Best and worst 2015: Dishes

Park Bench Deli’s Kong Bak Banh Mi. PHOTO: OLIVIA SARI-GOERLACH
Park Bench Deli’s Kong Bak Banh Mi. PHOTO: OLIVIA SARI-GOERLACH
Spago’s Salted Caramel Souffle. PHOTO: SPAGO
Spago’s Salted Caramel Souffle. PHOTO: SPAGO
Bacchanalia’s Coconut Risotto. PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE SUNDAY TIMES
Bacchanalia’s Coconut Risotto. PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE SUNDAY TIMES

DISHES

BEST

• Kong Bak Banh Mi

Park Bench Deli, 179 Telok Ayer Street, tel: 6815-4600, open: 9am to 10pm (Monday to Friday)

This sandwich combines two of my favourites things: kong bak pau (braised pork belly stuffed into steamed buns) and banh mi (Vietnamese sandwiches with pickles). The slices of pork are braised in a rich, full-bodied brew of soya sauce, caramel, scallions and garlic.

A generous amount of pork is stuffed into a hoagie roll spread with hoisin aioli. It sounds far too rich. But there are strips of daikon and carrot pickle, lime leaf and fresh coriander leaves to stop food coma from setting in.

A sprinkling of crushed peanuts seems superfluous, but the crunch and aroma add a little something to the sandwich.

What makes a dish a best dish? It would have to be something I hanker after, that I remember out of all the things I eat for work. This sandwich is unforgettable.

• Coconut Risotto

Bacchanalia, 39 Hongkong Street, tel: 9179-4552, noon to 2.30pm (Wednesday to Friday), 6 to 10.30pm (Monday to Saturday)

Coconut Risotto, which is part of the $150, seven-course tasting menu, is one dish that makes me sit up. Its charms go beyond the pretty plating. Thai flavours - galangal, ginger, sawtooth coriander and kaffir lime leaves - bring a new spin to what is a very Italian dish.

Instead of broth, the carnaroli rice is cooked with second-press coconut milk and coconut water. There is heat from fermented sambal and baniwa chilli powder from Brazil, a blend of several types of chillies. First-press coconut milk finishes off the dish, together with a sprinkling of fermented strips of coconut.

Bright, fresh and moreish, this is another dish I remember months after I have it.

• Salted Caramel Souffle

Spago, Sands SkyPark, Level 57 Tower 2, Marina Bay Sands, 10 Bayfront Avenue, tel: 6688-9955, open: noon to 2pm, 6 to 10pm (weekday), 6 to 11pm (weekend)

A well-made souffle is difficult to find here. It might arrive at the table standing tall, but many are wet and undercooked inside.

None of these problems plagues Spago's souffle ($24). It is cooked all the way through, with a crunchy top helped by polka dots of caramel and a sprinkling of sea salt.

I am happy to eat the souffle as is, but the accompanying sweet-tart Fuji apple sorbet and creme fraiche are irresistible.

WORST

• Grilled Corn, Dashi Butter, Furikake

Adrift by David Myers, Hotel Lobby Tower 2, Marina Bay Sands, tel: 6688-5657, open: noon to 2.30pm (Monday to Friday), 6 to 10pm daily

On paper, the menu at Adrift, described as a Californian izakaya, looks terrific. But my meal there is one of the worst I have had this year.

The interesting crackers it set on the table to nibble on are stale, the flavours of the many dishes I order are either not focused, insipid or both.

When I think of grilled corn, I think of kernels blistered by the heat, some parts blackened. Instead, there is a heap of limp baby corn. They do not taste like they have been anywhere near a grill.

Dashi butter? Perhaps it is too subtle for me to discern. The furikake makes no impression either.

My friends and I decamp to Satay by the Bay after that meal. On the way out, I cannot help but think how apt the name of the restaurant is.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 27, 2015, with the headline 'Food'. Print Edition | Subscribe