-hate-it slice of cheesecake, and while this doesn’t win my vote, I can see how avid cheese lovers may find this right up their alley.
You don’t have to agree with the restaurant’s low-carb ethos (I don’t), but the outstanding flavours here leave little room for disagreement. There won’t be an instance where you wish for something more on the plate, and rest assured a meal here satisfies in all the right ways.
In that respect, Persea succeeds in delivering inclusive, well thought out dishes that appeal to the masses. Do I like the food at Persea? A thousand times yes. I don’t care that it’s guilt-free, I care that it’s shockingly delicious.
Expected Damage: S$30 – S$50 per pax
Price: $ $
Our Rating: 4 / 5
23 Ann Siang Road , Singapore 069703
23 Ann Siang Road , Singapore 069703