Morsels (Singapore) @ Mayo Street

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Setting
The facade of Morsels at Mayo Street

It’s not an eatery that you’ll chance upon at random, not unless you’re trawling the seedy cars-jammed streets of Little India, or offering prayers at the Abdul Gaffoor Mosque in Dunlop Street. But when you do, you want to leave the cares of the world at the five foot way.

Welcome to Morsels, the charming new roost of lovebirds cum chefs, Bryan Chia and Petrina Loh, where in the latter’s own words,  “everything is made from scratch”.

The saur wood bar counter with handsome jar lamps made by Petrina Loh

Yes, Loh, designed the rustic interior – she stripped the walls of its coat of paint; restored and repainted the wooden tables and chairs that were salvaged from the former tenant; took all the photos that adorn the distressed walls; and made the handsome jar lamps that lit the bar counter. But Loh is no interior designer by training but a former private banker who worked the kitchens of Bouchon (by Thomas Keller) and Spruce in San Francisco after graduating from the city’s Le Cordon Bleu. Chia, on the other hand, has apprenticed in the kitchen of Saint Pierre as a teenager and is a recent graduate of the Culinary Institute of America.

Together, the pair has fashioned a homey eatery in a shop house space along Mayo Street. Indoors, a cosy living area overhung with driftwood chandeliers features a saur wood bar counter stacked on whitewashed exposed bricks (it dispenses the meanest plum margarita in the city) alongside a medley of tables for small group dining while the inner quarter packs in 2 wooden communal tables for big groups plus an open-concept cold kitchen helmed by Loh and a hot kitchen where Chia calls the shots.

What to expect

Loh and Chia did not name it Morsels for nothing – they want to serve you “little bites that leave you wanting more”.

If it sounds like fusion small plates (again!), it is. But Morsels’ 2-page menu stands out from the clutch with curiously experimental recipes that weave in influences from Japan, the Mediterranean region and a smattering of local flavours. The selection is by no means extensive but what they do, they mostly excel.

Due credit goes to the couple’s unwavering focus on using fresh produce (they source crates of micro greens from Bjorn Low of Edible Gardens) and attention to details. Talk to Loh and she’ll tell you how they craft ingredients from scratch (they pickle their own kim chi, make their own compressed plum, brew their own dashi and the list goes on).

For the perfect meal, follow the fail-safe cue of the “favourites” symbol in the menu.

Hokkaido scallops ceviche with compressed plus in yuzu-scented dressing

Hokkaido scallops ceviche (S$17 for small, S$25 for large) arrives in tiny chunks tossed with cilantro, chopped red onions, tobiko pearls and lovely cubes of mildly sweet compressed plums in a yuzu-scented dressing – a mix that beats the unrelentingly tart Latin American recipe hands down. While good on its own, it goes equally well with the accompanying tortilla crisps.
Steamed clams basking in drief fig broth with kimchi and Japanese sake

Instead of serving clams in a formulaic fashion – i.e. doused in white wine and garlic – Morsels struts its stuff with succulent steamed clams (S$22) basking in a sweet and heady dried fig (or wu hua guo in Chinese) broth spiked with homemade kimchi and a hint of Japanese sake. It’s original, addictive and highly compelling.

The mains – like the firecracker pulled pork conchiglie pasta (S$14) in habanero pesto sauce and a dollop of sour cream – too beckon with unusual ensemble of flavours but truth be told that these tend to be overshadowed by the stellar fore courses.

Grilled octopus on squid ink risotto

But the dish of grilled octopus (S$25), also a main dish, begs to differ with a cloak of umami. First poached in home made dashi, then grilled and served on a jet-black blanket of squid ink risotto, the savoury plate is given an added taste dimension with a final drizzle of salted egg yolk sauce.

Milo-tiramisu-miso

In true Morsels fashion, desserts are equally unusual – think  velvety homemade almond milk panna cotta (S$8) topped with candied orange and port wine reduction? But if you like it local, a glass jar of milo powder-dusted tiramisu infused with miso paste is in order, but only if it’s available as dessert of the day.

Morsels | 35 Mayo Street | 65-6396 6302 
Photo are courtesy of Diana Choo

For picture story, visit www.facebook.com/bibikgourmand 

You may also like Singapore’s best tapas bars / small plates restaurants.

© Evelyn Chen 2013

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