Michelin-starred Labryinth wants to shine a spotlight on Singapore's local producers and farmers
It's always a defining moment when a restaurant clinches a Michelin star. But after the obligatory congratulations and celebrations are all said and done, there comes a time for the high to dissipate before the burning question — what's next?
For many, the challenge is to maintain the star, or perhaps to dream bigger in hopes of achieving more. For chef-owner Han Li Guang of Labyrinth, who has established a strong foothold in modern Singaporean cuisine, he decided to delve deeper to what a new expression of local food could mean.
Post-Michelin, Chef Han threw himself entirely into learning and discovering our city's homegrown producers and farmers. Instead of scouring the globe for the best said produce, he devoted a year and a half building up Labyrinth's revamped menu, driven by 80% local produce. In retrospect, it wasn't about working with the sweetest tomatoes, but how one could work with tomatoes grown on local soil and turning its typically sour nature into a stellar dish. Debunking the misconception that Singapore was in lack of quality produce became a personal manifesto, as well as a tall order for Chef Han to fulfil as the next phase for Labyrinth.
Inside the elusive space, traces of locavore precepts can be found on the walls. One: a tribute to his late grandmother — who played a critical role in shaping his culinary journey — fondly showcases the claypots, rice bowls and tea cups she would use at weekly family dinners at home. The other: termed the 'Produce Wall', is adorned with unique local ingredients used in his cuisine.
In this menu, narratives of the farming communities are brought to life in the best form of flavour. There's also a map guide on every table to guide diners through the local farming communities and suppliers — to name a few, there's Hay's Dairy Farm, Jurong Fishery Port, Nippon Koi Farm and Toh Thye San Farm. Come dinner service, vintage placecards holding a short background excerpt for each dish can be found on each table, posing as an integral storytelling part of the gastronomical experience.
Palatable morsels warrant a playful start to the meal. In the form of 'Nasi Lemak' Cheong Fun, expect notes of coconut smashed with rice in its skin, encasing a sambal and egg yolk gel and topped with fried black chicken skin, ikan bilis and cucumber. The play on Heartland Waffle brings back our childhood memories of waiting in line at neighbhourhood bakeries for the mouthwatering pandan classic. Chef Han sandwiches his in local duck liver pate (eschewing any gaminess of foie gras) and goji berry jam. Those craving lala clams can enjoy the intricately plated favourite in an refined riff of a tart, wrapped in wanton skin. Note the deftly mix of sambal in there.
Behold, chicken rice — one that's utterly unrecognisable in a dumpling. The skin is made of house-ground rice flour, before it's steeped in chicken rice stock, and filled with diced chicken folded into ginger sauce and sesame oil. The hearty ball is dressed with Chef Han's grandmother's secret chilli sauce recipe and an indulgent side sauce of button mushrooms and chicken rice stock. It also won't be a meal at Labyrinth without his signature chilli crab ice-cream. This time, it's concealed with plump flower crab flesh (marinated with salted fish powder) as well as egg white ribbons.
A pre-dessert cleanses the palate with an unfamiliar forage — the oyster plant, infused in water and sugar before solidified via nitrogen to form a snow like formation. That's not all. Dig your spoon in deeper to find grape espuma alongside fresh dragonfruit and pomegranate seeds. Finally, the hero dessert comes down to none other than Labyrinth's kaya ice-cream, tucked neatly in a circular toast and laden with an egg yolk sauce. There's a sprinkle of sugar chargrilled with coconut charcoal, and a touch of caviar as the perfect savoury addition in place of butter. Needless to say, we didn't miss the presence of butter at all in this reimagined breakfast classic.
8 Raffles Ave, 02-23, Tel: 6223 4098
Opening hours: (Tues-Fri) 12pm-2.30pm, 6.30pm-11pm, (Sat-Sun) 6pm-11pm
Experience the dinner tasting menu with 10 courses, pre-appetiser snacks and petit fours at $178++, with an option of wine pairing at $80++, lunch tasting menu with 4 courses at $68++ and a pre-theatre menu with 4 courses at $68++.
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