Food Review: Small’s Restaurant At King’s George Avenue | Doughmakse Dining Concept In Lavender By Chef Bjorn Shen
The Place If you know, you know. Firstly, the entrance of Small’s is at a back alley behind The Refinery in King’s George Avenue in Lavender. Secondly, you need to walk through the back door and you will be greeted by the hidden space of Small’s restaurant. A dining concept by Chef Owner Bjorn Shen, Small’s started as a really small room attached to Chef Bjorn Shen’s flagship restaurant, Artichoke where it started as a pizza omakase concept, or how chef coined it, “a room of bad ideas.”
The new Small’s which took over the space of what used to be a now-defunct speakeasy bar Little Bastard feels and looks more like a spacious living and dining room rather than a restaurant. There is a living area where diners can hang out on the comfy sofa for pre or post-dinner drinks, while the bar seats around the kitchen takes centrestage of the space where you have a full glimpse of what goes on for your plate.
The focus of Small’s is on Doughmakse, a playful reference to the Japanese Omakase concept. There are Japanese decorations around the restaurant, which adds to the Japanese izakaya vibes.
The Food By Doughmakse, the concept here is a creative play with a highlight on bread sushi instead of rice as with Japanese Omakase meals. There is only a Tasting Menu, with 3 snacks, 8-10 “bread-sushi”, 1 hotpot and 2 sweets. One point to note is that Small’s V2’s menu evolves and is subjected to changes on a daily basis based on ingredient availability and also to embrace new ideas.
The meal started with snacks like the Shishito Pepper and a Wasabi Pea bread cracker. For one, these are not typical Omakase snacks though it started off like a Japanese Izakaya, especially after I had Highball.
The Wasabi Pea started off well for me with the crispy bread cracker, delicious pea, and contrary to its name, you don’t get that strong sniff of wasabi here.
Next up is a series of bread sushi, inspiration from Danish smørrebrød, Basque pinxtos and Italian crostini. Each fish/seafood course is also paired with different styles of bread, made from high hydration, long-aged doughs.
The Shima Aji or striped jack fish is served with tomato and I was recommended to eat with my hands just like how we usually have sushi. On first bite, I find it quite a refreshing experience to have the fish with dough instead of rice. I was expecting the dough to weigh heavily on the flavour, but it is quite well-balanced.
The second sushi is the Hamachi (kingfish) with housemade kumquat kosho, wedge of cold seaweed butter, grated daikon and wasabi. The daikon adds that bit of refreshing element to this sushi!
One of the crowd’s favourite from my dining table is the Negitoro prepared with Otoro, leek, pear along with some korean style sesame dressing and chrysanthemum.
The California Roll has avocado and crabmeat wrapped in deep-fried dough with ohba leaf (shiso leaf), cucumber strips, tobiko, nori mayonnaise and yuzu dressing, a twist from the Japanese seaweed version. Unlike the previous sushi courses, this roll size is not quite possible in one bite.
Next up is not a typical sushi course, the Tenshi No Ebi. You get raw Angel Prawn seasoned with olive oil and yuzu served along with milk bread in Ajo Blanco. I like the marriage of Japanese and Spanish elements here, as that cold soup with spots of prawn oil is delicious, not to mention the fresh flavour of the shrimps. I love this dish and hopes it stays on.
Another memorable dish for me is the Engawa. The flounder fin is lightly seared, served with Som Tum (stir-fried green papaya salad) on grilled bread. The highlight is the addition of a generous shaving of frozen ankimo (monkfish liver), and a word of caution is to have this quickly. You get that amazing contrast of cold and warm sensation on the palate as the ankimo melts away slowly. This is probably my first time having ankimo this way, amazing.
Chirashi lovers will rejoice in this Chirashi course, which I did. Scallop, mixed fish, trout roe and sea urchin cream on a thin, crispy bread cracker. I like this idea and I wouldn’t mind this for breakfast.
Akami is up next – Lean tuna, heart of palm (shoot of young coconut tree) and sambal matah (raw sambal of Balinese origin) served on dough created with a high temperature, high hydration method. It sounds like a clash of flavours here, where each component balances out well surprisingly.
The next source is an interesting one. Monga Ika is a combination of Cuttflefish Vindaye & Kabocha, and is a Mauritian version of a vindaloo. You get house-pickled baby cuttlefish, pumpkin cream, house-pickled shallots and served on naked neapolitan pizza. This tastes like our local version of prata and curry, and it has that familiar and comforting flavour for me.
The hotpot course is a Vegetable Hotpot with Lavosh Noodle, where there are mushrooms and surprise surprise, Parmesan cheese. I do like the dashi-based broth on its own, though I would prefer it without the cheese element which can come across as pungent.
For desserts, it started with the Black Truffle Ice Cream & 20 Year Mirin, essentially bread ice cream served with fresh shavings of winter truffle. It is placed on my hand, before the crew shaved the truffles on it. I wish this rain doesn’t stop.
The last dessert course is the Strawberry, Yoghurt & Olive Oil – Strawberry sorbet, frozen yoghurt, puffed buckwheat and olive oil works as a refreshing end to the meal.
Rants Too much carbs for a Doughmakase? I initially thought I will be overwhelmed by the amount of bread but it didn’t turn out that way, which is a good thing. It also helps that you get different variants of bread along the courses so it doesn’t feel repetitive too.
Will I Return Again? This is definitely an interesting concept to check out, or impress your date with an unusual “Doughmakase” dining experience. The space of Small’s also feels cosy, as it is like a cross between a restaurant and a private home dining.
This was an invited tasting, though all opinions expressed are our own.
Taste bud: 4/5
Hole in the pocket: 4/5
Overall Experience: 4/5
115 King George’s Ave #02-02
Ranted by The Ranter