With all the uncertainty happening due to Covid-19, Lesley and I decided to go ahead with celebrating her birthday a week before the actual day. I had booked it a week earlier because we had the intention of doing something else on the 29th of March with our close group of friends.
Unfortunately, on the 28th, there was a spike in cases and we decided to take precaution and refrain from doing anything on Sunday. 😦 Reason being that we’re currently living with Mum and Dad, and do not want to risk exposing ourselves to anything that may affect them.
I’m glad Lesley and I made it to Restaurant Ibid for her early birthday dinner. I pray that Covid-19 gets better sooner rather than later. Regardless, we’ll definitely throw her a nice celebration once this calms down.
Restaurant Ibid is co-owned and run by Masterchef Asia winner Woo Wai Leong. It was the only season of Masterchef Asia so I guess that makes him the one and only ultimate winner. Unless a new season comes along, whenever it does. I’ve been curious about his food for a while now, especially since he does a twist on Chinese food using classic French techniques.
Social distancing practicing was enforced, so there were two chairs between Lesley and I, and the other pair of diners that came later and joined us at the counter seats. We had a good view of the meticulous plating that went on in the kitchen right in front of us.
Within the dining hall as well, everyone was spread out as much as possible.
Lesley and I both opted for the 5 course meal which turned out to be a good choice. Further down this post, you will see all the extra goodies we were plied with at the end.
We saw two ducks sunbathing in the oven when we arrived. Chef Wai Leong assured us that we would each get a slice to try even though the Peking duck is usually reserved for larger groups.
Lesley had a glass of white wine to go with dinner, and after some persuasion by Chef, I decided to try the Tomato soda. This was made using a tomato reduction with tomatoes cooked down so much so that they became thick and syrupy, almost balsamic like. The soda was refreshing – not too sweet and with a slight savouriness that was almost redolent of hoisin.
Dinner commenced with a cup of Longan Tea, lightly infused with Osmanthus.
This was sweet, floral and almost bitter.
To start, Shaved Foie Gras with Sesame Ma Lai Goh and Caramelised Hazelnuts. Sour Plum Sauce, Chopped Chives and Edible Flowers.
As I have mentioned many times, I’m not a fan of foie gras but I suppose after being exposed to it over and over again, I have come to accept it in certain forms. A slab of foie gras is a no-no, but a schmear, or as a form, is tolerable.
This is the first time I had it shaved and it was not too bad. The sour plum sauce helped to cut the gaminess, a little like how the apricot jam at Sühring did as well. The nuttiness also complimented the richness of the liver. My only gripe was the Ma Lai Gou (steamed malay cake that are often found on dim sum menus) which I found to be a bit on the dense, stodgy side.
It was an interesting dish, but not quite a favourite.
Our second course was Ibid’s Shao Bing v. 3. I enjoyed the doughy, carby nature of this stuffed bread which was steamed then pan fried for light crust on the outside.
Within, there was oodles of gooey, molten gruyere cheese with sliced lup cheong (preserved Chinese sausage), coriander and spring onions. On the side was a punchy, addictive caramelised onion butter that I found myself happily lapping up.
There wasn’t much to dislike about the shao bing. Who can say no to soft, melty, nutty cheese?
Steamed Halibut with Braised Baby Shiitake Mushrooms, Seaweed and Sea Grapes in a Chinese Ponzu Sauce, topped with Garlic Chips and Garlic Oil made up our main.
The fish was cooked to perfection – flakey and fatty at the same time. The brininess from the tiny pops of sea grapes bordered on being quite coarse on the tongue, but with the soy based lime ponzu, it mellowed out. The highlight for me here was really the fish with the slippery seaweed, braised mushrooms, and ooooh! The garlic chips!
What turned out to be most memorably to both Lesley and I, funnily enough, turned out to be the slices of Peking duck we were served, as promised by Chef Wai Leong.
Its skin was perfectly crispy, its fat perfectly rendered down, and its flesh still slight pink and succulent. The flakes of sugar crystals on top accentuated the savoury, smoky flavour of the beautiful, shatterable (yes, I made that word up) skin that gave way to tender, melty meat. The chilli sauce on the side was delicious with the duck, but honestly, the eating the duck plain was pretty mind-blowing. Lesley and I concurred that if this comprised our entire meal, maybe a
few many more slices, we would have left happy.
Our starch was a comforting bowl of Dried Scallop Congee with Grated Dried Mullet Roe and Sawarak Pepper.
Interestingly, the congee had a sweet element to it that made me continually dig for more of the salty dried mullet roe to balance it out. I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed the heady smack of black pepper that went into this dish.
To be honest, I was expecting a thicker consistency to the congee, something more akin to Cantonese gruel. This was a bit looser and closer to a cross between Cantonese congee and Teochew mui (rice porridge). Ibid’s version confused my brain ever-so-slightly, and yet, I found myself licking the bowl clean.
Dessert was a play on the traditional Chinese Mango Pudding.
This one was made up of a half sphere embedded within a half sphere of soft Chinese almond meringue. It was topped with a crisp meringue shard, bitter lemon gel, and baby shiso leaves. The bitter lemon gel was sharp and bitter. I surprised myself in being so drawn to it. The dessert was light and refreshing. Only thing I would have changed would be the meringue shard which was pretty, but became soft quite quickly. Meringue cookies may be better?
I totally forgot about my mention of it being Lesley’s birthday. I was all ready to pay when one of Ibid’s staff came over with an ice kachang ‘cake’ complete with a candle and ‘happy birthday’ topper for Lesley.
The ice was flavoured in rose syrup (think: bandung), with kueh bahulu at the base. Topped with coconut cream and meringue cookies.
We thought dinner was complete after the icy dessert when we were served a slice each of Mochi Chocolate Cake.
These were yummy! Not-too-sweet, almost like a brownie, yet not as fudgy and dense.
Chef Wai Leong came over to have a chit-chat with Lesley and I. He shared about how they are planning to start a lunch service, and was experimenting with some Levin-bakery inspired cookies. He then offered to bake some up and give us one to try. We were stuffed by then, so we said we’d take it for the road.
Next day, we had a teatime gathering at Zen’s, just four of us, where we reheated this Chocolate Chunk Walnut Cookie. It was very moreish and so hefty that it could have been a meal all on its own!
Crisp exterior with a cake-like, chewy interior. It was generously specked with lots of melty chocolate pockets and chunks of walnuts. Good stuff!
What was most memorable about Restaurant Ibid was the hospitality and warmth emanating from Chef Wai Leong. It is clear he is passionate about his food and has ambition to elevate Restaurant Ibid’s vision of creating inspired dishes founded on his Chinese roots. His staff were very attentive, making sure to top up our water every our glasses were half-empty, and they were able to explain each dish articulately.
The restaurant itself was cosy and perfect for intimate dinners with close ones. With the way the world is at present, it is truly a privilege to still be able to enjoy a nice dinner out. Thankful for small blessings like these, and thankful for the blessing of having Lesley in my life, as my framily (friend who is family). ❤ Happy Birthday babe! Love you to the moon and back.