Yummy SG50 salute by restaurants here
IT'S SG50 time, and foodies are not excluded. Not when the first-ever Singapore Restaurant Month unleashes some 50 specially created dishes to be sampled from Wednesday to Aug 10.
"There is the Singapore Food Festival that celebrates hawker food, but nothing that celebrates restaurant food," says Andrew Tjioe, president of the Restaurant Association of Singapore (RAS), which is organising the event. "We want to change that with Singapore Restaurant Month."
The festival is about celebrating Singapore's diverse dining scene, says Mr Tjioe, who is also executive chairman of the Tung Lok Group.
With support from the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA), Singapore Tourism Board and Union Pay, the festival will also be about promoting local produce.
In line with the SG50 celebrations, 50 restaurant brands will showcase 50 newly-created dishes that use locally produced eggs, fish or vegetables.
"We will start with 50 restaurant brands this year, but we hope to increase the number next year," says Mr Tjioe, who hopes to turn Singapore Restaurant Month into an annual affair.
Among the 50 restaurant brands, 12 are heritage restaurants. These are restaurants which have been operating for at least 30 years. Among them are Prima Tower Revolving Restaurant, Red Star Restaurant and Islamic Restaurant. The list of participating restaurant brands spans traditional, modern, Asian and Western concepts.
"We want to spread awareness about the quality of local produce on both industry and consumer levels," says Mr Tjioe. "In addition, one of RAS' key visions is to encourage culinary creativity, and this festival is a great avenue for chefs to add some imagination to their dishes."
Fatty Weng Restaurant in Smith Street is one of the heritage restaurants taking part. Opened in 1967, it will feature Crispy-fried Barramundi with Asparagus ($16.80) on its menu from July 17 to Aug 2. Executive director Derek Lai says the dish was inspired by Cantonese fried garoupa stuffed with duck liver, which is no longer on the menu.
This new dish has pieces of asparagus wrapped with seaweed, barramundi fillet and mashed potato, and then deep-fried. This is the first time the restaurant - which usually uses seabass from Indonesia and Malaysia - is using locally farmed fish. "Local produce tends to be a bit more costly," says Mr Lai. The barramundi used in this dish is from Kuhlbarra.
Barramundi has a less fishy taste compared with seabass, he said. "Hopefully diners will like it and, if they do, we may have it permanently on the menu."
Meanwhile, Japanese restaurant The Flying Squirrel in Telok Ayer has given its onsen egg dish the luxe treatment for Singapore Restaurant Month. Its Golden Onsen Egg (from local producer Chew's) is topped with ikura, uni, tobiko as well as diced tomatoes, avocado and corn.
"The vegetables help to add a summer element to the dish," says owner Angeline Leong. Diners can have the egg on its own for $12++ or with an accompanying yuzu honey shooter for $15++. Ms Leong says that if the response is good, she may keep the golden version on the menu.
Meanwhile, chefs from the Pu Tien chain of restaurants used both local produce and a dash of creativity to create its Singapore Cityscape. Local barramundi is skinned, boned and turned into fish paste, mixed with basil and xiao bai cai, and shaped to resemble Marina Bay Sands before being deep-fried.
Says executive chef Billy Li: "The Marina Bay area is a reflection of Singapore's progress in 50 years of nation-building, and we wanted to celebrate this by presenting our dish in this iconic cityscape."
Singapore Cityscape also comes with its version of the Singapore Flyer represented by a crisp onion ring, with a fluffy egg pillow as foundation. The egg pillow includes seafood and vegetable paste, with a tinge of curry for local flavour.
"This is food art specially created to commemorate SG50 and, hence, it will be available only for a limited period," says Mr Li. "So it is best that diners come down during Singapore Restaurant Month to sample it."
For a full list of participating restaurants, visit www.singaporerestaurantmonth.com
THE BUSINESS TIMES