I grew up watching MasterChef, and always fervently longed to be half the chef that most contestants were. I remember my first concoction being air-fried shiitake mushrooms with sliced cheddar after being deeply moved and inspired by a contestant’s baked portobello mushroom submission. In hindsight, I’m lucky that my editor-in-chief has never caught wind of this abomination—that is, until now, as he’s reading through this and silently muttering curses under his breath.
Fast forward to today—I’m seated in Restaurant Ibid along North Canal Road, before chef Woo Wai Leong, winner of MasterChef Asia 2015 as he heartily welcomes his guests like old friends over a reunion. “I often say that those who visit Restaurant Ibid aren’t customers—they’re guests,” Woo chimes, “and that our guests must always receive the best treatment.”
Anticipation hangs thick in the air as we duly prepare ourselves for tonight’s exclusive friends and media-only dinner. The restaurant is steeped in keen chatter and fervent salutations as I rise to greet familiar faces.
What I tried
Ibid’s menu changes ever-so-often, but a set menu estimate starts from S$128. A dramatically-plated meld of marinated chutoro, ginger scallion, crab, jellyfish, crème fraîche, and crispy lotus root are tucked deep into a grey, matte plate. Of all elements, tuna and ginger are two I’d usually avoid but the divine pairing of the two just goes to show that Chef Woo, indeed, knows our palates better than we do.
Every bite a delicious burst of umami and slight pepperiness from the ginger scallion, expectations are exceeded right from the get-go. My only gripe with this dish is that I just wish there was more.
Vastly different from the usual spicy, coconut-ty dish we’re used to in Singapore, the Sarawak Laksa is a lot lighter and presents a clearer broth.
No matter how beautiful the broth is, it’s evident that the tiger prawns take centre stage. Painstakingly fresh, juicy, and sweet, have the prawns together with the egg shreds and scallions for flavours that might just overthrow the former already impeccable marinated chutoro.
Chef’s spin on the traditional bak kut teh presents itself in the form of A5 Omi Wagyu seasoned with xi’an spices. While the flavours weren’t quite what I was expecting, different doesn’t always mean bad. The fork-tender Wagyu slices are what I would term as a dry bak kut teh reinvented; walking the fine balance between exquisite and familiar.
The Aged Duck Breast in a cold brew coffee glaze and Black Cod fly by in a heartbeat—each full-bodied bite cementing Chef Woo’s culinary prowess in both the meats and seafood station, as any great chef should.
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A creamy-looking Black Truffle Dan Dan Mian marks the end of our savoury flight, and so I treasure it deeply and dearly. Noodle dishes typically surely find their way into my carb-loving heart, but perhaps only have myself to blame for unrelentingly building my expectations exponentially as the night inches on.
The noodle dish could definitely use a much stronger truffle aroma, while the Chinese bacon was just a tad bit distracting in another otherwise almost faultless dish.
Vera’s ‘Chef’s Kiss Award’
It feels very imposter-ish of me to crown this section as its namesake today, seeing how I’m literally graced by the presence of a MasterChef. It definitely puts me in a conundrum—having to pick the best dish out of the string of tear-jerkingly beautiful ones tonight.
But if I must pick one, I’d say we peaked right at the start. No matter how splendid each dish was tonight, none were able to get the marinated chutoro out of my mind the entire time. In fact, as I write this, the familiar fragrance of the dish’s marination strikes a wistful chord on my palate once more.
It’s been a while since I’ve had a meal as difficult to forget as tonight’s. Chef Woo’s bold, unabashed, and thoroughly-seasoned dishes are unfailing testaments to his all-deserving MasterChef win.
This isn’t the last that Restaurant Ibid has seen of me—the marinated chutoro and Sarawak Laksa await my patronage once more. I’ve never given any restaurant I’ve reviewed a five out of five before, but tonight, I will.
Expected Damage: S$128 – S$168
Price: $ $ $
Our Rating: 5 / 5
18 North Canal Road, Singapore 048830
18 North Canal Road, Singapore 048830