Restaurant Labyrinth – reinventing hawker classics

Restaurant Labyrinth

In a city renowned for its devotion to food, there is a culinary explosion in Singapore’s restaurant scene like never before. A new generation of local chefs are taking inspiration from hawker classics and reinventing our familiar local flavours with modernist cooking techniques.

One standout in this modernist genre is Restaurant Labyrinth, helmed by self-taught Chef-Owner LG Han. Chef Han calls his brand of cuisine “Neo-Sin”, using “food science and modern technology to re-present familiar Singapore flavours in unexpected forms”.

The Man Behind Labyrinth

Chef Han Li Guang
Credit: John Heng

A graduate in Finance and Accounting from the prestigious London School of Economics, Chef Han gave up a high-paying banking career at Goldman Saachs to pursue his true passion in the kitchen.

He named his brainchild ‘Labyrinth’ to convey the culinary exploration one can expect. Since opening its doors three years ago, Labyrinth has been involved in prominent culinary events such as the World Gourmet Summit, Savour and Eat List Star. One of the restaurant’s many accolades includes the ‘Best Asian Fine Dining’ in the Restaurant Association of Singapore (RAS) Epicurean Star Awards 2015.

Labyrinth’s New Lunch/Pre-Theatre Menu

Drool visited Restaurant Labyrinth to check out its newly launched Lunch Menu which is also offered as a Pre-Theatre Menu, available Thursdays to Saturdays for seating at 6pm. At $48 for 6 courses it is “affordable fine dining”.

Formerly housed on Neil Road, Labyrinth’s new home at Esplanade Mall offers more space, complete with private dining rooms and a waiting lounge awash with lighting that lends an air of intrigue and intimacy befitting a gastronomical adventure.

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New Home at Esplanade

Even the décor pays homage to Chef Han’s memories of growing up in Singapore –from the wall paintings by local emerging artist Kelly Ser to the mortar and pestle sets on our table.

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Nostalgic Table Decor

First Course: “Tingkat”

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“Tingkat – radish cake, rojak and nasi lemak”

A trio of amuse bouche – “radish cake, rojak, nasi lemak”, creatively served in a tingkat reminiscent of the olden days. The “radish cake” came served as a marshmallow on a stick – lightly crisped on the outside, a soft gooey treat inside. The “rojak” impressively encapsulated the essence of the hawker classic when its peanut-infused flavours explode in your mouth with one bite. The “nasi lemak” masqueraded as another local favourite – chwee kuay, but there is no mistaking the familiar coconut fragrance and ikan bilis flavours.

Second Course: “Hiroshima Oyster”

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Hiroshima Oyster – “Laksa”

The second course is the deconstruction of “laksa”, and I loved the inspired twist to this iconic hawker staple. The coconut jelly noodles, dehydrated laksa broth, grilled Hiroshima oyster and fried laksa leaves came together in perfect harmony to capture the essence of laksa in a very unexpected form.

Third Course: “Duck”

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“Duck – braised duck dumplings”

Chef Han’s rendition of the “braised duck dumpling” uses a paper-like potato starch skin and includes lobster meat as well as duck in the filling. The fun was in dipping the dumpling in the accompanying consommé and eating it before it disintegrated, after which I gleefully finished up the rest of the spice-infused broth.

Surprise Course: “Chili Crab”

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A bold take-on of the unofficial national dish with an avant-garde assembly of tempura-battered soft-shelled crab alongside a “sea shell” of chili crab ice cream laced with Okinawa sea grapes, all delicately perched atop an ethereal “ocean” of crab bisque emulsion and mantou bun “sand”.  The combination of each component presents a hot-cold medley that titillates the senses.

Fourth Course: “Indonesian Pork Belly” or “Tiger Prawn”

"Pork Belly"
“Pork Belly”

Crunchy skin and melt-in-your-mouth juicy “siew yoke” served on a bed of Japanese miso rice and burnt seaweed, not forgetting the raw egg yolk which elevated the umami flavours to a whole new level.

Cooked-to-perfection tiger prawn with flesh slightly crisp and succulent. Slight murmurs were heard from some of our co-diners who felt the risotto was a tad heavy on the salt.

 

Fifth Course: “Xiao Long Bao”

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“Xiao Long Bao”

Another interpretation of “chendol” in the Chinese dumpling. Pandan-infused skin is wrapped around little spheres of coconut, palm sugar jelly and red bean – to be topped with the “vinegar” represented by gula Melaka syrup.

Sixth Course: “Cigar”

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“Cigar”

What better than to round off your meal with a “cigar” and smooth glass of “cognac”.  Served in an ash tray, the “cigar” is peanut butter ice cream in a dark chocolate shell, with peanut butter crumble as the “ash”, while the “cognac” is a refreshing blend of earl grey tea and elderflower infusion to cleanse your palate.

Petit Four: “Kaya Toast” Macarons

Kaya Macarons
“Kaya Toast”

These Instagram-friendly dainty macarons are a reinterpretation of the classic Singaporean breakfast dish, with dehydrated kaya shells and salted homemade butter filling.

Overall, Chef Han’s innovation and pursuit of culinary excellence really shone through. In fact, my interest was piqued enough to declare I will be back! For its Dinner Menu – diners can choose between the 12-course Discovery Menu ($98) and the 14-course Experience Menu ($158) where Chef Han gives other hawker favourites such as chicken rice, hokkien mee and soft boiled eggs a modern makeover.

Drool is excited to be partnering Restaurant Labyrinth in an upcoming collaboration for a good cause, more details can be found here.

 

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