A Labyrinth of Adventure, Celebration and Romance
One Michelin-starred restaurant Labyrinth truly deserves its accolades. We are indeed fortunate that Chef Han Li Guang – known as Chef LG Han – has abandoned a career in banking and entered the culinary scene in Singapore.
A graduate of The London School of Economics and Political Science, Chef Han worked at Goldman Sachs and Citibank before embracing food science and working with chefs Mauro Colagreco of two-Michelin-star Mirazur in France and Alvin Leung of three-Michelin-star Bo Innovation in Hong Kong.
At Labyrinth, the experience tasting or degustation menu Homage to My Singapore (at $178++ with an option of wine pairing at $80++) is inspired by Chef Han’s grandmother. It is a proudly Singaporean menu with an innovative twist. Labyrinth uses 80% local produce sourcing from suppliers that include Hay’s Dairy Farm, Nippon Koi Farm, Toh Thye San Farm, Farm Delight, and Stingless Honey Bee Farm. These are all meticulously highlighted in the tasting cards that are on display on the dining table, each card explaining the inspiration behind such delightful creations.
Out of a total of 17 courses including the amuse-bouche and petit fours, not every course was a resounding success, but it was challenging to single out a favourite out of so many remarkable creations. Calling his vision “New Expression of Singapore Cuisine”, Chef Han offers a re-examination of Singapore cuisine that does not rely on the dichotomy of “hawker” and “fine” dining. It is familiar-sounding Singaporean food such as Nasi Lemak, Rojak, Chilli Crab, Chicken Rice, Fish Maw Soup and Kaya Toast, but delivered in an avant-garde fashion. More importantly, they are served in a manner that will have you talking about it and wanting to come back for more!
The Braised Baby Abalone was served delicately cradled in a nest of fried black moss. The dried abalone has been braised for two days in vegetable-based superior stock, and then grilled over charcoal. Its smoky taste enhanced by oyster sauce evokes the traditional Lunar New Year ho seefatt choy dish but offers a contemporary reinterpretation of this festive favourite.
There were many other highlights. The humble rojak was given a royal and complex treatment at Labyrinth, and is probably the crown jewel of flavour on the Homage menu. It comprises white and blue pea flower nectar and petals, red and green wood sorrel, Indian borage, moringa leaves, moringa flowers, purple basil, Okinawan spinach, Mexican tarragon flowers, ginger flowers, and tempura sweet potato leaves. The usual prawn paste one gets from the hawker centre rojak was elevated here with the addition of the special ingredient of stingless bee honey from Batam. Chef Han popped out to chat, and explained that the sorbet – which I swooned over – was a combination of chempedak (sourced from Geylang Serai) (30%) and jackfruit (from Tekka) (70%). The umami of the prawn paste and sweetness of the honey enter into a seductive dance with the distinctive flavours of chempedak, jackfruit and basil in gastronomic harmony. Every mouthful presents an exciting new sensation, depending on which combination of components you have on your palate.
The “Ang Moh” Chicken Rice is an Instagram-worthy dish that comprises a pristine dumpling topped with a majestic crown of chilli threads, and served with Grandma’s secret recipe chilli sauce. The skin of the dumpling is made of house-ground rice flour and the dumpling is cooked in chicken rice stock accented with pandan, spring onion, ginger and garlic. The filling of diced chicken has been folded into ginger sauce and sesame oil. This dish is a veritable hit for me as it feels like a whole satisfying meal of Hainanese chicken rice has been magically condensed into one memorable mouthful.
The Local Wild Caught Crab is pure Heston Blumenthal-heaven. Chef Han’s reinvention of the Singapore perennial favourite dish of chilli crab is complex, confounding and confident. Wild caught live flower crabs from Ah Hua Kelong is deshelled and a quenelle of Labyrinth signature Chilli Crab ice-cream hides under a canopy of lustrous flesh. The crab meat is seasoned with salted ikan kurau powder made in-house, and rests in an emulsion of shaoxing wine. Finally, ribbons of egg white and fried curry leaves decorate the dish. The triumphant balance of crunch and cream, and the melding of spicy and sweet, all contribute to this unforgettable dish that will no doubt be a hallmark of the Labyrinth menu.
Chef Han’s love for food science is amply demonstrated in Bean to Bar, where he served up a chocolate sorbet with dark soy sauce (from Kwong Woh Hing), that is accompanied by cocoa nibbs and shaoxing wine gel, and topped with wood sorrel. Also in Oyster Plant Snow, the unusual oyster plant is treated with liquid nitrogen and served on a bed of grape espuma, diced pink dragon fruit and fresh pomegranate seeds, and with a shard of rosella meringue. As a dessert, Cristal de Chine Caviar, my dining companion’s favourite, defies conventional description. Your Ya Kun or kopi tiam kaya toast is reincarnated as a cylindrical kaya ice-cream sandwich toast that is served with caviar instead of salted butter. Garnished with blue pea flower petals and hibiscus leaves, it visually transports one to the fairyland beauty of A Midsummer Night’s Dream but harbours a warm comforting taste of home.
Labyrinth is a place for adventure, celebration and romance. The extensive Homage to My Singapore tasting menu is a labour of love and a virtuoso display of technique. With Chef Han – and the tasting cards – to guide you through this gastronomic labyrinth, you can be assured that you are in safe hands throughout this exhilarating journey.