Top Picks: The Naked Finn, The Missing Pan, Essen @ The Pinnacle

Hidden gems, cafe fare and the usual suspects, fine dining in hawker settings, call it whatever you like, but these are a few joints that have piqued my interest over the last couple of weeks. 

Just hear me out, it's only going to take a couple of minutes and following which, put on some knickers and prepare to hit up these various spots, because good food don't lie, and my personal marvellous reviews of the exceptional produce should by and large do the rest of the work. 

Starting off with The Naked Finn, an under the radar eatery that has a strong local following. Drop by this swanky yet somewhat cosy little spot in the Gillman barracks for their hot selling items such as the Hae Mee Tng and the Lobster Roll (only available at lunch). Here, service staff are approachable and incredibly accommodating (warmly responding to my boyfriend's plea to stow away his precious umbrella that he left in the restaurant the day before); brimming of product knowledge, clearly evident the moment they set the dish down at the table, the vigilance of the floor staff is truly praiseworthy.

Now, some would exclaim at the thought of paying $25 for a bowl of prawn mee, but let's just say, this isn't your run-of-the-mill, neighbourhood MSG-laden version; instead, the crew start off by frying the middle shrimp or Northern prawn with dried sakura shrimp in olive oil as the base of the prawn stock. It is then left to simmer with the pork stock for seven hours, bringing forth a umami taste without the addition of sugar or salt. We went ahead with the Vermicelli version, the toss up between that and Japanese somen a truly personal decision that would yield drastically different results. To accompany the bowlful of ambrosial broth, a selection of painstakingly prepared condiments serve to play up the dish, that includes a decadent Iberico pork lard with olive oil and their special chilli paste, to spice things up. What truly makes the Hae Mee Tng ($25) worth its price tag are the ginormous wild caught prawns and hunk of Salmon Creek Farm natural pork belly that grace the dish with its intense appearance.

Dig in with your fingers, no one is going to judge even as you suck down on those heads and lick your fingers afterwards; while you're at it, shovel down a few pieces of those addictive Wild-caught Baby Indian Squid ($8), grilled on a cast iron grill with sea salt and extra virgin olive oil, it is obvious that respect for good produce has result in some minimal cooking in the kitchen; a move that has wildly benefited the establishments' integrity.

Only available at lunch is their infamous Lobster Roll ($35), a tender bread roll filled with 90g of lobster meat tossed in a mixture of unsalted butter and creme fraiche. You know the kitchen means business when a meaty chunk of lobster claw sticks out from the glorified mess. My only gripe would be slight lack of crispness on the sides of the bun. A little boost in the level of chared-ness around the edges would provide that additional textural contrast, that would push this offering into "out-of-this-world" status.

Simple food in a gorgeous environment, What more can you ask for?

The Naked Finn
39 Malan Road
t: 6694 0807

Operating Hours: 
Mon -Thurs: 12pm - 3pm; 6pm - 10pm
Fri - Sat: 12pm - 3pm; 6pm - 10 30pm
Sun: Closed


Then there is The Missing Pan, a warm and comfy establishment set up along the hustle and nightmarish traffic of Bukit Timah Road. Once inside, you'll be transported to a tranquil book cafe, somewhere right smack in the middle of SOHO district, with a pleasant stream of sun beams flowing in through the glass walls.

Soak in the sun and tuck into their signature Beef French Toast Salpicon ($21). If you're like me and wondering what in the world is Salpicon, I've got the answer. Salpicon is a traditional dish in Nicaragua, simply made by simmering cubes of lean beef in water with onions, green bell peppers, garlic and salt. Don't ask me how did the kitchen crew derive their Caribbean influence, but one thing's for sure. It works. And to such wild success that I was left feeling like an abandoned lost puppy once I mopped up the last bit of smoked strawberry maple syrup with the remaining tip of my brioche french toast. Fried chicken and a melange of fresh fruits greets the eye, but working your way through that suspiciously thick toast, it dawns upon you that there is a beef chuck tender and mushroom stew stuffed inside. OH MY WORD, carnivores take pleasure in this dish with its landslide victory hailing from its hefty meat portions and a uncanny amalgamation of sweet and savoury flavors.

The Crackling Pork Eggs Benedict ($18), which sadly has been replaced with duck rilette substitution,  paled in comparison, the sovereign piece of crackling above the slab of pork belly deviating from the winsome formulae that is a traditional eggs benedict.
Crackling Pork Eggs Benedict
With a strong emphasis on bakery items here, you're guaranteed an exceptional experience with the breads on the plate. Most of them meandering on being the backbone as well as the highlight of the dish.You'll also be pleased to know that there's free wifi in the cafe, so good news for those meaning to go about a little business while exchanging pleasantries with your breakfast.

The Missing Pan
619D Bukit Timah Road
#01/02-01 S(269724)
t: 6466 4377

Operating Hours:
Tues- Sun: 10am -10pm


Last but not least is the much-talked-about Essen @ the Pinnacle. Packing in some hefty culinary muscle and accompanying media attention with heavyweights such as Garcons by Chef Immanuel of Immanuel's French Kitchen and Two Wings, an outpost of their original outlet at Bukit Merah.

Some say that the best way to experience your food is in a no-frills environment, and thats the way Garcon rolls. Dishing out fine French cuisine at affordable prices in a hawker setting, pushing past white linen settings and giving a more prominent voice to the food and the trialing techniques itself. 

The menu is kept simple with a few eye-catching items that have been lugged over from Bukit Merah after reaching stardom. The French Duck Leg Confit ($16.90), crisp yet deviously moist in the center; is served with a spring bacon succotash, which frankly I didn't quite take to because of my aversion towards peas; the mash, gearing towards the health conscious - didn't have that buttery rich feel only attainable with a wicked hand of full fat cream and lashings of butter. For the same price, I would advise you to order the 12hr Crispy Pork Belly ($16.90) instead. Beautifully tender and fatty meat reside under a frickin' delicious crackling bursting with flavor from a honey balsamic reduction that tasted a tad like kecap manis. The bed of mash providing a neutral spot in between sinful bites.

While you're warming the seats at the hawker joint,  you might as well order a platter of those ridiculously mouthwatering wings from Two Wings ($8.50 for 4) in a uniform of shatteringly crisp golden brown skin standing in a straight row with the sinister chicken rice chili as their parade master.

The challenge -  clearly is to stop at one.. and trust me, I've not seen any warriors so far that are capable of that Herculean feat.

Essen @ The Pinnacle
1 Cantonment Road

Operating Hours:
Daily: 10 30am - 11pm

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