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Restaurant of the Week: Alma’s chef Haikal Johari offers halal fine-dining at Backyard Kitchen

The menu at the newly-opened modern European restaurant Backyard Kitchen is what you would expect of a fine-dining establishment. You get starters, mains and desserts. In between, there’s bread and butter, amuse bouche and petit fours.

But what’s different about this is that Backyard Kitchen aims to create halal fine-dining. While it is waiting for official certification from MUIS, the restaurant’s location in Jalan Kayu – sandwiched between popular Muslim eats – is telling of its goal. The problem with halal fine-dining in Singapore is that it is a terribly minuscule offering compared to the country’s rather sizeable Muslim population. There’s The Halia at Singapore Botanic Gardens, a long-standing MUIS-certified concept that has been popular with Singaporeans and tourists alike. And then there was Santaro by Gion, a Japanese restaurant that swore off alcohol-based mirin and animal gelatin in its omakase menus… but have since shuttered.

On top of that, there’s the notion that non-Muslim cuisines turning halal would lead to a rather drastic change in flavours. There’s no excuse for Backyard Kitchen: the restaurant is helmed by chef Haikal Johari of one-Michelin-star modern European restaurant Alma by Juan Amador. While Johari is still attached to the latter, his Asian influences are still showing on the menu.

  • Yellowfin tuna tartare

Still in its soft-opening at the time of writing, the restaurant offers a prix-fixe menu: a choice of three starters, another pick from three mains and dessert. A slightly soggy house-baked focaccia bread that could afford a few more minutes in the oven was easily salvaged by the amuse bouche: a piece of deep-fried chicken skin topped with passionfruit puree, coconut shavings, and edible flowers.

More tweezer action and edible flowers come together in the starters. Taking inspiration from Thai flavours, yellowfin tuna tartare is dressed in fish sauce, palm sugar and beetroot juice, concealed under a carefully assembled dome of green apple slices, flowers, and microgreen. The equally picturesque starter of swimmer crab in potato soup and pea shoots is a heartier option to go for.

Mains here see crispy Norwegian salmon with baby potatoes, leek and a sauce of crab and fingerroot. The fish, given the sous-vide treatment, is not as crispy as anticipated – perhaps a touch longer in the pan would suffice. There’s also US striploin served with spinach puree and pickled onions: standard fare done well if left as such. Also served together with it is salted egg yolk sauce: lovely on its own, but not with steak. Perhaps what would have been the star of the menu is the Australian lamb rack, served with carrot, garlic cream and tamarind juice.

There’s only one dessert stated on the menu, and off-menu dessert specials, offered by the waiter (say, a moreish chocolate lava cake, which we had). But go for the coconut pannacotta as prescribed: with calamansi, bits of strawberry and a lychee sorbet for a refreshing break away.

 

Backyard Kitchen

248 Jalan Kayu

Singapore 799472

Tel: +65 6481 1083