Thursday, October 21, 2021

Modern Singaporean (and It Ain't Hawker Food)

Whey was one of those new restaurants in town now with a 2 month waiting list. So our dinner booking in early October was actually made back in August, something that has become sort of a norm these days. But with its young Singaporean chef Barry Quek having quite a reputation for solid execution with his now-closed restaurant Beet, I figured it’s worth the wait. 

I like the home-style décor of the place, more spacious than I thought considered they also put an open bar counter plus an open kitchen at one end of the dining area, along with the wooden furniture that really made one feel at home. And I thought we got a pretty good seats being the closest to the kitchen and allowed me to see some of the actions by the team preparing the dishes. Unlike his former restaurant which sat just a block behind, Whey was more reflective of his Singaporean heritage but combined with modern western style cooking. 

At the time of our visit, they only offered dinner service with a single 8-course tasting menu, with a choice of mains and desserts. That certainly made the kitchen team’s life a bit easier as they got their heads around this new venture. We began with a trio of amuse bouche – the chicken liver pate was solid, rich and creamy flavor served on a crisp, but the “pie tee” with yogurt espuma and the oyster roti were the ones who stood out with interesting combination of ingredients and tastes. The chilled appetizer of scallops was served next, with the piece of Hokkaido scallops with a slightly charred top and inside barely cooked served cold with pomelo and a creamy sauce made with whey giving this a hint of refreshing acidity and mineral flavor.  

Another seafood appetizer followed, this time the slices of geoduck clams and abalones served with a rich brothy sauce prepared with sea-snail and potato giving this a bit of body and richness. And I like the combination of crunchy textures with the seafood ingredients. Bread has become a separate course in many new joints and here it’s the housemade sourdough served with buah keluak emulsion. The bread tasted more like pumpernickel (with the buah keluak paste kneaded into the dough) but in the texture of a brioche, which worked well with the rich spread made with the buah keluah nuts which were used for cooking in Southeast Asian cuisine. 

Black Cod “Otah-otah”, as the menu described, was clearly a chef’s unique rendition of a common Singaporean street food. In the center of the plate sat a piece of black cod fillet, scored and seared on the surface, and it’s served with a tangy asam sauce and topped with diced petai beans and caviar. I loved its bold flavor and the fish was perfectly cooked. 

A choice of mains created a dilemma for us, as both “Bak Kut Teh” and “Beef Rendang” sounded equally enticing. I went for the former and turned out it’s pork (coming from a local farm) with a few cuts prepared in different ways (loin, ribs and heart) and served with a white peppery emulsion sauce, black garlic jam and fermented cabbage on the side. Definitely not like the Bak Kut Teh we are familiar with and without the herbal flavor that I often associated the dish with, but it was enjoyable nonetheless with the pork tender and juicy and worked well with the sauce. 

After Bak Kut Teh came “Laksa”, and it’s served in the form of Konjac rice cooked a la risotto and served with spiny lobsters and “see hum”, or cockles commonly found in the bowl of traditional laksa noodles. The lobster was rich in umami flavor and the dish was comforting. To end, it was the soursop sorbet with lime zest and coconut threads, a brown butter ice cream with milk crisp, mango and walnut and a trio of petit fours. Went with an easy-going “orange” wine from Australia with deep golden hue, full-body with crisp citrus and stone fruits. 

When? October 6 2021
Where? Whey, UG/F, The Wellington, 198 Wellington St, Central
Menu Highlights? "Bak Kut Teh" New Territories Pork Rub, White Pepper, Garlic
Drink? 2020 Koerner "Pigato" Vermentino, Clare Valley Australia

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