The Place Located along North Canal Road, the two weeks old Restaurant Ibid is the brainchild of Chef Woo Wai Leong, a lawyer-in-training turned chef and the first winner of the inaugural MasterChef Asia season. The first thing which I am curious about is the word ibid, which means ‘from the same source’ in Latin, an ideology which form the basis of the inspiration for the dishes here.
The shophouse setting is pretty open concept style, where you can get a good overview of the action in the kitchen from most tables. The interior spots mainly off-white and grey tones with strong orients hints like the drawers at the front, which resembles that from a traditional Chinese medicine hall; not forgetting the logo of Restaurant Ibid which resembles the old fashioned Chinese window frame.
The Food The inspirations for the dishes comes from Nanyang-style, Contemporary Chinese cuisine, where most of the dishes are inspired from Chinese ingredients at the source. There is no ala carte menu for dinner, where set menus of 4-courses (S$78++), 6-courses (S$88++) and 8-courses (S$118++) are available. Lunch service is in the pipeline but not firmed yet as of press time.
We started with some complementary snacks like the Spring Onion Shaobing, served with Yeasted butter and Laksa leaf. It looks like the buns I typically see at Chinese restaurants, except that this snack is worthy to be on the menu proper. Delicious.
The other complementary snack to start is the Skewered Escargot Skewers, which looks nothing like what I envisioned it to be. The escargot here is skewered and brushed with Dou Ban Jiang mayonnaise, grilled, brushed with the same mayonnaise, wrapped in betel leaves and charred. There is a nice, smoky flavour to it and I enjoyed it more than the usual French escargot fashion.
On to the dinner proper, I started with the Tea Egg Soubise, inspired from Chinese tea egg. The broth here is quite light in flavour, comprising of a mix of Mandarin pu-erh and Gingko, topped with an organic egg yolk, along with some shiitake mushrooms and gingko nuts by the sides. The combination of ingredients seem random but gels well for me.
Another relatively light dish I tried is the White Radish Porridge with Bamboo shoot and Century, topped with thinly sliced radish strips which adds a nice crunch to the dish.
I thought the lamb tartare will be gamy, but not quite for the Lamb Tartare Garlic Yoghurt here. The only reason I can think of is the strong marination and seasoning with heavy flavours such as Szechuan cumin spice mix, dried chillies and Szechuan peppercorns. There is also some deep-fried lotus root by the side of the tartare.
The theme of Chinese inspired dishes continues with this Ah Hua Kelong Grouper Tofu purée. Chef was trying to make tofu butter one fine day and decided to incorporate it into this dish. The skin of the grouper is slightly crispy, soaked in a nice Shaoxing Fumet broth and served along some Charred Kailan and Coriander. Though there is butter element, the dish does not taste buttery at all, which is not a bad thing.
Even a dish as westernised as beef short ribs can co-exist in harmony with Chinese ingredients. The Short Rib Black Garlic here is sous vide for 2 days, and accompanied with ingredients like black fungus, Angelica root, Chinese pear and roasted chicken stock jus. The flavours work well surprisingly, and especially noteworthy is the black fungus which is pickled in soya sauce and black vinegar.
Another meaty dish I tried is the Momoiro Collar Sweet Potato with Savoy Cabbage and Red Fermented Beancurd. The charcoal grilled pork is tender and has the right proportion of lean meat to fats for me, served with a sauce made of caramel, black vinegar, red fermented beancurd and red rice wine lees.
Just like how we usually conclude a Chinese wedding meal, Chef Woo chooses to present the Lotus Rice Mushroom towards the end of the meal. There are two types of grains here, short grain rice and glutinous rice, along with preserved liver sausage which is steamed, frozen then grated over the rice. The glutinous rice is also topped with a piece of foie gras, which makes this dish a little different from other versions.
For desserts, the Soy Milk Ice Cream Sesame Cake with almond foam is quite an interesting take on an ingredient we are so familiar with in Singapore. The soy milk element is pronounced, and I can taste a tinge of spiciness towards the end on my palate due to the Sarawak pepper added. The ice cream itself is a combination of soy milk and tofu.
The other dessert I tried is the Hibiscus Dessert, an expectedly more floral flavour as compared to the soy milk ice cream. The tang Yuan here is made from rosella, along with Chinese ginger sugar crumble, house-made red bean jam, yoghurt ice-cream, hibiscus leaf and hibiscus jam.
Rants The space at the main dining area feels rather tight. A walk through the space to the powder room will require some agile movements to avoid knocking into fellow diners.
Will I Return Again? The Nanyang style Chinese dishes are definitely unique to Restaurant Ibid. I do feel that the flavours can be bolder, as expectations certainly run high for Chef Woo. That said, it is a remarkable start for the restaurant given that it has only been opened for two weeks. This is an ideal spot to dine if you choose to come with an open mind, ideal for casual client lunches or gatherings.
This was an invited tasting, though all opinions expressed are our own.
Taste bud: 4/5
Hole in the pocket: 4/5
Overall Experience: 3.5/5
18 North Canal Road
Tel: +65 9151 8698
Monday to Saturday: 11.30am to 2.30pm; 6.30pm to 10.30pm
Ranted by The Ranter