Sometimes, the biggest surprise arrives when you least expect it. After a 2.5 years-break, we return to Salted & Hung, drawn by chef Drew Nocente’s spanking new “minimum wastage” menu. But while his attention to reducing kitchen wastage is admirable, it is the Stanthorpe-born chef’s keen eye for profiling flavours that seized our attention.
Yes, Nocente is known first and foremost for his cured meats, having gained renown for his aged beef during his stint as chef de cuisine of Skirt at W Hotel Singapore. But it isn’t his cured meats that will draw gasps of adoration this time.
One of Nocente’s most compelling new dishes is one that embraces the Australian chef’s low-wastage ethos. Locally-farmed grouper from Ah Hua Kelong is poached in fish bone broth and torched briefly before serving so that its skin teems with a glitter of charred brilliance. But what makes this a standout is the light and savoury dressing derived from roasted fish bones marinated for a month in soy sauce that arrives with the fish. And instead of disposing the residual fish bones, Nocente pulverizes it into soy-marinated fish bone ‘sand’ and serves it on the plate together with a smoky puddle of mayonnaise made from oil flavoured with the fiery heat of charcoal. The intense umami and the smokiness from the mayo are profound to say the least.
The zero wastage approach does not apply to all dishes but the focus on deliciously approachable flavours is a recurring theme, even in the wagyu dish. Nocente serves tri tip with 9+ marbling and grills it in the Josper oven until a char forms on the beef’s facade. Paired with fermented whole carrots, spice and sugar macerated hazelnuts and cauliflower puree, this course is wholesome as it is flavoursome, even if the meat is not as fork-tender as you’d like it.
I’d highly recommend the eight-course Feed Me menu ($88++) if it’s your first time at this Purvis Street eatery. It’s a useful induction into Nocente’s crowd-pleasing cooking. While almost all the courses from Feed Me are from the a la carte menu, there is an outstanding Argentinian red prawn dish reserved solely for diners who place complete confidence in the chef’s picks. The Josper oven-grilled shrimp arrives in all its well-deserved succulent and savoury glory and in the company of a riveting fermented prawn butter prepped with prawn shells salvaged from other shrimp dishes.
In the interest of zero wastage, leftover Indian pale ale sour dough, served as one of three snacks on the Feed Me menu with whipped lard drizzled over with chilli oil and kelp butter, re-appears – uniquely enough – as sour dough ice cream with burnt butter crumbs and a side of acidity courtesy of fermented strawberries. Clearly, even the desserts are not an afterthought.
All of eight courses for S$88++ only on the Feed Me menu. That’s excellent value for the quantity and quality of food that it affords, don’t you think?
12 Purvis Street, Singapore 188 591; saltedandhung.com.sg; +65-6358 3130