February 9, 2017
The idiom “birds of a feather, flock together” implies the coming together of like-minded people. I thought it was rather coincidental when I was invited to one of Amoy Street’s newfangled, contemporary eateries, that has been fittingly named Birds of a Feather.
Birds of a Feather (I will abbreviate to BOAF from here on in) is very much a transference of vital culinary elements of Chengdu to Singapore. BOAF serves both authentic and contemporized Sichuan cuisine in a classy and relaxed ambience.
For the uninitiated, Chengdu is the capital of southwestern China’s Sichuan province, home to the famous Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. And of course, Chengdu is also widely known for their fiery Sichuan cuisine.
Walk into BOAF and you will be encapsulated in a mix of greenery and timber. The dining hall would be basked in natural sunlight during the day, and in the evenings, bathed in warm, incandescent light.
BOAF’s dishes come in both small plates and mains portions. You can choose to nibble on a plethora of their small plate offerings or dig into their hearty Sichuan-stylised comfort food.
I would also implore you to take a look at their drinks menu — the alcoholic drinks and coffee are worth considering. The eclectic alcoholic Warm Yuzu ($16) is a good example!
Moving on to small plates that consist of Sichuan favourites.
Find the Chicken in the Chillies ($16)
I’ve found the Chicken in the Chillies (pun intended) to be addictively good; the spicy peppercorn-laden dish becomes numbingly better as you nibble on. Unlike its traditional version, these chicken bites are juicy and best of all, bone-free.
Crispy Trotters in a Bag ($12)
The Crispy Trotters in a Bag is presented in a paper bag, accompanied by a cup of spicy soy bean, pepper salt mix. Pour it all in and shake it like a bag of shaker fries.
The pork trotters appeared to be bone-dry, as far as my first impression went. With much scepticism, I took a small bite of the trotters. I was instantly hooked!
The meat was deceptively soft and tender inside. The spice mix added crunchiness to the fray, and the spiciness was sufficiently non-lethal.
Fortune Skewers in Sichuan Pepper Broth ($19)
The sour-spicy Fortune Skewers in Sichuan Pepper Broth comprises skewers of black fungi, cauliflowers, meat and seafood soaked in an unassumingly, fiery broth.
You can even add a bowl of Japanese Arrowroot noodle, only if you do not mind paying an additional $5 for it.
The level of spiciness of these small plates can overwhelm those with lower tolerances, and these dishes can get a tad too salty.
The lunch and dinner dishes are a mix of traditional and modern interpretations of Sichuan dishes. The traditional versions clearly exude a nostalgia of comfort food, while the contemporary ones are more Westernised, with subtle elements of Sichuan cuisine.
The Hot and Sour Chazuke ($28) is exemplary of the aforementioned comfort food. Chazuke is essentially soup (can be green tea, dashi or even hot water) poured over rice.
In this case, a spicy pickled mustard green broth floods a bowl of Niigata rice, and floated on top is a charcoal-grilled barramundi. When I had this dish, my mind was transported back home, sitting with my family and having a home-cooked meal with them.
BOAF’s contemporized versions of Sichuan cuisine are rather interesting.
I started with the Roasted Chicken and Avocado Salad with Sichuan Pepper ($18 for lunch, $20 for dinner). And boy, oh boy, did I like this!
The salad seasoning is a quirky blend of salt, Sichuan pepper and chicken jus. The flavour is subtle, and yet still able to tingle the tongue. It is something quite novel and a great starter, too.
For those who are “judiciously” watching their diet, the Organic Ma Po Tofu Burger ($22) is for you. The burger “patty” is made of Ma Po pork ragout, tofu and Parmigiano. It is one for burger fans who are keen for something unique.
It was not my favourite dish, as I still prefer the burger to be of meat in origin. However, the idea of incorporating Ma Po tofu into a burger patty did appeal to me and scored well for creativity.
The Spicy Oriental Angel Hair Bolognese with Onsen Tamago ($22) is a thinly veiled Ja Jiang Mien — a hand-chopped pork mince, cooked with ginger and leek, and topped off with Sichuan salted, preserved vegetable.
The pasta is a colourful myriad of kale, tomatoes and thinly sliced lotus root. The onsen tamago certainly enhances the flavour of the pasta. Remember to mix the ingredients well before you eat.
And the most important element — the sauce, certainly tastes of a magical mix of Sichuan spiciness and Italian umami. Loved this one!
If you still have some space for dessert, the Deep Fried Glutinous Rice Cake with Okinawan Black Sugar Syrup ($12) is worth a try. This is BOAF’s take on the muah chee.
The sweetness of the black sugar was spot on, and the portion of this dessert was generous. Share it, if you must.
Birds of a Feather has impressed much on its maiden flight. They have matched their gastronomic offerings with a good measure of sophistication while imparting them with proper authenticity. The cornucopian ambience coupled with avant-garde decor will have their patrons’ hearts fluttering.
I did have some minor issues with taste control (mainly of the sodium proportions) and I felt that some patrons may baulk at the pricing. These were the only minor distractors.
A good collection of restaurants have recently opened at the egress of Amoy Street, and I can only say that Birds Of A Feather will tend to flock together.
Expected damage: $60 – $70 per pax