After operating out of a lovely shophouse space near Jalan Besar for several years, Morsels by female chef-owner, Petrina Loh, uprooted to the bucolic confines of the Dempsey Road enclave in January 2017.
Housed in a free-standing conservation building that once served as an army barrack, the new Morsels looks as every bit as rustic as its old roost, what with its purposefully distressed walls, peeling paint, white-washed wooden ceiling beams with ceiling fans and hanging lamps made from an assortment of paraphernalia like bottles, graters and even baskets.
But what stands out from your visit will be Loh’s newly reformatted menu that promises to feed without burning a big hole in your pocket.
In place of an a la carte menu, the 40-seat eatery now sports a sharing menu. At dinner, options range from $55++, $85++ and $115++ to $125++. Interestingly, diners get to choose specified number of dishes from the categories of Snacks, Small Plates, Carbs, Mains and Dessert (several items require a top-up). A budget of S$55++ buys you one item from Snack, two from Small Plates, one item from Carbs, one from Mains and one from Dessert (total of six courses) while S$115++ buys you 12 courses – three Snacks, four Small Plates, one Carbs, two Mains and two desserts. S$125++ gets you an omakase with about about 13 courses but the chef – rather than the diner – dictates the menu.
Snacks are, as its name suggests, to keep hunger at bay. But Loh’s French oyster ($3++ top-up) with homemade strawberry kosho and beetroot vinaigrette does more than that, it stimulates the appetite with a refreshing concoction that makes the standard lemon and Tabasco sauce combo sound torpid. It’s the type of dressing that elevates, rather than masks, the naturally briny state of the mollusc.
Another standout from Snacks is the home-made ricotta spread on toast topped with mushrooms, fermented iceberg lettuce and an umami-loaded mushroom ketchup. We like how the umami from the mushrooms, the creaminess from the ricotta, the crisp crunch from the buttered toast and the acidity from the fermented vegetabls work together to form a harmonious whole greater than its equally delicious parts.
Moving on to Small Plates, the kombu-cured Hokkaido scallop topped with kohlrabi strips passes muster. But the same cannot be said about the accompanying kohlrabi and sunchoke puree topped with cured egg yolk shavings, a riveting mound tasting mostly of sunchoke, its sweetness tempered by the refreshing presence of the kohralbi.
The Sri Lankan tiger prawn with orzo pasta in foie gras mousse ($5++ top-up) is another item from Small Plates worthy of your pick, its allure intensified by the intense savouriness of the prawn oil. It’s worth noting that, meanwhile, the foie gras mousse fades into relative obsurity, not that we miss it.
If you’re looking for another dish from Small Plates to join the repertoire, the steamed venus clams in a mildly sweet and robust dried fig’s broth with cabbage kimchi is a no-brainer. Regulars of Loh may remember this dish, probably drooling with nostalgia, from Morsels’ early days in Mayo Street.
For Mains, we’d say skip the black chicken “sausage” with the nondescript ang chow sauce (silky fowl on the menu) in favour of the fall off the bone-tender Primrose Farms St. Louise pork ribs. According to Loh, the secret to acing this dish is to first braise the rib, then grill it so that it yields tender meat with a rich smoky tang. It comes with a sour rather than sweet cauliflower achar and fluffy broken spice basmati rice steamed with an array of spices includung star anise, green cardamon and cassia bark.
Probably the most straight forward item on the menu, Loh’s Toriyama wagyu chuck roll ($20++ top-up) from Mains is also a stunner, matched with capers emulsion, baby potatoes and sprigs of charred spring onion.
If you have a choice, opt out of The Carbs selection of eryngi mushrooms with a mound of flat-tasting sweet potato noodles topped with burdock. If we may say so, the “sweetness” of the sweet potato noodles is lost on us.
Burnt cabbage from the Small Plates menu holds much potential indeed, and the accompanying buttered nai bai, kailan, watercress and king oyster mushroom makes for a wonderful cooked salad. The goma dressing that the vegetables arrive with, however, weighs down an otherwise delightful dish.
From the Asian-inspired Californian cusine that Morsels used to serve at its old location, Loh has reinvented her cuisine, and therefore herself. Her food still reflects her heritage but now, she infuses techniques and flavours gleaned from her travels (most recently fermentation techniques from Korea).
The restaurant may be lacking a strong concept to tie everything together but clearly, there is no lack of tasty dishes. With affordable pricing and plentiful options, there is no reason why one should not pay Loh a visit soon.
25 Dempsey Road #01-04, Singapore 249 670; +65-6266 3822; morsels.com.sg