Sometimes, one just needs a good muse to get the juices flowing.
In my case, that would be a certain brisket I spied recently once the cut of meat began flooding butchers with Passover on the horizon. Now this was a beautiful five-pounder with an impressive girth, hearty red hue and slick coating of fat. Thoughts of what I might do to it washed over me instantly — something conventional, perhaps? Or a return to the trusty sweet and sour brisket recipe I’ve hauled out time and again? And then I thought of my Auntie Alice’s Singapore-style braised duck recipe and how unforgettable that soy sauce gravy inflected with ginger, garlic and five spice powder is.
In recent weeks, I’ve spoken often of how one shouldn’t be intimidated by Southeast Asian recipes — yes, it’s a less usual form of cooking than you would see in most American kitchens. The ingredient lists can be long and the sometimes numerous steps can be mind-boggling. But if you love the flavors, try to understand and dissect them, I’ve been saying in bookappearances and interviews — and then adapt those techniques and spice strategies to everyday dishes in your own kitchen.
Faced with my brisket, I thought perhaps I should heed my own advice. My auntie’s braising strategy works wonderfully on duck — so why not beef? Armed with a bagful of garlic, ginger and an onion, I was ready to give it a shot …
Step into The Fat Radish, a new restaurant in New York's Chinatown, and you may feel as if you've left Manhattan firmly outside the door.
British accents envelop you the moment you enter the sliver of a bar area; the menu is packed with a tantalizing looking blue cheese pork pie and the burger comes with "chips" not fries — thank you very much.
Chef Ben Towill (of the Australian Kingswood in the West Village) describes his new endeavor as "modern British" and its studied shabby chic decor certainly telegraphs as much. The walls are exposed brick, coated with a thin veneer of white, a motley collection of stiff backless stools or benches are your chairs of the evening, homey pots of rosemary and thyme line a divider in this former Chinese sausage factory — which bears the Chinese graffiti marking it as such. (Although, it's unclear as to why workers in a sausage factory would have needed the Chinese characters branded on a wall to remind them of where they were.)
Even the name conjures up thoughts of a certain U.K. restaurant that continues to captivate: Heston Blumenthal's The Fat Duck.
It's lovely to see so much thought and care go into weaving the story, the ambience of a new restaurant. Now, if only this much attention had been paid to the food…
Singapore can be such a by-the-book place that when you come across something truly creative, you can’t help but stop for a moment to marvel and think: This must be applauded.
Dinner at Fifty Three, a fairly new addition to the Singapore dining scene, is filled with moments such as these. From the amuse bouche of a crispy potato chip dusted with sour yogurt powder to the inventive finale of a melt-in-your-mouth gin and tonic gummy candy, the restaurant had me enthralled through and through.
Chef Michael Han, a former lawyer turned chef who’s an alum of the Fat Duck in the U.K. and Noma in Denmark, may only be in his early 30s but his hand is sure, his vision is appealingly playful and his dishes will remain with you long after you’ve left.