Dinner @ JL Studio (Taichung, Taiwan)

September 16, 2018 in Asian, Mod Sin by thywhaleliciousfay

After trying Le Mout in my previous trip to Taichung, I was ready to conquer visit another (fine dining) restaurant in Taichung. And thus, I started researching for my August 2018 trip. And that’s when I chanced upon pictures of JL Studio on instagram. Mod-Sin cuisine? Eating modern-Singaporean cuisine in Taiwan? I mean… I would prefer to try Taiwanese cuisine. But the food looked so good in the pictures.

So reservation was made by dropping them an email. During which, I was asked to choose between discovery menu (NT$2800) and experience menu (NT$3800). And, yeah… No surprises. I went for the latter. Keke. JL Studio also offered non-alcohol pairing. NT$980 for Asian herb tea as welcome drink, Taiwan pineapple ice tea and longan tea, or NT$1200 with the mentioned 3 drinks and oriental beauty tea.


To arrive at the restaurant, I made my way by taking the bus. Taking the bus was really straight-forward, but the journey took time because the restaurant was not exactly located in the city centre. Although one could also take the taxi; I took it for my first time ever in Taiwan Taichung to return home after my meal at JL Studio and realised it’s actually pretty affordable.

And upon arrival at the building, I was led to second storey which JL Studio occupied. Having pre-selected my menu, I started my experience menu (NT$3800) dinner with:-

1) Kueh pie tee (above) – Rose shrimp, cuttlefish, Chinese radish. This was a challenge to eat. The herbs were piled really high. I concentrated too much in trying to stuff the kueh pie tee into my mouth in one go than to savour it properly. Oops.


  

2) Rose kueh (above) – Turmeric-yellow pepper sambal. Was surprised to taste liquid when I bit into it. Such a brilliant idea to inject turmeric-yellow pepper sambal sauce beneath the honeycomb cookie.

  

3) Satay (above) – Chicken skin, cucumber, peanut. Served on a bed of dry ice fog, JL Studio did a cold rendition of satay. Satay sauce was made into ice cream before it was shaved onto frozen foie gras, salsa of onion and cucumber, and fried chicken skin. This was honestly brilliant.


4) Lamb (above) – Glutinous rice, curry leaves. Another favourite of mine. Not sure which Singaporean dish this was inspired by, but it was so good. The dough-skin was so thick and chewy. Or could this be a savoury take of our 汤圆 (glutinous rice ball)?

  

5) Rojak, Complimentary (above) – I think this was a complimentary dish because it’s not indicated on my menu. Made with green mango, cucumber, tau pok, shrimp paste and peanut, owner-chef Jimmy Lim replicated our rojak dish to the dot. If not, better. I liked that there was sufficient peanuts within to add a crunch in the one mouthful. Superb.


6) I ❤❤❤ this roti (above) – Mint chutney, jackfruit curry. And instead of the familiar crispy roti, I was told this was made fluffier such that it was more like a naan. I enjoyed the addition of jackfruit which introduced a natural sweetness to the curry. But hey, I may be bias since I love jackfruit. Hee. And I honestly felt the dipping sauce of mint chutney and yogurt complemented the jackfruit curry well as it allowed one to refresh one’s palette if one was getting tired of (the heavier) curry. Unbelievably, I managed to finish the naan on my own despite my shrinking appetite.

7) Orh luak (above) – Lard, preserved radish. Preserved radish, which is an ingredient in oyster omelette, was made into ice cream which the staff recommended me to start with. So good! And it was this dish that made me realise I had been taking the dishes which I grew up on for granted. In the sense of… I always craved for Japanese and French cuisines, but never quite truly appreciated what our little island has to offer with her wide variety of Chinese, Malay and Indian food. And I was impressed by the attention to little details where the oysters were sliced into 3s for easier consumption. Egg shells were also made out of egg white. Wow.


8) Seafood ho fan (above) – Wok hei kai lan. It was amazing to see how our street food was upgraded simply by improving its plating where the flat rice noodles were intricately weaved together. And JL Studio’s was like the healthier version because of the equal ratio between noodle and vegetables. Since you know… Our hor fan isn’t normally served with so much vegetables. Keke. But I like. Especially with their thicker seafood sauce.


  

9) Chicken (above) – Pandan, ginger, chili. When this was served, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Den’s DFC which was inspired by KFC. So yes, this was JL Studio’s Hainanese chicken rice inspired by McDonald’s apple pie. However, when I bit into it, I couldn’t quite taste the pandan-flavoured rice because of the buttery-good pastry puff. Unless I put the chili. And I recommend drinking the soup first because drinking it in-between was like a clash of Chinese-styled soup and Western-styled pie.


  

10) Yilan duckling (above) – Red curry leg, fragrant rice, crispy duckling, hae bee salad, green sambal. 30 days old duckling served in 3 ways. Beside the thigh cooked in Thai curry and duck ‘sausage’ which was made with the duck’s head skin, I really enjoyed the breast (and bones) which was fried to crisp.

11) Summer mango, salted egg (above) – And I was told 2 types of mango was used for the palate cleanser. I didn’t catch the mango name (cause the staff explained in Chinese and I ain’t too good with my Chinese. Oops.) but she said 1 was famous for its fragrance while the other was famous for its sweetness.


12) Milo dinosaur (above) – Beneath what-looked-like-a-crisp-cracker-but-was-a-soft-biscuit dusted with milo powder were foam, mousse, ice cream, cookie and… Jumping candy. Jumping candy was a surprise since I haven’t had it (in my desserts) recently. Haha.

  
  

13) Kueh kapit, kueh ambon, peanut & banana, bandung (above) – After I finished my petit fours, the staff asked me guess what’s used in the filling for the kueh kapit. And honestly… I tasted really familiar. I wanted to guess durian but I said jackfruit cause durian is actually a very bold choice of ingredient to use since not many know how to appreciate it. And surprisingly, it was durian! With some longan too. The staff explained they would only announce it’s durian after customers finish it in order to remove their stigma. A bold move on their end, she admitted.

14) Coffee/tea – And I went with tea.

It was also through conversing with the staff that I learnt JL Studio only opened a year ago. No wonder I didn’t read about it when I was doing my (food) research for my September ‘17 Taiwan trip since it takes time for word to get out. =p

I enjoyed my meal at JL Studio very, very much. I haven’t tried many mod-Sin restaurants, but I dare say JL Studio is my favourite of all. Every dish was a surprise. One could see how much planning went into every dish. Through his dishes, I even got to understand our (Singaporean) cuisine better. And one could also say it’s an experience in itself to be eating our Singaporean cuisine outside of Singapore and to be on the end of interpreting what non-Singaporeans would imagine our dishes are based on owner-chef Jimmy’s presentation. A must try.

And to learn more about owner-chef Jimmy, one may also read the Chinese article written by selftaughtgochefgourmet. I got to learnt that prior to opening JL Studio in 2017, owner-chef Jimmy was at Le Mout for 7 years where he worked his way up to be the head chef. During which, he did short (3 months) stints at The French Laundry, Per Se, Noma and Geranium with the support of Le Mout’s owner-chef Lanshu Chen. Much respect to her too cause to have a supportive boss is also one’s good fortune. And it’s not often we meet such bosses.

JL STUDIO
No. 689, Yifeng Road Section 4, 2F, Nantun District, Taichung, Taiwan
+886 4 2380 3570, Facebook
Overall: 8.5
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 9
Tues – Sun : 18:00 – 22:30
Ambience: 8
Value: 8
Service: 9
* Closed on Mon

Dinner @ Restaurant Labyrinth

September 9, 2018 in Asian, Mod Sin by thywhaleliciousfay

Saw a picture of Labyrinth’s gorgeously-plated lala dish on instagram and was dying to revisit the restaurant since. My previous visit to Labyrinth was in 2015 when the restaurant was at their previous location (Tanjong Pagar) and before they were awarded a Michelin star. So yes… I was excited to try the new menu.

Reservation was made with Chope. And a few days before our dinner, the restaurant emailed us with the menu and requested for us to confirm our reservation. Confirmation of reservation is required cause I missed out their first email, and was sent a reminder email.

Upon arrival at the restaurant, we were led to our table before starting our $178 dinner menu with:-

  

1) Appetiser (above)


2) Heartland waffle (above) – Local duck liver pate & goji berry jam.


3) “Nasi lemak” cheong fun (above) – Chicken skin, ikan bilis & egg yolk gel.

4) Braised baby abalone (above) – Homemade oyster sauce & fatt choy tart.

5) Ah hua kelong lala clams (above) – XO sambal, deep fried wonton skin & Chinese spinach.


6) Labyrinth rojak (above) – Edible garden herbs, natural stingless bee honey & cempedak sorbet.

7) “Ang moh” chicken rice, kin yan abalone mushroom (above) – Home-milled rice flour, grandma’s chili sauce & braised chicken. Presented as a dumpling, I enjoyed this dish.

8) Grandma’s fish maw soup (above) – Yellow tail snapper fish cake, textures of fish maw & tofu puree.


9) Local wild caught crab, sustenir farm strawberry (above) – Signature chili ice cream, egg whites & salted mackerel.

10) Nippon koi farm silver perch (above) – Herbal pepper broth, ulam rajah & textures of black garlis.


  

11) Uncle William’s quail (above) – Satay espuma, muah chee & pearl onion.

12) “Lost grain” fried rice (above) – White bait, dried scallop & local “dashi”.


13) Bean to bar (above) – Artisanal dark chocolate & 8 year aged shaoxing wine.


14) Clam lead snow (above) – Rosella meringue & textures of grapes.

15) Soy bean curd (above) – Bird’s nest & burnt yogurt espuma by Hay Dairies goat milk.

16) Cristal de chine caviar (above) – Kaya ice cream & Sing Hong Loong toast.

17) Petit fours (above) – And it’s a bold move that the macaron was durian flavoured such not everyone could appreciate durian.

Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy our dining experience. So no, I won’t recommend Restaurant Labyrinth; It’s no surprise that first impressions are very important. And unfortunately for us (or for the restaurant), a really snobbish waiter attended to us for the first half of our meal. He was extremely ‘bo chap’ with the dishes’ introduction; Presentation was brief and he was basically just muttering to himself. My IGGF and I couldn’t make out what he was saying. His I-don’t-care attitude made us feel very unwelcomed.

Halfway through our meal, two other staff stepped in to serve us because the snobbish staff was tied up with other tables. I was glad that happened because they were so much more professional. One in particular stood out with his detailed presentation. In a good way of course since we love to better appreciate the dishes by understanding the story behind.

And food wise… Oddly, I wasn’t too impressed. It just lacked the ‘wow’ factor. I preferred days when they were at their previous location where their dishes leaned towards molecular cuisine.

  

Upon settling the bill, we were given small tokens before we left the Michelin-stared restaurant; A small bottle of chef-owner Han’s chicken rice chilli and a set of postcards which were used as props for the dishes’ introduction.

RESTAURANT LABYRINTH
8 Raffles Avenue, Esplanade Mall, #02-23, Singapore
6223 4098, Website, Facebook
Overall: 7
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 7
Tues – Fri : 12:00 – 14:30 (Lunch)
Ambience: 7
Tues – Sun : 18:00 – 23:30 (Dinner)
Value: 7
Service: 6
* Closed on Mon

Dinner @ Labyrinth

July 21, 2015 in Asian, Mod Sin by thywhaleliciousfay

It’s probably the feeling that I haven’t had (non Japanese) fine dining recently that I suggested to my friend to head to Labyrinth for dinner. And I first learnt about Labyrinth fromt watching Foodporn’s Episode 5 on clicknetwork.tv.

I called twice on a Wednesday to make reservation for Thursday night. However, I was left feeling a little sad when no one picked up my call. But thankfully, the staff returned my call 30 minutes later. All (busy) restaurants should have phones with caller ID display!

And on the day we were to have our dinner, the staff called to confirm my reservation. And it’s nice that they took the initiative to ask for our dietary restriction and if the dinner was for any special occasion. To which, I was impressed that they actually paid attention to our dietary restriction. Some restaurants ask but don’t take any action. We were at the restaurant ready to have our orders taken when the staff mentioned first that the chef would replace the beef dish to fish for us. Nice.

And from the menu (pages 1, 2, 3), we ordered:-

1) Heritage, $148 comprised of:-

(A) Snack #1 (above) – Kaya + butter, rojak. And we served kaya toast with unsalted butter, you zha kway (rojak) with shrimp paste within. And I really liked the latter. Just a small piece, but it had the ‘full package’ in terms of (rojak) taste.

(B) Snack #2 (above, right) – “Sashimi”. What looked like raw fish was in fact watermelon. Served with (shredded) honeydew ‘vegetable’, rock melon ‘caviar’ and basil cream for the ‘wasabi’. Interesting.

(C) Laksa (above) – Coconut noodles, grilled oyster. Instead of a soup dish, the broth was presented in the form of powder. Which was actually presented as ‘laksa snow’ by the staff. Interesting. But I did not like the texture of the coconut noodles. It felt kinda weird. My friend thought the dish was not too bad, although it did not quite work for me, especially since I don’t like oyster.


  

(D) Duo of dim sum (above) – Squid ink “paella”. What looked like our Chinese dim sum of lo mai gai (糯米鸡) and zhu chang fen (猪肠粉) was in fact glutinous rice with squid ink, red pepper sauce and sliced squid with crab in a rich broth. And we were told to have the 3 components together. This was pretty good.

(E) Labyrinth chilli crab (above) – Chilli crab ice cream, tempura soft shell crab. This being their signature dish, we were not disappointed. We were told the plate was to represent the sea, man tou (馒头) crumbs for the sand and chilli crab ice cream as sea shells (on the beach).

(F) Siew yoke fan (above) – Roast pork roulade, “ramen” risotto. The roast pork was so good! Crispy skin with oh-so-tender meat.

(G) Fish (above) – As we don’t take beef, it was replaced with a beautifully pan-seared barramundi fish, topped with sambal and dehydrated kang kong. I felt it was their take on our local dish of BBQ sambal stingray.

(H) Palate cleanser (above) – Lime and cucumber sorbet.


(I) Hainanese curry rice (above) – Curry quinoa, chicken mousseline, coriander sponge. And within the truffle scented (black) ‘rocks’ were chicken (left) and potato (right). And this was really good. We were impressed.

(J) Palate cleanser (above) – Since this set had no pineapple rice, we were given a smaller version of it as palate cleanser.

(K) Pisang goreng (above) – Rajah banana cream. And we were told ripe bananas were mashed, mixed with gelatin, moulded back into a banana shape, coated with wheat flour before it’s deep fried.


  

(L) Local breakfast (above) – Panna cotta, mango puree, sweet balsamic sauce. And I definitely have to give it to the chef for the creativity! The creme brulee looked so much like teh tarik that I picked the cup up to drink when the staff had clearly said we would need our spoons (for the creme brulee). I had my ‘oops’ moment there. Haha.

2) Signature, $108 comprised of:-

(A) Snack #1Kaya + butter, rojak.

(B) Snack #2“Sashimi”.

(C) Pineapple fried rice (above) – Pineapple sorbet, rice crispy, turmeric custard. And we were told this Thai dish was inspired by the chef’s grandmother. And to properly enjoy the dish, we were told to mess everything up! Oh my.

(D) Duo of dim sumSquid ink “paella”.

(E) Labyrinth chilli crabChilli crab ice cream, tempura soft shell crab.

(F) Palate cleanser – Lime and cucumber sorbet.

(G) Siew yoke fan or Hainanese curry rice

(H) Palate cleanser (above) – As we were served pineapple rice for the Heritage set, we were given a palate cleanser of yogurt with chocolate. Really good.

(I) Chendol XLB (above) – Gula jawa icicle, coconut & red bean soup, har gow skin.

(J) Reese’s chocolate (above) – Peanut butter ice cream, cocoa peanut “ash”.

We totally enjoyed our dinner at Labyrinth. It was an interesting experience. What one see on the plate isn’t necessary what one will be tasting. And if one come in pairs and wishes to try all the dishes, the restaurant can customise the menu. ‘Heritage menu’ consists of 8 courses while the ‘signature menu’ comprises of 6 courses. And to allow for both to have the meal at the same pace, Order for 2 sets of ‘Heritage menu’ will be placed, with the first dish and desserts replaced with that from ‘Signature menu’ for 1 of the 2 sets ordered.

And we were told they would be moving to their new premises at Esplanade in August 15 where the space would be bigger, a closed kitchen and easier parking. Which I think is a good idea. We came on a quieter night and it wasn’t very nice to be hearing the staff chit-chatting from our counter seats.

LABYRINTH RESTAURANT
5 Neil Road, Singapore
6223 4098, Website, Facebook
Overall: 8
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 8
Tues – Fri : 12:00 – 14:00 (Lunch)
Ambience: 7
Tues – Sun : 18:30 – 22:30 (Dinner)
Value: 8
* Closed on Mon
Service: 8

UPDATE 1: Restaurant has moved to 8 Raffles Avenue, Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay, #02-23.
UPDATE 2: Restaurant was awarded 1 Michelin star by Michelin Guide Singapore 2017.

UPDATE 3: Restaurant was awarded 1 Michelin star by Michelin Guide Singapore 2018.