For dinner with Ry, we chose a restaurant that would allow us to get away from the maddening crowd that currently throngs the Great Singapore Sale ("GSS") around the Orchard Road vicinity. I've mentioned before that we don't like the shopping crowd. In fact, we hate crowds so much that we're actually waiting for the GSS to be over before we do any shopping. Okay, it's partly because the GSS features old items from the previous season(s) and/or unpopular items that have had slow sales. The new stuff is only brought out after the sale is over, so that's when I'm shopping. 

Spruce is housed at Phoenix Park, where the Ministry of Home Affairs used to be, off Tanglin Road, barely minutes away from the bustling Orchard Road. Yet it seems to be from a different world entirely. It's lush, charming and tranquil. Maybe it's the greenery that surrounds the restaurant, or maybe it's the old-school 80's decor of Phoenix Park, or maybe it's because Spruce is about the only restaurant situated in the whole of the Phoenix Park compound. The ambience is like Dempsey, before it became commercialized of course. Obviously, parking's a breeze.

Spruce has been on my "to-eat" list for a while, and we're glad we finally had a chance to try the food here. Prices are extremely reasonable, portions are fair, service was hospitable (the chef and owner were always checking on us and such smiley chaps), and the food was of quality and executed with finesse. The dining experience was so good Ry said he'd bring his father here for Fathers' Day brunch. We got 3 mains, 2 sides, and 2 desserts to share between the 3 of us, which we enjoyed tremendously.

The Signature Beef Short Ribs ($29) with a perfectly fried sunny side egg, spinach and horseradish gremolata, was thoroughly braised, fork-tender and totally flavoursome and moist. There was an Asian element in the veal jus, some kind of a sweetish soy addition to the rich sauce.

The Mushroom Risotto ($22) with a truffled egg, honshimeiji and chives managed to stay delicate and light, which is quite a tough thing to do with starch-heavy risotto. Plentiful shimeiji and shitake mushrooms littered the dish and lent an Asian flavour, while chives provided a refreshing touch to the rice dish. We all liked the unique topping of the poached egg, soft but not runny.

It was a little unusual to see a whole fish, bones and all, rather than a cleanly-plated fillet, in a western restaurant. The Roasted Snapper ($29) with lemon jam and herb salad, was served whole, head to tail. The fish was fresh and moist, simply seasoned with salt and herbs to bring out its naturally clean and clear flavours.

The Signature Spruce Mac & Cheese ($9) was nicely portioned as a side, pasta was al dente, while the cheese was rich without being cloying. Parmesan was scattered on top, and browned to a tantalizing golden hue.

The Roasted Mushrooms ($8) was a crowd favourite for its winsome woodsy flavours, with an assortment of shimeiji and shitake sauteed in its natural juices, salt and chives.

The Baked Ginger Date Pudding ($12) with vanilla ice-cream, a Spruce favourite, was dense but fluffy, with the slightest hint of ginger wafting through the confectionery. Sticky dates provided the sweetness to the red wine-tinted sauce, while icy-cold vanilla ice-cream balanced out the warm pudding. 

The Flaming Crepes with Banana and Nutella ($18), from the specials menu, was thin and light, with caramelized bananas and rich creamy nutella wrapped into the fluffy crepes.

320 Tanglin Road
Phoenix Park
Tel: 6836 5528
Open Mondays to Fridays from 10.30am to 10.30pm
Saturdays and Sundays from 8.30am to 10.30pm
Website: www.spruce.com.sg

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