Burnt Ends was listed as one of Zagat’s “hottest restaurants in the world” in 2014. It was also featured in my article on New York Times here.
|The facade of Burnt Ends at Teck Lim Road|
Hot on the heels of the debut of The Market Grill, the industry was abuzz with talks that Loh Lik Peng was working on yet another eatery, a high-concept gourmet BBQ joint that counts Andre Chiang (of Restaurant Andre) as co-investor.
Like Loh’s eatery at nearby Esquina, Burnt Ends is tucked away in a narrow strip of shop house space in Chinatown’s Teck Lim Road (just steps away from Esquina). Fashioned as yet another small plates eatery, the minimally embellished digs sits just 18 pax at a spiffy burnt rain tree-wood counter overhung with charcoal-hued hanging lamps and these front a roomy open concept kitchen. Additionally, the eatery also offers the option of a 6-seat banquet table tucked at the rear but this is strictly reserved for diners who are willing to part with a minimum of S$100 per head (it’s cheaper on weekdays).
To be in the thick of kitchen action, you wouldn’t want to veer far from the star of the show: David Pynt, a bearded Perth native and the restaurant’s head chef who has built a credible resume from his time spent as in-house chef of The Loft Project (an underground supper club by Nuno Mendes of Viajante) and sous chef at Asador Etxebarri.
Building on Pynt’s pop-up BBQ concept – Burnt Enz – at East London in the summer of 2012, the Singapore incarnation (aptly named Burnt Ends) puts the spotlight on what Pynt described as a “4 tonne double cavity wood-burning machine” – a custom-built brick kiln with 2 cavities (each capable of a different temperature setting) where apple and almond wood fuels the fire that tips 700+ degree Celsius in temperature.
While the oven is the undisputed attention magnet, Pynt also works with a trio of open grill (the fiery embers are courtesy of the brick ovens) where about 40% of the menu items are prepared.
Given the moniker, one would expect the BBQ fare at Burnt Ends to be served with a coat of char. Yes, with those slabs of meats like the 53-day dry aged Cape Grim rib (S$190 per kg) or the rack of venison (S$150 for 5 pax), it is indeed the case.
|Kingfish, apple, seaweed|
The kingfish dish (S$18), Pynt’s favourite item on the menu, also bears the trademark burnt facade associated with the eatery’s moniker: the kingfish collar is first brined in soy and mirin, then generously scorched on one side, flipped, gently smoked and served on a mound of apple and wakame salad dressed in lemon and garlic brown butter. Don’t let the carbon-coated appearance of the kingfish deceive you for it unveils to reveal succulent and flavoursome flesh within.
|Smoked sardines with horse radish sauce|
But, on the whole, Pynt’s approach to BBQ is decidedly elegant; he prefers to let his “wood-burning machine” coax a hint of complex smokiness into dishes like the über popular smoked quail eggs (S$6) with moist and runny yolk, the subtly salty home-cured duck ham with rocket leaves (S$14) and the moist and tender smoked sardines alongside horseradish sauce (S$14). While nothing radical, these dishes delight with an added smoky dimension that elevates an otherwise staid ingredient to the realm of brilliance.
|Grilled squid in paprika dusted butter oil with sweet corn kernels and a sprig of spring onion|
|Grilled lamb onglet with caramelized shallots, Holland carrots and French ratte potatoes|
The step-sibling of Pynt’s “wood-burning machine” – the open grill- also fields some remarkable, albeit gently grilled, dishes that could get a flavour lift if permitted to embrace a lick of char. Notwithstanding that, we are fans of the ultra-succulent grilled squid (S$16) in paprika dusted butter oil with sweet corn kernels (which we are not as excited about) and a sprig of spring onion. Equally if not more stunning is the fork-tender grilled lamb onglet (S$22) with caramelized shallots, Holland carrots and French ratte potatoes served in the meat’s own jus, a dish that will not look out of place in a fine European eatery. On the downside, these items may not available during your visit as the menu is refreshed daily.
If anything, you can always count on sanger (S$20), a Burnt Ends signature sandwich and one of the restaurant’s mainstays. The pork shoulder is first slow-roasted for 10 hours in a conventional oven, then shredded and tossed with chipotle aioli and coleslaw before being stacked in between homemade sesame seeds-flecked brioche and gently-toasted in the brick oven before serving. It’s hearty and threatens to steal the hearts of even non-pork loving diners.
|Oven-roasted banana with caramel ice cream|
|Smoked vanilla ice cream with hibiscus and ginger crumbs|
Given the glaring lack of starch – with the exception of the Sanga – on the menu, you’ll want to fill-up on desserts and sublime sweets like the oven-roasted banana with caramel ice cream (S$8) and smoked vanilla ice cream with hibiscus and ginger (S$10) provide just the perfect excuse.