Nostalgic Flavours At Po
I walk into po at the Warehouse Hotel with high expectations. After all, it’s a partnership between The Lo & Behold Group, which gave us culinary gems Odette and The Black Swan, and local celebrity chef Willin Low, pioneer of Mod-Sin cuisine and chef-owner of Wild Rocket.
A quick glance around the restaurant reveals a harmony of old and new. The heritage building’s shell was preserved but updated with a choice of modern furnishings—think plush green sofas, wicker chairs and pendant lights. Lush greenery surrounds the building, an ode to Singapore as a garden city.
As for the culinary offerings, Low evokes nostalgia by creating a menu of humble local classics often found at Singaporean homes or hawker centres, but given a fresh spin with the use of the finest ingredients. He leaves the execution to executive chef William Lim, previously of National Kitchen by Violet Oon, who helms the kitchen day-to-day.
Upon recommendation, I start with the classic popiah (prawn and fresh flower crab versions are also available), which comes in dim sum baskets and written instructions on how to assemble them. The skin is important; it needs the right consistency so it doesn’t easily break once you pack it with ingredients and condiments. Lim shares that the restaurant orders the skins from third‑generation artisans at Kway Guan Huat Joo Chiat Popiah.
Other than that, everything is made from scratch. The kitchen team starts work early to hand-cut vegetables for two hours and braise them for another four hours. The proof is in the filling: umami-packed with just enough heat from the chilli, sweetness from the sauce and headiness from the garlic. It’s easy to overindulge, but I pace myself for the rest of the dishes to come.
A good follow-up is the barramundi salad, inspired by the Lunar New Year staple yusheng. Lim works with a local farm to ensure fresh produce every day. The fish, prepared carpaccio-style, is infused with the taste of ginger flower, chilli, fish sauce and sesame oil. It’s spicy alright, but the heat is balanced with the citrus punch from the lemon juice.
Having worked with Violet Oon before, Lim specialises in satays. There’s only one meat on offer here though—Iberico pork marinated for 12 hours and charcoal-grilled to perfection. The tender meat snaps easily between the teeth and reveals a medley of ginger, lemongrass, coriander and cumin, accentuated by the peanut dip with a dollop of freshly-grated pineapple.
I barely have enough space in my stomach, but I cannot resist the konbu mee (inspired by Hokkien mee) that beckons with fragrant, wok hei noodles and glistening Carabinero prawns, as well as the fragrant paper-wrapped spring chicken. The latter is roasted and baked to achieve a crisp skin and succulent meat, and then stuffed with chewy glutinous rice, dried sausages, scallops, mushrooms, shrimps and conpoy.
Good thing dessert comes after, and I opt for the goreng pisang. In preparing this, the bananas have to be ripe and as sweet as possible before they’re coated in rice puffs and deep-fried to a golden brown crisp. They’re served with a drizzle of gula melaka syrup and home-made ice cream.
The drinks list consists of tea by local tea company A.muse Projects and tipples created by group bar mentor Julian Serna. He created the cocktail programme to showcase the building’s colourful history—spice trade in the 19th century, godown in mid-20th century and disco in the late 20th century. I take a sip of my Barbarella from the latter period—a fruity but potent concoction to cleanse the palate—and think of my next visit and the rest of the sumptuous dishes to try.
Po | 320 Havelock Road, The Warehouse Hotel, S(169628) | 6828 0007