Above image: The Arti-Stoked cocktail getting a drop of arugula oil
Southern Calfornian concepts seem to be all the rage in Singapore in recent months. And we get it. Exuding laidback charm and Hollywood glamour in equal measure, it’s an enticing notion many find hard to resist.
At the newly opened California Republic on Amoy Street, a SoCal Italian restaurant and bar by the Dandy Collection – the same guys behind Firangi Superstar, Neon Pigeon, and Fat Prince – that effortlessly chic vibe is exactly what you’ll find in store.
It can be seen in both the interior decor and the menus. Banquette seats and tucked-away lounge sofas create pockets of hideaways for you and your crew, while an Italian American food and beverage offering builds on that inviting quality with hearty, comforting nosh and tipples.
If you’re like us, kick start the evening with a couple of cocktails. There is a good selection of no/low options meant to channel that clean eating ethos so associated with California, while a few full-proof drinks continue to pack a punch should you be so inclined.
We recommend the low-alcohol Know Your Way to San Jose (S$18) for a refreshing rum-based tipple to begin with, before moving on to the Walkin’ On The Sun (S$24) for a twist on the Godfather that’s sweetened with sherry and made more complex with Empirical’s marzipan-like The Plum, I Suppose spirit.
An interesting choice will be the Arti-Stoked (S$24). A rendition of the Boulevardier, rye and vermouth form the backbone of this drink, but instead of Campari, Cynar (a bitter liqueur made primarily using Artichokes, thus the cocktail’s name) and arugula oil lends an alluring green brightness to the spirit-forward concoction.
Don’t leave without having the Hyphy (S$24). This take on the Espresso Martini by California Republic bartender Danny Dave is as indulgent as they come. It’s little wonder why a fanbase has formed around him and this recipe of his that truly hits the spot.
Beyond the cocktails, the direction of California Republic’s cuisine hits home as well, as even some SoCal natives have attested to during our visit. Channelling fond memories of enjoying fresh oysters farmed and served in a quaint little shack by the coast is their Grilled Oysters (S$18). Here, Shigoku oysters are grilled with chipotle chilli, bourbon, and garlic compound butter, then served warm.
Then there’s the Meatballs al Angeleno (S$28). A quintessentially Italian American offering, this pork and veal meatball dish coated in a secret tomato sauce is possibly the best of its kind in town. Trust us, you’ll be fighting over who gets to mop up the leftovers with the pieces of grilled bread served alongside.
Yet, if there’s something you must order when at California Republic, it has to be one of their handmade pasta dishes. The Smoked Bucatini (S$34) is probably going to be the crowd favourite, where tube pasta is perfectly coated and soaked in the pork ragu, bone marrow, and sofrito sauce, giving each bite a satisfying burst of flavour.
The sleeper hit has got to be the Celery Root Cappellacci (S$29). Don’t be allayed by the description of the dish on the menu that does it no justice. Each mouthful of the stuffed pastas and roasted field mushrooms drenched in an inexplicably moreish parmigiano sauce will have you diving back in for more.
To pair with the food, a decent selection of Italian and Californian wines are available. From Sonoma County all the way to Piemonte, there’s a good variety to pick from, including a couple that are by the glass (from S$20) or carafe (from S$55). A sole bottle of orange wine from Sicily, the Azienda Agricola COS, Grachiano Blend (S$165), catches our eye too.
At this point, it’ll be remiss not to mention the desserts (though the Hyphy does the trick too). For something fun, the Zeppole (S$16), or deep-fried dough fritter balls, is the easy choice. Just dip ‘em in hazelnut or chocolate sauce and you’re golden.
But we’d highly recommend the Espresso Budino (S$16) too. To eat, simply grab the homemade biscotti that comes with it, and dip it into the jar that’s filled with espresso cream and other layers of not-too-sweet goodness. A spoon comes in handy later for scooping up the rest of the thick cream. Desserts here are actually really good, so don’t miss out.
With so much going for it, there’s bound to be something that resonates with guests at California Republic. Yet for us, above all else, a visit to California Republic is an escape. In this world of its own, you’re free to be carefree. The California Dreamin’ spirit is truly well and alive here.
California Republic is located at 88 Amoy Street, Singapore 069907.
Check out the review done by our friends over at Spirited Singapore for more on the food.
About the Author
Dannon Har is the Managing Editor of Spill. Discovering his innate gift for drinking only at a ripe age, he spares no time trying to find more delicious drops to imbibe during his time on Earth. When he’s not minding every detail at Spill, he spends his time concocting luscious libations and sharing them with folks that visit his home bar.