Modern Asian Avenue 87 explores familiar local and regional flavours in wildly exciting, yet same-same but different, ways.
One of the latest gastronomic sensations to have popped up recently along the Amoy Street stretch is Avenue 87. Started by Singaporean chefs Glen Tay and Alex Phan, the modern Asian restaurant intertwine their individual culinary journeys – that have seen them hone their chops at Shatec, followed by their stints at Tippling Club before diverging wildly when Phan moved to the Unlisted Collection stable while Tay moved to Shanghai to join three Michelin-starred Ultraviolet by Paul Pairet – into one.
Now modern Singaporean, and by extension, modern Asian, cuisines have become such buzzwords in the Singapore dining scene in recent years they’ve become near meaningless. But Tay and Phan look to offer their own perspectives in a space of their own, and hope to entice you along their new collaborative journey.
While Avenue 87 offers various a la carte options during lunch, the best way to sample its avant garde Mod-Asian fare is through its four- or six-course tasting menu in the evenings. And really, the six-course version is where you can really experience Phan’s and Tay’s culinary depth to the fullest.
Even the amuse bouche, which kicked off the evening, were whimsical. Kueh pie tee that tastes like fish head curry? Check. Chicken crisps – made from trimmings from chicken – inspired by fish keropok? You have that as well.
The first course in our six-course tasting menu, Salmon, is essentially Asian tiradito. Here fresh Norwegian salmon is piled with accoutrements made with more modern gastronomic technique than some culinary schools. Soy wasabi granita adds a lovely umami and earthy spice to lift the dish, while crackers made from Vietnamese rice paper add plenty of texture.
Then there’s AHK Seabass, a modern twist on the hawker favourite of traditional fish soup. Sea bass from local fishery Ah Hua Kelong have become extremely popular among edgier restaurants around Singapore in recent times – gastrobar Laut on the next street uses it in their signature Laut curry, for example – but not everywhere uses the fish well.
Here? It’s exemplary. The anchovy butter milk sauce, combined with its rich broth, infused the fillet with layers of flavour without detracting away from its ocean freshness. The accompanying semi-dried cherry tomato, deep-fried egg floss, and compressed bitter gourd, are cheeky throwbacks to the original.
Sometimes the culinary journey takes strange turns. Octopus, for example, is Spanish pulpo gallego coming out as local sambal stingray. Well-grilled octopus – tender for the most part, and nicely chewy and charred near the tentacle tips – is smothered with a most delectable house-made sambal that’s fiery enough to impress but not overwhelmingly so. The confit egg yolk egg is a nice touch, adding a luscious silkiness when broken and stirred through the dish. The accompanying market greens, though, are somewhat out-of-place. It also needs white rice to temper all the bold flavours on offer.
You get the sense this dish is destined for greatness. But it’s not quite there yet.
Likewise with Baby Lamb Rack. This is Australian baby lamb marinated Vietnamese-style – noung xa, with plenty of lemongrass and shallots – that’s grilled to heavenly perfection. It even comes served with a lovely honey sauce made from locally-sourced honey.
The accompanying grilled Thai eggplant, though, didn’t quite gel with the rest of the dish. Indeed it was trumped by our side of Pilaf. Cooked in butter and plenty of aromatics, and we would have gladly polished off an entire pot of this rice.
Dessert was a little hit-and miss. The fifth course of Coconut is really deconstructed trifle (deeply ironic, for those who know the origin of this English classic), featuring coconut ice cream served with pound cake crumble, papaya, and caramelised pineapple. This goes down well enough, but is not terribly exciting.
Pisang No Goreng stole the show. This innocent-looking take on the local favourite of banana fritters and ice cream pulls the perfect mind-bender by masquerading as each other – the fritter here containing coconut custard with salted gula melaka that’s served alongside banana ice cream. Simple, ingenious, and tasty.
In all, Avenue 87 presents a fun modern-Asian gastronomic jaunt for those looking for something off the beaten path. It may meander in places, but what we tasted present an excellent insight to the explosive potential Phan and Tay have on offer when they combine forces.
Watch this space. And put your seatbelts on.
The Avenue 87 six-course tasting menu is available for dinner at $98++ per person, while the four-course tasting menu is available for dinner at $76++ per person. Wine pairing is available at $50++ for three glasses, and $80++ for five glasses.
Address 47 Amoy Street, Singapore 069873 (Google Maps link)
Opening Hours 11.30am-2.30pm and 5.30-10.00pm Tuesdays to Saturdays; closed on Mondays, Sundays, and public holidays
Tel (65) 9838 8401 / 6970 5491