Restaurant Air: New Sustainable Restaurant In Dempsey |
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Restaurant Air Review: Wallet-Friendly Sustainable Dining In Dempsey By Celebrity Chefs

25th January 2024

Restaurant Air champions responsible and fun dining in Dempsey

restaurant air - flatlay 3
Image credit: @air_cccc

Awareness, Impact and Responsibility, or AIR for short—the three words that sum up the ethos of new Dempsey eatery Restaurant Air, which is due to open next Wednesday, 31 January 2024. It’s a much-feted opening that’s been more than a year in the making, the edible garden already seven months into its journey today. Having scored an invitation to a preview, I was terribly excited to see how they would live up to the three words that underscore everything they do and serve here.

restaurant air dempsey - chefs will goldfarb matthew orlando

Before we get into the food, there are the two personalities who’ve made the restaurant happen: Chefs Will Goldfarb and Matthew Orlando. Will, for one, was the World’s Best Pastry Chef at the World’s Best Restaurants 2021, and has spent the last 15 years living in Ubud, Bali, running Room4Dessert, which kickstarted the dessert-only tasting menu concept, and was featured in Netflix‘s Chef’s Table, Season Four. Prior to that, he was an alumnus of El Bulli, a restaurant which revolutionised fine dining back in the day and was named the best restaurant in the world five times.

This streak is matched only by Noma in Copenhagen, where Matthew was chef at, in addition to further top restaurants including The Fat Duck and Thomas Keller’s three Michelin-starred Per Se. Most recently, he ran Amass, also in Copenhagen, where he also strove towards zero-waste dining; he still has a research lab there!

Food at Restaurant Air

restaurant air dempsey - welcome mocktail

There are both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks on the menu here, including kombucha, juices, and a Welcome Mocktail ($16++): a bright, fruity concoction of green apple, lemon and lime, sugar, black wild rice water and roselle that’s harvested right from their own garden.

restaurant air dempsey - white fish ceviche intro

You’ll find that all the food here sport very clean, fresh, and for lack of a better word, bright, flavours, which makes chowing down on them so very easy. The first dish we were served was White Fish Ceviche ($26++), which comes in two parts: crisp, lightly spiced emping, and a bowl of fish and fruit in leche de tigre—a Peruvian-style, citrus-based marinade for ceviche—made of Kenari nut milk.

restaurant air dempsey - white fish ceviche detail

Don’t let the idea of the Kenari nut milk put you off—it’s milky and mild tasting, tempering the acidity of green, unripe mangoes, starfruit, lime and lemon. The fish used here is whole red snapper, salted overnight. Everything comes in similar-sized small cubes here, and fit just nicely on the emping crackers with their bitter note. If you run out of crackers, just go at the ceviche with a spoon. It’s no less great.

restaurant air dempsey - crispy oyster mushrooms intro

Following this, we had Crispy Oyster Mushrooms ($28++), topped with Thai basil leaves from the garden, and pickled red chilli slices. Beneath these are oyster mushrooms from local social enterprise farm Mushroom Buddies. Tossed in buttermilk, they’re also coated in a flour-spice mix that’s derived from dehydrated stalk and stem cuttings from the Restaurant Air garden!

restaurant air dempsey - crispy oyster mushrooms closeup

Utterly crisp, there’s a sweet-sour glaze and emulsion, both made with Sarawak pepper. If you’re tempted to have this without the basil leaf and pickled chilli, I’d advise against it: they really complete each bite. You’re also recommended to dig into this with your hands.

Something else you’ll discover while dining here: everything is in portions huge enough for generously sharing with multiple dining partners. This ties in with their philosophy that a good meal is meant to be one you have fun at, with prices that aren’t staggeringly off-putting—they’ve managed to keep this down by making every last bit of every ingredient worth its cost. IMO, the A in Air also stands for how approachable their food is.

restaurant air dempsey - fermented cassava flatbread

Back at Amass, Matthew had a Fermented Potato Bread dish, which he’s recreated here with cassava, a tuber that’s grown in abundance in this part of the world. P.S.: besides dairy products such as butter and cream, which are not really produced in the Southeast Asian region, everything that’s used in the Restaurant Air kitchen comes from environmentally responsible small farms or farming collectives in our neighbouring countries, if not locally.

“Responsible,” Will shares, “is a more all-encompassing way of expressing what’s being done, than sustainable.” I can’t say I disagree.

restaurant air dempsey - fermented cassava flatbread closeup

The Fermented Cassava Flatbread ($16++) is made over a whole week of fermentation and proofing, and you’ll even find chunks of cassava within. It’s brushed with mushroom oil as it bakes, imparting an extra earthy flavour to the warm, soft flatbread.

restaurant air dempsey - fermented cassava flatbread mushroom xo butter

Accompanying it is mushroom “XO” butter, giving a second life to the odds and ends that Mushroom Buddies cuts off their shrooms before they’re packaged for sale. Six different kinds of mushrooms go into this, ground and cooked for 12 hours with aromatics and oil, then strained and blended with butter. Girl math-ing it, my colleague decided that this, plus a cup of coffee—their beans come from Maxi Coffee Bar—are superior to the usual cafe fare she goes for.

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restaurant air dempsey - the whole coral grouper for two intro

On to the mains, of which we had The Whole Coral Grouper for Two ($58++)—again, Matthew shared how each coral grouper is line-caught in the wild, freshly delivered to the restaurant every morning. Don’t brush this off as just another fish dish, because as its name suggests, the entire fish ends up in your stomach.

restaurant air dempsey - the whole coral grouper for two confit fish

First, the fillet of grouper, confit in aromatic oil to super silky, pearly ends.

restaurant air dempsey - the whole coral grouper for two fish closeup

The fillet was perfectly flaky and firm, its natural flavour complemented, not overwhelmed, by the beurre blanc that blanketed the plate. This isn’t any other beurre blanc, though, because it incorporates the liquid that comes from pressure cooking the fish bones—these are strained, dried and pulverised, then made into another component of this dish.

restaurant air dempsey - the whole coral grouper for two lavash and rillette

On the side of the confit fillet are thin, crisp fish bone lavash that are almost equal parts fish bone powder and flour, as well as a fish rillette.

restaurant air dempsey - the whole coral grouper for two rillette closeup

The fish meat that goes into this rillette is hand-picked off the heads and collars of the coral grouper that pass through this kitchen; they’re steamed and smoked, the meat then picked and mixed with creme fraiche, lemon peel, shallots and more.

Where the beurre blanc had more subtle flavours, accented with black garlic, herb oil, and onions three ways, this had a sharper, brighter flavour underlined by the aromatic hint of smoke.

restaurant air dempsey - reincarnated chocolate dessert

We rounded off the meal with Re-Incarnated “Chocolate” ($16++), a dessert that is like, but not chocolate. Visiting coffee and chocolate producers in SEA, Matthew found inspiration in cacao husks and cocoa butter, as well as coconut pulp and cascara, AKA the fruit of the coffee cherry—coffee beans are the seeds of these cherries. Unsurprisingly, these are all byproducts that are commonly discarded.

restaurant air dempsey - reincarnated chocolate dessert closeup

Here, you get a base of brownies, mellowly sweet and caramelly rich in flavour, topped with a caramel made of banana skins and a frozen mousse infused with cascara and whisky. This is finished with frozen, shaved “chocolate”. We loved how the complementary flavours, with the subtle hint of coconut and a teensy hint of Sarawak pepper tying it all together.

Asking after the papaya- and jackfruit-based dishes on the menu, Will said they taste like the actual fruits, but so much better. These are fruits that not everybody likes, I told him, to which he quipped, “Bring your non-jackfruit and papaya-loving friends to us. We’ll change their minds.”

Something else to note about the menu: there’s only one other protein, Roselle Glazed Duck Breast ($38++), which is Will’s favourite dish, and you won’t find any beef or pork here—cattle-rearing is one of the most environmentally unfriendly farming industries. Though this edition of the menu is pork-free, it’s not to say that future iterations won’t.

Ambience at Restaurant Air

The nearest station to Dempsey is Orchard Boulevard MRT Station, which is a 20-minute walk, or 12-minute bus ride away. That said, if you have a bus to Dempsey, Restaurant Air is right at the end of the first big carpark behind the bus stop. If you know where Samy’s Curry Restaurant and Long Beach Seafood Restaurant are, it’s right next door. Walk under the big orange flag which reads AIR, and you’ll find yourself on a long, winding wooden walkway, with a sprawling garden of herbs and more on your right.

restaurant air dempsey - the lawn

You’ll be greeted by a view of The Lawn, where you’ll soon be able to lay out mats and enjoy picnic baskets, drinks and more from their bar, or sit on rainbow-hued pads on the steps to have a coffee or small bites.

restaurant air dempsey - ambience

Every single piece of furniture, cutlery and dishware you’ll find in the restaurant has a story: each table and chair is unique and double upcycled, the ceramics are handmade by a small producer in Malaysia, and the steak knife is cut in the back of a van across the Causeway, its handle created out of factory scraps. Dining on the first floor means smaller, rectangular tables, and a view over the lawn. Fully retractable glass windows mean this space can be completely opened up too.

restaurant air dempsey - fermentation

Moving up to the second floor, you’ll find their research and fermentation lab, as well as movable tables in a potential classroom space, plus a large pastry kitchen. Fully air-conditioned, the tables here are bigger and round, each supported by a single leg sculpted of melted and re-formed plastic containers, while the legs of the chairs are upcycled styrofoam.

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The verdict

restaurant air dempsey - sign

My colleague proclaimed Restaurant Air the best meal she’d had—ever. At this price point, and with everything that they’re doing to each ingredient that passes through their kitchen, I was left pretty impressed too. We loved how we had a full meal, but walked out not feeling uncomfortably full, jelak, but extra satisfied. We hadn’t had meat but didn’t miss it at all. While opening hours are only restricted to Wednesdays through Sundays from 5:30pm, they’ll eventually look at opening for breakfast and lunch too, so keep your eyes on their social media pages for more information!

Other than Restaurant Air, some recent openings on Dempsey include Bellerbys House, a hidden industrial cafe, as well as Merchant Coffee Roasters from Melbourne!

Address: 25B Dempsey Road, Singapore 249670
Opening hours: Wed-Sun 5:30pm to 11pm
Tel: 8228 1528
Restaurant Air is not a halal-certified eatery

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Photos taken by Casandra Nicholas.
This was a media tasting at Restaurant Air.

Restaurant Air Review: Tasty, Fun And Environmentally-Responsible Food At New Dempsey Restaurant
  • 9.5/10
    Restaurant Air Review: Tasty, Fun And Environmentally-Responsible Food At New Dempsey Restaurant - 9.5/10


– Makes responsible dining tasty and approachable
– Well-executed food
– Gorgeous ambience

– Limited opening days for now
– 20-minute walk from the MRT station

Recommended dishes: Crispy Oyster Mushrooms ($28++), The Whole Coral Grouper for Two ($58++), Re-Incarnated “Chocolate” ($16++)

Opening hours: Wed-Sun 5:30pm to 11pm

Address:25B Dempsey Road, Singapore 249670

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