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Modern Singaporean Cuisine

Modern Singaporean Cuisine

Featuring Botanico at The Garage, The Marmalade Pantry (ION Orchard), Wild Rocket, Restaurant Ibid, 田 Magic Square, Labyrinth, Morsels, IZY FOOK, Mustard Seed, Relish by Wild Rocket (Frasers Tower)
Veronica Phua
Veronica Phua

H O S T E D
Developed an instant crush on this I did. The overnight brine and a week of aging had heightened the flavour of the duck breast. So to complement, there were fresh chives, lily stems pickled in orange and curry, sliced “nian gao” (a firm rice cake), an incredible housemade chye por and a lip-smacking Korean chilli sauce with garlic. Forget party in the mouth, the melded flavours of this dish made me want to get up off my chair and dance!

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H O S T E D
One of my top three favourites from the meal was this Venison Tartare Spam which tasted exactly like corned beef but more moist. It had the luscious company of tender slippery squid cut into strips of ribbons for noodles, fried kale and salty capers. The result was a deeply tasty mix I couldn’t get enough of.

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H O S T E D
Trust Chef-owner Petrina Loh to serve burrata in a style unlike any other. Piercing the creamy cheese were sweet shards of compressed pear, while the crunch factor were contributed softly by chunks of brown butter parsnips and more decidedly by a pistachio crunch. All of that was pulled together by a housemade Green Goddess dressing.
This is one of the small plate options in the Sharing Set Menus - lunch: $45/$65++ and dinner: $85/$115++ per pax).

H O S T E D
Melt-in-the-mouth meat with shiro miso-cured scallops certainly make for a creative surf & turf. Especially when piquantly acidic macerated tamarillo and tomato jus, sea asparagus and sunchokes prepared in two ways, are thrown on as complements.

H O S T E D
This was another dish that blew me away because the tantalising chicken fig broth in which the clams wallowed, was decked out with cabbage kimchi and pickled wakame. It came with big slices of warm baguette which were perfect for dunking.

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H O S T E D
Even before fermentation became a trend that is sweeping the culinary world, Chef-owner Petrina Loh of Morsels was already a champion of it. Walk into the cosy cottage of her restaurant tucked away in Dempsey Hills and you will spot shelves of jars and bottles, large and small, occupying a substantial area at the kitchen, each containing an ingredient undergoing a leisurely transformation by microorganisms. Naturally, the dishes she and her team (led by Head Chef Fung) create, reflects the food culture (pun intended) she believes in.

Designed for flexibility, the Sharing Set Menus available at lunch and dinner ($45/$65++ and $85/$115++ respectively) lets you decide how hungry you are and what you want to eat. There is an Omakase option (lunch/dinner: $95/$135++) for those who prefer to leave the decision-making to the chef. Vegetarians, you will be pleased to know there are menus for you too. And wine pairing is available for all meals.

At last Saturday’s invited tasting, I was delighted to have been fed the following as Snacks (shown above anti-clockwise from top left):

1. Seasonal Oyster: The French specimen came dressed with mangosteen shrub (a blend of the fruit macerated in sugar and peel made into vinegar), Jalapeño citrus kosho, fermented basil leaf and calamansi-split coconut butter milk. 

2. Fish Laver Cracker: The cracker which usually plays a background role, was practically the star as it’s made from the scraped-off-the-bones Barramundi and seaweed. The topping of shio silken tofu mousse, house-cured ikura and katsuoboshi completed the bomb-ilicious mouthful.

3. Beef Tongue Spam Tartare: Brined for 7 days, the flavourful meat came tossed with fermented celtuce on a charcoal spring onion pancake.

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Priced at $150 per head, dining at @division_sg is not cheap but according to the young co-founders Aidan and Chef Tariq Helou, it’s because of the premium quality ingredients they order to meet the standard they are looking to deliver.
Shown above is the second course from my most recent meal there and one of my favourites from that evening.
Served chilled, this brilliant take on our local #prawnnoodles soup boasted an elixir of prawn head oil as the “secret weapon”. When my chopsticks hoisted the silky, al dente strands of Somen and chunks of raw, very fresh Botan Ebi up through the surface of the dashi, the vivid orange oil afloat on it, enveloped them with a coat of intense umami-ness. In the mouth, the taste of this dish was shudderingly good.
I cannot overstate the creativity and deliciousness that existed in this bowl. Chef Tariq, can we have it again on my next visit please? 😋😋😋

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Besides the “tau pok” being elevated to an airy-light magic carpet of crispness because they use the Japanese “aburaage” instead, the “hae gor” (fermented shrimp paste) also comes in the form of ice-cream. Its cold, pungent and savoury creaminess adds a fascinating dimension to the dish which comprises of Tiger prawns, fresh pineapples, jicama and mango. The garnish is katsuobushi (dried skipjack tuna) for a little more umami-ness.

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I was under the impression that Roketto Izakaya, Willin Low’s latest concept, was tucked in a corner of his existing establishment Relish, but nope, it is actually what the whole of Relish becomes (yes, with twinkling fairy lights and all) when the sun sets. So basically, Willin has two concepts in his space at Fraser’s Tower. I also just learned there’s a private entrance now as well. So do turn left when you get off the escalator on level two, go through the auto doors and head out the glass door at your ten o’clock. It will take you through a rooftop garden, directly to Relish/Roketto.
The place was quite quiet when my friend Annette and I arrived around 6pm on a Wednesday but was full at 8pm when we left. Once we settled our drinks—there’s a good selection of sakes, draft beers and sours but I had a strawberry milkshake (don’t laugh) and Annette, a Yuzu Soda—the menu-perusing began. Despite being tempted to order many of Willin’s Mod Sin creations, we sensibly shared the following...

From the Individual Bites:

1. Fish Collagen Broth ($5) - I liked this creamy, dairy-free soup a lot. Another bowl would not have gone amiss.
2. Mala Prawn Donut ($6.50/$7.50) - We both adored this! Seconds were required.
3. Black Pepper Crab Donut ($6.50++) - Richer than I expected as it has a creamy filling.
4. Bak Chor Mee Negitoro ($15) - Appetising mix of raw minced tuna and glass noodles.

As for the bigger Sharing Plates, we chose:

1. Aburaage Rojak Salad ($15) - Shiokness! We liked the twist of the “hae go” appearing as an ice-cream. It complemented the Tiger prawns, crisp Japanese “tau pok”, fresh pineapples, jicama and mango really nicely.
2. Har Jeong Tin Gai ($12) - Our server was adamant we order this. Glad we listened to her. The shrimp paste battered and fried frog legs were highly addictive, more so with the young ginger kosho.
3. Krapow Prata Pizza ($13.80) - Every bite of the flaky crust loaded with fragrant, spicy minced chicken, cheese, chilli and Thai basil had us cooing with pleasure.
4. Sarawak Curry Chicken Shepherd’s Pie ($15.80) - This began life as a staff meal but was so tasty Willin decided to add it to Roketto’s menu.

For dessert, we shared the Wild Rocket Strawberry Cheesecake ($9.20), one of Chef @willcookwilleat’s long-time signatures, and the Fresh Pineapple Sorbet ($7.80). I preferred the former personally but the latter with touches of chilli padi and soy sauce salt, would be ideal for those hankering after something more refreshing and exotic.

My much-anticipated second dinner by @division_sg, this time with a bigger group of friends, was at a different “secret location”, still in the central part of Singapore. In accordance with their practice, we were served a different menu.
The opener was a beautiful and exceedingly fresh creation of sweet Kegani (horsehair crab), Bafun uni, Murasaki Ensui uni (the sea urchin stored in salt water), fruit tomato and Chef and co-founder Tariq Helou’s audacious soya sauce vinegar jelly.
Course number two was a genius take on our local prawn noodle and my second favorite of the evening. The vivid orange prawn head oil was the magical component, enveloping strands of Somen and the raw Botan Ebi with a slick of intense umami-ness as they broke the surface to head to my waiting lips. I can’t overemphasise the creativity and deliciousness found here.
Fishes headlined the next two courses. Bearing in mind Chef Tariq isn’t a sushi chef by training, I thought he prepared the Katsuo (skipjack tuna) and Amadai (tilefish) admirably well. Anyway, in my humble opinion, it was what he served the premium fishes with that gave them distinction: Month-long-pickled onions for the seared tuna and shiso salsa verde for the tilefish. Both were unerringly appetising.
However, without a shadow of doubt, the night belonged to the carbs.
And I dare say, it was the aromatic Matsutake mushroom rice paired with jiggly ribbons of A5 Ito Wagyu sirloin and finished with a splash of Nama Kosho sauce that reigned supreme for all of us.
Almost as heavenly was the Megumi Gold sweet corn rice that had French beurre salé (salted butter) and fresh kinome mixed in just before being served.
Dessert was choux puffs filled with a savoury-sweet vanilla and miso pastry cream. Chef wasn’t 100% pleased with it himself but I had no issues making it disappear all the same.
Co-founder Aidan who’s in charge of front-of-house, business development (basically everything but the cooking), presented each creation, kept our glasses filled (it’s BYO here) and ensured the evening ran without a hitch.

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Chef Ming Kiat is gifted in unshackling the DNA of traditional flavours and harnessing it, along with the “feeling”, to create shockingly sublime dishes that leave you staring at them in awe as you eat. The current menu (it changes monthly) has some of the most imaginative and delicious tasting Mod Sin (Modern Singaporean) creations that have ever landed on my palate. With each (details listed below), I was astounded, dazzled and ultimately, satisfied to no end. Here is the complete list:

1. Insanely good opener of seared local squid, in a laksa leaf pesto, enlivened with pickled green apple and a kerabu (Asian salad) of wing bean, mint and red onions.

2. Chockfull of Hokkaido scallop and fish maw, the chawanmushi was steamed in a stock of dried seafood and Jinghua ham, and topped with a very umami housemade X.O sauce. Extremely flavourful and a favourite of many.

3. Highly imaginative course of Ebi Katsu (crunchy prawn and fish patty) in a pool of Chef Ming’s tartare sauce which was concocted from fish chowder, turmeric leaf, laksa leaves, coriander and belimbing.

4. The herbal duck and Japanese mushrooms hot pot is a great example of minimal waste done to really tasty results. While the bones were brewed with Chinese medicinal herbs, the thighs were made into meatballs and the body meat, sliced and poached.

5. One of my favourites was the dish derived from Indonesian Soto soup featuring local grouper. Roast chicken stock was reduced to a “bumbu” (spice paste) and enriched with butter to become a velvety-smooth and terrifically aromatic gravy. Served with it, a smoked fish bergedil that was good on its own but better soaked in the gravy.

6. Chef Ming’s version of his mum’s Popiah Porridge is pure comfort food. The taste was sweet and savoury due to the simmering of turnip, carrots, cabbage, “hae bee” (dried shrimp) and Japanese rice in a potent prawn stock.

7. Peranakan meets Italian in the form of fresh egg noodles with buah keluak oxtail ragout. Adding sambal belachan and fresh lime juice brought the rich earthy flavours of the ragout to another level.

8. Nothing is straightforward with this team. For a palate cleanser, Chef Shin Yin made us a sorbet of cold-pressed star fruit juice and served it on Japanese muscat grapes and pomelo from Ipoh.

9. Baked a la minute, the piping hot orange sugee cake came with a scoop of spiced ice-cream that’s made in-house with cloves, cinnamon and cardamom. I doubt there could be a more perfect ending to this amazing meal.

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As our next booking at @mustardseed_sg approaches in the first week of September, my excitement to have Chef-owner Ming Kiat’s new menu is already building. At the same time though, I can’t help but think of this dessert I had on my last visit with wistfulness.
A tribute to the humble soya bean, the bowl holds its different incarnations in an ice-cream, as a silky yuba (Japanese beancurd skin), crunchy chips of #tempeh (fermented soya beans) and even a housemade kinako sauce, all orchestrated to harmonise beautifully when enjoyed together.
I feel it takes a great deal of sensitivity and creativity in a chef to fathom the potential of the humble bean in order to be able to execute to such sublime results. Obviously, Chef Ming Kiat has both qualities in spades.

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Can't cook to save my life but boy, can I eat! 😄 (I pay for all my meals unless otherwise stated)

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