Southpaw Bar & Sushi: The art of pairing food with whisky

Sat next to car repair workshops and hardware shops, Southpaw Bar and Sushi is a hidden gem and the island's latest attempt at diving deeper into our cups and pairing plates with heavier pours of whiskies and bourbons. With our restaurant scene awashed with wine and beer dinner options (the latter being a rarity as well), Southpaw is a lovely respite for jaded tipple pairing punters.

Whisky drunk neat always it the perfect mean to bookend a meal, the idea of a sit -down dinner pickled with spirit forward imbibes; maybe an ounce or so to invigorate the palate en route to the appetiser and a heavier sherry casked pour to complement the dessert. But that's where the fun stops, the resolution with the fish course or aburi salmon not something that can be fathom by most. Southpaw is where you find a solution to that wratched gap in the market. And why not? Why don't great whiskies bump the Bordeaux from beside those de rigueur plates of beef?

At Southpaw, Omakase sets are the order of the day. Diners get to choose from between the price tiers of $68++, $98++ and $138++. For those tipple hungry diners, there's the Chirashi ($38) which allows for more room to work through the healthy selection of whiskies, sake and bourbon lining the shelves. With drams starting at $9, you don't have to harbour fears of chalking up a sizable bill (you know the sort which will induce a cry or a choke) without potentially getting inebriated first. 

The meal kicks off with the Irish Oyster, Trout Caviar and Fruits Tomato. This associates itself with The Ten No.2 Aultmore 2007, a speyside whisky bottled by La Maison Du Whisky themselves. Slightly creamy frills with a herbaceous end note, eggs the diner to conduct the oyster luge, which would have been perfect if the Irish oyster carried a bit more salinity. The real showstopper on the plate being the bowl of trout caviar, plump and approaching eiderdown. At the height of its season, the caviar serenades the flavours of the sea, a mild touch of the sea gives way to tides of creaminess that befuddles the diner, seeing that the precious mounds are so incredibly clear. Cleanse your palate with the fruit tomato, its inherent natural sweetness hinting at the flavour achievements that the meal is destined to unlock.

The chef works with deft hands behind the counter to produce the Sashimi Carpaccio with Lumpfish Caviar and bonito flakes. These thin sheets spritz with just a wee bit of truffle oil implode with umami flavours on the nose seconds before it melts on the palate. It disappears all a little too fast, and that's okay, a clear indication that you're hankering for your next delicious tipple.

Owner Roy Ng recognises the thirst and treats you to a sprightly Benromach Organic, a single malt scotch made using 100% certified organic Scottish Barley. Push past the romanticism of having land and dram unite and the tipple provides snowfields of tropical fruit flavour highlighted by a spicy rim. It's a little soft for some tastes, but works magically with the Sashimi Moriwase - congregating Otoro, Shima aji, Mekajiki, Akagai and Amaebi spot prawn. You won't experience flashes of culinary epiphany here, but the blissful union warms the tummy and soul.

from left to right:
First Row - Aji, Engawa, Monga Ika
Second Row - Botan Ebi, Shake Aburi, Anago, Hotate with Foie Gras Aburi

The rest of the meal is a blur, a mash-up of a spirited fest consisting whisky induced conversations and swoon-worthy food that promote periods of silent reverence. Slowly but surely, Chef Kenny Khoo shepherds bejewelled treasures in the form 9 sushi into your presence.

The aji sushi is a mesmerising beauty. Horse mackerel cured in salt and vinegar is sliced to perfection and braided. The end result is no less of a visionary treat as it is detonation of culinary pleasures on the palate. Wash it down with the Amrut Whisky, big on jammy flavours and spice, the hint of peat lends the velvety cuts of fish a creamier texture. Blanton single barrel bourbon makes an appearance when the Aburi items show up. Whaffs of fresh almond paste and vanilla gives way to luscious sips of burnt caramel and scorched oak. A perfect companion to its devilish ways is the Shake Aburi, white tuna is marinated in sea salt, olive oil and soya; then its suppleness extricated by a quick dance over stove top flames for a  blanket of char for a delicious sapid mouthful. Similarly, the Hotate with Foie Gras Aburi is one for the culinary books. The slight vinegared rice, a perfect cradle for the power duo.

The meal concludes with the humble miso soup, impressing effortlessly with creamy undertones contributed by shells of botan jiru. The nimble Roy follows this in quick succession and the Redbreast 12yr single pot still is called to my attention.

This Irish Whiskey blew my mind.

Nutty and marmalade on the nose simultaneously, the pleasant washes of dried fruit and spice is something you'll want to commit to memory. It's semblance to a mild sherry nudging this tipple into my 'all-time-favourites' list.

As a consumer who is used to the prim and proper atmosphere associated with whisky appreciation, Southpaw is a pleasant departure from that pretence. Not all of it is going to blow your mind, but congregate with your besties at this fuss-free joint and it will be pretty much a guaranteed good time.

Southpaw Sushi and Bar
11 Cavan Road
Cavan Suites
t: 9101 1941

Operating Hours:
Mon - Sat: 6 - 12pm
Sun: Closed

No comments: