Restaurant Imbue by award-winning chef Lee Boon Seng borrows the best of modern culinary philosophy and technique to rethink and elevate classic Asian flavours.
One of the more highly anticipated restaurant openings at the tail end of 2023 was Restaurant Imbue. Run by hospitality outfit 1855 F&B and fronted by chef-owner Lee Boon Seng – some of us might know the award-winning chef for helming The Spot at Marina One – the beautiful new contemporary Asian-European restaurant along Keong Saik Road is set to champion an elevated and reimagined form of Asian cuisine that challenges you to chew on what the flavours of Asia can aspire to.
Indeed its debut signature tasting menu, ‘Simmer’, is a deep-dive into familiar Asian flavours but reimagining them in surprising ways.
Your Shanghainese-style drunken chicken, for example, comes as a little crisp tartlet made from spring roll skin topped with succulent drunken chicken, Chinese wine jelly, a crunchy disc of black sesame, and some peppercorn oil to spice things up. Or the century egg crab, another snack-sized bite combining two favourite Chinese ingredients not normally found together. Here the mud crab offers briny sweetness, contrasting beautifully with the creamy, funky egg, while lashings of Kaluga caviar brings their flavours even closer together.
We absolutely loved the “Malai” bread, which takes the shape of pull-apart kubaneh bread but has all the flavours of classic 马来糕, or steamed ‘Malay’ cake. The accompanying ginseng honey butter, whose herbal bitterness accented the bread’s caramelised notes, is genius.
Many of the dishes in this multi-course menu leans on classic European technique, particularly when it comes to interplaying textures. And of course, the refined plating.
Except the horse mackerel. Your horse mackerel, when it appears, will put a smile on your face. Served alongside batons of raw cucumber and a fluffy onion potato pancake, you’re supposed to eat your chunk of grilled fish Peking duck-style. With fingers too, if you so prefer.
Also inventive is the squid sausage claypot rice, a fun mashup of Spanish squid ink paella and Cantonese-style claypot rice. It’s a gastronomic riot of flavours and textures, bursting with umami and fabulous toothsomeness.
Then there’s the wagyu rump cap, perhaps the most European of all in the tasting menu. Featuring a perfectly seared hunk that’s been aged for 21 days in fermented bean to, uh, imbue its salty and earthy flavours into the meat fibres, this is East-meets-West refinement at its best.
Make sure you opt for the wine pairing flights offered along with each tasting menu, which we highly recommend. And for the tippler, a slew of Asian-inspired cocktails are available as well.
So is Restaurant Imbue contemporary European with Asian inspiration? Or modern Asian with European accents? “Reflecting on my culinary journey, I’ve come to realize that every step has led me to this moment from my training in the western kitchen to being an Asian where the discovery of Asian flavours comes from my personal experience,” shares Chef Lee. “The flavours and lessons have shaped my culinary perspective and at Imbue, I’m looking to share not just a meal but an experience from the soul that tells a story of my life’s inspirations, a heartfelt expression of my craft and love for food.”
And while some may decry about messing with what’s not broken, what Chef Lee does is more reimagining familiar flavours in different forms, than any kind of reinvention. A fine culinary line, but one we suspect is Chef Lee’s intention.
Just don’t call what he does fusion.
Restaurant Imbue offers its eight-course Simmer menu (S$198++ per person) and five-course Infuse menu (S$158++ per person) for dinner, while prices for the two-course lunch menu start at S$58++.
Address 32 Keong Saik Road, Singapore 089137 (Google Maps link)
Opening Hours 5.30pm to 11pm Tuesdays to Thursdays; 12pm to 2.30pm and 5.30pm to 11pm on Saturdays; 12pm to 2.30pm on Sundays; closed on Mondays
Tel (65) 6223 7266
Reservations book here
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