It’s not often a fine dining establishment inspired by local Singaporean dishes gets awarded a Michelin star. And boy, was this a meal packed with surprises. First of all, chef-owner of Labyrinth Han Li Guang is not culinary-trained. He never went to fancy cooking schools, or did an apprenticeship overseas under any of the masters. And yet, seems to have an instinctive flair for bringing uniquely Singaporean flavours together in very refreshing ways.
Overall: ★★★★☆ Fun, refreshing interpretations of local dishes.
Take this trio of amuse bouche for example – Coconut chwee kueh, carrot cake on a stick, and a rojak puff.
The puff was an explosion of that pungent sweet, dried prawn sauce usually drizzled over rojak which definitely awakened the tastebuds. While the chwee kueh topped with nasi lemak chilli had such a potent flavour of coconut milk it actually tasted like the classic Malay dish! Very familiar flavours with whole new compositions and textures – this seemed to be the running theme throughout the Chef’s Dinner Tasting Menu ($118++).
The restaurant was simply decorated – elegant, but casual. And small touches like a menu in the form of this nostalgic exercise book was a cute addition! Most Singaporeans will remember this well, growing up in local primary schools.
Now, one of the first dishes was this Dumpling “Chicken Rice”.
It looks like a dumpling, has the texture of a dumpling, but most definitely tasted like Singapore’s famed chicken rice. It was amazing how he nailed the combination of garlic flavours, light sauce, chicken rice chilli, and ginger all exploding out of that dumpling in your mouth.
And then there was the “Prawn Noodle Soup” with Kuruma, Ebi, and Bafun Uni ($20 supplement).
This dish was a little underwhelming for me. The ‘soup’ which was essentially jellied broth wasn’t as flavourful as it looked. And the combination of deep fried noodle bits with fresh seafood and dried prawns just didn’t come together very nicely.
But no matter. This next dish salvaged it. Behold the Ah Hua Kelong Flower Crab or “Chilli Crab Ice-cream”.
This dish was exceptional. It had the true flavours of rich, spicy and tangy chilli crab sauce with actual fresh crab chunks over it. It was topped with crispy croutons resembling man tou or deep fried buns which are usually dipped in the sauce. And those fried curry leaves really elevated the aromas. This was a real treat.
The fact that this traditional warm, savoury dish was served cold did nothing to diminish its distinctive flavour. I daresay it even enhanced its complexity.
Another dish that was not at all what it seemed – the ‘Bak Chor Mee’ Hokkaido Scallop.
And no, there were no noodles used in this dish. It’s really a colourful combination of scallop sliced like fishcake, soft boiled squid stained yellow to resemble noodles, delicious chilli sauce, and black vinegar. It formed all the elements of the hawker minced meat noodle with NONE of its original ingredients! How delightful. I’m a sucker for these fun dishes.
Next up, the Two Cut Indonesian Pork or ‘Char Siew Rice’.
Instead of regular white rice, some mixed grains were used for a firm, chewy bite. And the pork was doused in a mouthwatering sweet sauce. Delicious, but compared with the surprise of the earlier two dishes, this was pretty predictable.
Our final main course of the day was the “Wagyu Beef Hor Fun“.
The Singapore hor fun, which is traditionally deep fried till dark brown and served with seafood or beef slices topped with an egg gravy has been reinvented to be eaten dry here. The wagyu was cooked a tender, juicy medium rare. And topped with a quail’s egg and green chilli, totally retained the flavours of the original local favourite. Again, as in the case of the bak chor mee, the noodles were made of squid and were definitely made the dish a lot less heavy than the original which I appreciated. Again, another winner.
And finally, on to desserts. First, we had the Clam Leaf Snow “Ice Kachang”.
This was everything the frozen dessert is minus the beans, jellies and atap seeds. It was rose syrup flavoured and overall just very sweet. Missable.
I enjoyed the next dessert better – the Cristal de Chine Caviar & Kaya or “Kaya Butter Toast”.
The two desserts were very similar to the ones we had at Cornerhouse, but this version of the kaya toast obviously offered something a little extra by way of the dollop of savoury caviar. But in terms of better play on textures and flavours, I’d say Cornerhouse takes the win in the dessert department.
And finally, the meal drew to an end on these petit fours. A sweet end to a fun-filled gastronomic experience. This is a far cry from Momofuku Ko in New York, but it kind of gave me the same feeling of adventure and surprise. This is somewhere you’d go with a date, with friends or more adventurous family members. Not all the dishes were exceptional, but you’re bound to have a good time.
8 Raffles Avenue #02-23