3 new eats for the seafood lover

We check out three new seafood joints offering plates for various budgets

1. Humpback
1. Humpback
27 Oct 2015

1. Humpback

18/20 BUKIT PASOH RD, LEVEL 1, S089832. TEL: 6750-4461. Open daily except Sun. 5pm-midnight. Last orders 11.30pm. www.humpback.sg

Bright pastels and lovely nautical blue, charming pinewood furniture, an open kitchen, mountains of shaved ice loaded with oysters… we think we’ve died and woken up in a New England raw bar. Except Humpback is in sweltering Singapore.

This seafood restaurant and oyster bar is the work of husband-and-wife team Indra Kantono, 32 and Gan Guo Yi, 30, who say they weren’t oyster people until they were on holiday and tried these bivalves from an American oyster farm called Hama Hama in Washington.

The couple is known for their watering holes Jigger and Pony and Sugarhall at Amoy Street. Now, they’ve got three new babies: Humpback, a seafood restaurant and oyster bar, Gibson, a more upscale seafood restaurant and cocktail bar, and casual whisky “dive bar”, The Flagship, all housed in the 80-year-old Gan Clan Association shophouse at Bukit Pasoh.
 

Humpback: On the menu
Humpback: On the menu
27 Oct 2015

Humpback: On the menu

Five types of oysters from the Pacific Northwest are on offer. The owners say that the shellfish benefit from the sparkling, low-salt glacial water that trickles into the bay from surrounding mountains. True enough, we find the oysters sweet, rich and clean-tasting.

While the oysters are the stars here, chef Polo Seah, who also mans the kitchen at Sugarhall, turns out small plates featuring seasonal vegetables and cooked seafood, so the menu changes daily based on what’s fresh. Cocktails like the fizzy Watermelon Sangria ($22) are light, refreshing, and work well as accompaniments to the food. But they aren’t that interesting as standalone tipples. For more substantial booze options, make your way to The Flagship down the corridor or Gibson, upstairs.

Humpback: The Seafood
Humpback: The Seafood
27 Oct 2015

Humpback: The Seafood

Rainbow Trout (left, $16)
Two rainbow trout fillets are cooked sous-vide till buttery soft and melting, then doused in a light sauce of egg yolks and almond milk. The flesh is rich and sweet and dotted with pickled mustard seeds, little pops of spicy, sweet and sour that undercut the rich flavours. Very yummy.

Cabbage (right, $14)
Make room for the delicious vegetable plates, particularly this beautiful mass of charred cabbage hearts, dressed in a chilli-infused oil and garnished with crunchy baked quinoa. The humble veg is elevated to smoky sweetness and peppered with
the lovely crunch of quinoa.

Peale Passage Oyster ($6 each)
The undisputed king of the platter, from South Puget Sound in Washington. These are super chewy and firm, but bursting with slightly nutty, briny goodness. The Shigoku Fat Bastard ($6 each) from Samish Bay in Washington is less interesting, but pleasantly mild and sweet. And they’re huge and meaty if you like your oysters big. During Happy Hour (5pm-7pm daily and all night on Mondays), all oysters go for half price.

BOTTOM LINE: A generally good seafood restaurant with a laid-back but sophisticated vibe. However, the small plates are hit-or-miss, so it may be wiser to just gorge on the scrummy oysters here.

 

2. Gibson
2. Gibson
27 Oct 2015

2. Gibson

LEVEL 2, 20 BUKIT PASOH RD, S089834. TEL: 9114-8385. Open daily except Sun 5pm-midnight. Last orders at 11.30pm. www.gibsonbar.com

For fancier plates (and higher prices) climb up a flight of stairs from Humpback to Gibson, a dimly-lit, atmospheric speakeasy-style cocktail-and-seafood bar. We'd been told to expect a premium seafood restaurant here, but be warned: this isn't a hearty dinner destination, more like a swanky 1920s-style bar with posh seafood. The plates our group of four had here — “good for sharing,” we’re told by the friendly staff — were more like very expensive appetisers.

Gibson: On the menu
Gibson: On the menu
27 Oct 2015

Gibson: On the menu

It's a completely different menu here from Humpback, aside from the same scrumptious oysters.

Featured here: small platters of luxury seafood items like caviar, lobster and sea urchin. Such as the grand Seafood Plateau ($120 for a single tier; $220 for double), with raw oysters, chilled Maine lobster, prawns and tuna tartare. It’s the drinks, however, which take pride of place here. They’re devised by the group’s Japanese head barman, Aki Eguchi.

Gibson: The seafood and cocktails
Gibson: The seafood and cocktails
27 Oct 2015

Gibson: The seafood and cocktails

Scallop ($26)
We weren’t in the mood to splurge on a Seafood Plateau, so we opted instead for these slivers of raw scallop artfully drizzled with browned butter, pistachios, carrot and mustard. The butter sauce has a delicious butterscotch tinge, but it drowns out the delicate flavour of the scallops, which are a little chewy and bland. Not a great sharing patter, ’cos this is inhaled in about two bites each.

Uni ($38)
A single mound of creamy sea urchin served with a dollop of bouncy, stretchy burrata cheese, dotted with sturgeon caviar and cucumber granita. It arrives in its spiky shell, and, attacking it with clumsy tablespoons, we swoon at the lush mouthfuls of oceany flavours and pillowy textures. But it’s over in minutes.

Gibson (above, $24)
The signature cocktail that gives the bar its name, because this savoury martini characterised by its pearl onion garnish goes down well with seafood. Here, it’s made with floral Monkey 47 gin and Hendrick’s gin, French vermouth and served with a small dish of smoked quail’s egg, house-pickled onion and smoked pickled daikon. Smooth, botanical and smoky. We love it.

BOTTOM LINE: Come by for the well-executed cocktails, but maybe grab dinner elsewhere first unless you're in the mood for some pricey snacks.

3. The Fickle Mussel
3. The Fickle Mussel
27 Oct 2015

3. The Fickle Mussel

173 THOMSON RD, GOLDHILL SHOPPING CENTRE, S307623. TEL: 8498-7828. Open daily 10.30am-10pm. Last orders at 9.30pm. www.facebook.com/theficklemussel

We thought that this restaurant in sleepy Goldhill Shopping Centre would be a hearty joint in the style of a Belgian mussels and fries joint, with heaps of cocotte-cooked shellfish in fun sauces accompanied by crunchy taters. Instead, this is a generic Western-style casual diner with five mussel dishes currently on the menu. Bafflingly, tech-guy-turned-restaurateur Jon Lee, 38, who previously owned La Marelle café at Kampong Glam, says the “fickle” in the restaurant’s name points to a range in choices. But he also adds that there are more mussel dishes to come.

The Fickle Mussel: On the menu
The Fickle Mussel: On the menu
27 Oct 2015

The Fickle Mussel: On the menu

Apart from mussels, there’s a generic line-up of Western cafe grub like burgers and pastas.

Oven Baked Seabass ($14.90)
A tender roasted fillet with tomato and bell pepper sauce and roasted potatoes on the side. A decent, if generic, offering.
 

The Fickle Mussel: On the menu
The Fickle Mussel: On the menu
27 Oct 2015

The Fickle Mussel: On the menu

French Onion Soup (left, $10.90)
The best thing we sampled here. Beneath the gooey grilled Gruyere cheese on toast crust is a flavourful French onion soup made from beef broth enriched with caramelised onions. It’s rich and sweet from a splash of white grape juice. Sounds weird, but it works.

Old School Mussels (right, $12.90)
Green-shelled New Zealand mussels served in a flat, watery sauce made of garlic, butter and herb. Moreover, the shellfish is slightly overcooked and chalky. The other flavours we tried didn’t fare that well either, though the O’Mussels ($12.90) is probably the best of the lot as its thin, buttery cream and leek sauce is at least quite tasty when eaten with the accompanying crusty sourdough bread.

BOTTOM LINE: The prices are reasonable, but the grub is mediocre. If you must drop by, skip the mussels and order the, er, French Onion Soup.

Report a problem