Morsels: Timeless cuisine fostered by Asian heralded techniques

Areas like the lush Dempsey Hill have had its fair share of ups and down over the last decade. It spruced up nicely in its food and beverage conquest, attracting voracious appetites and roaring conversations in its hay-days with distinguished overseas brand backing. Think Jones the Grocer with its cool, softly lit gorgeous lofty interiors and fresh stacks of pancakes. However, the slowing economy took a huge hit and expatriates who were the majority denizens of Dempsey started making rarer appearances in the enclave. All of a sudden, things too a turn and these giants slowly moved out of the leaving a void to be filled. Not long after, new life style quarters Como Dempsey happened and the precinct teamed with life once again. Taking the plunge, was Petrina Loh, Chef/Owner of Morsels (previously located in Mayo Street) who moved her small plates restaurant into a more intimate 40-seater, 1000 sqf space  just at stone's throw from Long Beach Seafood.

Having not patronise her previous outlet before, I was pleasantly surprised by the cottage like intimacy of the dining space adjoining the open kitchen. Wild ferns frame the bar while wicker chairs and wooden table tops up the 'rustic' quality one experiences once you slide pass those full length barnyard type doors. At the point, you'll wonder if you've inadvertently stepped into someone's home, lifting your eyes to look out for quilted corners.

I took a quick browse at the menu and was stoked to notice the absence of parroting of modish ingredients. No kale, no kombu, nothing burnt nor aerated. Anticipation ran high as the soulful concept of Chef Petrina's obsessive cooking fell into place. It was fusion food, but not the kind that bastardised local cuisine nor shaped childhood memories. Instead, she delves a lot deeper into origins, breaking down cultural culinary boundaries to produce the most addictive liaisons between her own Asian heritage and full on wild-child antics of a global restaurateur mindset. A few small hiccups notwithstanding, every witty dish in the Omakase menu keeps Morsels firmly in the dining conversation. Whether it be a frown, ringing senses or wine-glass clenching moments, Morsels is definitely worth a visit.

Briny Oysters ($6++ each) from Normandy, France sets the tone. They are dressed with turmeric cucumber pickle dead twig of galangal ginger flower shrubs which proves a herbaceous contrasting note to the glorious poise and briny power of these plump babies. You'll want to take a swig at your Prosecco Di Valdobbiodene with this one.

It appear almost instantly that Morsels have a knack for making unlikely pairings taste like they've always belonged. You'll encounter a comforting wash of pleasantries as the salty kuhlbarra barramundi brandade, tobiko and creamy egg fillings collide in the Devilled Eggs ($4.50++ each). This smacks of an instant signature item and mind you, you're just at the tip of the iceberg. Let's move on to sharing plates shall we?
Squash Toast - Tomato Kimchi Jam/ Manchego Gratin ($5++ each)

I admit to being a shameless sucker for burrata cheese. Morsels departs from the usual variety in that it's prized creamy qualities is masked by meesua 'mammi' - essentially deep fried mee sua crumbs and flanked by a heaping amount of kale salad that cried out for more dressing. I wrote off the concept immediately, seeking solace in the Gin-cured Mekajiki Belly for atonement. Here, Swordfish belly is cured with Ford's gin and flavoured with kampot red pepper, chrysanthemum flowers and rooibos. Superb quality fish gets a textural lift from crunchy shaved kohlrabi and pickled shimeji mushrooms. I feel better now, grievances laid to rest. Pardon me, but as much as I wear an adventurous palate, I'm not immune to the appeal of the purer forms sometimes.

The Homemade Daikon Cake ($12++) is met with dubious stares across the table, but the end result is charismatic; an honest humble attempt at paying tribute to a bygone Singapore. The semi-traditional dish (vegetarian by the likes of it) combines browned crust and the umami quality of mushrooms in various shapes and sizes and pounds it into convivial submission. Capped with crispy enoki strips, the pretty display begged to be jumbled to delicious ruins.

Grilled Wild Sri-Lankan Tiger Prawns - Pickled Celeriac, Grits, Shaved Foie Torchon, Prawn Dash ($24++)

As I'd suggest if you were dining at Morsels, you must try the Steamed Venus Clams here. Delicate clams in a pool of pickled wakame and homemade kimchi laced fig (or mo fa ko) broth. The utterances of the last ingredient resonating deeply with me seeing that I used to nibble at the blue-tub of preserved fruits like a ravenous mouse when I was younger in a bid to soothe the ailments of childhood asthma. Needless the say, this "Classic" favourite was a dream, the rich saltiness of the broth mingling beautifully with seafood. Toss me the bread basket and I'll deal with my infatuation in a passive manner.

On the mains front, make a beeline for the 1824 Beef Tongue Musubi. Chef Loh does her own spin on spam musubi, employing premium Australian beef tongue to good use by brining for seven days with fennel and coriander seed and then painstakingly sous-biding it for 30-hours. Monkey head mushrooms and crisp onigiri rounded up this melt-in-your-mouth incarnation of Modern Hawaiian. I kept nibbling at it long after I was full, mentally plotting subsequent permutations (perhaps with a steamed bao?).

As much as the Snake Rivers Farm American Wagyu Flat Iron Steak is good, what you'll want every time is the Grilled Mangalica Pork Rib Eye Steak ($40++). And trust me, your hips and thighs will curse sweet profanities at me. You're welcome. It's slated to have a higher fat-to-meat ratio, so be warned! Forced artistic attempts at squiggling pineapple rum sauce across the plate may not be the most appealing, but damm you if you were to let it go to waste; it's tartness akin to char-siew marinade adds a strong narrative to the over the top affair. My idea of paradise would manifest in a bowlful of that choganjang jelly, unfortunately you'll have to practise 'fastest fingers first' with this glorious treat. The dish edges further into fresher ground using confit purple potato and mushroom kimchi.

Snake Rivers Farm American Wagyu Flat Iron Steak ($48++)

The execution of Morsels's desserts was a mixed bag. As much as I loved the Signature Milo Tiramisu, I was bummed that the more interesting sounding Taro Semifreddo had a flimsy texture and discordant flavours in its circus act of textural clowns. On the other hand, the 2013 Maculan Maduro Vino Dolce Veneto was the perfect nightcap, a ruby-red philosopher (or inducer of the same genre) finished with a woodsy-sweet dosage of fruit cake weighing in heavily with liquor.

In a nutshell, Morsels isn't the fanciest restaurant in the neighbourhood but it might just be the engaging. To be frank, it will never be the poster child for adaptive reuse in Singapore which is fantastic if you're looking for a unique dining experience. Come by during lunch time for a souful lunch Omakase priced at $45++ or $65++ per person or for dinner, the "Chef's Selection of Dishes" is priced at $85++ per person. Great for flavour explorations and occasional culinary incitement with the rest of the heathens. 

25 Dempsey Road

Operating Hours:
Tues - Thurs: 12 - 3pm; 6pm- 10pm
Fri -Sat: 12 - 3pm; 6pm - 10 30pm
Sun: 11am - 3pm

No comments: