The Spot: Go Straight To The Sauce
Dinner at the new joint in town, The Spot, was one of conscious gourmandise for me, or perhaps gluttony would be the word.
We swooned, conquered and stumbled out of there, rubbing our bellies in gratification of the riches bestowed by Executive Chef Lee Boon Seng and his kitchen crew. Putting aside the disconcerting details of its written concept, which sounded like a fictitious living-breathing-eating quarters from a utopian society, we emerged as zealots to the kitchen’s abilities.
Macallan Boutique and bottles of Amarone? Distractions. Let’s go straight to the sauce(s) shall we?
The Spot, gamely ‘hits the spot’ with its multi power combo lashings in the form of Roasted Carrot Soup. The humble carrot is tended with so much love that it cumulates in a shallow pool of brilliant orange-hued broth, perfumed brusquely with ginger, orange and kaffir lime leaves. Playing second fiddle to the soup is the lemongrass chorizo prawn salsa, which combines fresh prawn with fresh chorizo and air-fried Spanish chorizo to provide more substance. There are scatterings of rye crumb that somehow manage to be all of crispy, salty and earthy at the same time—providing such a profound layer of pleasure to the dish. I had to muster every last ounce of my insipid willpower to exercise grace, with all but a soup spoon and an awkwardly curved soup bowl in my way.
Dining at The Spot throws many disturbances your way, as I have single-handedly experienced for myself whilst perched on the stool at a high table—cleverly designed to accommodate a small flight of stairs. If that’s not enough, the blinding fluorescent blue lights spill over to merge with the warm red hues in the restaurant, resulting in a gaudy purple tincture. It doesn’t take more than a preschooler to tell you that magenta doesn’t have a massive appeal on the appearance of your food. Aside from those buzzkills, I was ravenous and turned a blind eye.
The Charred Grilled Octopus sets the standards—high. It’s Asian roots ringing in familiar but unexpected flavour profiles. The mollusc’s tentacle is first cold marinated in oil infused with kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, garlic and shallots for a day before being grilled and sliced. Combinations are far from dated and derivative here, and you’ll find the preserved green papaya slaw next to the peanut and red miso emulsion pairing particularly amusing.
As you might expect from a chef who has been lauded to be one of the brightest young culinary talents of Singapore, Executive Chef Lee Boon Seng formally of Osia and Curate—it all boils down to the minuscule details. There are no soulless contortions of Asian classics here. This is not fusion food. Think of it as top-notch European styled proteins blessed with a wizardry of sauces driven by Southeast Asian ingredients. Most of it will require a certain single-mindedness to refrain from harmlessly trailing your finger across the plate. It’s not easy. I know, I’ve been there.
Let’s dive straight into it. There’s a local skate on the menu that’s not so much a dish as it is a gustatory jigsaw. Filleted skate, panfried, and wrapped in butter lettuce leaves, rests on a bed of Kokuho rice risotto prepared with housemade fish stock, young ginger and other aromats. There is a pronounced enthusiasm instilled around the table the moment the dried sole broth hits the dish. A multidimensional dish that conjures memories of Mum’s fish congee when you’re feeling slightly under the weather.
Wildly eclectic, and on the other side of the flavour spectrum, the next dish is backed up firmly on the grounds of strong protein execution—cue the brilliant Pan Fried Red Snapper with crispy skin, green curry emulsion and variations of eggplant. Upon first encounter, the green curry hits you like a ton of bricks. Nuances of lemongrass, blue ginger, kaffir lime leaves, lime juice and fish sauce lurk in the verdant foam. It’s elegant and bright and might even attempt to choke you if you’re savouring it by the mouthful. But its deviously spicy nature is designed to complement the moist flesh of the snapper. Eggplant presents itself in diversified forms; from dollops of grilled eggplant and spinach puree to vinegared confit Thai ping pong eggplants—crucial in lending a sour edge quite akin to a preserved sour plum.
The gaminess of the duck and the succinct floral notes of Chrysanthemum honey glaze do a happy dance in the next course. Local duck breast, through an assembly of ingredients, works like a dream team. We would have preferred a better quality fowl but we do respect the Chef’s wishes to respect the local produce.
We are less struck by the Pork Cheek ‘BBQ’, as the technique employed was heavily inspired by Bak Kwa. Whilst the pork jowl sported a blistered exterior, the innards lacked the alluringly fat-ringed interior that one would anticipate. But I fell in love with the Beef Short Ribs, a simple dish of ‘ugly-delicious’ calibre, done with a flourish that would have put many other big name competitors to shame. Short ribs are given a quick sear before being marinated overnight in a luxurious bath of Japanese soy sauce, white sugar, butter and garlic, and cooked sous-vide for two days. These are then grilled upon order and brought to life with a drizzle of sauce prepared with an ungodly amount of Javanese peppercorns. The textural play on this dish is riveting, the addition of pickled oyster mushroom in small doses showing restraint.
There are lots to love here, and the sweet finale of Sea Coconut Brûlée is one of them. It arrives magnanimously in a bowl and invites you to hug it with selfish intent. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t, given its excellent pedigree. Sea coconut, usually relegated to bowls of churned ice and sweet syrup in hawker centres are placed in custard cups and caramelised with a blowtorch. It’s topped with a filthily good quenelle of sour cream ice cream that left me in quite an ecstatic mood.
Dinner menu at The Spot includes gentle references to the humble Southeast Asian living. Don’t be too quick to judge the book by its cover, as a quick glance through the menu lets loose the impression that it’s all very clichéd, but it’s not. In fact, The Spot might just be only the place in town that gets it right, without adhering to the straitjacket of current restaurant trends and we’re hoping this one will stay.