Hong Kong chef Alvin Leung earned his fame with the infamous dish Sex on the Beach: a konjac-based “condom” filled with ham jus, strewn over a bed of powdered mushroom “sand”. In town to launch his first Singapore outfit, Forbidden Duck, it turns out he’s no less remarkable in the flesh.
The straight-talking chef pulls off a look involving hair flecked with green highlights, a trademark pair of blue-tinted glasses, and a stylish bomber jacket with lip print applique. Conversely, the Cantonese restaurant off Marina Bay Financial Centre is earmarked as the first time he’s adhering to convention, since the runaway success of three-Michelin-star Bo Innovation in Hong Kong. “I am, after all, Cantonese. I wanted to come back to roots, so I try to reflect that with this restaurant.”
That promise rings only half-true as Leung’s flair for innovation inevitably manifests in the dishes, even for staple offerings such as the seafood rice in aromatic duck soup. A rich, full-bodied stew punctuated with savoury nuggets of duck is served with crispy rice that crackles loudly enough for that Instagram story, but eventually takes on the comforting flavours as well as regular puffy grains would.
The signature Peking duck is not parted from its skin as is the custom – instead, it’s wrapped in calamansi-infused buns, the better to appreciate the rivulets of fat oozing from the moreish meat between bites. The cereal prawn? It’s served with Fruit Loops. And strangely enough, the crunch and flavour contrast pan out, with wasabi mayonnaise as a forgiving glue. So, when we call Leung’s bluff, he candidly remarks: “Those who come into my restaurants expect something more, expect my ‘fingerprint’, and trust me to give them a different experience.”
#02-02, Ground Plaza, Marina Bay Link Mall.