5 Neil Road
In Greek mythology, the Minotaur could devour 14 Athenian youths in one sitting. I generally feel that hungry myself, so I was looking forward to eating at Labyrinth. The name, by the way, comes not from the ancient myth, but from the “exploratory journey” that Chef LG takes his diners on. And the “Lab” part of the title is a riff on science, test-tubes and foams, reflecting the restaurant’s experimental side.
Experiment A comes in the form of the bread – well, not the bread so much as the accompanying olive oil: it’s in powder form. In combination with a balsamic jam, it shines. After an amuse bouche that plays on the idea of a Japanese omelette, LG serves up his “steak” tartare – not steak at all, but an intensely flavoured mince of roasted tomatoes, topped by an egg yolk (in fact, a mango sphere). Simple and superb.
Every visitor to Singapore is advised to try the city’s famous chilli crab. Let’s hope many try LG’s version instead of the hawker favourite. It’s immensely good. The deep-fried soft-shell crab is served with a ball of chilli-crab ice cream in its claws, and a sea-foam of crab mousse, all on a bed of sand (grated, toasted mantou buns). Sounds like a novelty – and it’s certainly fun to eat – but it also works brilliantly thanks to an artful blend of textures and temperatures.
Three more entertaining, inventive and flavourful courses follow in the $78 degustation menu, along with some well-matched wines, but I won’t give away all of Labyrinth’s surprises. (Let’s just say the xiaolongbao has a cool twist to it.)
The restaurant’s 20 seats are aligned in a bar format along a serving area where the intricate dishes are put together in full view. It’s the type of layout that encourages diners to lob questions at the staff; and trust me, you’ll have a few. My only one for the moment is: When can I go back?
Must-try dish: Chilli crab