Three to try: Fynn's, Morsels, Don Ho
What is modern Australian cuisine? Ask the chefs at Fynn's and they'll give you an elegant answer by way of fresh ingredients combined in winning flavour combinations — drawing in equal parts upon the pantries of the European, Asian, and Middle Eastern kitchens. Take the pan-seared Spanish octopus for example, accented with the aroma of lemongrass and a punch of spicy apple slaw. Then there's orecchiette, which arrives with braised lamb sitting in a rich tomato sauce. Mint pesto brightens the dish while tangy sumac yoghurt brings a Middle Eastern touch to these rich, bracing flavours. Need a good reason to eat your greens? Call for the exceptional kale salad, featuring crisped Tuscan kale tossed with fennel, red radish, and ricotta. The elegant marble-clad, light-filled space makes Fynn's a popular spot for brunch too, where the likes of vanilla hot cakes and truffle-infused omelets can be had. Save space for the warm chocolate chip cookie, served in a skillet and topped with vanilla ice cream and Guinness syrup. I'll roll out of bed for that.
#B1-21 South Beach Avenue. 26 Beach Road. Tel: 6384 1878
DON HO Social Kitchen & Bar
What's in a name? For this new kid on the Keong Saik block, DON HO teases with a bit of mystery (you enter via the back alley on Keong Saik road), oh-so-trendy botanical wallpapers, and a groovy playlist tuned to egg you into knocking back just one more drink. Founded by party maestros Sunshine Nation (the folks behind the likes of Garden Beats and The Sail Spin), the restaurant sees chef Shiman Woon turning out small plates designed for sharing. Here, a wood-fired oven allows him to bake his own Zaatar flat bread, served warm and toasty with an accompanying labneh —tangy, strained yoghurt—dip. There's eggplant too, crisped and nicely caramelised. While the pork cheek char siu sliders came recommended, a tastier porcine option came in the form of the Iberico pork jowl, roasted and served with a slow-cooked egg. Skip the desserts (but order up the baklava if you must) and have a cocktail for the road. Our pick? The Gin Garden, where the addition of fresh green apple, lime, and coriander work to showcase Hendrick's gin in all its botanical glory.
#01-05 The Working Capitol, 1 Keong Saik Road. Tel: 6223 5001
Bidding its buzzy Little India home goodbye, Morsels has moved into the lush backyard of the Dempsey Hill precinct, proudly occupying its own little building with whitewashed walls and a slanted brick roof. Push through the front door to find yourself in a homely space charmingly decked out with assorted bric-a-brac. The kitchen lies on the far end of the room and it's here you'll see Chef Petrina Loh in action, turning out her brand of fusion cuisine that pulls together plenty of unexpected elements on the plate. While other chefs might serve duck with just a hit of acidity, Loh's slow-cooked duck breast is accompanied by fennel kimchi and an intriguing yuzu white chocolate sauce. It's a complicated approach, but a bold move that pays off. Similarly, wild Sri Lankan tiger prawns are grilled and sided with burnt okra, tamarind miso sauce, and calamansi furikake — all wonderful flavours that give this classic seafood favourite an inventive twist. You'll find many dishes accented with pickled fruit and vegetables, all of which is made in-house and the happy outcome of Loh's experiments with fermentation. If you love gin, sake, or wine, this is the place to order up your choice of poison. It's hard to go wrong with Loh's well-curated tipple shelf.
#01-04, 25 Dempsey Road. Tel: 6266 3822