The Wok & Barrel: Modern Singaporean Cuisine By A Food Nazi
Newly opened Wok and Barrel at Duxton Hill is barely two months old but its nasi lemak has been around for a couple of years. Chef cum restaurateur Shen Tan used to operate the famous Madam Tan’s Nasi Lemak stall in Maxwell Food Centre and had even been awarded the Makansutra Certificate. Shen is clearly very passionate about food as she gave up her high-flying career as an events director at Forbes magazine to pursue her interest by selling nasi lemak. Now that she has a much larger kitchen area in The Wok & Barrel, the food nazi insists on making almost every single thing from scratch.
You know that Shen is serious about her food when she goes to great lengths and steams her nasi lemak with fresh coconut twice over a three-hour period everyday. The result is a very enticing and aromatic plate of nasi lemak, the type which is so fragrant that makes you want to eat the rice just on its own! The rice has a very fluffy texture which makes it easy to swallow. Also available on the menu, the nasi lemak rice set basically comes with 6 different types of meat like crispy pork slices and chicken drumstick, etc. For those who love a good spicy challenge, I recommend Shen’s homemade sambal belachan over her traditional nasi lemak chilli.
I was getting all ready for a really spicy otak otak but later found out that this is not what Shen had intended hers to be. Midly spicy with a slight hint of sweetness best describes it. Instead of chunks of fish meat, Shen grills an entire fillet. The otak otak has a very nice soft texture and goes extremely well with the nasi lemak!
Shen marinates the boneless chicken thigh for a good 24 hours before the breading and deep-frying! The chicken wasn’t crispy in a crispy crackling kind of way but it was very moist and tender with a crisp surface.
Albeit a little salty. the lamb char siew is one mouth-watering and addictive dish! Juicy and tender, wash it down with a glass of beer.. Perfect!
Clearly our favorite of all the dishes we tried, Shen got her inspiration for her bak chor mee pasta from local delights minced pork noodle and mee pok tah. Her handmade tagliatelle is nothing like the usual stuff. I find that it is similar to hor fun, except that it is thinner and smoother. Although it has been named bak chor mee pasta, it doesn’t taste anything like bak chor mee. Shen uses five-spice roast pork which is braised till it’s fork-tender. This spicy pasta left us wanting more!
The desiree pizza struck me as pizza with a hollow, airy crust and in fact, it looked like roti prata minus the toppings of course. Shen means business when she uses kurobuta pork which is extremely flavorful and juicy, instead of the typical bacon. The pizza has a nice chewy centre and slightly crisp base.
As if the mains aren’t impressive enough, Shen continues to amaze us with her clever dessert creations. What happens when Shen reconstructs chendol? You get shendol delight, delighting you always. Gotta love the ultra smooth panna cotta that smells so richly of coconut milk. The gula melala is of the right sweetness. Served with a scoop of red bean ice cream, this is one delightful dessert! Shen’s pulot hitam cake is equally popular. It actually reminds me of sticky date pudding drizzled with gula melaka butterscotch. The cake is not that sweet when eaten on its own, so be sure to pair it with the rich and creamy coconut ice cream!
Many thanks to Shen for being such a great host and to Amanda from Word of Mouth Communications for the kind invitation!
Tue to Sat
1130am – 10pm
1130am – 4pm
(Closed on Mondays)