SINGAPORE — In all honesty, the conception of Avenue 87 is rooted not just in shades of audacity, but in something more pertinent in a year wrecked of dreams—that of possibilities. I often look on in bewilderment at F&B establishments opening in a time such as this, curious where they get their courage. It’s such unbelievable arrogance to envision success when so many others have shuttered—many, stalwarts at what they do. But then again, what better example of hope in a world that insists you stop dreaming, big or small.
Avenue 87 at 47 Amoy Street is the love-child of Glen and Alex; friends, ex-Shatec classmates, and former chefs from the kitchen of Tippling Club. At present, only the first floor of this two-storey conservation shophouse has been set aside for dining—a cosy and social-distancing friendly space that seats a comfy 24. It’s a space awash with curved wood panels, and hidden recessed lighting to give the area a fluidity and dynamism bigger than the number of seats it was intended.
I’m starting to love restaurants with decor like this, obviously created with deliberate thought, yet all in service of being subtle and unobtrusive. It’s a poetic irony that I, as a writer and lover of words, can appreciate.
The first time I tried Chef Alex’s food was during his stint as Executive Chef at Porta at Park Hotel Clarke Quay where his food was unashamedly big, bold, and beautiful. We're talking Braised Lamb Shank, Bouillabaisse, and Pork Sausage Roll—food meant to satiate not inspire. So you can understand my surprise when out comes a petite snack of chicken chips with a sour cream puree centre that sits on a bed of duo-toned sesame seed.
There's also a kueh pie tee filled with a punchy aerated Asam Pedas gravy, eggplant, lady's fingers, and cherry tomato. It's all so small and dainty and that, quite frankly, threw me off for a bit.
The six-course menu is, in many ways, a paean to Hougang where the pair grew up, and to food in the great neighbourhoods of Singapore where the masses congregate around melamine tables and chairs for a rowdy birthday celebration with family.
This tribute is evident in courses such as the AHK Seabass, a fish soup with overwhelming notes of pure unadulterated umami from using anchovies and roasted seabass bones to power up the broth. But this being a restaurant meant a touch of the dramatic as the soup is poured, tableside, onto a wooden soup spoon filled with anchovy buttermilk sauce and evaporated milk.
Another nod to the familiar is the Octopus, inspired by the sambal stingray, here made with grilled octopus leg and served with Glen’s sambal chilli and a confit egg yolk. The mark of a good restaurant is in a perfectly cooked octopus with a superior bite and in this regards, Avenue 87, unsurprisingly delivers.
Yet, as much as it is steeped in familiar favourites, one must not forget that Alex and Glen are formidable chefs in their own rights, wielding a wealth of culinary experience through years of working in the industry.
This gastronomic prowess comes through in courses like Salmon, which I found to be quite the innovation when it comes to a sashimi presentation. While visually it looks carelessly plated, it is, in fact, a decidedly thoughtful exercise in textures, flavours, and balance. There’s a soy wasabi granita in there that stole my heart with its play on icy and spicy and a tart ponzu-pickled wakame that brightened the entire presentation.
In keeping with trends, a course of Lamb would be the third I’ve eaten within the past two months, which shows renewed reverence for this protein often ignored due to its gaminess. It’s really a love-hate relationship, but at Avenue 87, it’s love, love, love all the way.
It’s superior, tender meat that has been given love by way of Vietnamese-style herbs and spices—lemongrass, shallot, garlic, galangal, and Chinese parsley—and served with a weekly rotation of sides.
Today, I am given coriander rice and curry baby potatoes that knocked my socks right off. The lamb’s signature gaminess is also greatly tempered by the sweet sauce made from locally-sourced stingless bee honey, a particular variety that lends honey a subtle touch of tang.
So you see, Avenue 87 tries very hard to be bold, different, and exciting, and I’m glad to report, it all comes together with great aplomb. A lot of fine-tuning has gone into the ideation of this inaugural menu; a situation made much harder by the fact that Glen is currently in ShanghaI tying up some loose ends on the personal front, all the while coordinating the exact temperaments of each dish with Alex via the Notes app. Perhaps that’s why desserts are a much simpler, pared-down affair that is, nonetheless lip-smackingly tasty to a fault.
The first offers up tropical flavours on a plate with a quenelle of house-made coconut ice cream sitting on a pound cake crumble, papaya, and caramelised pineapple. It’s a presentation that goes straight to the point and easily appeals to our inner sweet tooth.
Another is called “pisang, no goreng” which attempts to capture the flavours of goreng pisang without an actual goreng pisang anywhere to be seen, and does so brilliantly. Sitting side by side is a deep-fried golden morsel of coconut custard and house-made banana ice cream with undertones of salted gula Melaka—the saltiness lends a hint of balance in a plate that would otherwise simply be too saccharine for its own good.
It’s a dessert that’s familiar but packed with a joyous amount of creativity, and, in some ways, reflective of the position Avenue 87 is well-poised and ever ready to take on as a new entrant to the third wave of restaurants opening up on Amoy.
Set lunch: S$29++ for 2 courses, S$38++ for 3 courses
Set dinner: S$76++ for 4 courses, S$98++ for 6 courses
Website | 47 Amoy Street, S069873
Mon - Fri: 11.30am to 2.30pm; 5.30pm to 10pm
Sat: 5.30pm to 10pm
Balancing the New Normal: