Taking restaurants to a whole new level
THE only constant in the food-and-beverage industry is change. And no one knows it better than three chefs and restaurateurs who are taking on new challenges in their businesses.
SUM YI TAI
25 Boon Tat Street
Opening hours: Mon to Fri, 11.30am-2.30pm and 5pm-1am; Sat, 5pm-1am. Closed on Sun
Dressed in a simple black polo T-shirt and jeans, complete with an apron to clear plates from tables, who would have guessed Ricky Ng was once chief operating officer of Tung Lok Group.
But two years ago, he struck out on his own and started a modern Chinese restaurant, Blue Lotus, at Sentosa's Quayside Isle. Now, the 43-year-old restaurateur is strapping on an apron again to work on his second venture - a Chinese eatery on Boon Tat Street named Sum Yi Tai.
The week-old restaurant is a partnership with Tay Eu-Yen (co-founder and former executive chairman of the now-defunct Butter Factory Group) and Sandra Sim (former managing director of Sauce Bar, a subsidiary of The Butter Factory Group).
"The food comes from me and my kitchen team, while Yen and Sandra do the drinks...It's a good marriage," says Mr Ng.
Located in a four-storey shophouse, the first floor is a bar, the second is a dining space, the third is an office, and the fourth floor is an invite-only rooftop bar. The bars are slated to officially launch by early next month, while the second floor will open a month later.
It serves Asian tapas as bar snacks, such as its signature golden ginger chips ($10) and Szechuan-style white bait with peppercorn ($9), as well as full meals, such as king prawn wanton egg noodles ($16), and claypot rice with minced pork and salted fish ($25 for two people).
991B Alexandra Road, #01-10 Opening hours: Mon to Sat, 11.30am-3pm, 5.30pm-11pm. Closed on Sun
There are truffle fries, and then there are the Ultimate Truffle Fries. A mountain-high 800g of truffle-drenched fries, sprinkled with white truffle salt, 10g of fresh autumn truffle shavings, topped with shaved aged gruyere and edible gold leaf.
The souped-up hipster snack is the creation of Nixon Low, head chef of Portico.
Mr Low, 28, took over the reins of the Portico kitchen from chef Leandros Stagogiannis, who left after his consultant contract ended in August. The two chefs had previously worked together at Saint Pierre.
The current team at Portico is still pretty much the same as it was when Mr Stagogiannis was in charge. The food remains "modern European, but with a twist", says Mr Low. Some items on the menu are his creations, while others are still from the old menu.
One area that Mr Low has tweaked is the bar tasting menu. Here, Mr Low customises five, seven, nine and 11-course menus using the ingredients for the day.
A five-course menu starts from $90++ per head, and requires three days' advance reservation.
Mr Stagogiannis also had a bar tasting menu before, but that was put together by selected dishes from the a la carte menu. Under Mr Low though, diners won't know what to expect when they come for the bar tasting menu.
Each course is specially created and beautifully presented in tasting portions and cannot be found on the regular menu. Mr Low will prepare and plate each course in front of the diner.
For our five-course menu, he presented his Penang laksa using fish noodles, steamed egg custard with caramelised smoked eel and shaved truffle, foie gras terrine served with toasted brioche, beetroot gel and Granny Smith apple sorbet; sous vide charcoal smoked Iberico Pressa with fried Thai garlic and ginger and celeriac puree, and finished off with Milo Dinosaur.
Mr Low is no stranger to the role of head chef. He last headed the kitchen at Petite Menu, the resident restaurant of Aqueen Hotels. The chef has also worked at Shangri-La Hotel and Restaurant Andre.
THE RABBIT STASH
Rooftop of Wangz Hotel, 231 Outram Road, Level R
Opening hours: Tue to Fri, 12pm-2pm; Mon to Sat, 6.30pm-10.30pm
The Rabbit Stash has had multiple homes. When chef-owner Matthew Mok first opened his contemporary fine-dining restaurant in early 2011, it was a mere 12-seater made up of three tables lined up right in front of the kitchen, tucked away in Pandan Valley Condominium near Dover.
Almost two years later, he moved into a larger, but still cosy, 30-seat indoor space in yet another condominium - Alexis in Alexandra. However, Mr Mok still remained unsatisfied.
"Rental was relatively reasonable, and it was a pleasant place, but something was missing as it didn't fulfil my dream of having a garden concept on top of a mountain," says the 39-year-old chef.
So in mid-December last year, Mr Mok reopened The Rabbit Stash once again - this time on the rooftop of Wangz Hotel in Tiong Bahru, complete with a panoramic view of the surrounding estate and metal grills for him to start his own vertical garden.
The Rabbit Stash reopened officially on Saturday, with 30 seats indoors and 26 outdoors.
For lunch, it serves a two-course ($36+) or three-course ($54+) menu, while for dinner, there is the option of either a four-course ($90+), five-course ($108+) or seven-course degustation menu ($148+).
Mr Mok defines his food as "a lot of French technique, plus a bit of Asian and Chinese, with local flavours incorporated", along with influences from his Peranakan roots.
He wouldn't call it fusion, however. Instead, Mr Mok says the food follows his philosophy of seven themes - exotic, nostalgia, soil, ocean, pristine, heritage and impression - and these seven make up the courses on the degustation menu.
For example, the "exotic" item on the menu might include mango-flavoured cheese with green curry. His "nostalgia" course recalls familiar flavours such as handmade noodles in lobster broth with purple crab and black roe.
THE BUSINESS TIMES