Last Updated: November 22, 2020
When most of us think Asian cuisine, we think rice; we think noodles with fish. We think ‘the best version of any Asian dish is the one that’s homemade’. And therein lies the tussle between those who refuse to fork out anything more than S$20 for an Asian meal outside and those who allow themselves a splurge on modern Asian fare every now and then. But then, we have Avenue 87, which, in my humble opinion, is a spot that’ll narrow said argument because it deserves to be in everyone’s little black book of restaurant staples.
Avenue 87 got its name simply due to kismet—there’s no other way of explaining it. The two Singaporean chefs, Glen Tay and Alex Phan, were both born in 1987 and they spent their childhood in Hougang—Glen at Avenue 8, and Alex at Avenue 7. It seemed like it was only a matter of time (and cosmic alignment) that these two brilliant minds crossed paths at SHATEC Culinary School.
Although their career paths didn’t intertwine till much later, we now have both Chef Glen’s and Chef Alex’s collaborative spirit grace our dining table. Located in Telok Ayer, the restaurant takes over ex-resident, Kimme, and breathes life into the area with a modern presentation of comfort Asian cuisine.
No, it isn’t stuffy, overpriced Asian dishes; it remains straightforward, accessible, and most importantly, impeccably delicious.
Fortunate to taste Avenue 87’s 6-course Dinner Tasting Menu (S$98++ per pax) at lunchtime, my eyes immediately lit up with I saw the familiar Kueh Pie Tee arrive. In spite of its miniature stature, this flavour bomb withheld a medley of aerated assam pedas, eggplant, lady’s fingers, cherry tomato, and
curry leaves to leave behind a memorable tingle.
I barely noticed the lady’s fingers bitter notes, allowing me to embrace the aromatic curry leaves and punchy assam pedas. Pedas (‘spicy’ in Malay), it was not, but it certainly eased my slight mid-day stupor.
It’s hard to imagine the taste of the ocean on a plate, but I’ll try my best to describe to you how definitively divine the Salmon was. Don’t underestimate this one-word dish, for its symphony of Fresh Norwegian salmon sashimi served with diced crystal pear, sour cream, ponzu-pickled wakame, soy wasabi granita, and Vietnamese rice paper crackers delivered.
The interplay of textures stood out the most, with crunchy, chewy, and creamy elements mingling on the palate, allowing a rich umami slant to rise above, even with a fatty salmon present. Do remember to portion the wasabi granita with every bite, for a dance of spice on your tongue.
As someone who only thinks about fish soup when I’m under the weather or when Singapore’s experiencing a bout of rain, having this AHK Seabass was a pivotal moment. Once again, presentation is stark, but there’s no need to hurry with your assumptions.
The seabass is from Ah Hua Kelong (thus, its name) and is served with compressed bitter gourd, semi-dried cherry tomato, deep-fried egg floss, and anchovy buttermilk sauce. Ingredients here sound rudimentary to one’s ears, but the outstanding member of this team has to be the anchovy buttermilk sauce. Its depth and savouriness are unrivalled, as is the crackling skin of the seabass.
I’m not keen on bitter gourd, but its presence was negligible. A touch of sweetness is introduced to this hearty bowl, all thanks to the dried cherry tomato—something I’m surprised I’m thankful for.
Now, it’s time to address the real victor of this meal, Avenue 87’s Octopus. A single octopus leg encased in house-made sambal cradles a confit egg yolk and with stir-fried market greens. It’s really a no-frills recipe, but it managed to oust the rest in this imaginary competition that I’ve built in my mind.
The leg was aptly plump, with gratifying see-sawing to reveal a succulent centre, while the sambal held sufficient heat for me to keep returning without the discomfort of perspiration. I should’ve been pretty satiated by then, but all I could wish for was more octopus legs.
Pisang No Goreng is a playful take on traditional fried banana, sans banana. Fried coconut custard
with salted gula Melaka, and banana ice cream make this trio unbeatable and for a split second, I forget that I’m not actually eating fried banana.
The contrast of cold and hot is an easy win, but what really tugged at me was the coconut custard with its sensual creaminess against gritty fried breadcrumbs. Just like the Octopus, there isn’t enough here to placate my inner greedy kid, so I suppose I’m compelled to return.
Just like many of you, I am guilty of too-quickly dismissing modern Asian fare as pretentious. But the truth is, I simply have not experienced the cuisine in a manner that truly did it justice—until now. Avenue 87 is what modernism of food should look like; embrace the traditional, but not for the sake of simply revolutionising it.
I have been schooled during this meal—an opportunity that doesn’t come around often. If you’ve been a sceptic for as long as I have, give Avenue 87 a chance, and you might find yourself thoroughly enthralled just like I have.
Expected Damage: S$98++ per pax (6-course Dinner Tasting menu)
Price: $ $
Our Rating: 5 / 5
47 Amoy Street, Singapore 069873
47 Amoy Street, Singapore 069873