Local Favourites With a Twist

Singapore’s favourite dishes can be presented just as creatively as any Western cuisine. These food and drink joints prove it with the reimagination of local flavours.
Chendol, redux: A pandan-flavoured dumpling wrap cocoons tiny balls of coconut milk and gula melaka.

A fling with flavours

Left: Laksa served at Restaurant Labyrinth.
Right: An interpretation of Singapore’s famous chilli crab.
Dinner at Labyrinth is the fine dining equivalent of going to a hawker centre with friends and ordering a bunch of your favourite local dishes. The six-course lunch and pre-theatre dining menus ($48) aim to delight taste buds with morsels masqueraded in various flavours. To start, a toasted marshmallow and other amuse bouche present the tastes of radish cake, rojak and nasi lemak – each little bite bursting with layers of the familiar flavours, but presented in new textures. 
The six-course lunch and pre-theatre dining menus aim to delight taste buds with morsels masqueraded in various flavours.
The “Hiroshima Oyster” laksa comes without the usual rice noodles – instead coconut cream is piped to resemble noodles – and is generously garnished with laksa paste and topped with crisp fried laksa leaves. Dessert is chendol in the form of a bite-size xiaolongbao (dumpling), a cocoon of coconut milk and gula melaka globules in a pandan-flavoured wrap and drizzled with gula melaka syrup. And this is just half of the menu…

Restaurant Labyrinth, Esplanade Mall 8 Raffles Avenue, #02-23, labyrinth.com.sg

Nasi Lemak with a boozy kick

Left: Tess Bar & Kitchen
Right: The Seah Street Power Nasi Lemak cocktail.

Award-winning bartender Steven Leong at Tess Bar recreates the Singapore favourite Nasi Lemak, with all its key flavours distilled in a drink. The Seah Street Power Nasi Lemak ($24) cocktail made its debut at Singapore Cocktail Week in 2016 and has made its way to Tess Bar’s menu as a signature drink. With Tanqueray No. 10 gin as a base, Leong incorporates the spicy kick by lining the sides of a glass kopi mug or milk tin with sambal chilli. The flavours of Nasi Lemak are layered in this deconstructed liquid form: homemade barley syrup in coconut water, with coconut and pandan as key flavours, and finishing with the well-balanced acidity of fresh lemon juice. The final touch is ikan bilis (dried anchovies) placed in a banana leaf cone, which makes for perfect accompaniment as a bar snack.

Tess Bar and Kitchen, 38 Seah Street, www.tessbar.com

Super healthy Char Kway Teow

Twice the price, half the calories? This Char Kway Teow includes premium ingredients like enoki mushrooms and is part of a stomach-filling set.

A plate of smoky Char Kway Teow ($9.90) that’s lard-free, and in fact, completely vegan – yet full of flavour? Yes, it’s possible. Loving Hut in Joo Chiat has a large Asian-focused menu, including vegetarian versions of Singapore favourites from laksa to or luak (oyster omelette). The Taiwanese chain sources organic and non-genetically modifed produce to recreate flavours, using gluten substitutes for mock meats.

Loving Hut 229 Joo Chiat Road, #01-01 lovinghut.com.sg

Laksa made lush

Left: The beautiful Peranakan decor.
Right: Cod in Creamy Laksa Sauce.

National Kitchen by Violet Oon is a beautiful restaurant that merges traditional Peranakan decor with British colonial interiors. Likewise, the food here is authentic Nyonya flavours with a modern touch. The Cod in Creamy Laksa Sauce ($39) features codfish baked in a rich, reduced laksa gravy of spicy coconut broth, drizzled lightly with coriander pesto. The hero is the cod, of course, and the dish served without noodles is a lighter carb-free way to enjoy laksa gravy. While the restaurant isn’t Halal certified (it serves alcohol), the menu is porkfree and the kitchen sources and uses halal ingredients in their food preparation.

National Kitchen by Violet Oon, National Gallery Singapore 1 St. Andrew’s Road, City Hall Wing, #02–01 bit.ly/nationalkitchen

    Apr 4, 2017
    Juliana Loh
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