The fine art of fusing food
FUSION cooking is not dead, it just pops up in different guises. We check out a new wave of restaurants trying to create original flavours.
MONOCHROME FUSION BISTRO
291 South Bridge Road
Mon to Thurs, 11am-10pm; Fri, Sat, eve of public holiday and public holiday, 10am-12am; Sun, 10am-5pm
Black and white. East and West. Passion and practicality. For Ivan Seow, co-founder of Monochrome Fusion Bistro in South Bridge Road, life is all about balance.
The bistro's decor is elegantly black and white, with picture frames and white flowers tastefully displayed on the duo-toned walls. Meanwhile, the food strives to find the perfect middle ground between Eastern and Western flavours.
After successful stints in design and real estate, the 27-year-old decided to turn his business savvy to something he has always dreamed about - running a fusion bistro.
Officially launching this month, the bistro has been conducting a trial run of sorts for the past two weeks.
Why fusion food? Mr Seow explains: "It's because of the degree of thought put into the food - the unexpected flavours give a different kind of pleasure."
The bistro's signature dishes are the monochrome signature meatballs with black and white sesame and bonito flakes ($16), monochrome squid ink risotto ($24) topped with edamame and snapper loin cha soba ($22). Mr Seow strongly recommends the snapper, saying: "My dad, whose western taste buds aren't very developed, loved it. That's what a fusion dish should do - appeal to everybody."
There are plans to expand the menu in the future by adding tapas items such as truffle fries and chicken wings - with an Asian twist, of course.
Marina Bay Sands Hotel, Tower 2 lobby
Sun to Thurs, 6pm-10pm; Fri to Sat, 6pm-11pm; Bar, 12pm-2am daily
Even though Chef David Myers' latest restaurant, Adrift at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel, serves dishes like foie gras bahn mi ($32), he would not use the term "fusion" to describe it.
The easiest explanation for fusion is a "smorgasbord of cuisines and styles mashed together", but his food is simply defined as his own personal style, says the easygoing 40-year-old American celebrity chef.
"My cooking style is based on what I love to cook and flavours I like to taste. It's what's been created based on my years of experience as a chef, cooking and travelling and learning about new techniques, ingredients and styles of cooking," he says.
It is that same experience that eventually inspired the concept for Adrift as well.
At the restaurant, he serves a range of small plates that are targeted at groups of friends to share over cocktails from the bar by consultant mixologist Sam Ross. Every dish is new and specifically created for Adrift, except for one - his preserved green papaya soup with Maine lobster and sago ($29), which also happens to be the dish that exemplifies what the restaurant's concept is about, says Chef Myers.
The history of that dish dates back to his first trip to Singapore in 2001, when he was brought here to create a new concept that ultimately became Jaan at Swissotel The Stamford.
Says Chef Myers: "I went to the market and saw these big green papayas. I needed to make a dinner that evening, so I used the green papaya, soursop, rambutans and dragonfruit - a number of ingredients I had never used before, plus lobster from Sri Lanka, and created a new dish around it. What's on our menu now (at Adrift) is a variation of that."
According to him, other highlights on the menu are the king crab with pimento grilled cheese ($35), ricotta with preserved lemon and Okinawan black sugar ($24), uni butter and orange jelly with hazelnuts and pumpernickel ($29), black cod with mantou bread and chilli crab sauce ($31), and grilled corn with dashi butter and furikake ($12) - all dishes that he believes would work well anywhere in the world.
81 Tras Street
Mon to Sat, 11.30am-3pm, 6pm-10pm
Stepping into Violet Herbs is like stepping into the purple cousin of the Emerald City. The first thing that hits you is a wave of colour, violet chairs, violet walls and bright violet sofas. And it hits you pretty hard.
Thankfully, that is where the literal translation of the restaurant's name ends - colour-wise, anyway. The other part of the name comes from chef-owner Edward Hoe's love of exploring the use of herbs in his cooking.
Chef Hoe started the month-old modern European restaurant with his wife, Danni Lin, 26, after spending the last 20-odd years working in restaurants around Singapore, including Restaurant Ember, Pierside (now known as The Pelican), and Haruichi at Chevron House.
Explains Ms Lin: "(Chef Hoe) gained a lot of knowledge from working at Japanese, Italian or fusion restaurants. After building up his experience over the years, he then came up with his own restaurant concept that would allow him to combine all of that knowledge."
Which is why his menu is a fusion of familiar European dishes and Asian elements such as homemade lobster tofu ($3 with any a la carte order) made with Boston lobster meat, roasted and poached foie gras ($24) with shiitake mushroom and Mirin shoyu, and marinated red miso cod ($33) with roasted pumpkin puree and almond eggplant.
One of the more unique items on the menu is his own original thyme-flavoured ice cream, which is served with an apple strudel ($12).
According to Ms Lin, the other reason they started the restaurant was to provide people with another option for affordable fine dining, while maintaining the same quality and service standards.
THE BUSINESS TIMES