Rounding up the last quarter of the year, we have new restaurant Imbue opening in Keong Saik Road. A concept by 1855 F&B (the same group behind Born, Path, The Spot, etc), Imbue is helmed by Chef Lee Boon Seng who also happens to be the Executive Chef of The Spot. At Imbue, Chef Boon Seng is taking on the role of chef-owner.
Imbue is a 38-seater modern Asian-European restaurant. Like other 1855 F&B concepts, this is a sauce-centric venue where condiments help to elevate the flavors and potential of each dish.
Taste Chef Lee’s best creations across two tasting menus: The 8-course Simmer Menu ($198++ per person) and 5-course Infuse Menu ($158++ per person). During my visit to Imbue, I got to try the 8-course menu.
We started the dinner with a trio of starters – Oyster Mousse, Drunken Chicken and Century Egg Crab. Of the three, my favorite was the oyster mousse. The mollusk was mashed and topped with citrus white soy and chopped jellyfish, achieving a refreshing profile without really losing the essence of the oyster flavor. The drunken chicken starter was also memorable with a hint of mala flavor.
One thing to note about this trio is that all 3 seem to carry the same mashed / mousse texture and it might have been better if each starter had a different texture, i.e. one that is a mousse, another that is crunchy, etc.
As the dinner progresses, we get the Smoked Yellowtail as the second course. This is quite a unique dish and is served cold, smoked and styled like cold noodles. The marinade is a mix of lapsang souchong, lemon balm and pickled yellow mustard seed. Overall, I found this delightfully refreshing and I loved the noodle-like texture.
Next up, the Abalone deceives the diner with a presentation that is akin to chawanmushi. Digging in to the custard however, I soon found out it had more similarities in consistency with a creme brulee, albeit this was a savory course. The abalone itself is sliced into two and seared over binchotan with brown butter, pear, inhouse fermented cabbage relish, preserved green chili paste and roasted pine nuts.
The fourth course, the Horse Mackerel, is Chef Boon Seng’s take on the classic Peking duck dish. Here, dry-aged horse mackerel takes the place of the usual duck as the centerpiece, with a potato pancake wrap, green daikon, cucumber and chives. In contrast to the previous courses which I liked, I just was not used to the idea of a soft-textured meat like fish in a pancake wrap like this. Perhaps it would have been better if a firmer / crunchier meat was used in order to mimic the feeling of duck.
In a slight departure from the usual dinner sequence where bread comes at the start, we got the Malai Bread exactly midway into the dinner. The presentation is inspired by Ma Lai Gao during Chef Boon Seng’s trip to Guangzhou. The bread is first baked with malt molasses and then sprinkled with sea salt and thyme. While I found the idea of a “Ma Lai Bread” rather novel and unusual, I enjoyed the butter which was made with honey and ginseng powder.
Moving on to heavier dishes, the 21-days Aged Fermented Bean Wagyu Rump Cap was well-executed and served medium rare. It also came with fermented black bean sauce which is dipped by a server after the plate is presented on the table. The beef itself was flavorful enough, having been aged with fermented black bean powder that I did not feel the need to dip it in the accompanying sauce. Although meant as a side, I equally enjoyed the Chinese morel mushroom stuffed with macadamia paste.
Akin to Asian restaurants, the carbohydrate dish is served towards the end of the meal. The Squid Sausage Claypot Rice is a mix of Spanish and Chinese sensibilities – that of black squid ink rice married with the claypot preparation and usage of salted fish.
As a palate cleanser, the Strawberry Sorbet does its job adequately and both the sweet and sour nature of the fruit is delightfully balanced.
I personally don’t enjoy creamy desserts that much so I can’t give an unbiased critique of the Yuba Pavlova. However, it was exquisitely presented and I have to say that it feels light on the tummy despite looking a bit intimidating with its ball shape and meringue exterior.
We ended the meal with Petit Fours – passionfruit sable, soya sauce nougat and coffee financier. As if to almost bring full circle with how the meal began, the petit fours were also quite creamy.
Overall, I have to say the dining experience was a rather adventurous one with a lot of unexpected twists to some familiar dishes. There were a few highlights for me, notably the dishes from the first half of the dinner while there were some dishes from the second half that I was not quite used to – though this is more of a reflection of personal preferences. Other than dinner, Imbue is also offering some lunch sets that start at a decent S$58 for 2 courses and S$68 for 3 courses.
32 Keong Saik Road
+65 6223 7266
Friday to Sunday: 12pm to 2.30pm
Tuesday to Saturday: 6pm to 11pm