Yenn Wong of JIA Group seems to be unstoppable this year. After adding Mak Mak and Rhoda to her collection of successful restaurants, she has most recently opened Commissary, a Southern Californian restaurant in Pacific Place.
On the concourse level of the mall, just behind the taxi rank, sits this lively restaurant that spills out onto a lovely terrace surrounded by vibrant plants and string lighting. Inside, the décor is inspired by California’s buzzy restaurants, with retro touches and bursts of colour.
The restaurant is a collaboration between Yenn Wong and a duo of chefs, New Zealand-born Sydney-sider Morgan McGlone and American Adam Shoebridge, who worked together at Husk Nashville and bring quite a serious repertoire between the two of them. They have put together a menu that showcases Southern Californian cuisine, combining influences from Mexico, California and the southern States.
Deciding to keep it sensible on a weeknight, I sampled the Funky Tepache from the ‘Mindful Drinking’ section of the menu, made with fermented pineapple and cinnamon that was delicious and apparently very good for digestion – which I figured would be necessary given the feast that lay ahead!
Starting with some snacks, we nibbled on the country ham with pickles and homemade scones, followed by some sardines on toast, a dish I would probably not have ordered myself, but which took me by surprise and I would certainly order again.
I can rarely say no to a devilled egg, and Commissary’s were absolutely spot on, with a subtle yet satisfying kick.
Clam chowder, although a Southern favourite, isn’t something that overly excites me. Commissary’s version, made with Cloudy Bay diamond clams, and topped with crisps, was better than others, but still didn’t do it for me.
The pickled prawn lettuce cups, however, were delicious, the flavours sharp and refreshing, with lovely contrasting textures.
The tuna poke tostada was one of my favourite dishes. Each tostada was larger than my palm, piled high with avocado and marinated raw tuna, sprinkled with sesame seeds, beautifully marrying Mexican and Japanese flavours.
The fish tacos, topped with cabbage slaw were also very good, although they definitely needed a squeeze of lime and a dollop of salsa verde to bring out the flavours. I also must say I prefer fish tacos with flour tortillas, instead of corn.
The dish that took me most by surprise, in a good way, were the shrimp and grits. I would never have chosen this myself, as I usually find it too heavy, but this dish was phenomenal. Perfect for this cooler weather, it was comforting and wholesome, the kind of dish I would crave when feeling under the weather, or feeling on top of the world.
Sides of peas and pecorino with poached egg, cauliflower with fennel pollen and honey butter, and onion rings with chipotle mayo were all lovely and satisfying in their own way.
The apple fried pie, Chef Morgan told us, is inspired by McDonalds’ apple pie, but I personally wouldn’t even put them in the same sentence; whilst I would not go near McDonald’s with a barge pole, I would order Commissary’s apple pie again any day. Despite the ‘fried’ in its name, the pastry was light and not remotely greasy, packed full of spiced chunks of apple with smears of accompanying apple chutney and vanilla pod ice cream.
I was most excited about the chocolate pudding with salted caramel, as any mention of the latter instantly gets my attention. Unfortunately, I found it overly rich and I couldn’t detect much salt at all in the caramel.
On the other hand, I wasn’t too excited by the red velvet cake, and yet this was definitely a winner. Four layers of the fluffiest sponge cake were sandwiched together with the creamiest of cream cheese frostings, creating a cake that any kid – big kids as well as small – would adore.
Prices are pretty reasonable at Commissary, with snacks and starters mostly under $150 and mains mostly under $250. It looks like Commissary offers a great happy hour too, with cocktails for only $60 from 4:30 to 8pm on weeknights. The service was excellent and personal, adding to the fun, relaxed vibe that emanates from this place and is sure to attract a crowd.
Shop 405, Level 4, Pacific Place
Tel: +852 2602 0707