Makansutra: Meet the heritage food champion
The dishes at Folklore are unpredictable, intense and expertly cooked
I am always apprehensive yet thrilled about following the pursuits of Chef Damian D'Silva.
From his Soul Kitchen days more than a decade ago to his current gig at Folklore, I never pass on what he does.
There is this sense of unpredictability about what this chef does. While his culinary repertoire includes French and Italian, his calling has always been back to his roots - Eurasian or Kristang food mixed with Indian, Peranakan, Chinese and Malay flavours.
Chef D'Silva also resurrected vanishing dishes such as loh kai yik (a Cantonese dish made of pork, chicken wings and fermented tofu). Then he put rare Eurasian dishes like singgang (spiced minced tuna) on commercial menus.
The 60-year-old continues to champion heritage cuisine at the three-month-old Folklore.
His Buah Keluak Fried Rice ($22), topped with a runny egg, is a smidgen oiler than usual. But that is how Chef D'Silva raises the earthy and nutty flavour intensity with the aromatic oils.
The Beef Cheek Rendang ($32) is vintage D'Silva.
I don't like how some other chefs cook it till the meat is as soft as baby food. The original way the dish is made in West Sumatra is with some firmness and bite, served over fluffy rice, and that is how Chef D'Silva does it at Folklore.
The rempah has a tinge of sweetness, not how I like it, but it is the favourite style of rendang lovers here.
As usual, Chef D'Silva introduces a "lost" dish - the Aberjaw ($24), a Eurasian pork stew done with fermented beans (taucheo) and spices. The broth is intense and pleasurable, different yet comforting.
You will not see a lot of Hati Babi Bungkus ($18) in local menus, mainly because of the "ick" factor - it is spiced minced liver and pork fat wrapped in pig's caul membrane then fried - plus making it is tedious work.
This is a Peranakan signature and the chef does it with finesse. It is one of the best I have had in Singapore. The sambal and achar accompanying it take the dish to the next level.
I am a fan of Four Angled Beans ($12) and D'Silva does this salad with pineapples, chillies and haebi or dried shrimp floss.
The Garang Assam (market price, spicy sour masala snapper fish), however, was a tad lacklustre. The spice paste was over-roasted and the charred flavour came through.
As for desserts, I will not forget his Kueh Kosui ($6). The Peranakan delicacy was beautifully soft, and the amount of gula melaka used was spot on. The hint of salt in the freshly grated coconut is a neat trick.
The restaurant is full of vintage D'Silva flavours, but I think his cooks still need to adjust to his exacting standards.