Avenue 87 an elevated celebration of local flavours
Those who like a good backstory will enjoy the one behind Avenue 87, the latest buzzy restaurant along the buzzy-again Amoy Street.
It started in 1987, when chefs Alex Phan and Glen Tay were born.
These Hougang boys grew up on Avenue 7 (Phan) and Avenue 8 (Tay), met as classmates at local culinary school Shatec in 2004 and became colleagues at Tippling Club after national service. They parted ways after that.
Chef Tay ended up in Shanghai's Ultraviolet by Paul Pairet as an executive sous chef, while Chef Phan became executive chef at Park Hotel Clarke Quay.
Today, these friends-turned-business partners have joined forces to present the modern Asian-influenced Avenue 87, offering four- ($76) or six-course ($98) dinner menus.
There is a separate set menu for lunch starting from $29.
You can add wine from $50 or cocktails curated by Tan Si Hao, formerly of Native bar.
My favourite dish from the six-course menu is the AHK sea bass, Avenue 87's excellent take on fish soup.
Sea bass bones form the foundation of the fish stock that carries the dish. Slices of sea bass are poached in it, and the stock goes into the soup.
To add to the fish soup feel, there is compressed bittergourd and semi-dried cherry tomato.
Even the deep-fried egg floss (my favourite component in a fish soup) made it to this version.
This portion is tiny - maybe three sips and it's done - but each gram is packed with flavour.
The most photogenic dish is the octopus. This must be the one that makes it onto most Instagram feeds, including mine.
This beauty has substance though, thanks to the sambal. It has enough heat and umami to be memorable. A squeeze of the calamansi and a great dish awaits.
The banana leaf wrap and the egg yolk make pretty additions but I don't know how much they truly impact the dish.
The two starter dishes also please, especially the kueh pie tee.
It looks like your usual version, but a bite reveals its true colours - it is assam pedas in a cup.
How truly novel and delicious. It's meatless, but you probably won't miss it because the curry is captivating.
The keropok-like texture of the chicken chips also make it easy for one to overeat. If you're into fried chicken skin, you'll love this.
There are two courses of desserts in the six-course dinner, which works for anyone with a sweet tooth. But I struggled to find enthusiasm for either.
As for the pisang no goreng, this take on the goreng pisang is slightly less dull than the other choice, coconut. But after an interesting meal, this is almost a letdown.
Still, no matter how I feel about dessert, Avenue 87 is an elevated celebration of Singapore flavours, and that's cause to cheer.