Around a month back, I went up the 51st floor of CapitaSpring to check out the dining concepts that had newly opened there. Oumi, a modern Japanese Kappo restaurant, takes up half of the F&B space while Kaarla, the mod-Australian restaurant, takes up the other. I dined at Oumi during that instance so this month, I returned to check out Kaarla.
Contrary to my initial assumption, the restaurant name “Kaarla” is not a homage to a particular person. It actually means “where the home fires burn” in the Australian aboriginal language.
At Kaarla, the focus is on the cuisine from Australia’s coast. My host was quick to point out that a large majority of Australians live along the coast so it comes as no surprise that one gets to experience the bounties of both the land and sea at Kaarla.
For starters, we had the Damper (S$8 per piece). Damper is a thick homemade soda bread that is quintessential in Australian society. In Kaarla, the damper is left to ferment and aerate within the 1-Arden Food Forest (CapitaSpring’s rooftop garden) prior to serving. The collection of natural yeast in the air allows for a unique taste to the dough. The bread is doused in a native macadamia spread, lardo and lemon balm – allowing for a slightly nutty taste to juxtapose with the sourness.
For something more conventional, one can’t go wrong with oysters. The Australian Market Oyster (S$8 per piece) is shucked upon order and drizzled with a house-fermented fig lead and oyster plant vinegar.
One benefit of having a rooftop garden of your own is that you get a great source of greens right at your doorstep. This is reflected in Kaarla’s menu. Many of the dishes (including the meats) feature a sprinkling or two of some of the day’s harvest. To sample the delights from the 1-Arden Food Forest in one plate, the Kaarla Closed Loop Salad (S$28) features over 20 different edible leaves and flowers from the outdoor garden. The picks vary according to what’s in season and can include the likes of Roselle leaves, fame flowe, marigold, Egyptian star and cat whiskers. The myriad of herbs certainly give varying textures when consumed especially when considered alongside the tiger nut curd dressing, and is a must-order here in my view for its uniqueness.
Speaking of uniqueness, one can also sample some exotic dishes here. This being an Australian restaurant – I checked out the Salt Cured Kangaroo (S$32). My only prior exposure to kangaroo meat before this was through jerkies and I remember how tough those were so I was initially skeptical when this dish came. I am happy to report that the kangaroo meat here certainly dispelled any notions I had about the toughness. The meat here was brined, hung and smoked for 3 days each and thinly sliced which help to explain how they managed to attain such an unimaginable tenderness.
Among seafood options, the pickled Australian Blue Mussels (S$30) or Line Caught John Dory (S$62) are worthy options. The latter is noted for being topped with abalone and possessing a sauce made with the innards of the abalone.
The Free Range Pork (S$58) consists of a pork asado shortrib cut. It’s brined for 2 days then slow-cooked on a a wood-fire grill for 8 hours. The “asado” means you have the belly and loin attached to the rib. This is best eaten with the warm minya and riberry vinaigrette to truly appreciate the dish’ overarching flavor profile.
Another meat option is the Aged King Island Beef (S$210 per kg) which was already quite flavorful even without dipping it anywhere.
Often relegated as a side dish, I found the Pumpkin (S$18) surprisingly noteworthy. It featured a burnt crust, miso made from pumpkin seeds and was topped with goat’s feta – evidently showing how much thought was put into perfecting the recipe for this dish. The combination of these ingredients created an umami flavor that one would not normally associate with the sweeter profile of pumpkin. Again, this shows Kaarla’s capabilities in preparing plant-based dishes.
I enjoyed the dessert selection at Kaarla because they make everything inhouse, even the ice cream which come in unique flavors. I was particularly fond of the Arden Grown Tigernut Ice Cream (S$25) as it had “many things going on at the same time.” By that, I mean the combination of tiger nut nougatine, calamansi jelly and poached oranges. There’s crispy and soft, sweet and sour all at the same time. The tiger nuts used for the ice cream and nougatine come from the 1-Arden Food Forest as well.
My other dinner companions were more inclined towards the Wood Fired Pineapple (S$22) and I can see why. The star here is the caramelized pineapple, served baked and with a sweet coat of syrup. In contrast, the shoyu ice cream that came with the dessert was too creamy for my liking.
There are a number of so-called “Australian” restaurants in Singapore but most of them focus on brunch / cafe or BBQ items which the Land Down Under is also known for. In contrast, Kaarla is a breath of fresh air because it seriously takes the Australian approach by heart by offering Aussie dishes that you’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere else in Singapore.
88 Market St
+65 8518 3763
Lunch – Monday to Friday, 12PM to 2:30PM
Dinner – Monday to Saturday, 6PM to midnight