What to expect from a chef whose flair for cuisine comes out of left field.
Hong Kong chef Alvin Leung earned his fame with the infamous dish Sex on the Beach: a konjac-based “condom” filled with ham jus, strewn over a bed of powdered mushroom “sand”. In town to launch his first Singapore outfit, Forbidden Duck, it turns out he’s no less remarkable in the flesh.
The straight-talking chef pulls off a look involving hair flecked with green highlights, a trademark pair of blue-tinted glasses, and a stylish bomber jacket with lip print applique. Conversely, the Cantonese restaurant off Marina Bay Financial Centre is earmarked as the first time he’s adhering to convention, since the runaway success of three-Michelinstar Bo Innovation in Hong Kong. “I am, after all, Cantonese. I wanted to come back to roots, so I try to reflect that with this restaurant.”
That promise rings only halftrue as Leung’s flair for innovation inevitably manifests in the dishes, even for staple offerings such as the seafood rice in aromatic duck soup. A rich, full-bodied stew punctuated with savoury nuggets of duck is served with crispy rice that crackles loudly enough for that Instagram story, but eventually takes on the comforting flavours as well as regular puffy grains would.
The signature Peking duck is not parted from its skin as is the custom – instead, it’s wrapped in calamansi-infused buns, the better to appreciate the rivulets of fat oozing from the moreish meat between bites. The cereal prawn? It’s served with Fruit Loops. And strangely enough, the crunch and flavour contrast pan out, with wasabi mayonnaise as a forgiving glue. So, when we call Leung’s bluff, he candidly remarks: “Those who come into my restaurants expect something more, expect my ‘fingerprint’, and trust me to give them a different experience.”
#02-02, Ground Plaza, Marina Bay Link Mall. Tel: 6509-8767.
POP CRACKLE SNAP You’re in for surprises: Leung puts a spin on almost every dish.
A HEALTHY HAVEN
Healthy food has become so commonplace that you’ll be hard-pressed to find a joint that won’t make you excited for vegetables and trendy grains. So it isn’t so surprising that the Clan Cafe, located in the lobby of the exclusive Straits Clan, serves nosh that’s good for your gut and delights your tastebuds.
Mixed grain bowls, like the Miso Salmon with Carrot and Lotus Root Kinpira and Edamame, will leave you wondering why you haven’t been eating this well. Ditto that for the indulgent Grilled Angus Ribeye with Onsen Egg, Asian Mushrooms and Kinpira, or the Vegetarian Kakiage with Genmaicha Broth. The broths are designed to be had with the bowls, but they pack so much flavour, you’d be forgiven for ordering them on their own.
Despite the fact that it’s open to the public, the Clan Cafe maintains the same tranquil atmosphere as the clubhouse. The retro-style tiles and fixtures, abundant natural light and striking floral arrangements make talking shop over otah sandwiches and kombucha seem almost fashionable. 31-37 Bukit Pasoh Road. Tel: 6320-9180.
Set along idyllic Robertson Quay is Mediterranean joint Summerlong, where guests can stretch out on sofas, nurse any of its new cocktail offerings and watch pooches and their owners pad by. We recommend indulging in a Summerlong Spritz – a piquant vermouth-based tipple that holds just the right amount of grapefruit, nothing pucker-inducing. The chef’s also flipped the menu with memorable bites such as the Israeli lamb pita, slotted with robust chunks of meat that beg to be ground into a sludgy, smoky mass of gamy goodness. #01-04, 60 Robertson Quay. Tel: 6235-1225.
CALLED TO THE BAR
Bar-certified lawyer turned Masterchef Asia winner Woo Wai Leong may not call it so, but his new outfit Restaurant Ibid operates with the calm precision of a laboratory. We witness the mise en place by chance, and the sheer amount of prep per dish incites disbelief. Bite into his interpretations of Chinese classics, however, and the effort pays royal dividends. Take the simple tea egg, remastered into a soft-boiled affair buoyed by a halo of pu-erh and tangerine broth. Slurping the wispy white leaves a fragrant, relaxing aftertaste; the gooey, sous-vide yolk is at perfect textural odds with the dehydrated mushroom and ginkgo. We enquire after the gratifying spring onion shaobing (flatbread), but they’re gratis with sets, and strictly not for sale. 18 North Canal Road. Tel: 9151-8698.
TEXT CHARMIAN LEONG & LIAO XIANGJUN