fuck yeah noms

Where:
Cure
21 Keong Saik Road
Singapore 089128

Phone:
+65 6221 2189 (or email reserve@curesingapore.com)

Price:
SGD110 (+7% GST and 10% service) for the seven course tasting menu.  Add another SGD90 (+7% GST and 10% service) if you want the matching wine.

The deal:
Cure isn’t a new restaurant in Singapore, opening in 2015.  Situated on Keong Saik Road, it’s small and straightforward in muted tones of grey, bronze and emerald accents with  soft lighting and warm oak tones and tabletops to keep it from feeling too austere.  The menu changes monthly depending on what produce is available and seasonal.  Cue the promo shot of the white chef chilling in the grimey wet markets holding a fish cause ya know, LOCAL ASIAN SHIZZZZZZ.  But really, how much does this “eating seasonal” count for in a world where almost every single restaurant in the world is claiming to be changing their menu depending on the phase of the moon and whatever stupid sprout they managed to forage out of a crack in a volcanic rock that was lodged within a mound of lichen underneath the Látrabjarg cliffs in Iceland, that’s only available from the 12th April to the 23rd May every fucking year?  Regardless of my cynicism about seasonality, Cure is run by the Irish chef/owner, Andrew Walsh, and promises “top-notch plates, solid drinks and personable service that is delivered in a casual yet refined environment”, taking inspiration from both his European background as well as his time in Asia.  Predictable, his CV lists a billion stints at Michelin starred restaurants, including Sous Chef at the Michelin-starred Pollen Street Social by Jason Atherton and at Tom Aikens’ namesake restaurant in the UK.  

When it’s a restaurant in this style, I like to do the tasting menu because not only do I get to divest myself of any decision making, I get to see what is the story the chef wants to tell.  To start shit off, it’s Cure’s seeded sourdough bread, served with bacon flecked butter and pickled diced cabbage.  Predictably, the house made butter with rendered bacon fat is as fucking delicious as anyone could hope from a fat-on-fat combo.  With this bread, I feel my heart letting its guard down – that I might actually have a modern dining meal which is well thought out and meaningful.  It might seem small, but the bread course is the measure by which I judge any restaurant.  If a chef gives a fuck about his or her free bread, then it’s an indicator of someone who’s gonna give a fuck about everything else that he’s doing.  The pickled cabbage is acidic and tangy, reminding me of the pickled mustard greens that’s used in Chinese cooking and mixed with the creamy fattiness of the butter and the slight sour edge of the naturally leavened bread, it’s complete and well rounded, as my feelings swell and I wrestle with my inner demons to not ask for more bread because there’s so much more food to come.

breadit

Sauce

There’s an assortment of “Cure Snacks” which are deftly and thoughtfully executed.  Our first course is the “Scallop / Vietnamese Dressing / Coriander / Yuzu”, a half shell perched against a pile of tiny pebbles, all elegant fuck yeah beauty with the scallop topped with coriander granita, minature violet petals and a single micro-sorrel leaf.  Most importantly, nothing has been dumped on this dish for aesthetics with every single element bringing something to this dish.  The flavour of the scallop is accentuated through pairing it with the green flavours of the coriander and the single micro-sorrel leaf and brightening it all up with the yuzu and the pop of the Vietnamese style dressing, the icy coriander tinged granita keeping everything fresh and crisp, like a spray of brisk ocean water.

Shit really gets real at the “Squid noodles / Onion Dashi / Chicken Wing”.  This is Cure’s riff on ramen, substituting the noodles with slices of raw squid which cooks slightly as the onion dashi is poured over it.  There’s an egg yolk in the soup which you stir through while adding toasted rice and crispy seaweed pieces.  This dish is fucking stunning, a complete and utter knock out, and unlike anything I’ve ever eaten before but still so familiar at the same time.  It’s the dish that has it all, the different texture from the slightly chewy squid noodles which contrast against the light crispy toasted rice and seaweed, and the heavier bite and chew of the chicken wing.  But it’s the broth that steadfastly anchors this dish all together, the onion dashi broth is sweet and clear on its own, when the egg yolk is mixed with it, it takes on this creamy, richness adding  to the onion’s depth of flavour and pulling every element of this forthright dish into its centre.

pulpfictionseriousgourmetshit

The “Foie gras brulee / Cinnamon / BBQ Sweet Corn” .  Served with a side of small jam stuffed donuts, these were potentially the only flawed component of the entire meal, as they were a little dry inside.  Not a fatal flaw though because any dryness was compensated for by spreading caramelised foie gras onto them.  Tinged with cinnamon and the sweet corn kernels, this dish was so  perfectly balanced that if this dish was an athlete, it’d be ready to take out Olympic gold on the beam.

For the closest thing to a main, it’s the “Beef Short Rib / Green Asparagus / Pomelo / Green Curry”.  I sigh with relief when they don’t fuck it up, because I’m sick of going to fine dining restaurants that get to the main course and seem to just stop giving a fuck.  Probably because the kitchen is dead exhausted from creating flavour filled, over tweezed tiny bite sized starters and just end up frying up bits of protein while seasoning it with  “that’ll fucking do” and “fuck me, cooking beef in larger portions sure gets boring”.

To close it’s a dessert consisting of chocolate textures, a smear of pandan mousse and coconut ice-cream.  Which is simple, cooling and an elegant as fuck close.  I’m into it and there’s always a complimentary miniature ice-cream sandwich is received when you are presented with the not inconsequential bill.

So, I get pretty fucking jaded when it comes to fancy restaurants and tasting menus because often they’re so ham fisted and you don’t get an idea of who the chef really is versus what the chef thinks people want to eat.  Whether it’s the chase for meaningless Michelin stars or restaurant rankings, it’s so easy for these restaurants to buy into the concept of what they want to be, rather than what makes them be.  Then you have a meal at somewhere like Cure where it’s just a chef cooking his heart out and laying his soul out on every purposefully selected ceramic plate, drawing on where he’s loved, lived and eaten.  Where every component and ingredient on this dish is there with steady purpose, unwavering and poised.  Where the sum of the ingredients is greater than each piece, without relying on over the top techniques or bombastic gimmicks.  And it’s in these quiet moments that are stripped down and bare, you can have this realisation that food is a medium that connects you to an experience.  And how fucking special is that?  It all just comes down to one chef treating his ingredients with respect, pulling them together in a way that’s honest and thought out and that’s more exciting than numbered lists, fancy photos or chefs who’ve worked with all the big names.  It just comes down to the plate and all the heart behind it and how this resonates in the depths of your being even when the food’s all gone.

coachtaylorcleareyes

Which is everything I fucking love about food. Which is why I know I’ve felt true love, honest, shining and pure in Singapore.

Verdict:
So here is where it gets a bit fucking complicated – because when I wrote the bulk of the above review, I was all “FUCK YEAH – I will absolutely put my face on this one – that is, if you go here and have a shit time you have got my full permission to punch me in my goddamn face.  HOLY FUCKING SHIT, some of the best food I’ve had this year“.  I’ve been to Cure twice this year and it was absolutely some of the best meals that I’d eaten this year.

However, just before I finished the above review, I went back to Cure again for the third time and the wheels just came off so hard.  It was devastating, as I’d been looking forward to it all week and then it fell victim to one of the worst sins ever of a tasting menu – drawn out, sluggish timing and food that came out a bit cold.  Like WTF, can I even find it in my body to care if your dessert is delicious if it’s taken me 3.5 hours for it to get to the seventh course and all I want to do is go the fuck home because I’m fucking exhausted and so annoyed that this is taking so goddamn long?

cryinggirl-attable

I raised the glacial speed timing of our food with the wait staff several times and they were nice enough about it (without actually addressing it head on or giving me any comfort that shit was gonna improve), even discounting our tasting menu price from the seven course to the five course menu.  So now I’m all conflicted because how can I give Cure the super OTT FUCK YEAH I was going to give it when the third time let me down and it would have solidly been a fuck no?  How can I tell my faithful FYN homies that if they go to Singapore they need to go to Cure to get their fuck yeah noms on when my last time was such a fuck no?  But I also get it.  Restaurants are run by humans (who are generally busting their balls to get the food out) and on some nights, shit just doesn’t go right, no matter what everyone’s best intentions are.  But when you’re laying down big money, the expectations for it to go right are high.  Is this the culinary equivalent of having two amazing dates and you start to tell your friends that this could be THE ONE and then when he finally rolls around to meet your friends, he’s 45 minutes late and his jokes don’t hit as hard as you thought they would.  So instead of your friends telling you “YASSS, now don’t fuck this one up”, they’re all “Well, I guess he’s nice and he has a good job.  I mean…if he makes YOU happy”.  I’m conflicted as fuck guys and I think the only way I can properly resolve this is to go back for a fourth time.  But considering the heart ache I felt the next morning after a meal that went down into fuck no timing territory, I don’t know if my heart can take the potential of Cure striking out at number four.  Perhaps it’s better to take those two perfect moments and press them between the pages of my fuck yeah memories and move the fuck on.

heartbreaking

Until further judgment, the jury’s out. But I still dream of love and those two perfect dates, when my heart swelled inside my tiny little chest and I pushed it back with fuck yeah bread and stories made of gorgeous, honest and tiny plates of fuck yeah food.

Where:
Kaum Jakarta
Jl. Dr. Kusuma Atmaja
No. 77 – 79, Menteng,
Jakarta Pusat, Indonesia

FYN Hot Tip:  My taxi driver got so super fucking lost trying to take me here and it doesn’t really appear to be in an obvious location.  Study up your maps before you embark, especially if you don’t have mobile data.

Phone:
+62 813-8171-5256 (fuck yeahhhhh, they take bookings!!!!)

Price:
About Rp600,000 (USD45/HKD350) after all the Indonesian ++++service but REAL TALK, this would have been much less if I hadn’t gone on my own, Nofriendo style, and eaten the equivalent of two to three people’s worth of food.  I’d estimate probably Rp300,000 – 400,000 a person.

The deal:
Kaum is run by the Potato Head Family, which I am all about because while it may have started off as a beachside club beloved by Aussies who were getting their eat, pray, Bogan on in Seminyak, Bali, they’ve turned themselves into a bit of a well thought out monster with bars and restaurants across Bali, Singapore, Hong Kong and Jakarta.  Kaum in Jakarta has only just opened, billed as the flagship location, following branches being established in HK (fuck yeah review here) and Bali.

When I arrived at Kaum, I asked for a table for one and I saw the front desk look at my quizically, not quite comprehending if they’d heard me correctly. “One?”, she asks me with one brow arched incredulously. Yes it’s true my Kaum homies, I don’t ever wanna feel like I did that day and I assure you that it’s just me for dinner tonight.

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The inside of Kaum is pretty fucking incredible. Set inside a restored colonial house, it’s decked out in signature Kaum style, referencing the traditional craft of Indonesia’s ethnic tribes.  Clean wooden furniture, long tables for people that have friends to dine with (i.e. Not me), teal accents and an off-white concrete wall, pressed with Dayak patterns.  With the high ceilings soaring far above my head, there’s a theatrical art installation by Jompet Kuswidananto which sees the random thud and rattle of drums punctuate the space.  Amongst the dull hum of the restaurant and the echoing drum beats, I can’t help but think of Kaum HK which may be stylish as fuck but it can be a claustrophobic, cacophonous space when it’s running at full tilt. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how considered your interior design team is, there’s no way to design your way out of the restrictive sky high rents of Sai Ying Pun in Hong Kong.

My waiter homie sidles up to my table and talks me through the menu. Kaum is all about showing you the traditional dishes of different tribes in Indonesia while sourcing ingredients locally.  I know every fucking restaurant is all about local, sustainable sourcing before they litter their menu with pork from Spain, salmon from Scotland and cows from Japan, but Kaum is really walking the serious local sourcing walk.  Kaum even locally source their salt from 32 salt farmers from Amed in Karangasem, Bali. After taking my order, my waiter pauses awkwardly and gestures towards the setting opposite me, pausing to ask if anyone else is coming.  I shake my head and sit in friendless shame as she silently clears the extra table setting. “OH GOD, I AM SO TERRIBLY ALONE”, I think to myself as I plan my solo assault on Kaum’s menu (which largely resembles the HK menu).  Lucky for my wounded soul, the Sate Buntel Acar Rujak (Rp120,000 +20% tax/service charge) is there to be the panacea to my homieless isolation.  Taken from Solo, Central Java this grilled minced goat satay is just so fucking good.  A complete flavour bomb which squares up firmly in your face with the bold, goat meat, the piquant pickled rujak-style vegetables and the accompanying sauce made from torch ginger flower, red chilli and sweet soy sauce.  I’m crying from the pain in my lonely heart but I’m also trying to find room in my heart for all these immense feelings I have for this satay which want to burst forth from my chest.

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Given how many dishes I’d ordered, I’d decided to skip the rice. I know, carb life = best life but sometimes when you wanna smash five dishes on your own you’ve got to prioritise your shit. However, my delightful waiter’s eyes lit up and gently yet firmly asked “Are you sure?“. I asked her why, she went on a passionate speech about how Kaum’s rice is a type called “Mentik Susu” from Magelang in Central Java, which means milky rice, and how it was gorgeous and fragrant and in her opinion, vital to my meal. When someone talks about carbs with that much light in her eyes, I know that I’ve got no other choice but to listen, harden the fuck up and go with MOAR CARBS.  Yessss my carb pushing homie, imma coming with you and I for one agree with you that Kaum’s specifically sourced and selected nasi putih which is cooked via traditional methods (instead of the easy way with a rice cooker) is straight out major and I hope the light of fuck yeah carbs also shone bright in my own eyes. I even ate the rice just with the Sambal Ikan Asin (Rp20,000 +20% tax/service charge) from Java, made with salted grilled whitebait and red chilli relish.  YASSSS, sometimes it’s all about finding unbridled fuck yeah happiness in a pure and simple format.

lotr-sam-comingwithyou

The Kerang Jahe Dan Cabai (Rp68,000++) from Bangka Island was also so fucking good. Steamed fresh clams with lemongrass, garlic, scallions and ginger. Slightly briny but accentuated with the freshness of the lemongrass and ginger, I scooped wherever spare sauce I could into my rice while giving silent thanks to my waiter homie’s insistence upon not pussying out on the extra carbs.

The Burung Puyuh Makon Goreng (Rp65,000 +20% tax/service charge) from North Sulawesi was gonna be my quailsong, my fuck you to having friends, as my solo dining status meant I wouldn’t be forced to share a tiny bird with multiple homies.  Unfortunately, the tiny quail’s body has not emerged in its best state, post frying.  It’s a shame because despite the dried out quail, its sauce is fucking gorgeous made from lemongrass, ginger, red chilli and fresh lime relish.

I am well into SE Asian desserts and as soon as I read the menu, I knew that I had to have the Kue Lumpur Bubur Ketan Hitam (Rp45,000 +20% tax/service charge) from Java in my life.  Described as a “Mud cake served with sticky black rice porridge”, it’s important to note that while “Kue Lumpur” might translate directly to “mud cake”, it’s not the mud cake that we’re used to in a Western context, i.e. stodgy and packed full of chocolate.  Kue lumpur is more like a firm custard pudding, made with coconut milk, sugar and eggs. It’s giving me some Portugese egg tart vibes but not as sweet.  It’s topped with some sort of nut, that’s kinda like a cashew but doesn’t match from a textural perspective.  I hit my waiter homie up and after checking with the kitchen, they confirm it’s a kenari nut from Maluku which I think is a far superior substitution for the commonly favoured though often gross, kue lumpur topping, the raisin. Kaum’s kue lumpur has been torched over the charcoal grill, giving it a caramelised finish and when eaten with the sticky black rice which has been sweetened and had coconut milk added to it, it’s a fucking phenomenal way to end a fuck yeah meal.

As I wait in the garden area outside Kaum, a polite waiter keeps me company while we wait for my taxi to arrive.  My waiter homie makes earnest and friendly conversation about where I’m from, my experience at Kaum in Hong Kong and what I thought of Jakarta. I tell him that I thought the food was better here than at Kaum HK, but I’m also not surprised because obviously, Indonesian food should be fucking better when you’re actually in Indonesia. He beams proudly, a piercing white smile while he profusely thanks me and wishes me a great stay in Jakarta. We say goodbyes and then a parting missive, like a gunshot ricocheting across a deserted field he asks me one last time “Are you here alone?“.

imbymyself

The cock crows as I think about denying this for the third time, but instead I shake my head and get into my taxi.  As I crawl through traffic and away into the night, I press one hand against the smudgy glass of my Bluebird taxi and I gaze at the starless smog choked skies of Jakarta, pondering the crushing weight of the reality of my situation.  Yes, I am alone.  So alone.  But aren’t we all, in some way, my well meaning waiter homie?

Verdict:
Fuck yeahhhhhhhh!! All the fuck yeahs for a restaurant which is so invested in where it’s ingredients are from, where it’s dishes originate from and showing me more than I previous knew about Indonesian food.  I thought about this meal the whole next day, reflecting on just how fucking flavourful everything was.  So perhaps I’m really not that alone, cause my eyes are open and I’ve found the warm and comforting embrace of fuck yeah Indonoms to hold me through the night.

Where:
Happy Paradise
UG/F 52-56 Staunton Street (Entrance on Aberdeen Street)
Central, Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 2816 2118 (but predictably, NO FUCKING RESERVATIONS)

Price:
We got out at HKD650ish per person, including two drinks each.  The receipt claims that all service charge/tips goes directly to the staff which I give a resounding FUCK YEAH.

The deal:
May Chow’s latest restaurant, with John Javier as Executive Chef, occupies the space where the old Butchers Club Steak Frites (RIP) joint used to be, above Stanzione Novella.  Whoever would have thought that charging too much cash for steak frites when every second restaurant opening in 2015 was a steak frites place would not have the staying power to limp through the battlefield of fad hungry HK consumers and nefarious HK landlords, driven wild by the desire of always getting more?

Snippy obvious observations aside, Happy Paradise is stylistic as fuck though and you can read any number of reviews of Happy Paradise and tick off the following phrases like a restaurant review bingo board – “neo-Cantonese”, “neon filled dive bar”, “80s inspired”, “modern cha chaan teng” and “cantopop soundtrack”.  For me, it reminds me of a glossier version of the old Forever Lounge in Tai Hang (before they renovated themselves only slightly to take some of the edges out), shiny purple and pink neon but without the buckets of Blue Girl, slightly sticky worn out furnishings and the heavy, weary acceptance written across the faces of tobacco soaked older men.

Our waiter is immediately onto us all Misty Copeland style (ie. ON POINT) and setting us straight on how to order our drinks and food. The drinks menu is split into two pages, one named “easy” and the other “adventurous”.  No, it’s not just how I like my eggs paramours but Happy Paradise’s code for drinks that are best before dinner (“easy”) and ones after food (“adventurous”).  I get the “Pink Flamingo” (HKD118 +10% service charge), Jamaican rum, passionfruit, Campari and lime, which shows a fuck yeah balance between sweet, bitter and acid.  Keeping with the pink theme, I sneak a sip of my homie’s “Swoon Lee” (HKD108 +10% service charge), white rum and watermelon with a salted black lime rim, reminding me of the salty lemon lemonades I used to suck down in the cha chaan tengs.

Our first dish, is the Scallops “rice roll” (HKD110 +10% service charge) is the one dish that almost every single person who goes to Happy Paradise will tell you to order.  It’s a take on “cheung fan” (ie. rolled rice flour noodles) except pureed scallops are made into flat sheets which are steamed and then rolled.  Served with soy sauce and chilli oil, there’s only four tiny pieces. A flicker of concern dances across my psyche given that one of the concerns I had with Happy Paradise was spending all my money on stylish but tiny ass food for ants.  I guess my old fears die hard, especially given that May Chow is also behind Little Bao (yes I know, the clue is in the first half of the name).  Regardless, it is fucking delicious and an innovative take on this traditional Cantonese dish and reminds me of the upside down interpretations like the fucking amazing Mapo Tofu Burrata that you also get at May Chow’s other restaurant, Second Draft.

I was seriously jonesing for the cuttlefish toast, because it reminds me of my nostalgic Strayan childhood with bastardised versions of Chinese food like prawn toast.  But I also balk at paying HKD58 (+10% service charge) per person for tiny bits of deep fried bread.  I obviously don’t balk hard enough because I ordered it anyway and it’s fucking great.  Of course, how hard is it to fuck up deep frying things on white bread? Regardless, it’s a good combo with the sweetness of the cuttlefish brought out by the accompanying sweet corn puree and rounded out by the black garlic puree.  HKD58+ enjoyable for a few bites?  I’m not entirely convinced and make another entry into my ever increasing autobiographical tome, “The Carbs Made Me Do It“.

One of the specials when we were there was a cold steamed egg (HKD88 +10% service charge), which sounds fairly unremarkable.  But fuck, this was one of the most incredible dishes we had that night.  This steamed egg was the smoothest, silkiest thing that I’ve eaten in recent memory.  I don’t know how the fuck they got this egg into this wondrous state of being but one bite in and my heart is filled with the snaking guitar licks of Santana and before I know it, Rob Thomas is imploring me to “Give me your heart, make it real or else forget about it”.  YES, IT’S THAT FUCKING SMOOTH:

robthomassmooth

Topped with ginger, scallions and yuzu, there’s this green shoot on top which I can’t quite place.  I ask our waiter homie what is up with this slightly crunchy, not quite gelatinous vegetable and he tells me it’s ice plant that they’ve, quote, done some “special stuff” to.  Upon some research, I’ve since discovered it’s also known as kudzu and has the tendency to become an invasive species, choking ou the habitat of native vegetation.  Well, invade my heart Mr Ice Plant Man because I am most def into the way your unique, slightly stiff though yielding cellular structure is doing its thing against the smoothest, egg custard ever and is topped with the slightly sweet and vinegary dressing.

iceplantbaby

We were pre-warned that the Tea Smoked Pigeon (HKD178 +10% service charge) comes out medium-rare.  Happy Paradise are not kidding and it comes out closer to rare.  I am ok with this though and I thoroughly enjoy every meaty, just cooked bite of this sky rat, with the follow through of the smokey tea.  I also like that Happy Paradise serve the whole bird up, its head attached traditional Chinese style and its scrawny limbs all askew.  Perhaps don’t order this if you have squeamish homies.  Or maybe a better alternative, find yourself better homies.

tracy-wanttobemyfriend

The Yellow Wine Chicken (HKD328 +10% service charge) is the most expensive dish of the night.   It’s a fuck yeah, the slow cooked chicken served with a broth made from glutinous rice wine, Shaoxing, and mushrooms, topped with chrysanthemum petals and crispy puffed black and Japanese rice.  A chicken claw is perched just on the edge of the bowl, like it’s trying to make some bold but ultimately futile escape from its Shaoxing infused fuck yeah fate.

To close it out, we finish with the Char Siu Rice (HKD158 + 10% service charge).  It’s inevitable that everyone will compare this to their local char siu joint and how their local haunt is soooo much cheaper.  Happy Paradise’s char siu is leaner than what you’d traditionally find at your local BBQ shop and served on top of a deconstructed egg, the yolk forming the sauce and a egg white patty.  There’s a side plate of the locally produced, sweet Kowloon Soy Company soy sauce and an earthen pot shaped like a pig, which holds liquid lard for you to mix into your rice.  In combination with the rice, soy, egg and lard, it’s obvious that this magical equation is gonna come out at as a celestial FUCK YEAH. Live lard, play hard because for the sake of my heart’s health, I’m glad that lard isn’t served this way with everything I eat but for the sake of my heart’s happiness, I sure wish it was.

naomicrying

I reflect upon this meal as the pulsating synth of Madonna’s 80s pop-new wave classic “Into the Groove” shimmies across the Happy Paradise landscape, it’s here I realise that for me, I’m into a place like Happy Paradise.  Why?  Because it’s a place which acknowledges where it comes from in both a time and place while dragging it unabashedly into a decade that’s sitting closer to 2020.  I think of how fucking bold it is to put yourself in whatever form that may be out there and not give a fuck what other people might think and in the candy tinged lighting and formica tabletops, Madonna closes out our night by singing about only feeling this free when she’s dancing.  In some sort of dramatic as fuck corollary, I can’t help but think that perhaps when you’re running your own kitchen and doing something that runs right down the vein of what you are as a chef, this must be your own version of throwing your head back and unapologetically dancing free.  And I’m so fucking into that.

Verdict:
I’m not convinced this is gonna be a hit for everyone but for someone who wants to see what a stylistic, new interpretation of HK food could be without resorting to smothering shu mai in truffles and gold flakes, it’s a resounding fuck yeah.

Where:
Pici
GF, No. 16 St. Francis Yard
Wanchai, Hong Kong

Phone:
+852 2755 5523 (but no reservations so I dunno why you want the number)

Price:
HKD200 per person, including one drink.  No service charge, so don’t be a stingy asshole and leave a tip on top of that, ok?

The deal:
The Pirata Group, owned by Manuel Palacio and Christian Talpo, are behind the pasta bar, Pici.  Pici is their fourth HK restaurant as they continue their march to HK restaurant domination.  At least they’re going about it in a far more dignified manner than their Black Sheep Restaurant compatriots and thinking up their own new shit rather than just jetting around the world and nicking licensing concepts from places that they wanna flog.  OK I’m joking my Black Sheep Restaurant fanboys before you rabidly start shouting “HAVE YOU FORGOTTEN THE ORIGINAL CONCEPTS LIKE BELON!!! LE GARÇON SAIGON!!! BUENOS AIRES POLO CLUB!!!” at me. I’ve always been a Pirata fan, handing out fuck yeahs to both The Optimist and Pirata and I frequently trot them out as recommendations when homies ask me where to eat in Wan Chai, cause what’s not to love about fuck yeah casual restaurants which still bring the good vibes, generally attentive service and fuck yeah food with strong, well executed cocktails on the side.  Pici is situated in the cute but often disappointing Star Street Precinct in Wan Chai.  I mean, I always feel that there should be lots of cool shit happening in Star Street but how often do you actually get your ass down there?  I guess every time I need to buy posh as fuck candles that smell like spruce for rich, stylish friends who already have everything or that rare occasion when I can think of nothing better than throwing my cash at a HKD2,400+ canvas bag which is tucked in next to a succulent and a Japanese analogue alarm clock for HKD1,850.

Pici is named after a thick, hand-rolled pasta, which originates from the province of Siena in Tuscany, Italy. So it’s no fucking surprise that its specialty is pasta and they only serve freshly rolled hand rolled pasta made daily. I’m fucking into this idea – do one thing, do it well and don’t have a menu which is the length of a queue of people lining up for free Tempo tissues in Causeway Bay.  I arrange to meet Ms This is Bullshit (refer to this review of 27 Kebab House to check the vintage source of that nickname) at a very leisurely 2:30pm on a Friday and assume that we’re gonna be fine for a seat, because Pici is running that NO RESERVATIONS game.  BZZZZZZT INCORRECT, even at this late hour on an alleged work day, it’s a full fucking house and we still have to queue and wait.  What the hell HK, don’t any of you smug assholes have to go to fucking work??

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FUCK ME, LET ME KNOW YOUR FUCK YEAH SECRETS SO I CAN MAKE MY ESCAPE FROM THE SALT MINES AND DRINK WINE ALL THE TIME AT 3PM ON A FRIDAY.

Once the Tai Tais with the Good Hair clear off and I squeeze myself into the tables to get stuck in.  My first order of business is to order an Aperol Spritz (HKD80) and in a promising sign for an Italian restaurant, it’s fucking beautiful, resplendently orange, fizzing with the hope of good HK times while an orange peel and a mega fatty green olive chills out on the side, living la dolce vita.  Sìììììììììììì motherfuckers, welcome to the good Italian life.

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To start, we get a serve of the parma ham and get stuck into the complimentary bread with some olive oil.  I’m into this simple shit and appreciate restaurants that still give you free bread.  I gotta say that in Singapore, no one seems to dole out the free bread anymore which makes my carb loving and free stuff loving heart sad.  I rectify this sadness by eating three bags of free bread with olive oil.  The parma ham is A1 fucking delicious but I guess it doesn’t really require a red hot kitchen to produce this, just a chef who knows where to procure the good shit.

This is all just warm up for the main namesake event, the pasta course.  I ordered the Pici Amatriciana (HKD85) – which is the restaurant’s namesake hand rolled pasta and a sauce made from cured pork cheek, tomato sauce, black pepper and cheese.  When I was ordering it though, the waiter did stop to let us know that it is quite a salty sauce, and checked whether we were ok with this.   I swing pretty salty when it comes to not only my opinions on half-assed restaurants, but also when it comes to food, so I didn’t think that this was going to be a problem.  However, give the Pici homies the truth in advertising award because their pasta sauce for this dish is, surprise surprise, really fucking salty.

It’s no doubt due to the salt-cured pork jowl and the generous amount of pecorino cheese, but given I received a warning, what was I really expecting??  Am I now one of those dumb ass customers who order dishes like tomato soup and then sends it back for tasting too much like tomatoes?  Like ummmm, cash me ousside howbow dah, food which was given a salty warning is predictably, really fucking salty.  This makes me start to think about how I should just take to pre-warning everyone and everything in my life about potential shit that could go wrong so I can always pull the Get Out of [insert relevant bad shit] Here card.  I mentally note to tell any future lovers that I’m a bit shit in bed with a tendency to dial it in because I’m a lazy fuck (literally), so I’ll never disappoint anyone ever again.

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Turning my attention away from my future excuses and putting the salt levels aside – what is more galling is the white, greasy chunks of fat which haven’t been rendered down properly, which is strewn all through the sauce.  Pici are not shy about the sauce amount too which means that their very fucking good hand made pasta is completely overwhelmed by this salty, greasy mess and it isn’t given any space to sing its glorious, Ode to Carbs.  It wouldn’t have taken much either to make this dish right either, just dial back the salt levels a bit and take out some of the fatty chunks, give me a little bit more pasta and it would have been fuck yeah pasta times vs this so-so dish which I guess was ok enough for only HKD85.

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I cast some longing looks at the table next to me as they get involved with some fuck yeah looking carbonara pasta and in a rare show of restraint, turn down the offer of ordering dessert because I’ve decided to stop saying yes to dessert when the mains were disappointing as you rarely find the redemption you want in the pudding course.  I step out in search of liquids to parch my raging thirst and feel sad about my choice in dish because a fuck yeah hand made pasta drowning in fat and salt just seems to be so contrary to Pici’s whole concept.  That is, a restaurant with straight forward food that is perfectly simple and only uses the best quality ingredients and I assume, should be executing its shit perfectly as well.

Verdict:
These don’t happen often but I’m handing Pici a JURY’S OUT.  Everything about it was stacking up for a fuck yeah except for that overly fatty, salty pasta sauce. I’m normally super digital as to whether I’d go back to a place or not but in this instance, I feel that I probably just chose a dud dish and the other pasta dishes on the menu are probably in fuck yeah territory. Pici homies, you are fucking lucky that your actual pasta itself was up to scratch otherwise I’d be handing you a big fat, fuck no.

Where:
Burnt Ends
20 Teck Lim Road
Singapore 088391

Phone:
+65 6224 3933

Price:
It really is gonna depend on how much steak and wine you order, I’d estimate around SGD90 per person including 200g of the cheapest steak each, before booze and tip (no service charge included). And it’s SG, so of course booze ain’t gonna be cheap.

The deal:
Burnt Ends is the one restaurant in Singapore that I get asked about all the time by my HK homies re: whether they should bother going.  Before I moved to Singapore (yes for the blog only homies, it’s true – I’ve left HK and it’s all about Majulah Singapura.  But why be a blog only homie?  Get onto my Fuck Yeah Insta or follow the rad as fuck Fuck Yeah Noms Facebook page or if you wanna get personal, friend the fuck out of me on my personal profile), I never made it there on my previous SG visits because I was too busy throwing myself head first through all the hawker centres ever.  Burnt Ends is definitely a restaurant that has all the indications of a restaurant that international visitors are going to be all over because it always appears on those lists.  You know, those stupid destination lists you read in the airplane magazines accompanied by a moody night time shot taken from outside the restaurant with the glow of the restaurant illuminating some beardy, tattooed chef in a leather apron with his arms crossed.  It’s also #14 on the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2017 list (as sponsored by S. Pellegrino and Acqua Pana) which means from a FYN perspective it’s also highly likely to be overrated AF, overpriced and a total ball ache to get into.  For reals, when did we start giving any sort of weight from a problematic list sponsored by a WATER company, which doesn’t even require its “voters” to remain anonymous or pay for their own fucking meals??  Despite all of this, I ended up at Burnt Ends cause I still fucking love to check out hype beasts even if you’re odds on to be disappointed and destitute by the end of proceedings.

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Now I get that reservations are a pain in the ass for every restaurant because customers are total dick bags who like to no show without giving any warning which kills your ability to get dem dollars, but as a diligent booking honouring customer, I just want to be able to book my shit and not have to wait hours for a table.  Burnt Ends has this booking policy of only taking dinner bookings at early o’clock (ie. 6pm or 6:30pm) otherwise it’s walk in only.  I’m definitely too much of an old, grumpy fucker who needs instant gratification to be dealing with being told it’s going to be two hours before I can get a table, even if it means that I can wait at Potato Head Folk across the road and get involved in some fuck yeah cocktails. 

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After about 90 minutes, I’m well liquored with fuck yeah cocktails and our table is ready.  It’s the outside bench which faces onto the road, which I’m cool with but I’m guessing if you’re here for a special occasion or date night, you’re going to want to be inside so you can see the Burnt Ends show.  As a restaurant that bills itself as Modern Australian barbecue, it’s all about its custom built four tonne, dual cavity ovens and three elevation grills.  I can get behind what they’re trying to do, using wood ovens and grilling techniques to bring the best out in the fresh ingredients, letting the produce dictate what the daily menu should be. With everything that may be going on from a vibe and interior perspective, nothing can distract me from the fact that prices on this menu are substantial by the time you’re looking at whole point of being at Burnt Ends (ie. the roasted meats).  Sure there’s some affordable snacks which range from SGD10 – SGD20, but by the time you’e looking at the meat section it’s SGD26 per 100g for flank, SGD50 per 100g for striploin and if you want to get into some 45 dry aged Mayura OP Rib, you’re gonna be laying down SGD490 per kg.  Or perhaps you wanna try their famous roasted leek (with hazelnut and black truffle) at a mere SGD42 (+7% GST) – FUCK ME AND PAINT ME A POOR CONSERVATIVE for not wanting to get on board with laying down SGD42 to see just how good a leek can be.

Our server is friendly and efficient, talking us through the menu factually but not giving much more colour on top of that.  When ordering our starters, it’s clear that they aren’t gonna be big and they are designed to be eaten by one to two people.  The Grissini and Taramasalata (SGD12 +7% GST) is good fuck yeah times.  Taramasalata is a Greek dip made from bread, onions, olive oil, fish roe and lemon juice.  This brings back the memories of my Aussie-Greek friends would always bust this out at parties and as a mark of respect, I’d park myself right next to that dip bowl and pay it grave reverence by bowing my head and inhaling as much of this bread dip on more bread.  But fuck, Burnt Ends’ version surely is delicious but SGD12+ for one piece of crisp flatbread with some dip on it? I’m not so fucking down with that but it does make me estimate the cost of the Taramasalata Takedowns I’ve executed at my Greek homies’ parties at around SGD180.

Next up is the Duck Hearts Peri Peri (SGD8 +7% GST) which I’m excited about cause I fucking love organs and all their chewy, interesting textures.  There’s some peri peri sauce to give some contrast to the deep, iron of the hearts, but who fucking cares when these duck hearts are bitter little fuckers which have had the life cooked out of them?  I try to move past this by having some Sobrasada (SGD14 +7% GST), but as delicious as raw cured sausage is with bread, there’s just nothing exciting at all about this dish.  The Beef, Marmalade and Pickles (SGD14 +7% GST) is absolutely fine too, some braised beef which is using the acidity of the pickles and sweet marmalade on some more bread.  I deliberate and chew on this, trying to process what is exactly so exceptional about this place which causes the hype machine to praise it as a BEST EVER or MUST VISIT in Singapore, nay, ASIA.

The Burnt Ends’ Sanger (SGD20+7% GST) is one of their famous, signature dishes which can only explain why I ordered something which sounds like the epitome of basic, boring “OMG FOOD IS SO GOOD, I’M SUCH A FOODIE, FOOD IS LIFE” fare.  For reals, pulled pork shoulder – CHECK, coleslaw – CHECK, chipotle aioli – CHECK and you know it, my eternal and undying nemesis – brioche bun – CHECK.  Wahhhhhhh, get my hair shirt out and squeeze it onto my cliche filled body cause I’m obviously a sadomasochist fucker who wants to flog myself with the cat-o-nine tails of trendy food cliches.  The hits keep coming and even though it’s SGD20 and stuffed full of trendy food tropes, it’s so fucking tiny and most def food for ants.  I get my scalpel and surgical mask out so I can dissect this to share amongst us and find it hard to focus because my eyes are starting to glaze over as I choke back another yawn.  In that one bite there’s the pulled pork which is a bit dry and soggy coleslaw, which causes the brioche to lose its structural shit because NEWSFLASH, BRIOCHE IS GOOD FOR FUCKING NOTHING.  Oh, you know where this is going, FUCK NO.  But because it’s minuscule, I guess at least its lacklustre SGD20+ fuck no sting is swift?

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For our steak, I opted for the Flank with Burnt Onion and Bone Marrow  (SGD26 per 100g +7% GST) cause fuck no, I can’t afford no SGD50 per 100g + 7% GST striploin shenanigans.  Like most things I ate at Burnt Ends it was cooked well and tasty enough, but there’s nothing exceptional that sticks in my memory. Maybe it’s cause I cheaped out and didn’t go for the ball breaking SGD50/100g option? But I don’t think it’s unreasonable that I expect that a SGD26/100g steak option should leave some sort of impression on me other than “I guess it wasn’t fucking terrible”?

In this sea of high priced malaise, it’s the Bone Marrow Bun (SGD12 +7% GST) which finally manages to shake a little bit of fuck yeah excitement into my Burnt Ends #asiastop50 life.  A sesame flecked bun which is wrapped in foil and baked til it’s crispy as fuck on the outside but still soft on the inside with its fuck yeah bone marrow stuffing, all melted and buttery.  I have so many fuck yeah feelings regarding this bun, that I double down and get another order of it.

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So, I get that Burnt Ends’ jam is meant to be food which show cases the ingredients but there’s the difference in doing the ingredients right and not overcomplicating things, while still showing me something new and then just doing shit in a fine but completely unremarkable manner.  Burnt Ends is in no way terrible and these hyped up restaurants are always battling against expectation but for me, if I have to lay down the big bucks, I want something that makes me pause and think about what’s going on.  Not just that each bite is costing me too much money for a complete lack of excitement, regardless of whatever fancy as fuck grill and oven contraptions you may be slinging in the kitchen.

Verdict:
Fuck no because shit ain’t worth the bucks nor the no booking palaver.  But if you’re visiting Singapore and really wanna get involved, I recommend ordering two Bone Marrow Buns and smashing a glass of red before applying the appropriate hashtags to your Instagram post and moving along.  But I will concede, there’s a few people where you’d still be so fucking excited about Burnt Ends, such as:

  1. You’ve been in a coma for the last 15 years and someone using a grill on meat in a restaurant and eating something delicious on a piece of toasted bread is the most amazing concept you’ve ever heard of
  2. You like going to restaurants which are on lists because getting to tag your shit with #asias 50best, thank the chef for looking after you and listing which arbitrary ranking number it came in at because this still counts for something in your dull, desolate existence.
  3. You’re an old fucker who’s now living DA ASIA LYFE and you need to take your hot new young thing to DATE NIGHT to show you’re still hip with the homies but you also don’t want to feel too Old Man River eating a SGD45++ serve of sea urchin on a grey, soulless slate while an immaculate waitress listlessly serves you extra bitch face as you try to get your ancient bones to deal with sitting on a concrete slab bench as ambient techno discretely throbs in the background.
  4. Someone else is fucking paying, so who gives a fuck if you’re dropping all the bucks ever on pedestrian but still delicious, overpriced bits of meat on bread.

For everyone else, there’s most def more interesting and fuck yeah eats to spend your Sing Buckas on.

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