Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Labyrinth @ Esplanade Mall - New Expression Of Singapore Cuisie By 1 Michelin Starred Restaurant


I remembered my first visit to Labyrinth a couple of years back when the restaurant moved from Neil Road to its current location at Esplanade Mall. Back then Chef Han Li Guang is known for its replica of the hawker dishes, such a bak chor mee, chilli crab ice cream, chendol xiao long bao. Now Chef Han has embarked on a new chapter, elevating his culinary knowledge, skill and appreciation for the local ingredients. Labyrinth today is focused on how best to show off the bounty of our local farms, orchards and sea through its intrinsic flavours, and by way of flavour pairings.

Tea Egg with Oolong Tea 4/5

We had the Chef's Tasting Menu at $178 for 16 courses. You can add another $80 for wine pairing. We started with the Amuse Bouche which is Tea Egg with Oolong Tea. Quail egg is used in stead of the usual chicken egg that you get elsewhere. Using a mix of modern techniques and traditional ways of making the tea egg, the quail egg has a delightful tea aroma and smokiness while the yolk is still running.

Nasi Lemak Cheong Fun 4/5

Next is a few bite size dishes that showcases Chef Han's favourite street food. First is the Nasi Lemak Cheong Fun. The petite looking cheong fun is wrapped with sambal chilli and egg yolk gel. It is then topped with cucumber, chicken skin and ikan bilis. Once you pop it into your mouth, every components will come together, reminiscing the familiar local nasi lemak dish.

Braised Baby Abalone 3.5/5

What is impressive is the making of the black colored nest using dehydrated black moss. It is not an easy process in order not to break it. Sitting inside the black moss tart is the Braised Baby Abalone that is grilled over charcoal and dressed in a traditional house-made oyster sauce.

Heartland Waffle 4.5/5

I am not sure about you but my head will turn whenever I walk passed those heartland stalls selling waffle, the smell of the pandan aroma always makes me want to savour them. Over at Labyrinth, you get that fragrant pandan flavoured Heartland Waffle sandwiched with local duck liver pate and goji berry jam. The combination sounds weird but its heavenly.

Ah Hua Kelong Lala Clams 4.2/5

Ah Hua Kelong Lala Clams is probably the most exquisite clam dish I ever eaten. The lala clams are painstaking lined up neatly in a tart made of wonton skin for texture, with a bed of Chinese spinach as the base. It is then topped with dog fennel and served with XO sambal sauce.

Labyrinth Rojak 4.8/5

The Labyrinth Rojak is the most unassuming looking dish among the dishes in the menu but it is the most standout dish for me. Taking inspiration from the local rojak street food which reflects the colorful culture of Singapore cuisine, the interpretation here uses a variety of edible herbs, together with stingless bee honey (a species of bee without sting) and cempedak sorbet to create that familiar flavour but yet different.

Ang Mo Chicken Rice 3.5/5

The Ang Mo Chicken Rice comes in dumpling stuffed with diced chicken. The chicken dumpling is cooked in a chicken rice stock of pandan, spring onion, garlic, ginger and chicken bones to get the familiar Haianese chicken rice flavour. Unlike the usual chicken rice, it is served with a white sauce together with button mushrooms. Not forgetting the chilli sauce from Chef Han's grandma's recipe, an important component for a a plate of chicken rice.

Grandma's Fish Maw Soup 4.2/5

The Grandma's Fish Maw Soup comes with a rose petal of fish cake made using yellow tail snapper without the use of flour and egg white. Two types of fish maw are used in this dish, barramandi and catfish fish maw. The catfish fish maw is blended with the black chicken soup while the barramandi fish maw is layered within the 12 petals of fish cake. The leftover trimmings of the fish maws are dehydrated and deep fried into fish maw crackling for further appreciation of its texture.

Local Wild Caught Crab 4/5

Still from the sea, we have the Local Wild Caught Crab from Ah Hua Kelong. The deshelled flower crab meat known for its sweetness is paired with chilli crab ice cream and ribbons of egg white. I thought the egg white looks like strands of noodles. Last but not least, the dish is dressed in a emulsion of shaoxing and chicken fat binding the the dish together.

Nippon Koi Farm Silver Perch 3.8/5

The Silver Perch from Nippon Koi Farm is served in a herbal bak kut teh broth, that is paired with textures of black garlic, you char kway puff, ulam rajah flower and fish lard. Herbal soup usually goes with pork or chicken but this combination kind of surprises me. It did not masked the appreciation of the main ingredient while at the same time complementing it, giving it a comforting and nourishing finish.

Uncle William's Quail 4.5/5

The Quail dish is cooked in two ways. The legs are chargrilled while the breast meat is slow roasted. They are paired with house-made satay espuma. Diner is encourage to pick up the quail leg as like a skewer, dipping into the satay espuma. The nuttiness of the satay sauce goes really well with the quail meat. As like any satay stall, the dish also comes with house-made muah chee, burnt pearl onions, pickled cucumber which replaces the typical ketupat, onions and cucumber.

Lost Grain Fried Rice 4.8/5

You must be wondering why the rice dish is called Lost Grain Fried Rice. This is because Labyrinth uses the special Thai Hom Mali rice grain that has been lost for over 70 years and re-cultivated in recent times. The execution may seems simple, fried with eggs, crispy white bait and dried scallop but this is probably one of the best fried rice I have ever eaten.

Bean to Bar 4.5/5

For the pre-dessert, we have the Bean to Bar. Basically dark chocolate from the one of only two bean to bar chocolate-makers in Singapore. Interestingly the artisanal dark chocolate has dark soy sauce in it, giving it a nice saltiness like sea salt. This is finished off with cocoa nibbs, shaoxing wine gel and wood sorrel.

Clam Leaf Snow 4/5

The palate cleanser is the Clam Leaf Snow, which probably inspired from the kakigori or our local ice kachang. For those not familiar with clam leaf, it has a number of names, known as moses in the cradle plant, oyster plant or boat lily. It is a type of plant that Chinese like to use it to boil herbal tea. Underneath the snow, one can find diced pink dragon fruit and fresh pomegrante seeds. The white paper-like sheet thing on top of the snow ice is rosella meringue. A refreshing and health beneficial palate cleanser before moving on to the dessert.

Soy Bean Curd 4.2/5

The sight of the Soy Bean Curd may not look very appetising but this is surprisingly good. Putting aside the effort of making its own bean curd, the restaurant also make its own yoghurt by fermenting goat milk with keffir. Bird's nest cooked in rock sugar syrup and sago cooked with gula jawa syrup are also added into the bowl. Last but not least, brown sugar is sprinkled on top of the bean curd and torched to caramelise. A bit like having creme brulee with a layer of caramelised brown sugar on top.

Cristal de chine Caviar 4.5/5

Last but not least the Cristal de chine Caviar. It is kaya ice cream sandwiched with toast from Sin Hon Loong, a old school bakery. Caviar is topped on the toast to replace the salted butter and its garnished with blue pea flower petals and hibiscus leaves. This is finger licking good, I didn't bother to use my knife and fork at all.

Having tried both Chef Han's old and new menu at Labyrinth, my takeaway is that the culinary philosophy has matured and elevated to the next level. Instead of trying to re-interpretation the local dishes in a more "atas" way, he is focusing in showcasing the ingredients using his culinary knowledge and techniques but keeping truth to the root of his heritage.

Note: This is an inviting tasting.

Esplanade Mall
8 Raffles Avenue
Singapore 039802
Tel: +65 62234098
Nearest MRT: Esplanade (CC Line)

Opening Hours:
Tue-Fri: 12pm - 230pm, 630pm - 1030pm
Sat-Sun: 630pm - 1030pm

1) Alight at Esplanade MRT station. Take Exit B or D. Walk to Raffles Avenue. Cross the road. Walk to destination. Journey time about 8 minutes. [Map]

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