Chicken rice salad
Chung Deming left his cushy finance job to start The Quarters at Icon Village, a cafe that serves modern Singaporean (mod-sin) food at affordable prices without gst or service charge. With no professional training but armed with loads of passion, he develops his ideas into recipes on his own. Almost everything, including dips, sauces, and ice creams, is made from scratch.
Har jeong gai ($9.50) and fries with curry aioli ($9)
His philosophy is that the taste of a certain ingredient should titillate, leaving the eater to crave for more, and not overwhelm her. So for instance, the salted egg dip for fries ($9) only had a whiff of salted egg which dissipated rapidly. Although I didn’t like it because I prefer the dip to be more salted-eggy, I respect his way of thinking.
One reason for my respect is how much thought and effort go into every dish, even for the traditional dishes like har cheong gai (prawn paste chicken, $9.50) and chilli crab linguine ($18, above). He makes the prawn paste, the belachan, and chilli crab sauce from scratch. And he chops the chicken into boneless chunks for easy eating. But because they come in chunks, a longer frying time is required, which make the chicken tough. Because they come in chunks, not wings, less surface area could absorb the marinade and the prawn paste don’t come across strongly. (Well in any case, from Deming’s philosophy, he probably doesn’t want potent prawn paste anyway.)
Playful dishes that reminded me of Singapore food fared slightly better. Like his other sauces, the peanut sauce for the chicken satay burger ($17, above) had a minor note of chilli before vanishing. The chicken patty needed to be more tender, and there was a pungent ingredient that I couldn’t take to. But the rice patties were awesome, thin, chewy, and crispy. The best main here was the baramundi ($18.80, below), crispy and interesting with lemongrass-and-ginger-flower sauce.
The Quarters is best for their desserts. The buah keluak ice cream, that comes with brownie ($10.80), was savory with a pungent bitter finish, and any foodie worth her salt should try this. The Quarters has improved their waffles ($12.80) since the last time I was here.
But the best dessert, and the best dish of the cafe, was absolutely, indubitably, by a long shot, the Mao Shan Wang creme brulee ($8.50). An amazingly balance between the durian and custard, so when the scent of the fruit runs down from the nose to the back of the throat, you begin to taste the custard. The caramelized burnt surface not only broke the monotony of the extremely smooth custard, it also mimicked the bitterness of durian.
While the desserts are awesome, there is still some way to go for the savory food to pass muster for me. It is difficult to balance the chef’s personal philosophy and what the eater wants. But the chef, who persists with his way, will find like-minded followers. And I know Deming with his passion and knowledge and intelligence will get a following.
16 Enggor Street, Icon Village #01-09 Singapore 079717
T: +65 6834 4174
M-F 8.00am-10pm, Sat 10am-10pm, Sun 10am-6pm
Service: NA (tasting)
Written by A. Nathanael Ho.
This is a tasting.