Restaurant Born review: an intimate view into the life of chef Zor Tan

·5-min read
Restaurant Born chef Zor Tan
Restaurant Born chef Zor Tan

Amidst the flurry of new restaurants that regularly open their doors to the fussy Singaporean palate, Restaurant Born is one of the most anticipated ones of the year.

Born, short for “Best of Right Now”, is helmed by chef-owner Zor Tan, who has had an illustrious career under Andre Chiang (from the documentary André and His Olive Tree that’s currently showing on Netflix) and is the main force behind two Michelin-starred Sichuan Moon.

  • Restaurant Born chef Zor Tan
    The space
  • Restaurant Born chef Zor Tan
    Chef Zor Tan

You’ll soon come to realise that every detail surrounding the restaurant, including the design of his dishes, is cemented around the Circle of Life and expressed through the nine guiding principles the Johor-born talent calls Birth, Roots, Memories, Craft, Relationship, Vicissitudes, Time, Progress, and Legacy.

It starts from the location. Restaurant Born is nestled in the iconic former Jinrikisha Station, a stunning Edwardian style building whose facade is fashioned with white plater mouldings and exposed brickwork, and was built way back in 1903 to serve as the main point for rickshaw services and the registration of rickshaws.

The history of the property and the endurance of the rickshaw operators struck a chord with chef Zor; the Shatec graduate worked his way up from the lowest ranks of the kitchen at (now-defunct) Jaan par Andre to the position of chef de cuisine at Andre Chiang’s Sichuan Moon and now, to his own space, a journey that has taken him more than a decade.

Restaurant Born snacks
Restaurant Born snacks

As mentioned previously, the nine guiding principles will form the overarching theme of your nine-course meal. Rather than labelling his fare to a singular cuisine, he prefers to have it known as simply Contemporary cuisine — a cross-cultural gastronomic experience that marries his experience and knowledge of flavours and ingredients from his personal and professional life.

Before you make your reservations, however, it’s best you know it’ll take at least three to four hours to complete your meal. We spent five fleeting hours here in good company, so perhaps you should consider coming with dining partners you actually like.

  • Restaurant Born dry aged pigeon corn barley risotto Circle of Life
    Circle of Life: Dry-aged pigeon, barley risotto with corn and sauce of fresh green Sichuan peppercorn and garlic aioli
  • Restaurant Born Life gets better Alaskan King crab
    Life gets better: Crab miso tangyuan with chargrilled Alaskan King crab

A series of eight snacks first arrives at the table in a medley of tangy pickles and tasteful bites. An ode to the assortment of dishes at an economy rice stall — which his parents operated back in the day — come with reinterpretations of dishes you’d commonly find. The saucy fried eggplant with pork, for instance, is expressed in an elegant one-bite wonder of chicken skin mille feuille layered with roasted eggplant puree, before it’s topped with caviar, micro coriander leaves, and pickled shallots.

The gastronomic journey of both the diner and chef Zor then officially commences. From memories of his time at Restaurant Andre and Sichuan Moon to a tribute to his wife after the birth of his first child, you’ll find each one of the dishes steeped in storytelling which, thankfully, doesn’t distract from the appetising flavours.

  • Restaurant Born Legend Foie Gras Parfait Chicken liver Andre Chiang morel mushrooms
  • Restaurant Born Working With Sichuan Chefs
    Working with Sichuan chefs
  • Restaurant Born To Grace fish maw
    To Grace: Eel-stuffed fresh barramundi fish maw wrapped with Chinese cabbage leaf

We found one of our personal favourites four courses into the meal. Legend, a tribute to chef Zor’s mentor, chef Andre Chiang and his iconic foie gras parfait. His take, however, spotlights the use of the under-appreciated chicken liver. The result? A silky, creamy chicken flan that’s topped with a sticky roasted chicken sauce, earthy morel mushrooms and diced celeriac — the glutton in us wished it came in a bigger serving, but seeing as how rich the dish was, we were also glad it didn’t.

Diners will also find the Sichuan peppercorn a recurring ingredient on the menu, which, rather than completely numbing your mouth like the typical mala hotpot, adds a pleasant piquant layer to send our tastebuds tingling. Working with Sichuan Chefs was gracefully electric with every bite. The meaty pieces of monkfish come interspersed with fermented Hainan Imperial Chilli puree and crunchy Yunnan Jade fungus to form the base of the dish. As if the multitude of textures weren’t enough, the moat of chicken fat and stock emulsion, and green Sichuan pepper oil lent a comfortable, gentle heat to the dish we won’t be forgetting anytime soon.

  • Restaurant Born dessert
    My daily staple
  • Restaurant Born petit fours
    Petit fours

As night fell and our meal slowly came to a close we were told nothing but a spoiler of “it’s going to be Mont Blanc and Rice”. We never thought those two words would be seen in the same sentence, and for dessert no less, but here we were. My daily staple saw French chestnut puree, caramel, Chinese candied chestnuts and black garlic that were piped on the spot with a cloud of toasted rice cream espuma, before a touch of milk ice cream, black garlic puree and a sable tuile was placed on top. And just in case you’re wondering, your ice cream can be swapped for a dairy-free one, as long as you let the kitchen know beforehand.

It’s poignant that we end with the encapsulation of the principle of vicissitudes. The petit fours each represent “Suan, Tian, Ku, La (酸甜苦辣)” a Chinese idiom that translates literally to sour, sweet, bitter and spicy — and expressively means “the joys and sorrows of life”. While life is only truly lived with the taste of every flavour, it’s only through experiencing the bitterness will you then enjoy the sweetness. The very first menu of Restaurant Born is clearly the latter.

Restaurant Born is located at 1 Neil Rd, #01-01, Singapore 088804. As of time of writing, they are only open from Tuesdays to Saturdays for dinner service, which is available from 6pm. The nine-course Contemporary Cuisine Menu is priced at $368++ per person.

The post Restaurant Born review: an intimate view into the life of chef Zor Tan appeared first on Lifestyle Asia Singapore.

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