Maggie Joan's: Backlane Dining

Hidden in a once decrepit corner on the back alley of Amoy Street facing Gemmil Lane is a hole-in-the-wall restaurant, well hidden from sight but promises to wow diners with the overall eating experience exemplified by the likes of Loh Lik Peng's Hua Bee and Jack & Rai's The Flying Squirrel. Not surprisingly this location was intentionally chosen by Glen and Daniel Ballis, the father and son duo behind the successful Moosehead modern tapas a few blocks down the road. Occupying a disused kitchen space of the old Gold Leaf porridge in a century old shophouse, this small and cosy establishment retained a lot of old world charm; the bricks that were stripped bare of its paint are the original's while Victorian floor tiles restored by Maggie Joan's in the inner quarters contribute to the ambiance of the place. Owner, Daniel also specially commissioned aged metal drum shades to evoke a sense of the bygone era.

While we were impressed by the overall aesthetics appeal of the place, the smell of freshly baked bread whetted our appetite. In a cosy and rustic place like this, it is hard not to remind yourself this is a restaurant and not some granny's kitchen. Having said that “Maggie Joan's” is indeed an amalgam of two names, Maggie and Joan which are the first names of both of Daniel's grandmothers, who have contributed greatly in cultivated his immense interest in food.

A feast for the eyes before we were treated by the smell of warmed baking bread. At the insistence of Chef Oliver Hyde who used to helm the kitchen of Jason Atherton's Pollen, everything is made from scratch here from the pickled fruits to the fruit soda and notwithstanding, the house bread. The lack of space had not deterred the duo from baking fresh bread on their ground. The Garlic and rosemary bread ($5) was paired with Hummus topped with paprika. Nothing beats warm fresh bread, and it was great to start the ball rolling with this.

We started with the appetizers of Egg, dukkah & saffron mayo ($6) and the Roast Jerusalem artichoke & manchego ($8), both of which were rather interesting combinations in terms of taste and texture, and certainly are dishes that I would come back for. The former with a rather straightforward arrangement was an explosion of flavours on the tastebuds, especially the briny aftertaste of the saffron which balanced perfectly with the egg yolk and the mayonnaise.

The Heirloom tomatoes, plum & burrata ($21) was equally excellent and I could not find fault with the Hamachi sashimi, carrots & brandade ($23). In fact this was a dish which I could come back for. The Hamachi sashimi was paired alongside the unusual brandade, which is an emulsion of salt cod and olive oil, usually eaten with bread or potatoes. Sourdough crumbs were also added to the dish to provide a crispy crunchiness.

I was never a fan of pork but I would recommend anyone to order the flavourful Grilled Iberico 
Secreto, prunes & cauliflower ($36) over the bland Roast bass, pesto & marinated tomatoes ($28). The flavours of the pulled pork was robust and hitting on the right notes. Spanish pork brined for 4 hours, sous-vide for 12 hours at 82 degrees and finished in an Inka charcoal oven; this is a very time consuming process before achieving the desired texture of the pork. And continuing a tradition from Moosehead where Chef Oliver tried to give his dishes an edgier interpretation, the added sherry marinated prune, and the curry caramel profiles that he injected into this plate would certainly make this a brilliant execution, worthy of special mention.

No particular genre of food here but probably best described as a modern and playful interpretation of Mediterranean cuisine. We had three different desserts. The White chocolate, spiced crumble & passionfruit ($10), the Figs, red wine & housemade ricotta ($10) and last but not least, my favourite warmed Orange cake, yoghurt & pistachio ($10). Dull as it may sound and looking like a plain Jane, it is a dish that many would have simply overlook, but this was an unanimous favourite. (Imagine the smell of butter cakes from the kitchen that filled the air as our main course ended. )Like many of its other dishes that won our heart, the formula for the warmed orange cake is simple, basic and well execution. Homemade orange syrup drizzled over a warmed butter orange cake with yoghurt & pistachio! It kept us ecstatic as we end our meal on a heartening and high note.

Maggie Joan's Dining & Bar
110 Amoy Street #01-01
(Entrance from Genmill Lane)
t: 6221 5564

Operating Hours: 
Mon - Fri: 12pm - 2 30pm; 6pm - 11pm
Sat: 6pm - 11pm
Sun: Closed

Written and Photographer by RamenKing2015, a foodie more often than not, mesmerized by wanderlust and overcome by a sense of purpose to unveil cultural mysteries. Follow his journeys here.

No comments: