Hainanese chicken rice
A 2 hour stopover in T3 Changi Airport left just enough time to get a relaxed paced meal. I'd eaten all of my economy class meal so I wasn't overly hungry. Therefore a SGD4.8 bowl of laksa caught my eye - enough but not too much. I didn't realise they were also well known for curry puffs and ordered two of the three available (curry, beef rendang but not sardine).
The laksa soup was very mild in flavour, too mild for what is supposed to be pungent and spiced. The fish cake within it seemed to have a lot of flavour absorbed into it though. They ran out of egg noodles and the thick rice noodles were ok.
The curry puffs were much better. Although the pastry wasn't overly crisp (they had been pre-fried then left in a warmer), the curry filling with a boiled egg and the other with a nice beef rendang made them some of the nicest I've eaten.
6 course S39.8, 7 course S59.8
- Chef's seasonal assorted platter - salmon sashimi, scallop with asparagus, can't recall 3rd
- Air flown seasonal sashimi platter
- Foie gras chawanmushi topped with black truffle slice
- Gratinated escargots topped with garlic & yuzu butter
- Tempura battered soft shell crab on galette of mash
- Infusion of cepes mushroom with truffle
- Crab bisque
- Sake-infused grilled unagi on hot stone
- Beef tenderloin on "pu-ye" granite hot stone
- Freshly baked warm chocolate cake served with icecream
- Japanese "mo-chi" served with red bean & icecream
- French cream cheesecake
Picking one fancy dinner in Singapore was difficult. As the new Top 100 restaurants had just been released, choosing somewhere exceptional (and expensive) like Andre or Waku Ghin was possible but something more specifically Singapore seemed like a good idea. That left two options - the "mod Sin" at Wild Rocket or the "neo Sin" at Labyrinth.
In the end, the molecular got to me and Labyrinth it was. It isn't cheap - $98 for the basic, $128 for the extended and $158 for the full. And this is before the service and taxes of about 20% extra. I had to hope the Best New 2014 Restaurant and Best Asian Fine Dining Restaurant in Singapore 2015 would make up for it. It didn't make the San Pellegrino Top 100 world or Top 50 Asia so that was something to be wary of.
The menu is based around Singapore street food as one might eat during a typical 24 hours - although the flavours are arranged as a more standard entree/main/dessert type.
- Tingkat "radish cake, rojak, nasi lemak" - a seared radish cake, a puff of rojak and a chewy disk of nasi lemak;
- Hokkaido Scallop "bak chor mee" - what a great dish to really kick things off. Chewy squid noodles with saffron, scallops depicted as fish cake, powdered anchovy and tapioca powder with a touch of sambal.
- Lardo “chicken rice” - Hainanese chicken rice in the form of a delicate slice of tofu, covered with chicken powder and chicken lard and the typical soy/sesame/ginger/scallion flavour. Great and perfect flavour although would have loved more of it;
- Otoro “char siew & siew yoke fan” - tuna belly served as a nigiri flavoured as char siew and half-grilled as a cube of "roast pork" topped with pork skin. It is interesting but the quality of tuna belly wasn't allowed to shine;
- Cod “XO fish” - an excellent fish of piece, crisp skin with a thin layer of fat served with a fake tomato made from actual tomato served with a very mild sauce from XO.
- Spices “OCK curry puff” - a hard-boiled quail egg sits atop a curry crumb nest with a bit of meat hidden beneath.
- Foie Gras “peking duck” - a foie gras lollipop coated in hoi sin sauce with duck skin sitting on a blackened uncooked (inedible) potato stand. The foie gras was very creamy and a little hidden piece of cucumber was unexpected;
- Soft Shell Crab “chili crab” - a beautiful fried soft shell crab with great flavour, contrasted by an unusual cold Singapore chilli crab-flavoured ice cream, crab foam and the sand made of fried mantou crumb (which didn't seem to add much);
- Seasonal Oyster “orh luak” - a deep fried oyster with an egg custard topped with salmon roe. The leaf tasted exactly like a fresh oyster, down the metallic ocean aftertaste - I can't comprehend how this happened...;
- Boston Lobster “hokkien mee” - soft slices of lobster in a nice savoury sauce and recommended to slide over the pork fat candle before devouring.
- palate cleanser - pineapple sorbet
- Meringue “teh tarik” - an odd rendition of toast that was a bit more melted and creamy and quite sweet;
- Soft Boiled Eggs “mango sticky rice” - a hollowed shell filled with an "egg" of firm sticky rice, mango yolk and topped with black sugary "soy" and crushed almond "pepper";
- Petit Fours - a kaya butter macaron.
The menu is creative and unusual. The flavours do highlight those of a refined version of Singapore street food. The quantity and refinement don't necessarily overtake the satisfaction of a delicious bowl/plate of heavy seasoned and oily food but it's a different quality for a different occasion. The standout dishes (Hokkaido scallop, lardo chicken rice, soft shell crab and Boston lobster) were truly exceptional creations. I'm disappointed I didn't get to try the A4 Wagyu hor fun.
I wanted to go the Lobster Ramen branch in Clarke Quay but it's only open from 6pm-5am which didn't suit me on this visit. Luckily during the day I went past the Tonkotsu King branch and for a tiny place that usually has lines, the crowds were probably kept away by the mild rain.
You order on paper before walking in and perhaps turning this into the more traditional Japanese vending machine method might be fun.
This branch specialises in tonkotsu and you can choose how strong you want it. I had a Black Spicy Tonkotsu with strong flavour and normal noodles. The broth had good flavour (I could go stronger and thicker) but the black garlic wasn't potent enough for me. The meat texture also wasn't that soft (probably a reflection on the local quality) compared to what I've been having in Australia. The noodles could have used a little more thickness or chewiness too. But it was still a satisfying bowl, made better by the Japanese tradition of unlimited hardboiled eggs (not marinated - you pay for those) and the hipster mortar & pestle to crush your own sesame seeds and the marinated beanshoots which were very nice.
Not the best I've had but still good and hit the spot.
The menus is simple - 4 iPads are available to order from a $4 laksa, otam, a build-your-own nasi lemak and drinks.
The nasi lemak is good - the ingredients included simple rice, excellent salty sambal, crispy textured of nuts and ikan bilis and a beautifully deep fried chicken skewer (soft meat, crunchy coating) to balance.
However the real star is the laksa - a curry soup that had almost no discernible coconut taste to it, but was replaced with a seafood based stock and peppered by the occasional (seemingly almost raw texture, which I don't mind) little clams that added huge flavour. Add in prawns and thick noodles cut to a length so that you only eat with a spoon, and I was hooked. The broth isn't overly thick and intense (as I tend to like) but I can't complain about how good it was. I couldn't work out what the green herbs I stirred through were but they definitely added depth (it didn't taste like any of laksa leaf, coriander, mint).
I can't say if I like this more than the standard Malaysian curry laksa, the multi-dimensional Thai laksa or a good quality Penang assam laksa, but I know I'll be back.
Although not the easiest place to get to, after an overnight flight from Europe, a breakfast of fried dough was desired. The Indians running this place churn out the food quickly. Service isn't anything special but you aren't here for that.
What I did try was a soft papery prata, a firmer circular disk prata topped with an egg and a mutton murtabak (the small for $7 is very big already).
Each had their points. The soft prata was wispy for mopping curry sauce. The firm prata was what I expect from excellent roti with a crisp cooked exterior and softer chewy inside - truly exceptional. The murtabak had a milder flavour balanced by the lovely texture of mutton mince.
I'm sure the mutton curry, mee goreng and biryani are also worth trying. But for now I'd be happy to go back for much more prata with curry.