A big trend I see is Asian flavours increasingly taking centre stage in the evolution of modern cuisine. Restaurants are looking east and incorporating more Asian ingredients into traditionally Western dishes, and I think we are going to continue to see Asia having a big impact on the larger culinary world.
For instance, chef Colin McGurran of Michelin-starred restaurant Winteringham Fields in the United Kingdom serves a dish of lobster with beetroot and laksa, where meaty shellfish is presented in a fragrant laksa broth with pickled beetroot and a tangy orange juice gel. Moreover, noted Spanish eateries such as Dos Palillos in Barcelona creatively fuse Spanish tapas with ingredients and flavours from Southeast Asia, China and Japan in dishes such as “phoenix claws” (fried chicken feet) or a nigiri that’s made of yuba (tofu skin), caviar and fermented rice. They’ve developed their own genre of cuisine: Asian-Iberian.
In Singapore, I’m particularly excited about Restaurant Zén by chef Björn Frantzén. It’s an experimental and fun dining concept that steps away from traditional fine-dining tropes, and diners can savour a unique blend of Nordic, French and Japanese cuisines that represents his take on kaiseki (Japanese multi-course) fare.
“We need to evolve and set our own pace, but ensure not to lose ourselves in the process”
To stay competitive, especially in relation to other foodie cities such as Bangkok and Hong Kong, we need to evolve and set our own pace, but ensure not to lose ourselves in the process. Singapore’s exciting mix of cultures automatically creates a vibrant culinary landscape. What is local cuisine? Is it Chinese, Malay, Indian or Peranakan? I believe it’s all of that, and more.
Indeed, Singapore has many advantages on the food front. Thanks to our multiracial makeup, our palates are more exposed and sensitive to a myriad of different flavour combinations. Restaurants can take advantage of this by fusing Singaporean flavours with international-style cuisine. At Gake, we serve Japanese delicacies with a local touch by incorporating ingredients such as ginger and galangal in various dishes; lemongrass in our stocks; and even prawn paste to give an umami flavour.
The local culinary scene can be quite fickle, which is challenging for new restaurants. My advice is to have your figures right before opening. Have two or three staff that you trust by your side to support you, give customers both value and quality and don’t price yourself out of the market. Good service is also crucial – service shouldn’t be a waiting game, but an approach game where you anticipate customer needs.
For me, though, the golden rule is if you’re known for something, don’t give in to the pressure to change. Keep that signature dish consistent – people will come back for it – and maybe introduce new dishes along the way, but without moving away from what you’re known for. At the end of the day, consistency is very important when it comes to cooking.
This article was originally published in the April 2019 issue of SilverKris magazine