Just when this blog thought that the Singapore food scene has gotten boring with far too many Italian restaurants, he gets an invite to a tasting of a new menu created by Wayne Nish at The Screening Room on Ann Siang Road.
Wayne Nish is a Chef from New York who’s settled in Singapore about 6 months ago. He has, let me check the press kit here… He has 16 stars including one from Michelin. Not matter how ironic it seems, that particular star from a famous car tire manufacturer seems to be highly prized, even more so than say, one from a domestic appliance manufacturer. But what do I know?
Anyway, I was pleased that Hsian Ming of Sixth Sense graciously allowed me to invite my friends because it is always more fun to try a new restaurant with friends.
The Screening Room is located at the junction of Ann Siang Hill and Ann Siang Road. I almost missed it because a huge laundry truck was parked outside the entrance. I was diverted across the road where something Swedish was happening. Frankly speaking, in terms of attractiveness, no amount of mighty whitey laundry can beat tall blond women standing outside a door smoking looking mysterious.
Basically, like the menu, the dinner was organized in 5 parts where the restaurant showcased their best in flights of thankfully small tasting portions.
The first flight showcased the Crudo which is an Italian word (literally: “Cru” meaning “Small bits of raw seafood you put in your mouth” and “do” meaning “when you’re drunk”). This is very different from the Japanese Sashimi where they try and see how far they can go by feeding you scary things.
Actually I quite like the Crudo Concept ™ because each morsel is a complete package of food and condiment (wasabi, soyu etc) all ready for that one bite. Saves you the embarrassment of having everything unravel and spill as you would when dipping into the soyu. Engineered food; very cool.
They were all laced with spices and ingredients calculated to “accentuate” and “tease” the flavors out of the raw seafood. Unfortunately, I found that the spices overwhelmed rather than enhanced the flavor of the fish. It was all texture.
Having said that, the Botan Ebi with uni, mentaiko, nori and calamansi was a triumph in balance of flavors with the extreme sweetness of the ebi brutally but refreshingly cut down by the Calamansi. And the Swordfish with olive oil, white soya sauce, sesame seeds and chives was such a chewy and savory treat that I found myself looking around for leftovers. Sadly, there were none.
Gastropub was the next theme. In olden times, most pubs would serve pub grub, in fact, most of them would display their pub grub openly so that people would buy their drinks, stare at the food and carry on drinking.
All this ended when some enterprising person thought that, possibly, some people might like to eat something good. Hence, gastronomic pub grub was created.
They were all very good. Of the lot, the weakest was the Torchon of Foie Gras because the Foie Gras was served too cold which made it flavorless and easily overwhelmed by the Mango Coulis and it was rather difficult to eat as it consists of a few parts. The Roulade of raw beef carpaccio deserves special mention as it was flavorful with the right amount of heat, beefiness and chew. As for the Chicken patties in flaky phyllo pastry, I could have ate a hundred of the well-spiced puffs and not get tired. The key difference is the flaky phyllo pastry; it added an extra dimension of what I can only describe as deliciousness.
By this time, Wayne was comfortable with us and started to describe passionately the rationale behind each of the bites. And we were all ears. Later, he confided that having bloggers over for a tasting was a more down-to-earth experience for him. I can only hope I didn’t embarrass myself by asking stupid questions.
And passion was
the fashion at the Copa raised when the steak course was served. It turns out that Wayne is also passionate about steak and shares the same view about the steakhouses in Singapore. With the exception of Morton’s, all local steakhouses cannot really do steak; it’s not because they are bad (well, most are, in my opinion) cooks; it’s because most Singaporeans thinks 200g is a good size for a steak. You can’t really do a good job cooking a mere 200g because the meat would burn through in no time at all. Unfortunately, the public demand for 200g steaks (more like carpaccios) is overwhelming.
We agree that 500-700g is the ideal size if you really want a good steak done properly. And like all great Chefs, medium-rare is as far as Wayne will allow in a steak.
While it looked a little dry at first, I loved the short loin with its full flavor and excellent marbling that was revealed as we dug into each slice. What I really enjoyed was the Yuzukosho and Soyu dip that came with it; this was a light citric dip that added bright notes to the beefy richness that was outstanding.
In my opinion, with Wayne Nish there, The Screening Room can quickly become the next premier American Steakhouse in Singapore.
Of course, not forgetting Singapore’s most famous Pescavore and Sushi bar expert, a ginormous Cod steak was presented. I agree with Weylin that this was a steamed fish and I loved the steamed Broccoli.
Things got even more animated as the cheese was ushered out. Again, Weylin has made detailed notes about each cheese (they give out amazing press kits). I liked them all, in particular the Reblochon, the Roquefort and the Tomme De Belloc. While the traditional wine to pair cheese with is red (or port), Wayne suggested that we try it with the wonderfully crisp white Bordeaux. I think he has something there.
The differentiating factor about the cheeses served at the Screening Room is that the cheeses are served simply without any accompaniments like quince, fruit etc. And they serve it with Naan instead of bread or crackers.
When Wayne came to Singapore, he noticed that the high humidity was affecting the quality of the breads here and so after some experimenting, he decided that the more robust Naan was the perfect mate to the cheeses. I have to agree; there’s nothing quite like a warm buttery Naan to wrap a creamy cheese like the Reblochon in.
And just when we thought that dinner was happily concluded, the next flight flew in and landed on the table to our groans.
Dessert! It was with great despair as I view the spread in front of me as it looked very good and yet I was full. I loved the fresh fruit with ginger syrup, honey and spiced salt because it refreshed my palate with the strong ginger sweetness that was balanced out with very tart orange slices.
The other dessert I liked was the Sheep’s Milk Mahalabia with pistachios, candied ginger and pomegranate molasses. Quite a mouthful to say, but I loved the exotic blend of flavors smoothed out by the Mahalabia.
Samia Ahad, the founder of The Screening Room, Chef of The Coriander Leaf and part-time cooking instructor to vaguely pretty boys, joined us during the cheese course. It transpired that she worked with Wayne in New York and some of her Middle Eastern influences were deftly incorporated into the menu by Wayne.
What started out as a slightly formal dinner matured into a comfortable meal with friends, new and old. I must say that this dinner was one of the better ones I’ve had all year. It is a wonderful thing to finally see such innovation with both style and substance in town with Chef Nish’s new menu.
On the walk back, Weylin and I got to talking about The Screening Room in general. Opened since 2007, the restaurant has finally found its voice in Chef Nish this year, however, that voice is in danger of being diluted with the two(!) bars and a theater. This is further compounded with the surrounding area of more focused restaurants and bars. The Screening Room has an uphill climb ahead, but at least it’s finally found its feet.
The Screening Room is at 12 Ann Siang Road, Singapore 069692, Tel. +65 6221 1694. Closed on Sundays.
I totally agree with you for thickness of Singapore’s steak! I went to Market Place to ask the staff cut at least 2 inches thick Sirloin for me and they gave me this Do-you-really-know-how-to-cook Look! Arrrhh….
@Homeladychef: While The Marketplace is not the first place I’d go for meats, there is a very pleasant elderly gentleman there who understands and loves his meat; I’ve never had problems with him.
I see. Please kindly inform me which Market Place do you go to?
@Homeladychef: I usually go to the one at Raffles City because I have a direct bus there from work. It has an interesting range of Japanese sauces.
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