by Brian Crisp
I thought it must have been a mis-print on the menu. Chilli crab ice cream, tempura soft shell crab, sturgeon caviar.
Who puts ice cream with crab and caviar?
But there it was on chef LG Han’s Signature menu at Labyrinth restaurant, near the Maxwell Hawker Centre, in Singapore
It typifies LG’s approach to food.
He is not your average chef. LG is an accounting and finance graduate who studied at the London School of Economics and Political Science.
After graduation, it took him three years to summon the courage to abandon banking and instead put on the chef’s apron.
Today he is regarded as one of the wunderkind’s of Singaporean cuisine. His restaurant, which seats about 25 people, is busy, busy busy. His dishes have been described as “outlandish creations”.
“Labyrinth is all about bridging modern and traditional,’’ LG says.
“Labyrinth means maze. It’s a gastronomic maze with the focus on innovation and creativity bringing local dishes to the forefront of fine dining in a refined and fun manner.’’
Hence the chilli crab ice cream that is sweet and salty, but when it melts it somehow develops a tomato flavour. The dish is served with seaweed and mantou crumbs (shaped like sand). All it all, it looks like a beach scene sitting on a plate.
“What we focus on is bringing out the local flavours in ingredients. We look at traditional cuisine. We take the base flavour and try to present it in the more modern setting with a truly visual look on a plate.
“We are a restaurant that straddles tradition and modern at the same time. We use the same exact ingredients in every traditional dish and then we take it and manipulate it into a different form.’’
Labyrinth is slowly but surely making its way on to the critics’ lists as one of the top 10 places to eat in Singapore beside such favourites as Wild Rocket, &Sons, Izy and Ding Dong and it is part of a food avant garde movement that is trying to steal some of the attention from Singapore’s street food scene.
LG says he is glad to be back in Singapore.
“Singapore means home to me; security with a wonderful diversity. It’s the only place that you can get everything from around the world – food, shopping, retail and it is very cosmopolitan.’’
Singapore Tourism is encouraging visitors to get lost and find the real Singapore. LG says it is hard to define exactly what the real Singapore is.
“If we are looking for traditional Singapore that would be watching my grandmother cook over an old wok. Today’s Singapore is a more urban city. I would say start in Arab Street and just walk and you will discover a traditional area; and then you walk further down past new shopping areas into a hipster area. Further down to Chinatown it becomes more traditional again.’’