Wrapping up their first year of operations in the Mandarin Oriental, the visionary team behind MO Bar are steering a course for new horizons in 2020. Bar Manager Michele Mariotti’s inaugural menu hit hard with immediate success, placing in Top 10s across the board at The Bar Awards Singapore 2019 and coming in second spot for Best Hotel Bar.
This season, the second volume of Nomadic Voyagers retains a similar star chart concept of tipples, albeit with some improvements, and debuts an inspired new selection of drinks that takes influence from localities all over Southeast Asia.
Set along the city fringe in Singapore’s Mandarin Oriental, MO Bar presents guests with a view of the Central Business District with towering skyscrapers and the Marina Bay waterfront. Glided, glowing and genteel, clean lines and elegant interiors ostensibly point to more mature crowds, but could also make for an easy transition from afternoon tea to late-night negronis.
But the pièce de résistance to this happy little watering hole are the gallant bartenders and wait staff who fill the void with an endless supply of chirpy banter, courteous service and undeniable charm – something Marotti and his motley crew have perfected to a T.
Almost a year spent in its making, their latest menu is an astounding collaborative effort, with contributions from resident bar folk across the region like Jamie Rind from Bangkok’s Bamboo Bar and Shoki Sato from Osaka’s Bar Beso. Inspired by cuisine and bar culture from twelve distinct localities, there are also four new spirit-free drinks ripe for the picking, perfect for the New Year teetotaler.
Inspired by traditional Shanghainese methods of food preservation, the virgin Silk Market (S$12/S$24++) features mandarin cordial, fermented honey and corn comes served in a hand-moulded vessel of beeswax that, when brought to the lips, send whiffs of honey and bread to the nose. Add a splash of Peddler’s Gin to the mix, and you catch more citrus on the palate.
Meanwhile, the Uproot (S$22++) champions the movement for sustainability. Made entirely from parts of the same ingredient (the ginger root is made into cordial, the stem adds citrus, and the flower forms a coloured paste for garnish), it’s creative, thoughtful, and delicious, to boot. But if you lean toward a stronger brew, the Nomadic Forager (S$24++) stands solitary in the class of spirit-forward drinks on the menu.
A bite of chocolate imbues a touch of sweetness to the bitter vermouth, while the smooth stylings of Mr Black coffee liqueur add a velvety mouthfeel to finish. Trading up the customary orange peel with lemon myrtle also gives this Down Under drink a more intense, flowery flavour. A tricky balancing act to manage, but possible, especially when the bar’s take on a negroni involves coffee connoisseur Martin Hudak.
Very much unlike the former, the Chiang Mai-inspired Expedition (S$24++) replaces roasted beans with green coffee, imparting fresh grassy flavours and a delightfully vegetal scent, kicked up a few fruity notches with grapefruit and vermouth, and served in an adorable ceramic mug, handmade by the team.
Our final item is the T and T (S$22++), birthed from Marotti’s guest spot at Hong Kong alongside Jay Khan of COA. A tequila-base is decorated with penetrating flavours of lemon verbena and sweet fig, which makes for something surprisingly sessionable. For those who’ve trauma bonds with tequila, don’t knock it till you try it.
Decadent afternoon tea by day, hearty comfort food by night – MO Bar’s elegant food menu has also seen its fair share of updates: from warm bowls of Shanghai Dumplings (S$22++) with Kurobuta pork and minced prawn to the ever-sinful Gyu-Katsu Sando (S$32++) sandwich with breaded Wagyu beef, new additions to the menu seem to further enrich the regional experience. And, if you feel so inclined, there’re plenty of meat-free options dot the menu, too. Dig into Vietnamese Rice Rolls (S$16++) with sweet chilli sauce, or jump on the Impossible bandwagon with the plant-based variation of the MO BAR Burger (S$32++).