The extremely popular pop-up FIVE TEN has rebranded into The Salted Plum as it finds its home at Boat Quay. Continuing the five-ten practice of selling dishes at $5 or $10 (but they do have $15 and $20 dishes, kinda like the drinking game except they don’t have $0 dishes, why not?!), The Salted Plum serves small plates of Taiwanese and Taiwanese-inspired street food with a side of Mandopop in the background.
Chef Shawn Kok who cut his teeth at Western restaurants such as Salted and Hung and Skirt at W Hotel brings with him some Western sensibility into the Taiwanese cuisine as he has travelled throughout Taiwan to seek inspiration.
For lunch, there are 8 selections of $10 rice bowls including Lu Rou Fan (braised pork belly, kai lan, sous vide egg), Steak Rice (Sirloin steak, pickle cabbage, sous vide egg) and Burnt Chilli Chicken Rice (Seared Chicken with burnt chilli and coriander, sous vide egg).
For dinner, the menu consists of small plates with a free flow of AAA grade jasmine rice. Alternatively, you may order the Shiny Rice ($0.50 per portion), a classic Taiwanese way of topping rice with pork lard and garlic oil. We tried the Shiny Rice and were disappointed that it wasn’t as lardy or fragrant as the one we had in Taiwan. Worth getting is the free-flow of red tea ($5/decanter) and salted plum juice ($5/decanter). (Army boys! You need to come here. Free-flow of rice and drinks!)
From the $5 section, we had the smashed baby potatoes powdered with salted plum, a play on French fries; and the bamboo shoots (pictured above) braised in pork broth. Both are pleasant. There is also a dish of soy-glazed chicken hearts with fried ginger that we didn’t try, but it sounds interesting and we probably will when we return.
We ate mostly from the $10 section. The seared sirloin steak which sits on a house pickled cabbage is nice if a little thin and chewy. Our friends who ate at Five Ten reported that it used to be better then. Brussels sprouts (pictured below) is sauteed with salted pork and shiitake mushrooms: nice, didn’t have the bitterness, characteristic of badly cooked brussels sprouts.
There are two dishes we didn’t like: the grilled squid (pictured above), which is glazed with a house-made five-spice BBQ sauce, is fishy and unpalatable. The pig (large) intestines (below), braised for more than 10 hours in a thick house sauce, are smelly. Large intestines have a certain gaminess, but this was beyond what I can accept although two friends at the table enjoyed it.
The well-known Taiwanese fried chicken (pictured below), xian su qi, is transformed into bite-sized here. First marinated with soy and sesame, and then deep-fried, it is served with nori mayonnaise. I find that it doesn’t have a good meat-to-skin ratio, too little meat but my friend adored and devoured it.
Another favourite of ours, burnt chilli chicken (pictured below), is described on the menu as “charred chicken thigh cooked with loads of chilli” but it is not at all spicy. That said, we love the juxtaposition of the tender chicken and the crispy, charred skin: really quite addictive. We—by we, I mean I–couldn’t stop picking at it until the very last charred crumb.
Taiwan xiang chang is transformed into patties (pictured below) here, without the sausage casing. It gives a bigger surface area to grill, making it more aromatic. It’s not bad, but I miss the feeling of biting into a sausage with its juices squirting.
I like the description on their menu of the pork chop (“juicy af”) but we didn’t have it and had instead the haus bacon which is cured in-house a la Taiwanese style. On its own, it is too salty but the way to eat this is to eat it with rice or with an amazing chilli sauce (much like our Hainanese chicken rice’s chilli) that comes with it.
My favourite dish is what made Five Ten popular in the first place: their signature lu rou (below) which is slow-cooked in a secret concoction of spices. I bit into a star anise, so we know at least one spice. (Let’s crowd-source to find out the rest. haha.) It’s fantastic, very soft and tender, thoroughly flavoured-through, although I wish it wasn’t sous-vide so much and I wish there was still some bite left in it.
The dessert, red tea jelly ($5), is perhaps indicative of what the restaurant is trying to do. The dessert consists of red tea jelly, tapioca pearls, and double cream. Do you recognise it? It’s a deconstructed version of bubble tea. (Love the cream! so thick!)
What the restaurant does is to take familiar elements of Taiwanese cuisine and present them in fun, innovative, and unexpected ways. On the whole, an excellent and interesting experience here. Delicious food. Expect to spend about $30 here. A good price at Boat Quay.
The Salted Plum
10 Circular Rd, Singapore 049366
tel: +65 6260 0155
12pm-3pm, 6pm-10pm, closed Sun
Price/value: 6.5/10 (the portions are pretty small, but the pitcher of red tea or plum is free-flow)
Decor/ambience: 5.75/10 (love the music but not sure how the decor is Taiwanese. Also it can get noisy and sounds are trapped.)
You may be interested in…
–Chen’s Mapo Tofu, Downtown Gallery: Sister Outlet of the 2 Michelin Starred Shisen Hanten
–Wanton, Seng’s Noodle Bar, Amoy Street: Hipsterising Wonton Mee to Pair with Beer
–Ding Tele 鼎特乐, Kovan: Fantastic New Shanghaiese Restaurant Specializing in Sheng Jian Bao 生煎包
–Mak’s Noodle 麥奀雲吞麵世家, Centrepoint: Will The “Best Wanton Mee in Hong Kong” Still be Best in Singapore?
Written by Dr. A. Nathanael Ho.