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Local chefs who creatively blend European cooking techniques with flavours drawn from their Chinese heritage

Jasmine Alimin
Jasmine Alimin • 8 min read
Local chefs who creatively blend European cooking techniques with flavours drawn from their Chinese heritage
Asian chefs with European flair (from left): Alma’s Yew Eng Tong, Imbue’s Lee Boon Seng, and Caviar’s Louis Tan
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Alma by Juan Amador
22 Scotts Road | Tel: 6735 9937 alma.sg

Since Alma lost its star chef Haikal Johari in November 2022 (who left to start his bistro), it has been difficult for Germany-based Juan Amador to find a replacement worthy of the restaurant’s Michelin-star status — not until he discovered Yew Eng Tong.

Born and bred in Singapore, chef Yew was the opening chef of Ocean restaurant at Resorts World Sentosa, where he worked closely with American celebrity chef Cat Cora on the launch of the farm-to-table inspired menu in 2013. He has also worked overseas in the kitchens for three Michelin-starred Victor’s Fine Dining by Christian Bau.

Yew, the Singapore National Culinary Team captain, led them to victory at the 2014 Culinary Olympics in Germany. He represented Singapore at the Bocuse d’Or competition from 2013 to 2017 and secured the top spot at the 2012 Asia selection in Shanghai. He also served as a guest chef at prestigious events, including the James Beard Gala Dinner in New York (2016) and the Engelhorn Gourmet Festival in Mannheim, Germany (2016 and 2019).

His vision for Alma is to apply his years of deep-diving into competition culinary techniques to the menu to bring an elevated gastronomic experience for the diner. “It has always been my personal desire to apply the cooking techniques I’ve learnt and perfected during my course of culinary competitions to my dishes in the restaurant. However, it’s not always been possible, as this takes time and effort and is an investment. At Alma by Juan Amador, I have found the team and support to work towards this goal,” says the soft-spoken chef.

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Just on plating alone, Yew displays an extraordinary level of dexterity and refinement, where the tiniest, thinnest garnish is placed with exacting precision and purpose — it is almost too beautiful to eat. Yet, what truly captivates the palate is the unparalleled balance of flavours, aromas, textures and colours underscored by modern European sensibilities with a touch of Asian flair.

Dive into this masterful experience with their six-course ($168++) or eight-course ($248++) tasting menus, which we enjoyed sampling.

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Right off the bat, the artful snacks were pure bliss, from the homemade seafood tart oozing with cauliflower and cream to the takoyaki-inspired potato ball (a supposed Bocuse d’Or winner) filled with mouthwatering potato, cream, parmesan and garlic. Something about the cheesy concoction enhanced the limey acidity of the Tasmanian Riesling we consumed.

A cute little entrée is the cold and savoury Tuna Tartare on grilled squid ink brioche, accompanied by smoked mayonnaise and truffle parfait and topped with a playful fishbone-shaped potato crisp.

After that, we’re served bright and bold Arctic Char, a Bocuse d’Or 2015 adaptation that blends sweet, sour and umami. It’s more complex than it looks, involving brining, rolling, sous-vide cooking and a lot of plating, but so worth the trouble!

The most Asian dish in the degustation was the homemade multigrain mantou bun, steamed and fried to perfection, served with smoked Bordier butter and a crab roe espuma dip.

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That comes with Yen’s version of steamed egg, sous vide, and topped with a creamy hollandaise sauce and chicken broth.

I also loved the prawn noodle-inspired Toothfish with fish maw served with crustacean cream and enhanced with chive, carrot, and prawn oil.

Ending off the euphoric meal, the desserts are delicious architectural marvels. The deconstructed Red Ruby is topped with a melt-in-your-mouth milk crisp, while the Poached Pear is creatively garnished with meringue sticks.

Imbue
32 Keong Saik Road | Tel: 6223 7266 www.imbue.sg

From the 1855 F&B group that created highly-acclaimed dining destinations, Path and Born, comes Imbue, a cosy contemporary European restaurant with a progressive take on Asian flavours.

It is helmed by Malaysian-born chef Lee Boon Seng, a former sous chef of one Michelin-starred Osia and Michelin-starred showcase restaurant, Curate. He was crowned winner of the prestigious Global Chef Challenge 2015 — the youngest chef to be selected for the Singapore team. With over two decades of culinary experience, he now commands a team of 12 chefs at The Spot and an additional eight at Imbue.

“Imbue is by far my most personal project, where my culinary expertise blends seamlessly with my diverse heritage. It serves as a canvas where I express my DNA, combining European culinary techniques with the rich flavours of my Asian roots. Through my cooking, the menu presents an innovative melding of tradition and modernity,” says the self-professed saucier-at-heart.

“Each dish I craft is an opportunity to share a soulful culinary experience, with my sauces serving as the heart of my cooking. I eagerly anticipate the chance to immerse diners in a journey of flavours, where every bite is a testament to my dedication to excellence.”

One of his masterpieces is his Drunken Chicken snack, inspired by his trip to Shanghai, available on Imbue’s eight-course Simmer Menu ($198++ per person) and five-course Infuse Menu ($158++ per person). This dish is a testament to his innovative approach, which employs Western techniques with Southeast Asian herbs and spices. Despite its small size, making this snack is a meticulous 24-hour process. It includes carefully preparing the chicken and crafting all accompanying elements, such as the doubanjiang emulsion sauce, Shaoxing wine jelly, and the housemade Sichuan peppercorn oil.

Another highlight is the dry-aged horse mackerel from Kyushu served with a potato pancake. Inspired by the Peking Duck, the piquant tangerine sauce is a divine blend of 30-year-old tangerine peel with 30-year-old tangerine oil.

I recommend mopping up the sauce with the fluffy Malai Bread, a modern interpretation of the traditional malai gou. It’s steamed into a delicacy that takes on more of a bread consistency than cake, sweetened with malt molasses that renders it a light crust, which is then lightly coated with sea salt and thyme.

Unlike other restaurants that solely offer degustations, Imbue offers an a la carte menu. Lee recommends indulging in selections like the Beef and Bone Marrow Chilli, Oxtail Spring Roll, and Abalone.

If you are dining with a larger group, you can savour sharing dishes like the Grilled Boston Lobster, Black Angus Short Rib in Red Apple, and Squid Sausage Claypot Rice. They also have two-course ($58++) and three-course ($68++) lunch menus.

Bar enthusiasts can look forward to innovative cocktails infused with unique ingredients that bridge cultures worldwide. Meanwhile, wine connoisseurs will delight in our selection of old and rare Bordeaux wine vintages from 1855 The Bottle Shop.

Caviar
B1-07 Palais Renaissance | Tel: 9888 1217 www.cvr.sg

From the people behind Uni Gallery, fine dining restaurant Caviar celebrates the winter with a flavour-forward menu created by a young and dynamic service team led by chef Louis Tan.

A culinary savant, Tan has worked in the kitchens of 67 Pall Mall, Atlas, Bar-A-Thym Restaurant, Raffles Hotel Singapore, Prive, and le Bistrot Du Sommelier. His rigorous training in modern French cuisine and steakhouse restaurants shows in the diversity of cooking styles where he cleverly interprets the classics using the finest and freshest ingredients sourced globally through the company’s seafood distribution business, Opus Verticals.

He says: “Our current winter menu reflects my culinary journey, where I’ve employed French techniques, merging them with the highest quality sustainable, seasonal produce, all while adhering to a zero-waste approach.

“All stocks and sauces undergo a two-day cooking process where we refine the essence by progressively intensifying the flavours, infusing fresh elements and bones. Nothing goes to waste throughout the cooking process, embodying the artistry of French techniques in our contemporary kitchen.”

Priced at $198++, the seven-course degustation opens the palate with exquisite flavours of Alaskan King Crab. Delicately piqued with pickled ginger flower and surrounded by a cloud of vermouth foam, this dish is decorated with roasted seaweed tuile and crowned with the exquisite Magnum Opus Osciétra, offering a burst of umami with every bite.

An unexpected delight was the Bluefin Noten, featuring the tender flesh of the tuna’s forehead gently binchotan-grilled while retaining its creamy, melty core. Topped with Salsa Verde and served with velvety Chorizo Cream, this dish was a crowd favourite.

Tan elevates the foie gras by serving it with sweet corn kernels for a crunchy bite and pairs the dish with quince and fig gel and a smoked onion puree bathed in a warming dashi onion broth.

We enjoyed the most succulent Challans Duck for the last of the mains. Renowned for its tender and juicy meat, this special breed was once served to Grace Kelly at Prince Rainier’s wedding. It is served with luscious duck jus, refreshing sides of beetroot chutney and white beetroot tart.

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