Makansutra: Michelin-starred chef turns hawker
Burnt Ends' chef opens barbecue stall at Makansutra Gluttons Bay
At one stage, award-winning Australian chef David Pynt was bugging me about doing some kind of pop-up event at Makansutra Gluttons Bay.
It was tough for me to tell him that food spaces like these don't really dig that kind of thing.
People come from all over the world to devour exactly what they expect of this 13-year-old food market, which was recently reopened after a $250,000 refurbishment.
Mee goreng, satay, chicken rice, chilli crabs, char kway teow... you know the drill.
Offering Michelin-starred restaurant fare would be a little out of place.
So I suggested to David, who this year was awarded his first Michelin star for his restaurant Burnt Ends, that he instead take up a hawker stall space under his casual eatery brand Meatsmith.
He jumped on it and specially created British and Asian-inspired barbecue dishes.
He installed an adjustable Australian jarrah hardwood brick oven in the middle of the stall - a first of sorts for a hawker stall here - and kept his seven-item menu simple, with the cheapest starting at $4.
He works with his head chef Nicol Wong at the stall.
I tried everything on the menu a few times and some are destined to be hits.
The char siew ribs with garlic rice and pickled cucumber ($10) is captivating.
Two chunky pork ribs are marinated in char siew sauce, fired up over the wood oven then smothered with even more sauce before it sits over the rice.
Meaty, robust, roasty and soft yet firm to the bite, it is very hard to dislike.
David also created the grilled chicken chop with salted egg yolk sauce ($9).
It can be dry and smokey on some occasions, but when it hits the mark, it is roasty with some burnt ends and juicy inside.
The salted egg yolk sauce, punctuated with fried curry leaves, was a pleasure over the boneless chicken, which came with garlic rice and salad.
The piece de resistance is the smoked suckling pig with glutinous rice and XO sauce ($16).
While it is not exactly food court-priced for a meat-over-rice dish, David insists on using Spanish piglets. When the skin comes thin, light and crisp ala lechon, the price suddenly does not matter.
But there were some occasions when it was not entirely a grilled pleasure. The crackling was leathery and tough, but at other times, it was a symphony in the mouth, with soft glutinous rice, crispy shards of shallots, meaty pork and thin crispy skin.
The team will need just a little while to settle the oven in before they rock this consistently.
There are also two great addictive snacks on offer - the kind you will find hard to stop eating even when you are not hungry.
"I hate truffle oil," declared David, who then came up with his salt, pepper and five-spice fries ($4) with sambal mayonnaise, and a must-try is his crispy pulled pork wonton ($5).
I am honoured to have dynamic kitchen wizards in our Makansutra Gluttons Bay family, as it changes the food narrative of Singapore.
Welcome on board, David.
Makansutra Gluttons Bay
#01-15 Esplanade, 8 Raffles Avenue
Opens 5pm to 2.30am daily