“Gluten-free” is a term that draws associations like “cardboard”, “sandpaper”, and “misery” from the flavour bank in your brain. Much like other dietary restrictions, gluten-free food is seared with negatives in the public imagination. But with the rise of people eschewing grains in the name of healthier eating, there is a demand to be met, and restaurants like The Butcher’s Wife are stepping in to advocate that gluten-free food can taste good too.
The Butcher’s Wife is essentially a complete overhaul of Open Door Policy by the Spa Esprit Group, though its premise along the trendy Yong Siak Street remains. Unlike other gluten-friendly establishments that offer mere options for those with sensitivities to the grain protein, The Butcher’s Wife’s menu is one even someone with Celiac’s disease can stomach from end to end.
Velvet seating and wooden tables flank an open kitchen that occupies half the restaurant. Earthen tones around the room add to the homeliness of the atmosphere, only accentuated by the bustle from the kitchen staff as they prepare your meal.
The menu, which reads like a cross between Italian and steakhouse fare, is the brainchild of Chef Diego Jacquet from Argentinian restaurant Bochinche. Hearty plates are central to the philosophy of The Butcher’s Wife, because aside from making gluten-free food delicious, they also want guests to leave full.
Any quality meal worth popping your jeans for begins with good bread, and it seems like Jacquet shares the sentiment. Gluten-free bread is typically corpse-dry, so we mentally prepared ourselves for the worst when it came to the baked focaccia served.
We couldn’t be more pleased to be proved wrong when a bite of the bread gave way to generous chewing. The secret to its fluffy consistency is the use of a flour that contains a blend of starches sourced from the likes of fava beans, chickpeas and potato, instead of just rice and soy. Caramelised onions and semi-dried tomatoes were just the sweet cherries that dressed the satisfying carb load.
Another successful experiment in reinventing an Italian classic is the chestnut pappardelle. Chestnut flour is used in the pasta dough, which makes the broad noodles a touch harder than its gluten-packed equivalent. The thick osso bucco ragu ladled atop the pasta rights the tiny textural wrong with veal so tender it melts into the sauce as you eat. Combined with crunchy walnuts and a sinful nest of parmesan cheese, this is a plate that is worth an evening at The Butcher’s Wife.
If meat mains are your persuasion, The Butcher’s Wife does a mean roast chicken or steak. What you should really do, though, is stray away from the usual and give their grilled octopus.
Garlic-marinated tentacles come charred and sliced into rounds that beg to be dipped the air-light celeraic foam dotted with capers in the centre of the serving. The combination of brine, smoke, and garlic seem simple, but that pared-back approach is why the octopus is one of our favourites on the menu.
To those with gluten intolerances, The Butcher’s Wife is a timely answer entrenched in our local dining scene. Even the average diner will find it hard to critique the restaurant on the grounds that it holds gluten at an arm’s length — if anything, one barely notices.
Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday, 6pm to 11pm; Saturday to Sunday, 11am to 3pm.
Recommended dishes: Grilled octopus, chestnuts pappardelle, rib-eye steak.
Price: S$60++ per person for food.
Service: Very attentive.