Native Restaurant shows that plant-based foods do not have to revolve around lab-born ingredients with a menu that is as natural as it is enticing.
The eatery was unveiled earlier this year by the acclaimed cocktail bar Native, and continues their ethos of using only local and regional ingredients, with an emphasis on sustainability.
In the kitchen is head chef MJ Teoh, who said she wants to provide “comfort food with a bit of experimentation.” Her dishes are staples like pao fan and sugee cake, but they carry an air of refinement that merge thoughtful culinary techniques, long fermentations, and Teoh’s memories. Her plating is just as sophisticated, a reflection of her time at Pollen and Nouri.
It would be remiss of Native not to offer astutely-made cocktails at the restaurant, and they do not disappoint. Drinks here are generally lighter and brighter to match the food, and they join a list of local gins and rums, Indian and Taiwanese whisky, Thai wines, beers by Tsingtao and Singapore brewer Pink Blossoms, as well as two artisanal sakes on tap.
With the restaurant, Native has now taken the entire Amoy Street shophouse with the bar on the second floor and its R&D kitchen in the attic. The highest level, however, is currently being transformed into a new concept serving fermented cocktails in an omakase setting. Keep a look out for that in the near future.
What to order at Native Restaurant
Native’s Miang Kham
Teoh reimagines the Thai wrap as a DIY appetiser served in a bento box. Grab a wild pepper leaf and smear it with pineapple shoyu, which is made from gula Melaka and the fermented pineapple trimmings left over from the bar’s Pineapple Arrack cocktail. Borlotti bean tempeh crisps, ginger flower, lemongrass, and shredded coconut lend crunch and lightness to the rich sauce.
Really Cold Somen
Teoh turns her love for Japanese cold noodles and naengmyeon into this bracingly cold dish with white kimchi and tomato granita, charred shishito peppers, shiso, ground sesame. It is vegetal and gazpacho-like thanks to the granita, and the charred peppers add an intriguing smoky element.
Petai, the stinky bean prevalent in Malay and Peranakan cuisines, is turned into a miso to flavour local venus clams. It is garlicky and slightly funky, with a Thai chenin blanc lifting the dish’s saline undertone with acidity. Soak it up with a side of crispy youtiao.
Chicken Pao Fan
A claypot of organic chicken thigh and innards over steamed rice is submerged in a peppery broth made from the trimmings of the bird. Puffed rice on the side brings a welcome crunchy texture, and Ah Moy’s chilli sauce, a dressing inspired by Teoh’s mother, is delightfully zesty and bright.
Sticky Jackfruit & Sugee Cake
Teoh reinterprets the Eurasian dessert with jackfruit caramelised with Mdm Yap’s gula Melaka (a brand from Malacca that makes it purely from palm sugar) and pineapple juice, which joins pickled lemon jam in a brown butter sugee cake. A scoop cardamom and bay leaf ice cream complements it with a citrusy, herbal warmth.
Ah Moy’s Mary and Jasmine cocktails
A twist on the Bloody Mary, the clarified cocktail gets its savoury character from shiitake mushroom distillate, black garlic, cherry tomatoes, and locally-produced Kwong Woh Hing light soy sauce. In place of celery is pickled cucumber, while spice shows up in the form of Ah Moy’s Chilli Sauce.
Don’t sleep on the Jasmine either. Containing jasmine jun, a fermented drink from northern China and Tibet that’s similar to kombucha, it is mixed with Compendium Rojak Gin, sour plum, and kaffir lime leaf. It’s floral and delicate, with enough acidity and alcohol to stand up to rich flavours.
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