Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Restaurant Ibid - A Brave New Space by Masterchef Asia Winner Woo Wai Leong

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Masterchef Asia winner Woo Wai Leong's new venture, Restaurant Ibid, serves Nanyang-style, contemporary Chinese dishes that are inspired by Wai Leong's memories, experiences and relationships with his Chinese heritage. Set in a gorgeous shophouse along North Canal Road, Restaurant Ibid is sending out brave new creations that might just strike a cord with you, evoke nostalgia, and leave a deep impression.

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Ibid, which is abbreviated Latin for 'the same place' or 'from the same source' is quite the perfect name for Wai Leong's maiden foray which explores roots, birth, origins, and heritage.

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Whether you're going for the 4-course ($78), 6-course($88) or 8-course($118) menu, you'll have the good fortune of starting dinner with 2 complimentary starters — Grilled Escargot, and Spring Onion Shaobing. The deep flavours of the escargot are contrasted with the bright flavours of dou ban jian mayonnaise, and earthy notes of charred betel leaves. I think that you might find these little pops hugely satisfying, just as I did.

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Yeasted dough is proofed for an hour, stuffed with spring onions, mozzarella cheese, black pepper and sesame oil, before it is rolled to proof for another 15 to 20 minutes. Pan fried till golden brown, and armed with a light crisp, the shaobing is paired with yeasted butter and laksa leaves. While I enjoyed the texture of the slightly fluffy and dense shaobing, I thought that it could have used a little more filling.

We think that the 6-course tasting menu is undoubtedly the best value for money. If you're thinking of going for the 4-course menu where you can pick 1 app, 1 main, and 1 dessert, you might like to read on and find out my top picks!

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The Tea Egg Soubise is a delicate ensemble of a sous vide organic egg yolk, broth made from a blend of aged mandarin peels and Pu-Er tea leaves, white onions blended with sour cream, fresh shiitake mushrooms and gingko nuts fried in brown butter and salt. The egg yolk is not completely molten and is exceptionally delightful when eaten together with the light broth and smooth blended onions. I loved the touch of stronger flavours that the mushroom, and crunch of gingko nuts, added to the dish. I was impressed by how such a seemingly light dish can hold so many flavours that meld so beautifully together.

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I don't take lamb, unless I'm promised that there isn't a trace of that distinct lamb taste that puts me off. So when I was told that we were gonna have Lamb Tartare, I honestly wasn't excited at all. To my utmost surprise, or disbelief, Wai Leong's rendition had me gobbling up every morsel. Chilled and hand-chopped, lamp rump is mixed with celery, white onions, and a Szechuan spice mix, before it is dressed with roasted garlic yoghurt and garnished with mint leaves. I have to really applaud Wai Leong's brilliant mind for putting this dish together because it's amazing how he used the sharper notes of simple spices to elevate the taste of the lamb, which also wasn't gamey at all. The thin fried lotus root was just the icing on the cake!

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A White Radish Porridge? Well, that doesn't sound too fancy or enticing, does it? All I can say is that you're gonna be surprised by how tasty this porridge is. White radish trimmings are boiled till soft and cooked with overnight rice, soy milk and finished with butter and salt, before it is top with salted radish strips that are dried and sauteed. The creamy and slightly thick porridge was such a delight, and an absolute comfort with addictive bits of century egg and bamboo shoots. I never thought that this would be one of my favourite dishes of the evening, but it was pretty incredible.

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Perhaps the dish that Wai Leong is most known for, because it is always present at every single of his pop-ups, the sous vide Short Rib is a star. Combined with pickled black fungus, mashed potato with black garlic paste, Chinese pear, reduced roasted chicken stock, and the extremely important angelica root which has an indescribable affinity with beef, the tender short rib dazzled with a lovely tenderness, and an enchanting juiciness. Each individual component was great enough to be savoured on its own, but when eaten together, each component lent its own strength and unique taste to the beef, which made the beef even better. You can't go wrong with this!

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The grilled Momoiro Pork Collar is a colourful dish that comes complete with sweet potatoes, savoy cabbage and a tasty gastrique made from ingredients such as caramel and fermented beancurd. The pork collar sported a slightly pink centre, and it made me really excited. I love pork but few can do it well, or execute one perfectly. The pork was sufficiently juicy, and just tender enough, but the texture was a tad inconsistent as some pieces were tougher than the others. Nonetheless, I felt that the sauce which had tangy notes, went hand-in-hand with the pork, and sweet potatoes.

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I'm no fan of glutinous rice, or dumplings, so naturally this Lotus Rice didn't incite any excitement in me. However, just a bite was all it took to get me hooked. Each grain is moist, and firm, and I have to say that the rice was cooked really well. Flavoured with a heady shiitake mushroom mix, the palatable rice is topped with a small slab of foie gras that has been seared to perfection. As a foie gras lover, I thoroughly relished every mouthful, and I truly felt that the flavours of the foie gras complemented the rice flawlessly.

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Of the two desserts, I'll recommend the Soy Milk Ice Cream which is concocted from soy milk and tofu. The icecream carries just a little sweetness, and will tickle the tastebuds of those who like almond-based desserts as the icecream is combined with an almond espuma and sesame cake.

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I don't go for Chinese cuisine much, but Wai Leong's modern take on Chinese flavours and clever use of traditional Chinese ingredients have opened up my eyes to how promising contemporary Chinese cuisine can actually be. I'm definitely looking forward to what Wai Leong comes up with!

18 North Canal Road
Singapore 048830
Monday - Saturday : 630pm - 1030pm 


Love, K 

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