Modern Singaporean Cuisine

Modern Singaporean Cuisine

Featuring The Marmalade Pantry (ION Orchard), The Naked Finn, Labyrinth, Meta Restaurant, Wild Rocket, Botanico at The Garage, Morsels, Restaurant Ibid, IZY FOOK, Mustard Seed
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.

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This young man’s menu, even on the second day of service, was already a polished statement-maker with its Singaporean ingredients-inspired theme.
After Manager Jose did his introductory spiel, things got rolling promptly with a fascinating confluence of hot and cold where grilled sweet corn kernels met a quenelle of frozen corn and butter sabayon in a roasted buckwheat tea with masala chai spices.
Then, an appetisingly balanced cold appetiser of Sri Lankan mud crab with green tomato chutney, diced tomatoes and green apple in a pandan leaf oil-laced green apple juice sauce. While slices of pickled and cooked celtuce (chayote) added crunch, ginger flower and lime zest enhanced the aroma.
Chef Jonathan’s interpretation of laksa was the basis of the next course, another cold creation featuring Hokkaido scallops, kabu and lemon.
The silky-skin duck leg-stuffed dumplings in a duck broth perfumed by a touch of Szechuan spices were tasty but the accompanying bowl of rice managed to outshine it a little. Cooked with “hum choi” also known as “sian chye”, and finished with crispy duck skin, that carb was extremely fragrant and tasty.
I thought his take on 茶叶蛋 (“cha ye dan”) was brilliant! The black tea foam-covered egg sat with lily buds and sautéed Maitake mushrooms on a base of fermented mushroom purée and fermented mushroom juice. Everything about this course was spot-on.
Another winner in my book, the pan-cooked 4-day-aged Sawara (Spanish Mackerel) from Japan. It was just impeccable in done-ness and flavour. And so delightful when savoured with the green rempah purée, green onion fish stock sauce and smoky wok-fried Dragon Chives.
To me, the meat course was a clever East-meets-West dish as the 10-day-aged Irish duck was glazed in tamarind caramel and spice glaze which gave it an Asian taste profile. Yet because it came with citrus elements of kumquat chutney and a duck jus made from roasted duck bones and reduced orange juice, there was a decidedly French influence as well. Loved the black banana purée too.
The palate cleanser reminded me of a more sophisticated version of Solero / Jolly Lolly ice popsicles as it combined a lemongrass sorbet, kaffir lime, green tea and little chewy bits of attap chee. A surprise spicy heat made it all the more beguiling to me.
Coming full circle, Chef @jonathan_gan closed the meal with another hot meets cold creation. This dessert was a love letter to the Jerusalem artichoke as the tuber’s versatility was on full display. To complement the mochi balls, it took on different forms - as a veloute with coconut milk, and a crumble from its skin being fried and tossed in sugar and peanuts, as well as an ice-cream. Without a doubt, dinner ended on a high note.

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Our second visit to @magicsquare.sg 2.0 was to have Chef Eugene’s (@abangkau) menu. He’s the first of the four young chefs in this current version of 田 Magic Square.
Manager @itshozay kicked things off that evening, sharing some details about this incubator for the benefit of the first-timers.
Supported by Chefs @jonathan_gan and @pristinamok (@lawjiajun was on medical leave), Eugene presented nine courses based on his interpretation of Chinese heritage cuisine blended with his knowledge of French techniques.
Although it was bracing cold and upside-down, the first item had me immediately thinking of “chwee kueh” (our local breakfast favourite) with its mushroom duxelles, onion consommé and rice pudding.
Number two paid tribute to a dish found in both French and Teochew cuisines - the Aspic Terrine. The jelly which was formed by chilling the collagen-rich braised pork trotter and pork belly, was accessorised with a tiny dollop of red chilli jam for a punch of sweetish heat, and pickled onions and cauliflower. Yums.
One of my favourites from that evening was the Bone Marrow Chawanmushi. Finished with a delicious “pot au feu” broth and barbecued gingko nuts, it had tiny cubes of crunchy bamboo shoot buried in its silkiness. If only second helpings were available…
The succulent frog legs wrapped
in sheets of old cucumber with
mint and chervil were delectable. I liked them even more swooshed through the roasted garlic aioli.
For the fifth course, Giant Tiger Prawns were wrapped in chiffonade-cut beancurd skin for crispiness and extra flavour. Laid on a purée of roasted kabocha (Japanese pumpkin) and dressed with a luscious Dijon mustard chives and parsley creme fraiche, it was a dish that showed off the quality produce very well.
Local barramundi was the sixth. Steamed to perfection, it came with a garlic, ginger and aromats sauce, beurre blanc made from the fish’s own bones, as well as wok-fried “nai bai” vegetable, pickled white fungus and chrysanthemum flowers. In contrast to the soft flesh, its skin was transformed into crunchy “chiccharon”.
Chicken was the star in the seventh, and it tasted distinctly Chinese as the slices of tender breast meat were stuffed with glutinous rice cooked with “lap cheong” (preserved pork sausage), “yun cheong” (liver sausage) and mushroom, Surrounded by pickled daikon was a small liver ball which wow-ed me.
To refresh our palates after that, Chef Eugene and his team mates served a unique herbal-style pre-dessert that brought pomelo sorbet, barley amazake and chrysanthemum oil together.
Dinner ended with an astonishing creation of black sesame ice-cream crowned with a meringue made using the beef garum by Chef @markerpenn (Head of R&D at @nakedfinn). Utterly brilliant pairing.
Am looking forward to seeing what the other Chefs have up their sleeves in the months ahead.

We had our socks well and truly knocked off by Chef Marcus’ new main which stars a whole Amadai wrapped in banana leaf and grilled over bincho-tan. Not only is it stuffed with vegetables mixed in an X.O. Sauce concocted from the fish trimmings but also topped with the fried scales of the Amadai itself and kailan leaves. Honestly, this is one of the most delicious examples of minimal waste I can recall. We had the idea to spread that crispiness all over so there was some crunch in every smoky bite of the tender, flavourful fish. Yums!

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It boasted a large piece of fried firm-fleshed fish blanketed in a thick, sour-spicy rempah gravy that I found extremely appetising. Served with plain white rice, the set also included a chunky deepfried yam and chicken patty, fried long beans and another stir-fry of tempeh with hardboiled egg in sweetish sambal. On the side was a bowl of tasty “hae bee”-heavy, not-overly-lemak Sayur Lodeh.

Conclusion: I enjoyed this and the “Premium Nasi Lemak” equally, so it will come down to what I‘m in the mood for on my future visits.

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Popped into the newly-open @lemakboys the other night and ordered their “Premium Nasi Lemak” ($18.50) for dinner. I know most people say the Basic version of the former is good enough but I’m not “most people” because clearly, I’m greedier 😂. Anyway, and I shared everything.
The essential components were done really well. While the rice was very fragrant and flavourful without being heavy or oily, the sweetish sambal proved a shiok match. Scoring 10 out of 10 for freshness and crunch were the other essentials of the peanuts and ikan bilis. The fancier items of fried chicken (it was well-marinated and crispy), omelette and otah (both had an appealing thickness), and the prawns with savoury chilli sambal, met our expectations too.

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“Babi Pongteh” done in the traditional style - a first for me at @fat_fuku private dining, if I am not mistaken. So shiok it was with the “tau cheo” and garlic-heavy sauce, succulent pieces of bamboo shoot and chunks of pork that fell apart at the sight of a fork. By the way, those sliced green chillies weren’t there to simply beautify but to help counter the richness with a subtle fruity-fresh heat.
Judging from the sounds emitted by the others around the table, everyone else obviously shared my enthusiastic approval of Annette’s take on the classic Peranakan dish.

And to answer the question most likely on everyone’s mind, yes - the Russian Hybrid Caviar from @caviarcolony worked beautifully with the elements in the dish.
Annette of @fat_fuku Private Dining had prepared this as the first course of our special menu last week. Knowing Ben (@the_caviar_king) was bringing a tin of his caviar to the dinner organised by @uncle_lim_chiak, she tweaked her signature Crispy Mee Siam into small “pancakes”, topped them with sambal prawns, an onsen egg and chopped chives - all the more befitting of those glistening pearls. The Russian Hybrid caviar‘s unique sweetness and nutty flavour, and its creamy finish, intermingled surprisingly well with the spicy fried noodles and luscious egg.
I also tried it with a splash of the mee siam gravy and a dab of sambal too, and thought the flavours and textures became even more cohesive although admittedly, the caviar took a bit of a backseat once the punchy gravy entered the picture. So avoid that if you prefer a more pronounced taste of caviar on your palate.

Verdict: This just goes to show there should be no rules on how to enjoy caviar 😄

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If it’s been a while since you’ve ventured into the CBD for a meal, I reckon now’s the perfect time as it’s actually very pleasant in the evenings without the office crowds (most are still WFH). That’s why I’d suggested Roketto Izakaya by Willin Low to Annette for our overdue catch-up.
I desperately wanted everything on his Modern Singaporean (Mod Sin) menu. All of the food looked so good! But since there was just the two of us, it wasn’t humanly possible. Tried our best though, kicking off with the insanely crunchy Har Jeong Pork Keropok dipped in aromatic mayo ($8.90). It must be some kind of an unwritten rule that anyone who walks in has to order this because as the evening progressed, I noticed it kept appearing on every table.
We each had a serving of the Scallop “Her Kiao” Glass Noodles to ourselves - honestly, it’s too delicious to share. Initially, when I read that it contains peanut butter, my eyebrows rose in skepticism. They fell immediately after my first bite - wow... it works beautifully with the spicy marmite sauce. And the scallops in the springy fish paste skin were excellent ($9.80). A must-order.
Trust Willin a.k.a. the “Godfather of Mod Sin” to come up with a Prata Pizza topped with Miso Spring Onions and Three Cheeses ($13.80). I was rolling my eyes in pleasure while inhaling the fragrant, flaky-crispy thing.
His “atas” take on Chinese-style Satay was also a delight. It featured grilled Iberico Secreto pork topped with a Javanese satay sauce and finished with pineapple shallot salsa ($10.80 for 2 heftier-than-average sticks).
There’s a very good reason why Roketto’s “Orh Luak” Oyster Omelette Spaghettini ($20) kept popping up on so many people’s IG Stories throughout the Circuit Breaker - IT’S DAMN TASTY LAH! I implore you to do yourself a favour and try this ASAP. But take note, the “hae bee hiam” sambal pulls no punches.
I wolfed down the Asian Tofu and Mesclun Salad with sesame dressing. Yes, it ain’t roketto science (haha, see what I did there? 😆) but I liked the simple yet flavourful mix.

If you are into all things Mod Sin, here’s an exciting piece of news. @nutmegandclove is doing a Cocktail Pop-Up at Roketto Izakaya from 1st to 31st July (it started yesterday). So don’t procrastinate if you love the sound of Singapore-inspired cocktails to pair. Swiftly secure a booking for maximum Mod Sin mayhem by calling:

6904 5458

OR WhatsApp-ing:

8189 6417.

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Forget tequila. These days, it’s this kind of shots that get me more hyped up. I must be getting old 😂😂

Served warm, Roketto Izakaya’s savoury collagen-rich fish broth goes down smoother than any liquid measurable in ABV (“alcohol by volume). And it’s no less intoxicating.

Instead of the usual sidekicks of a lemon slice and salt, this shot has a puffy homemade omu fish cake on a skewer as an accompaniment. Sure, you can straight up munch it, but I prefer the golden pouf dunked in the broth for the same reason I consider “tau pok” the real star in any bowl of Laksa and Curry Mee - to exist at its peak potential as the most flavourful piece of sponginess ever.

At only $4.50 per glass, having a couple of rounds is too easy. Which is why I decided to bookend my meal with this lusciously tasty soup.

To make a reservation, please call 6904 5458.

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G I F T
For those who aren’t ready to dine out yet in Phase 2 of Singapore’s post-Circuit Breaker, you’ll be pleased to know @restaurantibid is continuing with their takeaway/delivery menu until Sunday, 28th June. On offer is an eclectic spread that’s full of delicious surprises, so I suggest ordering an assortment of items that catch your eye and graze across them. Here’s what Chef-owner @woowaileong selected for my dinner last Thursday:

1. Shao Bing - This has been on the menu since Ibid opened for business but has been tweaked and refined over time. It’s currently available with two kinds of fillings: sweetish shredded Wagyu Beef and Cheese with scallions. I preferred the latter because of the savoury taste and I thought the oozy creaminess was marvelous with the chewy dough.

2. Ibid-Style 8 Treasure Duck - Deboned, the #duck is stuffed with fluffy sticky rice mixed with a generous amount of chopped up “lap cheong”, mushrooms, chestnuts and more, which pretty much qualifies it as a one-dish meal too. I enjoyed it most with the bright chilli sauce served alongside. By the way, the caramelised skin is not meant to be crispy.

3. Five-Spice Roast Spring Chicken - A classic done with a Chinese twist. If you aren’t fond of the coriander powder-heavy seasoning, you might want to skip this as it’s liberally rubbed all over.

4. The 50/50 Potato Purée - Super smooth, buttery and creamy, it was beloved by everyone.
5. Shaoxing Creamed Spinach - The Chinese spin put on this popular steakhouse side got it more appetisingly nuanced.

6. Lao Gan Ma Slaw - Did the chilled crunchy cabbage improve from a spike of savoury Oriental-style heat? You bet it did.

7. Mapo Tofu - Like I suspected, this turned out to be one of my favourites. Supremely fragrant and controlled in spiciness, Ibid’s had more structure than most renditions that tend to veer into mushiness.

8. Pork Fat Rice - Dressed in pork oil, crispy lard and scallions, it’s a most apt and delicious carb for the Mapo Tofu.

9. Lion Head’s Meatball - Formed from seasoned minced pork, the huge thing contained a mild Hongkong-style curry at its core which flowed out once a cut was made.

10. Scallion La Mian - The strands of al dente noodles tossed in scallion oil were a good match for the XXL meatball.

11. Black Glutinous Rice Mochi Cake with Taiwanese Milk Oolong Ice-cream - So utterly perfect in its uniqueness and taste, I was inspired to do a stand-alone post about this dessert (please go have a read). The cake is incredible bare but when served a la mode, it took things up a few notches.

12. Chocolate Chip & Walnut Cookie - The other (and rather unexpected) favourite of mine from this meal, I would go so far as to call it THE BEST chewy cookie I’ve had in the past few months.

Don’t hesitate to hit up Restaurant Ibid to get your order in.

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It’s no secret I adore what @mustardseed_sg has been and is doing. Regardless of the form they have taken - be it private dining in their home, an intimate counter-seating-only restaurant or the current delivery / takeaway mode, the food that Chef @mkthehansum conceptualises and creates, with his fiancée Chef @xshinyinx, always manages to surprise, charm and immensely satiate.
Their most recent takeaway set menu ($138, feeds 2) was based on the theme of “Exploring Rempah” and it’s the strongest to date (in my opinion anyway). Most likely because there’s been enough time for the team to find their groove as they adjusted to the government’s guidelines for this Circuit Breaker.
As expected, I had my favourites from this menu. The first of these would be the “Penang Hae Mee Tng with Sea Prawns” which I’d kill to have again. The fresh crustaceans were indecently sweet but I was more enamoured with the stock-rich broth and its slow-rising heat from the dissolved sambal. I hope Chef Ming Kiat will deign to repeat it because it’s much too cruel to serve this once.
Also maddeningly delicious to me were the “Meatball Masak Merah” (which I felt, bore a close similarity to the “Masak Merah Duckballs” Chef Ming Kiat had served at one of his earlier private dining sessions), and the knock-your-socks-off-fragrant “Potato and White Curry Gratin” which tasted more complex than its appearance suggested.
The “Sambal Timun with Jambu Air” knew how to ensnare my heart as well. Unlike my maternal grandma’s heavier, drier version, Chef Ming Kiat prepared his with a lightness, reframing the traditional for me, in an appealing new way.
Fragrant, tangy and medium in spiciness, the “Grouper Perut Ikan” fish dish was flooded with small pieces of vegetables and pineapple. I found plain white rice to cushion the piquancy of this dish best.
The “Ayam Panggang”, marinated in turmeric rempah, toasted “soto” spices and shio koji, was smoky and tender.
Dessert was a mini but decadent “Kueh Jongkong”. I cleaned my cup completely of the pandan-flavoured custard with gula melaka and fresh coconut milk. I was happy that it was not too sweet either.

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