Food Review: Willow At Hong Kong Street | Contemporary Pan-Asian Cuisine Restaurant By Former Zen Sous Chef
The Place The excitement begins when I secured my reservation at Willow, a new restaurant along Hong Kong Street which took over the space of the now-defunct Vianney Massot. As one of the dining concepts under the Ebb & Flow Group, Willow restaurant is helmed by former Zen sous chef Nicolas Tam, where the kitchen crew is extremely young.
The space of Willow is intimate, with counter seats offering the best view of what goes on in the open kitchen, a few tables for small groups, and a private room at the back of the shophouse restaurant.
The Food The cuisine at Willow is contemporary pan-Asian menus, crafted daily based on availability of ingredients where Chef Nicolas Tam takes a sustainable approach to the utilisation of each ingredient.
There is only set menu here, where lunch is at S$148++ while dinner at S$198++.
I had the lunch menu, which is an 8-course affair including the snacks and petit fours. It started with an exquisite showcase of the Caviar, a thin potato chip with bonito creme, argan oil and topped with caviar. I love the Bonito creme and that crisp potato chip is amazing.
Served on the same plate is the Foie Gras, which on the other hand, is a western take on ‘Bolo bao’, topped with wild berry and aged vinegar gel. Pop it and you get a distinct foie gras flavour in the bun. I will buy this flavour if any bakery offers it.
After the two snacks, I had the Pain Au Lait. The freshly baked bread is served with nori butter sauce with katsuobushi sabayon, which I defined recommend spreading the delicious spread over the bread.
Next up is the Mikan-Tai, which uses mikan fed sea bream from Ehime. The freshly sliced sashimi is served with rhubarb and umeboshi sauce, which offers a nice sweetness to the fish. Overall, it is a light and refreshing dish from the tinge of citrus notes as well.
The next dish surprised me in a good way. You get chunky bits of Hotaru Ika where the firefly squid BBQ is served on a bed of squid ink risotto along with spiced algae creme. I am usually not a big fan of squid, but the BBQ squid here is really tender and flavourful.
The risotto is impressive too, with a moist texture and goes even better with the spiced algae creme.
For the main course, it is a choice between the Iberico Pork, Kinmedai or Wagyu A5 (+S$38 supplement).
The Rantee went for the Kinmedai served with koshihikari rice and fish bone broth. It is like an ‘atas’ version of fish soup dish, where the flavour is quite light, though the fish size is quite small as well. For a main course, I thought that the portion could be more substantial.
For me, I decided to go for the supplementary dish – Wagyu A5 featuring the Tochigi striploin served with haricot vert and ramson. I enjoyed the succulent and well-marbled beef, lovely balance of colours on the plate as well where the greens help to balance the palate.
For dessert, there is a choice of the Pomelo Litchi or Muah-Chee (+S$8 supplement). The Litchi-yuzu sorbet with shiso foam and sweet pomelo is very refreshing, sour, and it feels more like a palate cleanser to me than a dessert course.
Conversely, the Muah-Chee is more memorable for me where the peanut gelato with mochi and wrapped with thin rice veil is delicious. A very successful contemporary rendition of Singapore’s muah-chee.
Last but not least, the meal concluded with Petit Fours – Breakfast Toast Macaron and Candied Chestnut Madeleines. If I have a choice, I can have multiple servings of this. The mini macaron spots an interesting aftertaste of a toast as its name suggests, while the madeleine is perfect.
Rants Portions are generally quite small at Willow and despite being a self-confessed small eater, I have sole space for a second round after my meal.
Will I Return Again? Willow is one of the most exciting new restaurants for me this year thus far. There is much finesse in the execution of the dishes and its flavours, and it is heartening to see a young kitchen crew at work to fill up the big shoes of what was previously the space of Vianney Massot.
Taste bud: 4/5
Hole in the pocket: 4/5
Overall Experience: 4/5
39 Hongkong Street
Tel: +65 8885 4867
Lunch: 12pm to 4pm
Thursday, Friday and Saturday only
Dinner: 6pm to 11pm
Tuesday – Saturday
Ranted by The Ranter