Restaurant Ibid – MasterChef Asia Winner Opens First Restaurant
As you walk into three-week old Restaurant Ibid located on North Canal Road, you might notice a familiar face in the kitchen. The restaurant’s chef-owner is none other than Woo Wai Leong, winner of the very first season of MasterChef Asia! The restaurant’s name is definitely unusual. The word, ‘ibid’ can usually be seen in seldom-read footnotes in academic papers. It is actually abbreviated Latin and simply means ‘from the same source’.
When creating his dishes, Chef Woo often takes inspiration from his mother who always cooked his personal favourites, KL-style Hokkien Mee and Sarawak Laksa. ‘Ibid’ is therefore an apt description – Chef Woo wishes to explore his heritage and his roots through food! The food at Restaurant Ibid has been described as ‘contemporary Chinese’, as Chef Woo cooks with familiar Asian flavours but makes use of modern Western techniques.
Our feast began with two complimentary side dishes. We first had Chef Woo’s take on a Spring Onion Shao Bing (烧饼), which is served with yeasted butter and laksa leaves. The Shao Bing is stuffed with a mixture of spring onions, mozzarella cheese, black pepper and sesame oil. It is then pan-seared to achieve a dark golden brown on both sides.
The second complimentary side dish was a reimagining of a French classic – Escargot Screwers. Pieces of escargot are skewered and brushed with dou ban jiang mayonnaise (chilli bean sauce). Then, the skewers are dipped in fried shallots and wrapped in a betel leaf before being charcoal-grilled. The escargot had a deep smokey aroma, which complemented its subtly sweet flavour. The use of the betel leaf also added a bit of crunch and a peppery taste.
The Tea Egg Soubise is served with a Mandarin pu-erh broth (a type of Chinese tea) and gingko nuts. Having worked in a ramen restaurant, Chef Woo took inspiration from the Japanese ‘onsen’ egg and decided to use a similar technique for this tea egg dish. An egg yolk is cooked sous vide at 65°C for one hour. The broth is made with Mandarin pu-erh and topped with gingko, which adds a hint of nuttiness and bitterness.
The second course was a White Radish Porridge served with Bamboo Shoots and a Century Egg. The porridge is actually made with white radish trimmings that have been boiled and cooked with overnight rice, soy milk, and is finished with butter and salt. The soft textures the white radish porridge and the century egg are contrasted by sautéed radish strips. The crispy radish strips also add saltiness which accentuated the flavour of the dish.
Restaurant Ibid’s Lamp Rump is cooked in a pan until charred before being chilled and hand-chopped. It is then mixed with finely chopped celery, white onions, as well as a spice mixture of cumin, dried chillies, and Szechuan peppercorns. Finally, the lamb is dressed with a roasted garlic yoghurt. The tartare was surprisingly light and refreshingly tasting. It did not have the gamy flavours commonly associated with lamb. Deep-fried lotus root is also served on the side.
The Short Rib with Black Garlic marked the start of our three main courses. The beef short rib is cooked sous vide for 48 hours at 65°C to achieve a perfect braised consistency. The short rib is accompanied by black garlic mashed potatoes, black fungus, Chinese pear and chicken jus. Chef Woo actually pickles the black fungus a mixture of soya sauce, black vinegar and sugar.
The Ah Hua Kelong Grouper is pan-seared and served on top of a bed of ‘tofu butter’. The dish is then completed with Shaoxing Fumet, which is an emulsion of fish stock, butter, shallots, Shaoxing (rice wine) and black peppercorn.
We were served yet another protein-filled dish, the Momoira Collar, which is char-grilled pork collar served with sweet potatoes, savoy cabbage and a gastrique (sweet and sour sauce). The butter-enriched sauce is made of caramel glazed with black vinegar, red fermented bean-curd and red rice wine.
Chef Woo is a firm believer in ending meals with a filling rice dish, like in Chinese and Japanese restaurants. For our last course before desserts, we had Lotus Rice with Mushrooms, Foie Gras and Preserved Liver Sausage. The rice is steamed in a lotus leaf to infuse its umami flavour. Dried shitake mushrooms are fried and caramelised with butter, soy sauce and garlic. Interestingly, the preserved liver sausage is steamed, frozen and then grated over the rice.
Our desserts came in the form of two courses. We first had the Hibiscus Dessert, which is a tang yuan dish that is made with roselle (a variety of hibiscus). The tang yuan is served with Chinese ginger sugar crumble, house-made red bean jam and hibiscus jam, as well as yoghurt ice cream.
Chef Woo wanted to challenge himself to make a non-dairy dessert. Our last course came in the form of Soy Milk Ice Cream, served with a sesame cake, almond foam and Sarawak pepper. The use of Sarawak pepper is a way for Chef Woo to pay homage to his mother’s Sarawakian heritage. The sweet yet light ice cream goes very well with the gentle heat of the Sarawak pepper.
Note: This is an invited tasting.
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