Labyrinth presents Singapore heritage flavours in a modern, experimental stage to whet an adventurous appetite
Hardly considered new in the local restaurant scene, Labyrinth recently won the “Award of Excellence” at the 2015 G Restaurant Awards. The last time I was willing to part with more than $120 for a degustation menu was Wild Rocket but I had heard some loose comparisons made so I had to try it for myself.
Where it all begins
The restaurant décor was simple, nothing stood out except for the long chef’s table that’s always my preferred dining space. I’ve always enjoyed the food preparation process, especially with one that’s laid wide open – there was an expectation of some theatrics. This dining configuration has seen a growing popularity in Singapore, with Wild Rocket’s recent renovation carving an exclusive space for the chef’s showcase as well.
What was peculiar in this ‘stage’ was that there was an atmosphere similar to Hell’s Kitchen, where kitchen assistants/chefs echoed “Yes, chef” to all commands from the head chef. The floor manager also chipped in to some of the theatrics, often chiding the wait staff with regards to general service misdemeanours. I guess what was unfortunate with this picture is that I was seated near their service area so all this little banter made some minor hiccups glaringly obvious.
Service was thus expectedly – good.
Where it matters the most
I had the Signature menu (S$108), and my friend had the Heritage (S$148). Both menus were largely similar except for 2 more additional courses, and the fact that there wasn’t an additional charge for the Satay Ribeye, which was an excellent dish. Although comparing the £20 difference I paid at Restaurant Story, it was not a premium I would have opted for.
What was really memorable about this meal was how they deconstructed the different elements, but yet made it quite whole in itself. The carbs of the Thai original dish were relegated to crispy rice granules on top of a creamy pineapple sorbet, all resting on a bed of turmeric custard. While the execution was brilliant, I largely prefer my carb dishes served hot. Assumingly the signature dish, the typical sauciness of a chilli crab dish was reduced to a dollop of ice cream, cold no doubt, but the assembly of what looks like a sandy beach and the foam that a crab spews (to aerate their gills) greatly enhances the depth of texture of the dish.
My favourite that night was the Siew Yoke Fan though. The crackling sound from the cutting of the Siew Yoke was music to my ears. Topped on the ramen risotto, the dish hit all the right spots for me. Well-seasoned belly pork with an amazingly crispy crackle on a bed of ramen risotto – which absorbed the flavours of Tonkotsu stock.
Every dish that night was immaculately plated, with details and textures to stimulate every tastebud. The Satay Ribeye was the best meat dish in my opinion, even though it wasn’t my main. The visual landscape of flavours was stunning with bushes, rocks, a bird’s nest and perched atop, a poached quail’s egg. The ribeye was cooked sous vide, so you can’t go wrong with that.
The sweet ending
The Local Breakfast was really endearing. A panna cotta enclosed in an egg shell was to be broken into a saucer, with sweetened balsamic sauce as an accompaniment. The beverage of choice was what seemed to be Teh Tarik. You can probably relate more to this dish as a Singaporean and it really was creatively associated with the real deal.
The Reese’s Chocolate cigar was served with an earl grey infused drink, which tasted amazingly similar to whiskey. This gentleman’s dessert was really suited for one – not being terribly sweet and a small enough portion to get through right after a large meal.
Overall, the meal was well-delivered with a strong attention to detail and how every ingredient affects one another in a single plate. The Squid Ink ‘Paella’ was the one which I thought had the least impact – tasting exactly like Prawn Chee Cheong Fun (???). I also felt that there was also too many sorbets/cold segments going on pre-dessert, one or two cold inserts would have really been sufficient.
I’ve always endeavoured to support local chefs and creations. But if they can screen away the tiny squabbles between the floor manager and staff, it would be a near-perfect experience. There will be more new restaurants in Singapore to be featured! Stay tuned.
Value for money: 6.5/10
5 Neil Road S(088806)
(opposite Maxwell Hawker Centre)
Tel: (65) 6223 4098
Hours: Lunch 12 to 2pm (Tue – Fri) | Dinner 6.30 – 10:30pm (Tue – Sun) Closed Mondays
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