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Entertainment, Food & Beverage

Morsels makes it all from scratch

The couple who runs Morsels insists on making everything from scratch from pickling their own olives and wakame to making their kimchi in-house.
The Straits Times - February 13, 2013
By: Debbie Yong
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Morsels makes it all from scratch

Morsels

Add: 35 Mayo Street
Tel: 6396 6302
Open: 6-9.30pm (Tue-Fri), 6-10pm (Fri-Sat)

They were doing a fine job making inroads in the restaurant industry in California, but when they looked back on the local dining scene, Singaporean couple Bryan Chia and Petrina Loh felt an instant calling to come home.

"Our restaurant scene has grown tremendously with all the celebrity chef restaurants, but there is still a lack of good local chefs of our generation who are willing to strike out to do something different," says Ms Loh of their decision to return home last year to start their own small-plates restaurant, Morsels.

Ms Loh, 30, was a former private banker who traded in her corporate jackets for chef whites two years ago when she enrolled in Le Cordon Bleu in San Francisco, and has since worked in restaurants like Thomas Keller's French bistro Bouchon and modern Californian restaurant Spruce in San Francisco.

Mr Chia, meanwhile, has a degree in tourism and hospitality management from the University of Hawaii and recently graduated from the Culinary Institute of America.

The 30-year-old has worked in Saint Pierre in Singapore and was also a private chef in the French Alps.

At their month-old independent eatery, Ms Loh mans the cold kitchen and the paperwork while Mr Chia oversees the hot kitchen.

The crowd tends to comprise friends and family of the couple in these early days, so dining there feels like you've been invited for a meal at a friend's cosy, wood-clad home. Seats comprise either large communal tables to be shared, or bar stools by the hot and cold open kitchens, where little nags between the couple to "take this out of the grill" and "put this plate there" are charmingly audible.

"We didn't really want to label ourselves with a particular type of cuisine," says Ms Loh. And it's a good thing too. Free of boxes to check, the duo come up with some seriously innovative flavour pairings that rival other up-and-coming dining spots like Lolla.

A Latin American influence is evident in the scallop ceviche starter ($15) that is tossed up with julienned plums and red onions. Yet others like the broth of steamed clams ($20), veer towards the East with its kimchi and wakame toppings. The fig broth base, says Ms Loh, takes after a Cantonese mo fa gou soup she drank while growing up.

The winner here is the squid ink risotto ($23). A pale yellow salted egg yolk sauce (similar to those in Chinese seafood restaurants) is drizzled over plump, briny grains of risotto rice and the flavours marry well. Slices of octopus and tobiko give the composition a nice variation in texture.

The Californian influence comes through in the couple's focus on produce and their insistence on making everything from scratch - from pickling their own olives and wakame to making their kimchi in-house. House pour wines are from X Winery, a socially responsible wine producer in North California, and the cocktail list features plenty of herb-infused vodka. Try the sake and wasabi-inflected Bloody Mary ($15) for a drink with a difference.

The couple are also working with local farmers like Bjorn Low of Edible Gardens project to grow their own herbs and micro-greens within the restaurant, and hope to establish more collaborations to include more local fish, vegetables and fruit in their menu.

"We're so used to having good produce in California, where everyone is a farmer. But in Singapore, we just don't have that luxury," says Mr Chia.

debyong@sph.com.sg

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