7 Fraser Duo Galleria 01-49/50
Tel: +65 6702 7320
I’ve been rooting for a Peruvian restaurant to open in Singapore ever since I tasted the intriguing Amazonian produce brought in by visiting guest chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino from Lima, and my subsequent visit to the country in 2013 – so I’m glad Singapore-based Peruvian chef Daniel Chavez has decided to finally set up Tono, Singapore’s first* cevicheria.
(*There is one other place, rooftop bar Tiger’s Milk on Ann Siang Street, that purports to be Peruvian, though it does not seem to have any actual links to the country; while the much-anticipated Eru by aforementioned Schiaffino in the Patina Hotel has been slated to open since 2015 but is indefinitely delayed. Chavez’s other venture, Ola Cocina Del Mar, is a Spanish restaurant in MBFC, thanks to his training under the late, great Spanish chef Santi Santamaria.)
Once you taste the food at Tono, you’ll wonder why they haven’t opened earlier. The Peruvian dish names may sound exotic on the menu, but on the palate, it’s really quite close to home. After all, Singaporeans are fanatical about Japanese sashimi, the zesty marinades are a perfect perk-me-up for our hot weather and the generous chilli and onion flavours are not so different from our Asian salads.
Of the ceviches on the menu, I particularly enjoyed the Mixto, which is generous chunks of seafood dusted with Peruvian rocoto chilli and dotted with crunchy large kernels of Peruvian corn. Every serve comes with generous heaps of sliced onions though, so if you aren’t an onion lover, be forewarned. We also ordered the Pulpo Al Olivo, or sliced octopus in black olive mayo, which comes so completely smothered in mayonnaise, you might want to shut your eyes for this one if you’re at all concerned about fitness. Luckily, the mayonnaise tasted far lighter than it looked thanks to the tangy olive flavour that goes really well with the octopus slices.
I was also thrilled to see humble Peruvian household staples on the menu, such as causa (mashed potato salad; Peru is home to 3,800 types of potatoes), anticuchos (meat skewers) and lomo saltado (stir-fried beef with onions and bell peppers), the latter introduced by Chinese immigrants to the country. I didn’t try the last two as we figured the carbs of the former might be sufficiently filling for lunch.
At the end of our meal, the team kindly sent out a tres leches cake for dessert because it was our dining companion J’s birthday. It’s a rich, luscious sponge cake soaked in three types of milk – including the condensed milk I cleanly licked off spoons in my childhood – and one of my favourite desserts that I recall indulging in at every opportunity while in Peru. (I’m not sure if it’s still on the menu after they moved to Amoy Street, but Bochinche does a wonderful version too). But I don’t like coconut and Tono’s version seemed extra heavy with its addition, and I had a gown fitting the next day, so I sadly had to hold back after a bite or two. Who knew I was capable of such self-discipline?
- I always want to order everything on the menu, so I was happy to see the tasting platter option for the ceviches. It gets you smaller portions of the Mixto (mixed seafood), Nikkei (yellowfin tuna in a soy-based dressing) and Tono (market fish with crispy baby squid). Another plus: as he does at Ola, Chavez takes extra care to use mostly sustainably caught seafood at Tono, including line-caught fish.
- The young, energetic service team are as persuasive in getting you to order a cheeky Pisco Sour at lunch as they are at deftly explain Peruvian ingredients uncommonly found in Singapore such as aji (chilli) and Tiger’s milk, a classic herb and lime-based marinade that doesn’t, as its name suggests, actually contain any milk.
- The Aji de Gallina (chicken stewed in yellow amarillo aji chillis and parmesan cheese) is a little too “mama-style” in presentation for the restaurant’s setting – and especially its prices. While it tasted comforting and homely, it looked like something a splashy Hainanese curry rice stall casually slapped up, not a $28 dish in a full-service restaurant.
- With the restaurant’s interiors quite sealed off from its outdoors, you may feel a little disconnected from the action if you’re shunted to the outdoor seats along the office building’s main corridor when the restaurant fills up. But it might get a little livelier when the rest of the units along the walkway start to open for business.
I recall proprietor Daniel Chavez first mentioning his dream of opening Singapore’s first Peruvian cevicheria to me in an interview a little over two years ago, good for him that he’s stuck to his guns.
Will I return?
Yes, for a light lunch or post-work peck.