Few dare to challenge the genre of Mod-Sin (modern Singaporean) cuisine – really, you can count on one hand the number of restaurants who do so, and only owner-chef of Restaurant Labyrinth Han Li Guang has decided to go the route of deconstructing well-known dishes that have been part of the Singapore lexicon forever. The dining experience plays with the mind, while at the same time delivering familiar textures and flavours to the palate.
The restaurant space is entirely in black and rather utilitarian, which just means you can turn your entire attention to what is being served. Three menus are available at dinner: Labyrinth Classics (three- or four-course), Labyrinth Classics Degustation (seven-course) and Chef’s Tasting (10-course).
The starter of the Labyrinth Classics Degustation that we picked is a tingkat (a tiffin container) of charred radish cake, rojak puffs and nasi lemak chwee kueh. The radish cake is cylindrical and served on a stick looking like a toasted marshmallow; the rojak puff is a puff containing rojak sauce making it an explosion of flavour; and the nasi lemak chwee kueh is coconut-flavoured and topped with a dollop of sambal. Such is the promising start to a mind-boggling meal.
Other creative riffs on the Singaporean theme include Hokkaido scallop bak chor mee and Japanese A4 wagyu hor fun. The former is an intriguing dish served in a retro rooster-motif bowl of sliced squid “noodles”, anchovy meat balls and Hokkaido scallop made to look like fish cake – toss for the evocative melange of flavours. The latter is made from thinly sliced radish in place of the hor fun and perfectly seared beef slices.
Would we get what chef Han is trying to do if we didn’t grow up eating Singapore’s street food? Perhaps not; for those dining at Labyrinth without the reference points – signposts, if you will – this would be an incomplete experience. We recommend doing a crash course in local food first. For the rest of us, it was a wow a minute.
#02-23, Esplanade Mall, S(039802)