One year on, the inaugural Asia’s MasterChef, lawyer-turned-chef Woo Wai Leong’s restaurant, Restaurant Ibid at Boat Quay is going from strength to strength. The cuisine is modern Chinese or contemporary Chinese. The restaurant’s name, “Ibid,” which means “from the same source” is fitting as the ingredients come from the same Chinese source and he transforms them in unexpected ways.
For dinner, patrons are given the option of a 6-course ($98++) or 9-course meal ($138++).
To start things off, we are treated to a cup of Celtuce tea – tea broth made from dried celtuce skins, grounded and added together with roasted green tea, rock sugar and topped off with droplets of fennel oil. The broth is light with the fennel oil being distinct and liquoricey but not overpowering.
Shaoxing-cured hamachi, one of the appetisers in the tasting menu, is cured in kombu, shaoxing wine and sour plum. It is nestled on top of a chewy seaweed and crisp baby radish salad; seasoned with a soy sauce gel. The fish has a lovely texture and the subtle umami kombu flavour builds up as you chew.
In the hands of Chef Woo, a seemingly simple appetizer of grilled local sotong is complex. To execute this dish, one has to possess excellent knife skills and patience. The cross-cut on the squid is not only pretty but it also allows the heat from the charcoal to cook it evenly. Dipping the squid in the sauce that is made from scratch (charred green peppers, roasted shallots and Chinese coriander), is delightful. It is tender but not rubbery; smokey and savoury.
Shao bing, Restaurant Ibid’s mainstay and a perennial crowd favourite, is served with yeasted butter and roasted onion crumble. If you ever need a reason to come to Restaurant Ibid, look no further. Having drawn inspiration from the ubiquitous flatbread snack found in China, Woo’s rendition is stuffed with spring onions, cheese, sesame oil and hints of black pepper. He steams it first before he pan-fries it – hence it is crispy (on the outside), chewy (on the inside), dense and so flavourful. Slather a generous amount of the yeasted butter and eat it with the roasted onion crumble (which is made from the leftover onions from soup and sauce making) – so umami, so tasty.
The chicken wing stuffed with fish paste and foie gras has a good amount of yuncheong or Chinese liver sausage shavings on top. The chicken wing is moist and tender; the foie gras and fish paste filling is rich and creamy. Eaten together with the grated yuncheong makes it sublime. Goes so well with ice cold beer. Fatty liver inside, savoury liver outside. Umami max.
The Jinhua ham custard is prepared from a stock simmered over three days and steamed into a luscious custard at a low temperature, finishing off with oscietra caviar from China. I am unsure of what the burnt onion sauce achieves but the texture of the custard is silky and the briny tiny black pearls pop in the mouth.
For the mains, between the beef short rib and grilled lamb loin, I prefer the former. Both mains are good but if you’re not a fan of gamey meats, the lamb might not be the dish for you.
The 72 hours beef short rib is tender with rich and robust flavours. It is accompanied with a reduced veal jus that is infused with angelica root or dang gui, fermented Chinese pear jam and black fungus which is first pickled then charred. Love the contrast of a rich beefy flavour with the tartness of the crunchy black fungus. The individual components of the dish are outstanding on their own but do not achieve a gestalt.
Ending with a carb as they do in Chinese wedding banquets, the Chinese bacon porridge is rich and flavourful. The consistency is akin to a risotto except this is made with Japanese rice simmered in a thick, almost tonkotsu-like broth (a nod’s to Chef Woo’s stint in a ramen shop). Would prefer to have more of the pickled daikon/green apple to undercut the richness of the porridge.
Going for the 9 course menu gives you the opportunity to taste two desserts (yay!) – strawberries & cream and black rice mochi with milk oolong ice cream. Of the two desserts, I would prefer the latter. The black rice mochi (chewy and sticky black glutinous rice cake with crispy exterior) is served warm which contrasts well with the cold milk oolong ice cream.
A lot of hard work and ingenuity go into each dish. Chef Woo’s enthusiasm about making his food tasty and approachable is infectious. The restaurant’s first year anniversary is something to celebrate, especially in Singapore’s competitive F&B scene. Hopefully with the consistent high standards, there will be many more years to come for Restaurant Ibid.
18 North Canal Road Singapore 048830
Tel: +65 9151 8698
6.30pm – 10.30pm (last order at 9 pm), Closed on Sun
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–Publico Ristorante, Robertson Quay: Italian Food and Great Vibes
–Bakalaki Greek Taverna, Tiong Bahru: Amazing Greek Food But Service Needs Some Improvement
Written by Vanessa Khong. Vanessa is someone who enjoys checking out the local food scene. She believes the way to her heart is through her stomach.