One of Singapore's most exciting local chefs takes her innovative fusion kitchen to Dempsey.
The buzz: While fusion has gotten a bad rep traditionally, Fusion 2.0 has been a slow but lovely emerging trend in Singapore, and Morsels, which we've loved since it first opened five years ago, knows how to do it right. Bryan Chia has left the kitchen team, but San Francisco Cordon Bleu grad Petrina Loh is slaying it at her new, bigger, gorgeous location on Dempsey Hill.
The vibe: Tucked away behind Samy's Curry and Long Beach Seafood, this squat, single-story, red-roofed white house is the stuff of Kinfolk/Vermont wedding reception dreams. Flowerbeds and trellisses (where Petrina grows her garnishes and other greens) line the exterior, and inside it's all mismatched furniture, twine-wrapped mason jar flower vases and a giant, pickle jar-lined open kitchen in the back where you can see Petrina at work.
The food: Her love of pickles aside, Petrina's strength is juxtaposing ingredients, many Japanese, in unusual, ooh-worthy combinations and then giving them the accompaniments they need to really shine. Her melt-in-your-mouth Sri Lankan tiger prawns ($24), for example, come with a Singaporean carrot cake (made toe-curlingly amazing by the addition of little sakura ebi), a tamarind-miso sauce (what!) and calamansi furikake. For best results, share everything. The stars of the brunch menu are the smorrebrod open-faced sandwiches ($16-22), with topping options like pickled mackerel with burrata and pickled beets; and tiger prawns with green harissa aioli egg salad. For lunch, you can do elevated noodle dishes ($25), or do a $40 omakase set. Fear not, the classic dishes that made Morsels such a little insitution aren't gone: the steamed Venus clams ($24) with fig broth and pickled wakame are still on the menu, as is the charred house-poached octopus with tokibo and saled egg sauce ($26).
The drinks: The 50-something bottle strong wine list is full of surprises and delights and is on the whole pretty affordable. On the by-the-glass front, we are pretty excited about the Kayagatake Rouge from Yamanashi, Japan ($20 per glass, $95 per bottle), a light, zippy three-grape red with soft tannins. On the whites front, try the value-for-money Chablis by Jean-Marc Brocard ($16/$85) which, with its lemony, spicy salinity, goes well with much of the seafood on the menu. On the cocktails front, the rustic-chic thing continues, with options like the rhubarb elderflower gin fizz ($22) and the grapefruit ginger spritz ($22).
Why you'll be back: You love being surprised by unusual ingredient pairings, affordable wines and a casual, pretty ambience away from the pretences of town, and the delights of a bad-ass, female-driven kitchen.
The following review was written for Morsels's old location at Mayo Street in Little India
“Fusion” is rather a dirty word among the culinary upper crust, but the chef-owners of Morsels, the pedigreed Bryan Chia (Culinary Institute of America) and Petrina Loh (Le Cordon Bleu in SF), are better-bred than to sniff at it. The menu only has 15 dishes in small-plate format, so for the best experience we suggest you get a couple of friends together and just order everything.
At their very “worst”, dishes come out pleasant and hard-to-fault: the grilled king trumpet mushroom with egg ($11) and the yuzu-drenched hamachi carpaccio ($15) could’ve come from any good restaurant around town. At best, they’re remarkable: we’d be surprised if anywhere else did food quite as delicious as their clams and kimchi in slurp-worthy broth ($22) and the pulled pork pasta with huge dollops of habanero sauce and sour cream ($16). And some dishes, like the compressed watermelon salad ($13), are just little miracles in themselves. How can a pile of boring, naked-looking lettuce shreds possibly taste so damn good?
Although portions are small and the bill adds up fast, it’s hard to feel ripped off here given the kind of thoughtfulness and thoroughness that goes into each dish. (Also, some of the dishes are incredibly dense and rich—that little mound of squid ink risotto with salted egg yolk ($25) is best tackled on an empty stomach.)
We wish the cocktails were better and the beer selection more interesting, but nonetheless Morsels is an experience that goes beyond good food and competent service. It’s is one of the few restaurants here that successfully pull off that cheerful, laidback, “hanging out at a friend’s place” vibe, right down to the potted herbs out in front and the Weezer-heavy playlist. And we loved the chance to roam around the quaint and sometimes seedy back streets of Little India after dinner—beats being spit out back into the impersonal cold of a commercial complex anytime.
Eat this at Morsels: Squid ink risotto and salted egg sauce. It's one of I-S Magazine's 50 things to eat before you die (2013).
|Address:||Morsels, #01--04 25 Dempsey Rd., Singapore, 249670 Singapore|
|Open since:||January, 2013|
|Opening hours:||Tue-Thu 6-10:30pm; Fri-Sat noon-2:30pm, 6-11pm; Sat 6-11pm|
|Nearest train||Farrer Road|
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