Kausmo (derived from 'cosmos') at Shaw Centre revolves around the idea of thoughtful and conscientious ways of dining and living. On your table will be dishes created out aesthetically filtered fruits and vegetables that are overstocked, over-ripened, and oddly-shaped and sized. The seafood is sourced from small farming communities in the region, secondary cuts of meat that are often deemed inferior to prime cuts, as well as forgotten native greens and florals. Drawing our attention to food wastage and mindful living is chef Lisa and restaurant manager Chew Shian. Lisa's time in Primo, a restaurant on a farm that adopts zero-waste practices, was the impetus behind Kausmo.
Stepping into Kausmo, the bubbly duo will make you feel right at home. You will be seated at a communal table that host only 12 pax, in full view of the kitchen over the island counter. Right beside your dining table are shelves filled with Kombucha and a range of house-made products such as Kausmo Hot Sauce, Apple Butter Sauce, Mushroom Pates and BBQ Berry Sauces.
The Kausmo duo cultivates this conscientious living concept holistically. Despite it being a commercial dining place, on the table, you will find upcycled wood cutlery stands handmade by the Kausmo team, as well as coasters made from upcycling fabrics, created in collaboration with 3EIGHTH, the local company which tailored Kausmo team’s outfits. Such personal touches warm the place, as it reminds me of what my mum would do to the fabric remaining from her work, or from making our bedsheets and couch covers. Porcelain tableware is from Legle Gaia by Legle France, where recycled glaze and small decals printed with ink waste are used to cover iron spots and imperfections, giving new life to each piece.
Combining European techniques with Asian influences, Kausmo will offer a 6-course Carte Blanche menu at $75++, with Kombucha tasting at an additional $20. There will be 3 different flavours available and served as a course pairing. The viscosity of their Kombucha is similar to that of wines, and they are also sweeter than usual as they are not fermented fully, which is great for diners who ain't used to the vinegary taste in fermented drinks. It won't be my choice as a healthier drink, but I enjoy it as much as I enjoy a non-bubbly dessert wine.
Jack O Sourdough
To kickstart the dialogues on sustainability and mindful living, at the start of each course, the team will explain the background of the dish, such as using less pretty looking fruits, overstocked berries, etc. As it was Halloween, our menu was extra special with Jack O Sourdough with Peppered Beef Fats Butter. Freshly baked sourdough carried a hint of cinnamon, and slathering the whipped butter over I feel is the best way to enjoy the bread, and the butter itself, not with the peppered beef fats. Sprinkled on top of the butter-like pork lards and given their strong peppery taste, I would imagine flavouring pasta or potatoes would be a better option.
Beef Tenders Croquette
Whereas for the Beef Tenders Croquette with Beetroot reduction, I enjoyed it thoroughly. Crowned with Caraway flowers, encased within the golden-brown crust was a filling that was moist and well-seasoned. The sweet and tangy beetroot reduction cuts the richness of the beef tenders filling while enriching its flavours at the same time.
Ginger Fingers with Plum-Merlot Reduction Kausmo Pomodoro dip
For the 2nd appetiser, again I like the Plum-Merlot Reduction on the Ginger Fingers, which was sweet and tart and made the ginger cookie finger-licking good. As for the Kausmo Pomodoro dip, it didn't have that vibrancy that I was looking for.
Granny Smith & Pear, Ricotta
On the other hand, the next course Granny Smith & Pear, Ricotta & Caramelised Whey and Spiced Chimichurri was refreshing on the senses. Embodying much of the restaurant's ethos, this dish highlights the use of produce that has been rejected by retailers due to their less pleasing appearance. Chew Shian explained their choice of using the less pretty Granny Smith apple and pear, and how pairing them with housemade ricotta and caramelising the whey as a means to repurpose the byproduct, can together form a dish that is both aesthetically pleasing and tasty at the same time.
Local Softshell Crab with Calamasi Leaves & Natives
Local Softshell Crab with Kausmo Hot sauce features sustainable farmed softshell crabs from a local farm. Supposedly meatier and tastier, the overall enjoyment was let down by the saltish batter. A less seasoned batter would have allowed me to appreciate the hot sauce more. I like the Calamasi Leave and Natives though, which provides a much-needed freshness to the dish.
Charred Galangal Kurobuta Pork Collar
Both the mains inherit flavours from Lisa's Teochew heritage. The first dish we had was Charred Galangal Kurobuta Pork Collar with Wild Pepper Grainy Mustard, Chestnuts & Apple puree, Veg Jus. Adorned with Brassica flowers and ulam raja, the flowers add interesting flavours to the meat. The flavourful Veg Jus is made by cooking down vegetable remnants, which might have ended in the bin like in some households. Along with the Veg Jus, the creamy Chestnuts & Apple puree helps to mitigate the toughness of the pork collar. Still, I feel perhaps serving it in another form may be more ideal for taking the attention away from its texture.
Wild Fish Congee
Wild Fish Congee with Preserved Plum & Cai Po, Java Ginseng uses wild snapper. I like the texture of the congee, which was gluey enough but still retained the bite of the rice. Had the pepper been a lot less overwhelming, it would have been a comforting bowl of congee.
Easing us into our dessert was Jasmine-Pandan Jelly with Mandarin Reduction and Water chestnut. I like how refined it looks with speckles of marigold flowers, and you just want to take some time appreciating its aesthetic before consuming it.
Cream Cheese Cake
The main dessert was Cream Cheese Cake served with Smoked Blackberry Sherbet and Trigona Berry Drizzle that are made with overripe berries. Made by their friend who runs an ice parlour, the sherbet was light and not overly sweet, and it would have been a star on its own with pairing it with the cake. The cheesecake, however, was nowhere near how a cream cheesecake should be and somehow it tasted more of a store-bought kind of cheesecake. And also, to highlight the use of overripe fruits for their sweetness as a key to this dish doesn't stand out in any manner. Isn't that what majority of us is doing?
Given the very homely setting and personal touches on various elements within the dining room, dining at Kausmo makes one feels like home. It is like a hybrid between a private chef home dining and commercial dining. Although it is common for establishments to integrate the idea of sustainability into their practices, to build a concept around it is not that simple. It will be a success if you walk away, pondering on ideas how you can integrate their principles into your daily life. However, personally, I won't say Kausmo's experience is inspiring, as much as I wish it will be. Growing up in an environment which we upcycle and repurpose many things in our household (it helps when my mum has very nimble hands), and friends who are pretty much doing the same by buying overstocked fruits and vegetables and turning them into delicious desserts and meals, it is hard for me to see what Kausmo is doing is any different other than rephrasing the ideas in a different manner. Perhaps I need to see more ugly vegetables and roots lying around to be more intrigued. Sometimes it is about accessibility to certain ingredients too. Elements such as native and florals, even if they are available for purchase, I believe they come with a hefty price tag.
Written and photography by Si An. A girl who is allured by travelling, loves the feel of freedom, smell of the rain and the aroma of fine coffee and food.
1 Scotts Road
Tel: +65 81268538
Nearest MRT: Orchard (NS Line)
Tue-Sun: 630pm (first seating), 830pm (second seating)
(Closed on Mon and Alternate Sun)
Alight at Orchard MRT station. Take Exit A. Walk to destination. Journey time about 8 minutes. [Map]