Claypots Full Circle at Amoy Street is Mediterranean-Asian seafood restaurant and bar that prides itself on the its fresh seafood and sourcing for them locally as far as possible. You wouldn’t be remiss to simply assume that at Claypots Full Circle you’d be served a deluge of dishes in claypots accompanied by their clackety symphony in the kitchen. In fact, the restaurant is so named to pay homage to the cooking implement, something the founder Renan Goksin fell in love with when he first discovered it. And that is perhaps, more or less, the extent of the claypot application apart from a few dishes in the menu. Instead, Claypots Full Circle’s raison d’etre is in its modern interpretations of Mediterranean-Asian cuisine while respecting the freshness of its seafood.
Though not a seafood, the first dish certainly set up high expectations for the rest of the meal. Claypots’ Cheese Saganaki ($15, pictured above) is a cheekily clever take on the traditional Greek dish. Instead of the usual flour, the surface is caramelised with sugar into a crunchy crème brulee-esque texture. On top is served a fragrant, citrussy and chewy candied orange. These sweet additions might make you wonder if dessert came a tad early but the salty savouriness of the cheese rounds up the sweetness and turns this saganaki into an appetising play of sweet, salty and zesty.
The next two are tributes to Asian cuisine – the Sambal Okra ($8, pictured above) and Atlantic Sardines with Kaffir Lime Leaves ($12, below). Both are well-cooked – the okra retains some crunchiness and the sardines are soft enough that I manage to masticate on the milky juiciness of its head and bones. However, spices and aromatics from sambals should explode in your mouth like a gastronomical supernova. It is first riotous then unified. Here, these sambals are milder – little, tame pops of flavour. Nice enough without being deeply satisfying. I hungered for a sambal stingray after.
Thankfully there’s the Garlic Prawn (market price, $18 per piece when we were there) with its gravy of olive oil, garlic, sambal oelek and an intensely moreish hunk of seared coriander. There is nothing more tongue-gratifying, tummy-sating than dipping a toasty pide in the oily, garlicky sauce. This is easily the most simply presented and put together dish but it is also the most focussed. Prawns are also cooked well with just the right amount of bite. There is little to complain about this except maybe if the coriander were chopped up, there might be a greater impartation of its flavour. Practically, it’d be much easier to scoop up also.
There’s two other less overtly flavourful dishes in the course of tasting – the Full Circle Port Arlington Mussels ($25, pictured above) and Moroccan Claypot ($26, below). I found myself missing the mussels in Belgium and pining for the tagines of Morocco. The mussels are cooked in a blend of herbs, garlic and a supposedly unctuous sauce finished off with butter and wine. These are a strong, powerful flavours but it is hard to find them in this dish. The Moroccan Claypot, like its local counterparts, feels like a watered-down aspiration. The aromatics and herbaceousness of its components don’t come through. The couscous undergirding it all is bland. To be fair, all the seafood is well cooked – nothing too flaky, mealy or undercooked. But there isn’t the homely, rustic, comforting flavours that these foods should bring.
In the finale, there is some redemption, if not for flavour, then at least for value. The St Kilda Shellfish Stir-Fry (market price, pictured below, $95 when we were there) is the piece de resistance of the meal that promises the charry delight of ‘wok hei.’ ‘Wok hei’ I did not find, but I did find myself diving into the sweet, tender flesh of the flower crabs, mussels, prawns and clams because who doesn’t plunge head first into a giant mound of seafood? With its warm bed of rice, this dish can easily feed 4-5 people.
Claypots Full Circle at its ideal is a paradisal service of seafood well-seasoned with the breath-taking flavours of Asia and Mediterranean. Though some of the prices might suggest otherwise (the Whole Octopus Leg goes for $75. Nowhere else have I seen such pricing for Octopus leg), it is a nice, pretty, casual, weekend joint, good for the weekend adventurer out to survey the culinary landscape of Singapore. Or for the weekly gathering where good friends get together for good company. The not-in-your-face gentler, milder flavours are well suited to those looking for the comfort of simplicity.
Claypots Full Circle
103 Amoy St, Singapore 069923
tel: +65 6203 2203
M-F 10.30am-12am, Sat 5pm-12am, closed Sun
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Written by Paul Ng. Deathrow meal: steamed uonuma koshihikari rice, sunny side up eggs drizzled with slow-rendered pork lard, kicap cair dark soya sauce with a side of gribenes. And a bowl of uni. Aspiring taitai. Also co-owner of Provisions Food – local maker of baked goods, snacks, condiments and sauces inspired by the flavours of Asia.