Fired up over East-West fusion
It used to be that aspiring chefs would train at reputable restaurants overseas, then return and set up shop. The likes of Justin Quek and his cohorts did just that.
It's not all the case now. I've seen youngsters, fresh out of culinary school, do their thing at fine dining establishments and prove their mettle at hip hawker joints.
There's Immanuel Tee, who after stints at places like Guy Savoy, moved on to define French chow at a coffee shop in Bukit Merah, and Jeremy Han, who recently opened his "premium grill" hawker stall in Simpang Bedok.
Now, there's Alex Chong, who has worked with Guy Savoy and Patrick Heuberger. He has partnered Mr Tee to set up By The Fire - a "do what I feel international food should be" kind of hawker stall in the Katong area.
There are some 12 items on the menu.
"I flavour these international dishes with my own Asian touches and accents" said the 29-year-old.
He whips out a clever starter of Scotch Egg ($6.90), done onsen style with oozy yolk, delicately wrapped in a layer of minced meat, before the entire thing is crumbed and fried.
A pink bed of pickled vegetables is a great foil for the dish. I would have desecrated it with some soy sauce on the drippy yolk but there was none in sight. No complaints from me though.
MAC AND CHEESE MAGIC
His BBQ Pork Ribs with macaroni and cheese was as Yankee as can be. The two slabs of ribs were first braised, then grilled with a secret - but classic tasting - sauce. I am not a fan of mac and cheese but this version made me sit through four mouthfuls, thanks to the little specks of bacon bits and spring onions.
The Grilled Pork Jowl ($15.40), done confit-style and grilled, and carefully constructed with pumpkin and potatoes and dusted with Japanese curry spices, was off the mark for me. The cut was too creamy fat and overly soft, and overwhelmed his efforts at flavouring. But I know this will appeal to others.
I save the best for last - his Keystone's Seaweed Pasta ($8.90). That plate of angel hair aglio olio was so delightfully buried with bits of konbu seaweed (umami assault No. 1), bonito flakes (No. 2) and sakura ebi (No. 3), plus shards of fried garlic.
Next trip there, on my to-do list, is their Grilled Hanger Steak and the come-hither Squid Ink Pasta in sea urchin cream, with Hokkaido scallops.
By The Fire
Alibabar The Hawker Bar
- 125, East Coast Road
- 12.30pm-3pm, 6-10pm (weekdays)
- Noon-10pm (weekends)
Makansutra, founded by KF Seetoh, is a company that celebrates asian food culture and lifestyle. It publishes food guides in and around the region, produces a food series, develops interactive mobile content and services, operates foodcourts and eateries, organises food tours and events, and consults on culinary concepts.