Small Plates

Small Plates

Assorted tapas, starters, finger food, gastropub grub and the likes, that I like. These are the ones that fall into the grey area of a standard menu. They also happen to be great as multiple orders for sharing.
Veronica Phua
Veronica Phua

(Invited) Hidden in a far corner of 7 Keppel Road, right next door to the popular Yah Hua Bak Kut Teh, is literal new-kid-on-the-block @rascals_sg.
Co-owned by Chefs @alastiar_tan (a Candlenut alumni who went on to work in Australia before returning to head the kitchen at One MICHELIN-Starred Labyrinth) and @shaunseeyl (he was at Tippling Club when it was in Dempsey, before moving on to join Candlenut and Labyrinth as well) plus two other partners, it is a gastrobar serving up the kind of fun and immensely tasty Mod-Sin food that I want to keep eating.
There is a relaxed vibe about the place and the alcohol selection is wide and adventurous as evidenced by the alcohol pairing we had. It consisted of three sakes - an award-winner, another that’s produced by an ex-winemaker and a red rice version, as well as an Italian white wine and a pink craft beer. They were chosen to complement the dishes Chef Alastiar had curated for us. As our visit was on the fourth day of Chinese New Year, the Tasting Menu for @huatkaliao and I contained several courses influenced by the festive season. Here are what we were served:
1. A sweetish crunchy Kuih Loyang heaped with savoury and spicy tuna tartare and @caviarcolony’s premium Russian Hybrid. What a spectacular start.
2. Succulent 4-hour sous vide Abalone, jellyfish and mung bean noodles salad dressed in garlic chilli wrapped in fresh daun kaduk leaf to pop as one bite. Aromatic and complex, this had an intriguing and lovely taste profile.
3. Simple but brilliant combo of juicy grilled cabbage with umami nori cream and fresh, crunchy pork lard on a skewer. How could this not wow, right?!
4. The crunchy Corn Cream Croquettes filled with creamy corn and small pieces of scallop, was finished with, surprise surprise, grated “Jin Hua” ham! The reason the cured meat looks pale is because grating creates aeration which lightened its colour.
5. Topshell came next. Glazed in soy sauce and spiced up with sambal belachan, those firmly bouncy bites were also spread with toasted coconut flakes. Squeezing on lime juice really made the flavours shine here.
6. Stunning cold steamed Flower Crab in an incredible dressing of light soy, oyster sauce, “hua tiao jiu” (Chinese wine), sesame oil, sugar, fresh chilli, raw garlic, ginger, spring onions and leeks. Chef @alastiar_tan came up with this dish on the day itself thanks to an unexpected delivery of fresh roe-full crustaceans from @ahhuakelong.
7. Gold-flecked warm roasted chicken and dried scallop broth with an “ingot” of pumpkin and scallop, wood ear fungus and goji berries. Truly comforting.
8. The Hiramasa Kingfish Ceviche became an awesome Yu Sheng like no other. We tossed the slices of fish, candied kumquats, tomato water jelly and crunchy fish tuile in a classic Peruvian Tiger’s Milk dressing with roasted seaweed oil and honey before wolfing everything down.
9. Reminding me of the Ikan Tempra my grandmother used to cook, albeit richer and muted in tanginess, was the dish featuring crispy-skin Seabass in a piquant sauce of crab roe, sambal mattar and crispy shrimp.
10. I loved the Pork Trotter with Longevity Noodles smothered in shaved black truffle. The black vinegar butter added an acidity which balanced rest of the elements.
11. Cooked medium-rare, the Margaret River Angus Sirloin steak was plated with alliums, black vinegar shallots, sautéed garlic and a caramelised onion sauce.
12. Created 2 hours before dinner, @ahhuakelong’s fresh Clams appeared in Nasi Ulam. Their sweet brininess harmonised well with the edamame-full herbaceous rice. We even had it in two ways - as it was served and Chazuke style.
13. Dessert number one was a ballsy palate cleanser of sweet potato kaya, coconut cake, green mango sorbet and a milk soil bound by pork lard oil.
14. The second dessert blew our minds! Red yeast gelato, melon granita, homemade “bai tang gao” and pear came as one oh-so-beautifully. I told Team @rascals.sg to please never take this off their menu because it’s much too magnificent.
15. Epitomising everything CNY, the third dessert had a “nian gao” and chicken “bak kwa” fritter served with mandarin orange ice-cream on cashewnut cook crumble, topped by shaved salted egg yolk. It may sound like a mess but the outcome was divine.

Executive Chef David Tang has been busy creating a slew of new dishes. A native Californian, he’s looked to his formative years on the West Coast of America for inspiration while at the same time, shifted to using more ingredients sourced right here in Singapore. The result - light, fresh yet delightfully moreish creations. Exemplifying this were the small plates we kicked off our meal with. One of which was the Burrata made locally by an Italian, its creaminess cleverly offset by an appetising acidity of green tomatoes, lime juice and fermented chillies.

My parents and I were bowled over by this Red Grouper Claypot Teochew Style. Apart from it being really generous in serving for a small-sized order, the simmering broth was extraordinarily appetising thanks to the addition of several “sng buay” (sour plums). It was also chockfull of thickly-sliced grouper (other types of fish are also available), “tau kee” (dried beancurd skin), “tau hu” (soft beancurd), Chinese cabbage and tomatoes.
Best thing to enjoy this with? A bowl of steaming hot rice. Mmmmmm...

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Being bowled over by an eggplant isn’t something that happens often. But that night, I was. The smoky, soft vegetable was accompanied by hummus, za’atar and caramelised soy to supremely delicious effect. I wanted another the moment I took a bite. Too good.

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New to the menu, this is stunning in every sense of the word. Besides the visual impact, the glossy, juicy beetroot glazed in kampot pepper caramel, and displayed on ultra light, crispy puff pastry, tastes spectacular. It is a brilliant match with the accompanying King Salmon Rillette.

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Chef Alan brought this plate of balls straight from the oven and they smelled insane.
We couldn’t resist gobbing on the Comte Cream like it was going out of fashion before popping the cheese bread balls into our mouths. Slightly hard on the outside, they are softer within, and are tantalisingly delicious.
Warning: It’s very hard to stop once you get started on them. But you must because there are so many other delectable dishes on the menu to try.

It’s official, 2020 is the year I became a lamb-eater. Helping to seal the deal was this rendition of the meat by Chef Jay and his team at Cheek Bistro.
Although it was very slightly gamey (at least to super-sensitive me), I could overlook it as the combined charms of the melt-in-the-mouth fat and fine layer of crackling caramelised glaze (made from lamb jus and balsamic vinegar), were too lip-smackingly tasty.

The Hasselback Potatoes aren’t cheap at $16++ but oh my goodness, are they outstanding!
These potatoes which are scored with precise cuts are fried till golden-brown on the outside, come with a truckload of sour cream and finely-chopped chives. Eating them all together is simply heavenly.
If you love potatoes, you must not miss out on giving this a go.

My friends could not stop gushing over their waffles loaded with chicken liver parfait but the whipped ricotta has been my preferred for a while now. Loved how the light, lemon-scented cheese harmonised with the date jam and pickled mustard seeds. I was quivering with joy at every bite.

What a revelation! All other popcorn in the world probably dream of being this. Enhanced with some smoked miso, it‘s simultaneously sweet, toasty, succulent and crunchy. An absolute dream to eat and a must to order.

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Everyone needs to make a beeline for this. It combines aromatics-forward finely-minced prawn with fragrant and crunchy brown butter toast for an enthralling bite. What a joy it was to eat!

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When you tap on the geotag or hashtags related to @cheek.sg, you are bound to see a number of posts with the famous Chicken Liver Parfait Waffle. Its fame is understandable given the spot-on combination of a savoury mousse of meat cream, sweet date jam, crunchy mustard seeds and fragrant, light, crisp freshly-baked batter.
But I ordered the vegetarian version for the first time yesterday and was instantly smittened. Just look at that beauty above. In place of the chicken liver was a fat squiggle of ricotta whipped to fluffiness with a little cream, and finished with lemon zest sauce. It had a swoon-worthy mouthfeel as there’s surprising weight in the puff of whiteness. I thought it was divine in every way.
Do give it a try when you visit.

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