|Meta at Keong Saik Road|
It’s been a while since we’ve seen a modern Asian contender in our city state.
Often avoided like the plague among restaurateurs, this fusion cuisine, not to be confused with modern Singapore cuisine, was all the rage during the nascent years of Singapore’s dining boom but gradually – and mysteriously – quieted into oblivion. The recent opening of three month-old Keong Saik Road newbie, Meta Restaurant, gives us reasons to be bouyant.
Helmed by fresh-faced Korean head chef, Sun Kim, a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu Sydney, who spent a total of five years with Tetsuya Wakuda (including one and a half years at Waku Ghin Singapore), Meta fields modern Asian cuisine inspired by the young chef’s time with Wakuda as well as his Korean heritage.
Set in the red-hot Keong Saik Road dining enclave, the counter-style diner has the look and feel of a small plate eatery with a row of high stools that abut an open-concept kitchen.
We reckon that, at this point, the foodie might ask: do we need yet another tapas bar? To which the answer is: no small plates are on offer at Meta, only a trio of prix fixe menus – 5 courses (S$88++) and 8 courses (S$128++), plus a 5-course vegetarian menu (S$80++) at dinner. The restaurant is currently not open for lunch.
|Irish oyster, lemon-ginger, pomelo|
Kim’s deftness with the opening course brings agreeable flavours to the table – briny Irish oyster counterpointed by a light and refreshing lemon-ginger bath with fresh pomelo pulp. (4/5)
|Ama-ebi, pickled beetroot stem, dashi jelly, ikura|
The momentum sustains with the ama-ebi course – grilled shrimp’s head headlining a dish of torched ama-ebi with pickled beetroot stem enveloped in an elegant yet invigorating veil of dashi jelly flecked with ikura pearls. (4/5)
Wagyu beef tartare is also almost a highlight. Chopped raw beef marinated in an alluringly sweet and savoury bulgogi sauce arrives at the table as deconstructed bibimbap – with kimchi-dressed pear, the piped yolk of sous-vide egg and puffed rice. At first glance, the ensemble appears to be well thought-out and truly, the bulgogi sauce-laced beef tartare is a thing of beauty. But the sliced pear is let down by a feeble kimchi flavour (with the word “kimchi” on the menu, it surely demands a heavier dose of kimchi pungency). And, apart from looking pretty, the discs of ” cakey” rather than “flowy” yolk leave diners wondering as to the reasons for their existence. (3.75/5)
|Hokkaido scallop, ginger-shoyu, cauliflower puree, squid ink cracker, bottarga|
The Hokkaido scallop course fairs better. The seared shellfish is matched with leaves of endive confit bathed in a sublime ginger-shoyu dressing, dollops of miso-laced cauliflower puree, squid ink cracker and shavings of bottarga. It’s an all-round crowd pleaser. (4/5)
|Seabass, clams, fregola, garlic, basil oil, daikon|
But the non-fancy fish dish is the real attention grabber. The locally-sourced seabass arrives with utterly crisp skin and luscious flesh, accompanied by clams, pearls of Sardinian fregola pasta, garlic, basil oil and chunks of daikon slow-cooked in dashi. To say that the ingredients work in absolute harmony on the plate would be an understatement. (4.25/5)
|Beef short rib, parsnip puree, oyster mushroom|
The meat dish wins fewer raves – slow-cooked beef short rib with parsnip puree and oyster mushroom. While the beef is achingly tender, the dish lacks the vibrancy of the fore courses. (3.75/5)
|Chocolate dome, black sesame sponge, yuzu sabayon, wasabi, yoghurt sorbet|
Desserts at Meta are a celebration of the modernist endeavours of pastry chef, Tammy Mah. To tie-in with the eatery’s Asian theme, petite chocolate domes are served with black sesame sponge, yuzu sabayon, wasabi and yoghurt sorbet. It’s toothsome although it will not raise any eyebrows. (4/5)
It segues into a dramatic golden sphere cheese cake dessert – blood orange sauce and frozen cheese mousse encased in a golden chocolate shell. While it is nothing remotely related to the cuisine’s Asian roots, this sweet scores on presentation and taste, plus it trumps the dessert offerings of some of the more upscale restaurants we’ve visited in recent times. (4.25/5)
Bonus points also go to the presentation theatrics of the “rock” finale – a coffee-infused cookie frozen in liquid nitrogen that puffs smoke through your nostrils as it is allowed to melt on the palate. (3.75/5)
Our mostly delightful dinner (paired with an eye-catching list of biodynamic and organic wines) at this young chefs-staffed restaurant is proof that Meta has the mettle to shine even if it lacks a solid theme to tie everything together (modern Asian doesn’t cut it anymore, does it?). It’s a pity that Korean influences aren’t allowed to play a more prominent role on the menu than it currently does; Singapore could really do with a modern Korean restaurant of this calibre.
9 Keong Saik Road, Singapore 089 117 | +65-6513 0898 | metarestaurant.sg
© Evelyn Chen 2013
Please note that the reviews published on this blog are sometimes hosted. I am under no obligation to review every restaurant I’ve visited. If I do, the reviews are 100% my own.