The Sexy Chef David Pynt
Whoever came up with the name for the restaurant deserves a raise because “burnt ends” is a culinary term that hipsters (their target audience) would know. It means the caramelized, charred parts, usually on fatty parts of the surface of meat, that gives the meat its smoky aroma. When you bite into it, it gives a starburst of granules, adding texture to the meat. It also gives you cancer. Example: “I love the burnt ends of char siew.”
Note the powerful blast of inferno at the chimney. You can say “The eye of Sauron never sleeps,” ok, geek joke here.
Burnt Ends is owned by Chef Andre Chiang of Andre, #38 best restaurant in the world, and hoteliers Mavis Oei and Loh Lik Peng. I admire Oei and Loh immensely because of their business acumen and foresight. They were the ones who brought Jason Atherton in to start Esquina, our favorite restaurant in 2012, arguably the restaurant that started the tapas craze. This time, they bought in another rising trend. Wood-fired ovens and grills are popular in New York and London now because top chefs believe in going back to basics like cavepeople, using natural scent of wood to bring out something primal and natural in food.
The fish was grilling on the adjustable part. Embers of wood were scooped from the oven onto the grill. Note the cheese melting on the bun in the oven.
Still focussing on the concept of no reservations, small-bites and counter seats, Chef David Pynt, an Australian who worked at Viajante, an East London restaurant also owned by Oei and Loh, utilizes the two ovens differently: one oven can reach up to 800 degrees, twice the heat of home ovens, for food that require jets of heat to sear in the flavors and the other reaches only 200 degrees and is used for slow roasting, sealing in the juices. For the grill, they are actually very interesting to watch: just two sheets of metal. The bottom sheet is immovable and glowing embers of wood are placed on it. The top sheet can be moved up and down and food is placed on it and the height is adjusted accordingly to the heat.
We were so excited our hearts were beating in our throats and we were the first to arrive. We started with cold smoked quail eggs ($6 for 5), which yolk exploded in the mouth and left a sweet, almost fruity, aftertaste. While this was delicious, we didn’t think we would order this the next time round because there are more interesting items on the menu.
The Burnt Ends’ Sanger ($20), a pulled pork burger about the size of a huge Chinese bao (bun), was deliciously complex, sweet, tangy and creamy with the cole slaw providing a crunch and just 2-3 slices of jalapeños for a surprise of sourness and spiciness. All these were clasped between a nicely toasted, slightly charred brioche. But the pork was slightly dry and we noted some difference as the cooks were making the burgers. For our burgers–we were early–the cooks used brunoise of cheese that was melted in the oven and they used pork from the fridge. But for the latecomers, the cooks used slices of cheese and freshly cooked pork. Surely there should be consistency?
“Let’s french kiss,” said the dead fish.
Both the whole redfish ($50) and the onglet (flank steak, 100g – $17) had the same quality. The exterior was charred and embittered by the woodfire but the flesh remained tender, moist and sweet, counterpoising the bitterness. One of the chefs told us that the fish was kept dry, wrapped in paper and bag before chilling so that it cooks better. He also said that the onglet was very fresh: “It arrived the same time as you guys did.” Haha.
The wild hibiscus, smoked ice cream and ginger ($10) rounded off the theme of smokiness, with the ice cream tasting charred. I’ve eaten smoked ice cream before so I wasn’t as impressed as my eating companion. And the smokiness lingered in the mouth long after the meal, which made me a little uncomfortable.
The decor was more polished and comfortable than other tapas bar but the burning of the wood can be hard to endure. My friend loved the scent while I have a more sensitive nose and the smoke could get choking.
The service could be erratic. While the very sexy Australian manager–we assumed he’s Cameron Dewar as stated on Burnt Ends’s facebook page–gave impeccable service, the pink-haired Singaporean waitress was rather new and untrained. A bonus was that Chef Pynt asked about our food and smiled at customers. He looked like a down-to-earth, nice guy.
In general, the food was of good value and healthy. The restaurant had a unifying theme of using direct fire from wood to tease out the freshness and naturalness of the food and the results were delightful. Although it didn’t give me the elusive jouissance that food from Esquina gave, this is definitely the top 5 restaurants I’ve been this year.
Including drinks, we spent about $122 for two or about $60 for one.
20 Teck Lim Road Singapore 088391
T: 6224 3933
Rating: 3.767/5 supernova (get it??? when stars burn, they become supernova.)
Written by A. Nathanael Ho.