Amoy Street has become synonymous with hip restaurants these days and unknown to many, the back alley which is sandwiched between Amoy and Club Street – Gemmill Lane – has been housing a number of “underground” restaurants for a couple of years now. One of the alley’s earliest resident – Maggie Joan’s – turns two this year and has launched a revamped menu. This serves to match a redefined look that is marked by a private dining room with three chandeliers. Overall, the new look adds another level of quirkiness to a restaurant that is already known for being unconventional. For instance, the venue deliberately places its entrance in a nondescript passageway, going against conventional business sensibilities.
Recently, I headed down to Maggie Joan’s to try the new menu. Although I work nearby and often go to Amoy Street for lunch, this was actually my first time to have a meal at Gemmill Lane. The entrance to Maggie Joan’s is purposely discreet. You enter in the sort of door that’s akin to those being used by service crew elsewhere. From that moment on, you’ll know this is not your usual type of dining venue.
It’s hard to describe exactly the cuisine that’s being served at Maggie Joan’s. Officially, it is Mediterranean but I thought the interplay of textures and the artisanship that goes into the creation of the dishes deems the classification to be one that doesn’t answer to a single type of cuisine.
The starters I’ve had were a testament to this. The Taramasalata, Squid Ink and Nori (S$3 per piece) marked the start of a theme that pervades many dishes at Maggie Joan’s. There frequently is a juxtaposition between a crispy layer with one that is soft and creamy. The Taramasalata is a blend of bread, mentaiko, egg yolk, mustard and lemon juice which is then sandwiched between two pieces of tortilla that entails an overnight preparation. Overall, it’s a very light option to start with, one that serves to tease the palate with what’s to come.
A house favorite at Maggie Joan’s is the House-baked Sourdough with Beef Fat Butter (S$6 per portion). The sourdough bread is actually prepared inhouse on a daily basis although I thought it was unremarkable. My attention was turned to the beef fat butter which has a more smoky and less dairy flavor – the beef fat is smoked in an oven with hickory wood chips before being mixed with unsalted butter
The Crab Sandwich & Green Harissa (S$7 per piece) is perhaps my favorite starter (and dish) of the meal. Look at this dish from the top and you might think of it as a choux puff which is not inaccurate. Imagine having something sweet and savory at the same time. That’s exactly what this appetizer offers. Munch on the semi-sweet biscuit to reveal the crab meat filling, made slightly zesty with a tinge of lemon juice.
The next dish shows the level of detail that the chef goes through in preparing the meal. The Chicken Liver, Rhubarb, Cocoa and Peanut (S$17) is essentially your chicken liver pate but here, he goes the extra mile by sprinkling a layer of cocoa soil on top, rhubarb puree and a few leaves to visually recreate a potted plant setup.
Another one of my favorite starters was the Green Zebra Tomatoes, Black Olive and Sea Lettuce (S$20). If you love a good interplay of flavors and textures; this is the dish to order. This starter consists of a number of layers and it’s best to eat it like a burger in order to sense the diversity of it all. At the bottom is the crouton which is made from sourdough. Above it, you get a layer of ricotta cheese. On top of that, you get alternating green zebra tomatoes, sea grapes and sea lettuce. The upper layers carry a sour taste which I thought suited the nature of the dish.
While the prior dishes focused more on showing the chemistry in flavors; the Burrata, Plums, Shio Kombu and Basil (S$23) unquestionably puts the emphasis at the milky Burrata cheese. If you are a cheese person, this is a compelling dish to try.
I thought the Beef Tartare (S$19) here was interesting for the Asian elements. The beef is actually mixed with wakame and kimchi while the beef used is typically Australian.
By this time, I was getting pretty full. Given the assortment of starters available at Maggie Joan’s. they are rather apt to be shared. If you prefer something heavier, the Roasted Barramundi, Artichokes, Seaweed and Charred Red Pepper Sauce (S$34) is a wonderful option. The fish comes partially concealed by the artichokes, the latter being made barigoule-style: braised with white wine, vinegar, vegetable stock & thyme, rosemary, tarragon and parsley. What caught my attention was the fish skin, done to a perfect and fragrant crisp.
In contrast, I found the Smoked Potato and Egg Yolk Raviolo, Pickled Giroles and Hazelnuts (S$28) to be quite heavy. I don’t know if it was due to the pasta, cheese and potato combo but having a carb dish at this stage of the meal was just too much for me.
I ended the meal with a refreshing Coconut Sorbet with Rock Melon Ice (a dish exclusive to the set menu). The sorbet is made in-house while the rock melon ice provided for a good contrast in textures – make sure to mix a bit of rock melon ice with each bite of the sorbet!
The Goat’s Cheese Parfait (S$12) I would have to say is an acquired taste. While the preparation is commendable and I would have probably liked it if goat’s cheese wasn’t used as the base, goat’s cheese isn’t for me so I wasn’t able to fully appreciate this dish.
Last but not the least, make sure to save some stomach space for the very filling Paris Brest (S$16). Best eaten shared, this perennial favorite at Maggie Joan’s has delicious chocolate cremeux in the center and is interspersed with praline ice cream and hazelnuts. At the exterior is the choux pastry. While you’ll initially be tempted to devour this like a burger, do note that this dessert is quite heavy and is best eaten in small bites!
110 Amoy Street
(entrance from Gemmill Lane)
+65 6221 5664
Monday – Friday:
Lunch: 12 pm – 2.30 pm
Dinner: 6 pm – 11 pm
Dinner: 6 pm – 11 pm
Closed on Sundays
I was invited for a tasting at Maggie Joan’s. All opinions are my own.