Our evening at Labyrinth was one tickling surprise after another. Expect plenty of commentary, stories, discoveries and sorcery! Calling it ‘Interesting’ would be an understatement.
The 12-course Degustation pays Homage to Singapore by starting with the country’s very own iconic SIGNATURE dish, Singapore Chili Crab.
The Labyrinth Chili Crab – Flower crab, shelled and cleaned, with it’s sweet, sweet flesh shredded into a little glass cup, topped with chilled ice plant leaves. Don’t know about you, but I appreciate not getting my fingers messy when it comes to crab! Chinese fried buns or Mantous, are significant to chili crab. They’re there to soak up every last drop of the signature luscious egg-drop chili gravy. Except, at Labyrinth, we’d be dipping’em buns into Chili crab gravy ice cream instead! Echoes of disputation rang in my ears as I constructed my little chili crab sundae on my little teaspoon. Here goes nothing! As I popped the extraordinary chili crab in my mouth, a delightful disbelief flooded my brain as the combined sensations of briny crab meat and cold spicy ice cream on fried warm bread met the tongue. How could it have tasted this good!? I couldn’t stop wondering as I started on my second (and last) mini sundae!
~ MEMORIES OF CHOMP CHOMP HAWKER CENTER ~
Four famous hawker center favorites made an appearance at Labyrinth dressed to the nines!
Hainanese Satay turned up with not one but three dates! Tender skewered pork still sizzling away over hot charcoal grill. Accompanied by onigiri disguised Ketupat rice cakes; duo colored pineapple peanut sauce and a shots of sugar cane juice to finish! The Pork Satay was wonderfully marinated. And juicy to the max. The peanut sauce was just mildly spicy, with that touch of pineapple puree to sweeten. A most fun take on ketupat rice cake, the Onigiri Ketupat turned out a little dry; but otherwise, what a novelty!
Orh Luak arrived in the form of a Takoyaki ball. An eggy batter encases an oyster within; fried golden brown and topped with shiny caviar for the big event! It looks staggering but fell short if not for the juicy caviar which made up for the small oyster that got a little lost in all the batter. I do applaud the Goddess Venus presentation!
BBQ Chicken Wing ~ I’m all excited to see one of my favorite hawker foods on the list. It comes beautifully grilled. The color was even with spot-on charred edges. It even has a little pandan wrap around it so you won’t get your fingers messy devouring it. The beautiful wing was nicely seasoned and tender; unfortunately nothing else unusual about it.
Otak Otak wore a nori coat to the event. I loved the full bodied, meaty, spicy fish cake, enhanced with a little sweet umami from the nori. Unfortunately, despite being served on a grill, it was still a tad cold, which resulted to a chewier than preferred bite.
Roti Pr”atas” ~ Indeed a very atas* prata^! Most indulgently paired Indian Roti bread and winter truffle. With a smear of softened butter and jammy yolk. While I usually wouldn’t associate truffle with Prata bread, I might get used to this!
~ PLATES ~
Rojak from a different universe! If you’re a fan of Jackfruit, this will have you begging for more! I am a fan, and I polished the bowl clean! The multiple textures of this craaaazy rojak is a party in the mouth. Sweet, salty, slimy, crunchy, bitter and zesty… how this motley crew came about, I have no idea! But what a joy it was eating this!
Ang Mo Chicken Rice … There’s nothing like Singapore Chicken Rice, and Labyrinth certainly did not plan it to be either. My nightmare began with a slab of chicken breast, my least favorite cut of a chicken, topped with some sliced button mushrooms; on the side, a cabbage ball which serves as the veggie part of a typical chicken rice meal; and a sea of caviar floating in a greenish sauce, both of which aren’t common in the National dish. If like me, you’re wondering if the customary oiled rice is enroute, well.. surprise… It was there all this time, disguised as, yup, that green sauce! Yes, the one with the caviar. Contrary to most of my experiences with chicken breast meat, this was soft and moist, and still full of natural chicken-y flavor. Coupled with the chicken rice emulsion and bits of caviar, it vaguely delivered the full chicken rice package, albeit an unconventional one; It felt a little surreal to taste that familiar chicken rice without actually eating rice itself! The Chap Chye cabbage ball, taken in one mouthful, causes a little explosion of sweet earthy veggie juices. It’s definitely not the chicken rice I know and love but it is bewildering what a little improv can do!
Bak Cho Mee – Flat Mee Pok noodles made out of squid and tossed in a vinegary dressing mimic of the OG, yet a distant cry from it! The noodles tasted nada like noodles. They were firm, chewy and starchy…. very much like squid! Paired with a fried Hokkaido scallop which oozed juicy sweetness from each toothy bite!
XO Fish Noodle Soup – A healthy chunk of locally bred Garoupa filet, wrapped in delicate seaweed, poached gently in a full bodied broth laced with a strong shot of Flor de Caña rum, exuding hints of sweet honey-like aftertaste in every slurp. The Garoupa was super fresh and flakes off nicely with the touch of the chopsticks. But really, the magic was in that golden soup which warmed the palate and tummy like a big bear hug!
~ TRIBUTE TO CAIRNHILL STEAK HOUSE ~
The following 3 courses pay tribute to one of the oldest Steakhouses owned by the Chef’s grandfather, in 1960s. In the magical hands of Chef Han, some of my favorite childhood dishes have reappeared in an un-similarly similar fashion!
Shrimp Cocktail was a fancy starter everybody loved! Think fresh cold prawns served with cocktail fruits from a can (thus the name!) in a sweet creamy salad dressing. Chef Han built his cocktail into a garden! There were prawns, cooked just slightly opaque, tossed within a cognac dressing together with diced fruits, ikura and edible flowers; then finished with a shower of lettuce-mint granita. The icy cold granita totally transformed the dish; giving it depth, lift and a sparkling sensation. Absolutely loved how this came together! One of my favorites of the evening.
The Shaslik featured an Angus Shortrib that was melt-in-the-mouthlicious! Far from the Beef Shaslik I remember from the old Cairnhill Steakhouse which in those days, was also a luxury! No fancy accompaniments but a humble baked potato, a couple of fried onion rings and 2 stringy asparagus and a chopped off carrot head! Fortunately, the buttery beefy steak was enough to make up for the lackluster sidekicks.
Sizzling Plate Steak – The S$48 add-on Tochigi A4 Wagyu Striploin did not shine like the Angus Shortrib. Despite the pricier cut and breed, it tasted quite ordinary and did not deliver an experience worthy of the price. Maybe it’d have scored better without the Shortrib as comparison. It was after all, also tender, also moist, but it just did not wow me as much.
The Original Cairnhill Steakhouse was a popular place to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, and special occasions in the 70s. The signature red checked tablecloths and matching red candlelight were mandatory to create a romantic and elegant ambience. Before anything else, there would be soft warm dinner rolls served with cold butter swirls. Oh how I loved those as a kid! We were treated to the same luxury at Labyrinth; except it turned out to be the biggest surprise of the evening… well, for me at least! Our crimson red candle was made out of pure beef fats! And when the flame dies, we could sink the shiny buttery dinner rolls in the melted red “wax” to relive the same bread and butter moments from 50 years back; except today, it is way more fascinating and indulgent.
The warm beefy smoking red butter drenched the buns like blood on cotton. No… not the most endearing appearance, I have to admit. But undoubtedly most pleasurable as every piece melted on our tongues in full flavor. To our surprise, it wasn’t too heavy as expected of oil. And we were scraping the bottom of the candlestick to get to every bit! Blown away!
~ PALATE CLEANSER ~
The Yuzu Sago palate cleanser could very well be a full fledged dessert cuz that’s how delicious it was! The refreshing sweet tangy combination of Yuzu and juicy pomelo fruit in jasmine tea cleansed not just my palate but all the gluttony sins I’ve committed in the past hour! I wished it was a bigger portion!
~ SWEET ~
Cereal Prawn , minus the prawn! We received a box of cereal each; to be poured over an oat soft serve ice cream and mochi dessert. The sweet, savory, crunchy combo was a joy to eat. And whiffs of curry leaves made it even more aromatic. It reminded me of the actual dish; fat juicy prawns coated in sweet salty crunchy oats, popular in every discerning Cantonese restaurant. And it also reminded me of how I like to dip my fries in chocolate sundae! The salty-on-sweet-on-salty some of us connect with? Yea… its right here!
~ END ~
Kaya Teh Tarik & Eggs Caviar
To cap the meal, another iconic meal of the country. Kaya Toast is staple tea/ breakfast/ anytime-of-the-day snack that all Singaporeans identify with. I personally eat it at least once a week. Unlike many coffee shops that serve this basic “sandwich”, Labyrinth makes sure we receive a generous slab of cold butter and a good dose of kaya coconut jam between the perfectly charcoal toasted bread. I would never have imagined having caviar with it but here we are! Exorbitant Caviar on top of humble kaya toast! By now, I can confidently say, everything tastes better with some caviar!
It is truly fascinating to dine at Labyrinth. The service is impeccable; and the surprises keep coming. I certainly wouldn’t want to eat pimped up local food everyday but to experience it to this extend was kind of fun. Chef Han has worked magic into his culinary and pushed the limits to impressive results. I’d recommend anyone who’s adventurous or curious enough, to explore the unknown side of Singaporean food at The Labyrinth. You will not regret it!
Restaurant Labyrinth @ 8 Raffles Avenue #02-23 Esplanade Singapore 039802 Phone +65 62234098
Disclaimer ~ This is not a sponsored post.