[dropcap size=small]I[/dropcap]t may be into its fourth year of operation, but things at Labyrinth are looking as fresh and vibrant as when it first opened its doors (it recently underwent a refurbishment). In fact, Han Li Guang – the head and face of the restaurant – hints that diners can soon expect changes at this veritable stalwart of Mod-Sin cuisine in the form of a new menu with a heavy focus on local produce.
But whatever the winds of change may bring, nothing takes away from the fact that Labyrinth draws diners with its reinterpretations of iconic Singapore dishes. Chicken rice is reimagined as a dumpling encasing pieces of silky smooth local-bred French chicken, served atop a dollop of chilli sauce. Bak chor mee is spun from various elements – strips of squid assume the role of yellow noodle; Hokkaido scallop replaces fish cake; and anchovy and onion powder takes the place of minced meat, all sided by a dollop of sambal chilli paste with dried shrimp.
Har cheong porridge sees crisp, sweet, crunchy prawns coated with prawn paste on a bed of risotto with diced mushroom, diced dried scallop, and beancurd skin. Prawn noodle soup comprises kuruma-ebi and broth made with Chinese rice wine and Chinese ham, yielding a dish where every bite brims with a blend of sweet and umami flavours.
Our meal reaches its zenith with the main meat dishes. Char siew rice features barley and crunchy rice with pork cheek and collar char siew, punctuated with pineapple chips and nasturtium leaves for contrast. US Black Angus short rib is the highlight in a dish of beef satay, cooked sous vide for three days at 55 deg C, then pan-seared and served medium-rare.
Eschewing the predictable for a bolder and more adventurous approach to Mod-Sin dining, Han displays great confidence in technique and ingredients, enthralling diners with his inspired inflections on local dishes. Especially to those familiar with home-grown fare as reference points, it’s thoroughly entertaining and amusing to see such creativity play out course after course without any sense of affectation.