SINGAPORE — After being cooped up at home for months, Singaporeans are dying to get out and assume some form of social semblance. It couldn't be more evident than on a Friday night when three friends and I were ambling about in Jewel at Changi Airport, and most places we wanted to dine at were full. We eventually settled on Antidote at the climate-controlled garden on the fourth floor but not before passing by Perch Singapore somewhere between our second and third option of the night.
"Perch?" you ask? I don't blame you for not being familiar. Indulge me a little background, please. Perch Singapore is a dining concept by the same folks behind The Spot Singapore and 1855 bottle shop—1855 F&B Pte Ltd—this being their foray into a mid-tier-ish bistro concept that doesn't take itself too seriously. The food maestro helming this is Executive Chef Lee Boon Seng, a saucier at heart who once worked in illustrious, first-name-only restaurants such as Equinox, Osia, and Curate.
Here, Chef Lee has crafted a menu that is familiar in a comforting and jocund way. Essentially, take something you already know on a first name basis, accord it the most known treatment (frying, broiling, baking), and then throw in a brilliant twist.
It starts with some deep-fried baby squid (S$10++) coated in tempura flour and timed perfectly so that it's still juicy and tender inside and dry and crispy outside. Then, toss in some fried curry leaves for an elevation of fragrance. It is served with a rich and creamy pastel green curry leaf emulsion covered with a low mount of delicate salted egg yolk shavings—indeed a telling trademark of an expert saucier. The entire thing reminds me of the proverbial fried squid with salted egg yolk sauce more commonly found at zhi char stalls, but here, a little dressed up, dapper, and more the year 2020 than 1997.
Elsewhere in the tapas selections is a quartet of Otah-Otah Slider "Bao" (S$8++) that comes with light breaded and fried otah sandwiched between white steamed Bao buns. The sambal mayo and achar-inspired cucumber salad that it comes with makes for a beautiful bright finish.
The mains are what gets me clapping gleefully as each plate is served one after another. The Boston Lobster Coconut Laksa (S$48++) is the most expensive item in the menu and comes at a pricey S$48. Usually, I would baulk and cry "Food Appropriation!" but here, it's a dish well-worth its weight in gold.
It comes in a comically large bowl such that one wonders if it's meant to be shared. But one is hungry, and one doesn't like to share—by one, I mean me, of course. It's an impressive presentation that belies the intense umami it exudes bite after bite.
Its price comes from the addition of a Boston Lobster that takes up almost a third of the bowl and is sweet, buttery and intensely smokey from being lovingly grilled with butter. The laksa gravy has been cooked with the usual rempah, coconut cream, and roasted lobster head which makes it not only rich and fulfilling but also a brininess that reminds me of the open sea. Do have it with the Sakura Ebi sambal for a slight kick of heat—something this painstakingly made should not go unnoticed.
The Pan Fried Red Snapper (S$24++) deserves special mention for being locally sourced with a crispy skin that has been seared and generously seasoned to balance the creaminess of the fish meat. There's also that buerre blanc sauce that's nothing short of great but pales in comparison to the snapper fillet that flakes away perfectly upon bite and is by far one of the best fish I've eaten this year.
A bowl of Roasted Spiced Duck Breast with Thai Red Curry (S$18++) follows. I ordered this because I am insanely curious as to what tempura-fried lychee tastes, especially since fresh lychee is something I munch on the daily when it's in season. Fried lychee, as I've discovered through this dish, is a heady mix of sweetness due to the caramelisation of natural sugars in the fruit—that it complements the bold and earthy curry is hardly surprising.
For dessert, a plate of rare Rum Baba Nanas (S$12++), very seldom seen gracing the dessert selections of other well-heeled restaurants. Rum Baba is a yeast cake-bread of French origins usually soaked in hot rum syrup and studded with dried fruit. It's one of those desserts that are démodé, so bringing it back in this context is quite brave, to say the least.
Here, the Rum Baba Nanas is soaked in pineapple and passionfruit juice with a touch of cinnamon and is a dense thing of a cake that needs to be planned around the mains you're having. Unless you have a separate stomach for dessert, which, though popular, is not really a thing.
There are also slices of banana under all that hue of gold that has been torched with sugar and rum until it turns a deep amber. To top it all off, pineapple pastry cream to give it that creamy, vibrant, and sinful finish—a satisfying close to a very hearty and fulfilling meal.
Daily: 11.30am – 10.30pm