Headlining chefs give casual fare a shot, and diners can only beneﬁt.
WHAT: WONTON MEE
For some chefs, the decision to shift to casual dining is a practical one. Ang Song Kang, who helms oneMichelin-star Cantonese restaurant Chef Kang Kitchen, says that Chef Kang’s Noodle House, a wonton mee stall that he opened in Toa Payoh, is part of his “retirement plan”. The 54-year-old says: “I can’t be behind the wok my whole life, it’s tiring work. But I like to eat wonton mee, so I opened a hawker stall to sell it.”
WHAT: COMFORT FOOD
Chef Rishi Naleendra has closed his buzzy modern Australian restaurant Cheek by Jowl to open a more casual concept, Cheek Bistro, in the same space. He won’t be cooking there much though – the kitchen will be largely managed by the young team that trained under him. The dishes still have that strong Cheek DNA: well-executed, unfussy, with just a couple of ingredients on every plate. “To be honest, this is what every chef wants to eat most of the time. Comfort food. Sometimes, all we want to eat is a nice steak and potatoes,” says Naleendra. Said steak at Cheek Bistro comes as either a T-bone or ribeye, and is served with grilled mushrooms, green peppercorns and Cafe de Paris butter – a classic, ﬂavour bomb of a compound butter made with an entire laundry list of ingredients including shallots and anchovies.
WHAT: HAWKER BARBECUE
For Dave Pynt, chef-owner of Burnt Ends, expanding his barbecue empire into a hawker space was part of his “romantic idea of being able to do a couple of dishes, and perfect them over a period of time, and become renowned for those dishes”. With that, they have opened Meatsmith Western Barbeque at Makansutra Gluttons Bay, with head chef Nicol Wong behind the grill. While sister restaurants Burnt Ends and Meatsmith are slanted towards Australian and Southern-style barbecued fare, the Gluttons Bay stall features dishes more akin to those found in a hawker centre: salted egg chicken chop, freerange pork chop, and rice bowls.
TEXT WEETS GOH PHOTOGRAPHY ANGELA GUO