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Review: Singapore Takeout pop-up kitchen in Hong Kong

11 Nov 2011 by ReggieHo

To promote Singapore’s diverse culinary culture, Singapore International Culinary Exchange (SPICE), an initiative by government agencies Singapore Tourism Board (STB), International Enterprise Singapore and SPRING Singapore, has embarked on a world tour in nine cities with a pop-up kitchen built out of a custom-fabricated shipping container. The public is invited to try out the experience for free, provided they register in advance.

A line-up of famous chefs from Singapore have already hit up four cities with the kitchen: London (Janice Wong from 2am:dessertbar), Paris (André Chiang (Restaurant André), Moscow (Ryan Clift from Tippling Club and Daniel Sia of The Disgruntled Chef) an New York (Malcolm Lee of Candlenut Kitchen). It has arrived in Hong Kong for a three-day run starting yesterday. Business Traveller Asia-Pacific was invited to the debut lunch. 


Les Amis, a destination restaurant in Singapore famous for its modern European cuisine, has been chosen as the featured restaurant here. According to STB sssistant chief executive Tony Lai, a deliberate decision was made to avoid bringing a Chinese restaurant to Hong Kong as the city already has the best Chinese food.

Chef Armin Leitgeb of Les Amis, alongside Chef Sebastien Lepinoy from the renowned Cépage restaurant in Hong Kong, also part of the Les Amis group, demonstrated to a select group of about 20 guests the making of two popular dishes. The lightly smoked eel “tiede” with crispy pork crouton, horseradish and Dijon mustard emulsion by Leitgeb didn’t seem to take long to cook but the preparation before hand actually lasted days. The fish was from the famed Maison Kaviari, and according to Leitgeb, it had to be smoked in just the right temperature, as too much heat the natural oil in the ingredient would have been lost. The crouton consisted of two thin layers of homemade pork terrine and French bread, but it’s more work than it sounds. To make the bread possible to slice into thin layers, it had to be aged in cling wrap for four days, which increased its elasticity.  The layers were put together and put on a hot plate, with the fat of the pork cooking the sheet into a crispy wafer. Combined with the fish, the result was an orchestra of flavours and textures, with one high note followed by another.

Lepinoy presented his marinated black cod cooked in hooba leaf, escorted by a young pickled Japanese ginger and Aomori black garlic sauce. The fermented garlic contributed umami, a fifth taste after sweet, sour, bitter, and salty. Three types of miso – white, brown and red – as well as sake and mirin have been used for the marinating, which took at least 48 hours. The fish was then cooked in the broiler until brown. For this special occasion the dish was served, aptly, in a paper takeout box, with a dropper of extra sauce (same as the marinade) clipped on the side for those who wanted a extra dose of seasoning, although it was really not necessary. In the restaurant, the fish is served on a large plate decorated by a painting of sauces. The rich, silky fish melted in the mouth and leave a lingering after taste. And occasional nip on the pickled ginger cleansed my palate and got it ready for another bite of indulgence.

These two dishes were bookended by Leitgeb’s degustation of Singapore Flavours - little crispy cones of chilli crab, chicken satay and fish head curry – and a heavenly steamed tapioca cake, coconut, mango and sesame oil. This was the Austrian chef’s first attempt in preparing classic Asian recipes and he was spot-on.

Registration for the Hong Kong table has closed, but the kitchen will go on to travel to four more major cities (see schedule below). For those who have not been able to secure a place, they may head book a seat at Cépage for tomorrow, where a one-off eight-course Les Amis experience that includes Leitgeb's signature eel is offered. But this much more elaborated menu will cost you HK$2,700 (US$347) a pop. 

The mobile kitchen is shipped around the world, and every pop-up location is very different in environment. In Hong Kong, the law made it impossible to have a city-centre location so the kitchen is set up at Cyberport, but in New York, Singapore Takeout was located at Gansevoort Plaza in the heart of the trendy Meatpacking District. Dishes served at every location are also different, but the kitchen team will always consist of the touring Singapore chef and a locally based chef. Booking methods are only announced close to the event dates – stay tuned for updates.

The rest of the Singapore Takeout tour schedule is as follows:

Hong Kong (10 - 12 Nov 2011) 
Chef Armin Leitgeb (Les Amis)
For more info, visit: www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=245846025464176

Shanghai (1 - 3 Dec 2011) 
Chef Willin Low (Wild Rocket)

Delhi (13 - 15 Jan 2012) 
Chef Benjamin Seck (True Blue Cuisine)

Dubai (19 - 20 Feb 2012) 
Chef Haikal Johari (winner of Channel News Asia’s “Perfect Meal” in 2009)

Sydney (30 Mar - 1 Apr 2012) 
Team from Iggy’s

Reggie Ho

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