Avenue 87 is Amoy Street’s Newest Restaurant Championing Mod-Asian Fare
To say that it is often in challenging times that many find the reason and opportunity to do the things they always wanted might be simplifying it a little. But we could not talk about this inspiring new addition to Singapore’s uniquely diverse restaurant scene without pointing out the obvious.
Despite being oceans apart, former Shatec Culinary School classmates and colleagues at Tippling Club Glen Tay and Alex Phan managed to pull off a successful launch of their latest venture—modern Asian restaurant Avenue 87 on Amoy Street. Tay is in fact still in Shanghai and in the process of completing a fruitful stint at three-Michelin-starred Ultraviolet by Paul Pairet, which he joined in 2016 as executive sous chef; he aims to return to Singapore in March next year.
Both had embarked on their professional careers at Tippling Club, and while Tay was busy honing his skills at China’s multi-sensory contemporary dining hotspot, Phan continued his journey at establishments like Open Door Policy, Sorrel and Restaurant Ember, before joining Park Hotel Clarke Quay ion 2018 as executive chef.
To say that they complement each other is also an understatement. The Singaporean chefs share more than a similar childhood—both are born in 1987 and grew up in Hougang, only a street away from each other. More importantly, they share a love for celebrating Asian flavours with a contemporary flair. And, while it would be tempting to peg their cuisine style as mod-Sin, that would be inaccurate, shared Phan. The preceding snack of kueh pie tee with aerated assam pedas (tempered with cream and Greek yogurt and served as espuma), for instance is a big nod to the chefs’ heritage, but this rendition also comprises charred eggplant, flash-fried lady's fingers, and semi-dried cherry tomato and topped with crisp curry leaves.
In fact, the appetiser of Norwegian salmon sashimi that's served with diced crystal pear, sour cream, ponzu-pickled wakame and soy wasabi granita, as well as Vietnamese rice paper crackers for added texture, is more reminiscent of fashionable Japanese inspired contemporary international fare.
The second course of poached seabass from Ah Hua Kelong quickly takes the Singaporean diner back to a more familiar place and time. Paired with compressed bitter gourd, semi-dried cherry tomato, and deep-fried egg floss, the fish’s natural flavours are lifted by a rustic yet refined anchovy butter milk sauce. The fish soup the dish is topped with is flavoured mainly with anchovies but also uses fish stock made with bones of the seabass that are first roasted then boiled over high heat with garlic, shallots, ginger, coriander stem, white peppercorn, and dried anchovies.
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Also reminiscent of the foods Tay and Phan grew up with is the next course of grilled octopus from Spain dressed in a house-made sambal, complete with stir-fried market greens, confit egg yolk and torched calamansi. Starting out as an idea to showcase Tan’s family sambal recipe, the design took a natural turn to become a nod to another hawker favourite—the sambal stingray.
There are efforts to include dishes inspired by their travels, such as the main course of Australian baby lamb rack marinated Vietnamese-style, paired with grilled Thai eggplant and locally sourced stingless bee honey sauce. But the dishes that seem to stand out on the current menu are the ones that are rooted in local flavours; dishes that are at once nostalgic and new.
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This is exactly the case with the seemingly modest dessert of "pisang no goreng" that boasts a twist on the ubiquitous hawker snack of banana fritters. This time, coconut custard is cooled then coated in egg, corn starch and breadcrumbs then deep-fried until golden. To complete the experience, it is paired with a gorgeous banana ice cream, made with overly ripe bananas, milk and cream, and flavoured with vanilla bean paste and palm sugar that's been infused with pandan and spiked with a little sea salt.
These are definitely indications of the chefs’ proven synergy and a promising style of cuisine that could possibly offer new ways to revel in the region’s diverse bounty through uniquely Singaporean eyes.
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