Tan Hsueh Yun Life Editor recommends

Pasta at Wild Rocket, kueh from Peranakan Khek, and more

PHOTOS: DSTLLRY PAR CHRISTOPHE LEROUY, PERANAKAN KHEK, THE SUMMERHOUSE, WILD ROCKET

PASTA THAT PACKS A PUNCH

After a break, Wild Rocket at Mount Emily re-opened earlier this month, offering a new menu of pasta with an Asian spin.

Chef Willin Low, 44, says pasta dishes have always been popular with diners, as anyone who has had the laksa pesto linguine or spicy corned beef spaghettini in his restaurants would know.

Now, he's upped the ante with four new ones.

My favourite is the Spanner Crab Ravioli & Daun Kesom Ravioli In Laksa Broth ($30 a la carte).

There are two types of ravioli. The larger ones are filled with crab and prawn and the little green ones, coloured with spinach, have laksa pesto inside. They float on creamy, dreamy laksa broth. The idea is a great one because the laksa pesto ravioli have such an intense flavour, punching up the seafood and gravy. Pile a portion of the seafood ravioli and one of laksa pesto, scoop up some gravy and there is heaven in a mouthful.

Thai Red Curry Duck Confit Fettuccine ($29 a la carte, main photo) is very spicy, but the flavours are so vibrant, I wipe the sweat from my brow and continue eating. It is topped with pea eggplant and any misgivings I have about biting into these tannic bubbles disappear when I have one. They are lightly pickled, the harsh tannins are gone and the gentle tartness is a good counter to the richness of the pasta.

The other two are more subdued.

Har Ji Spaghetti With Bottarga, Prawns And Kaffir ($30 a la carte) packs a lot of umami, from the dried mullet roe shaved over the noodles and the prawn roe worked into the pasta dough. Strips of kaffir lime leaves lift the dish. Rendang Oxtail Pappardelle ($28 a la carte) is a great idea, but the sauce needs more chilli.

The pasta dishes can also be had as part of set meals. At lunch, prices are $28 for two courses and $32 for three. At dinner, a four-course menu costs $73. But the pasta dishes are compelling, so I'd skip the main course and get another pasta.

The omakase meal ($128 for nine courses) includes tasting portions of three to four of the pasta dishes.

WHERE: Wild Rocket, 10A Upper Wilkie Road MRT: Little India TEL: 6339-9448 OPEN: Noon to 3pm (Tuesdays to Saturdays), 6.30 to 10.30pm (Mondays to Saturdays), closed on Sundays INFO: www.wildrocket.com.sg


KUEH DELIGHTS

A little shop in Cavan Road in the Lavender Street area has been turning out the Peranakan kueh of my dreams.

Ms Sharon Low, 29, who used to, as she says, "make ang moh pastries", opened Peranakan Khek in June last year and her swoon-worthy wares are made with great attention to detail. That means, among other things, using freshly squeezed coconut milk and good quality gula melaka with wonderful depth of flavour.

The care shows.

My favourite kueh is Kueh Putugal ($2 each), steamed tapioca fudge with lots of ripe pisang rajah in the middle and rolled in grated coconut. The subtle sweetness and fragrance of the banana plus the pillowy fudge are what make it a star.

The Kueh Dadar ($2 each) have a juicy coconut and gula melaka filling that is so delightfully old school. They are more pricey than factory-made versions, but the layers of flavour in the gula make it worth the price.

Other treats from her shop, named after her father's Peranakan and Khek (Hokkien for Hakka) heritage, include homespun cakes.

Make room for Gula Melaka Chiffon ($2 a slice, $15 for a whole cake, above).

Although Ms Low is quite firm about customers consuming the kueh on the day they are made (refrigeration does them no good at all), I save half a slice at room temperature to have the next day.

It tastes better. The gula melaka flavour is deeper and more aromatic, the molasses notes front and centre. I wonder why I did not order an entire cake. And a lot more kueh.

As everything is made in limited quantities, order online at her website at least three days in advance.

I will stick my neck out and say this: You will not regret it.

WHERE: Peranakan Khek, 01-03 Cavan Suites, 11 Cavan Road MRT: Lavender TEL: 6443-1213 OPEN: 11am to 6pm (Tuesdays to Saturdays), 11am to 5pm (Sundays and public holidays), closed on Mondays INFO: www.peranakankhek.com


PRETTY CAKES

There are so few places in Singapore where you can really get away from the madding crowd, but Seletar is one place to head to. A cluster of restaurants has opened near the Seletar Aerospace Park and Wildseed Cafe is a good chillout spot.

Indoors, the cafe shares space with Poppy Flora Studio and it is lovely to eat surrounded by blooms. The outdoor seating area is breezy and the vibe is laidback. The cafe is the casual offshoot of The Summerhouse restaurant upstairs and serves burgers, pasta and salads.

What I would go back for are two of the cakes. Pea Flower Coconut Muffin ($6.50, above) looks pretty, topped with whipped coconut cream and a perfect blue pea flower. What's inside is even better - grated coconut mixed with gula melaka, like a kueh dadar filling. There is little muffin and a lot of coconut, which seems the perfect ratio to me.

Also good is the Ginger Flower Banana Loaf ($6.50). The dark, moist slice is drizzled with toffee sauce and topped with strips of dried torch ginger flower. They add little to the flavour, but then a good banana cake needs nothing else.

WHERE: Wildseed Cafe, 3 Park Lane MRT: Yio Chu Kang TEL: 6262-1063 OPEN: 10am to 7pm (Tuesdays to Sundays), closed on Mondays INFO: www.thesummerhouse.sg


FINE FRENCH FARE

When you eat out often at new restaurants, sometimes the meals can blur into one. Those that seem perfectly fine vanish from memory a couple of days later.

My dinner at DSTLLRY Par Christophe Lerouy is not one of them.

It takes over the former premises of cocktail bar DSTLLRY and serves French food. The kitchen is headed by Christophe Lerouy, 34, formerly of Alma by Juan Amador at Goodwood Park Hotel.

This is a dramatic place in which to have dinner, sort of like eating in a black box theatre. In the middle, where the actors usually are, is the kitchen, with chefs working in it and the diners at 21 counter seats surrounding them.

A six-course dinner with a couple of extras thrown in costs $95 and an eight-course one is $120.

On centre stage, chef Lerouy works his magic, creating plates that surprise and delight.

My favourite course is one involving the humble cabbage (above). The brassica is encased in a dough made with flour, water, thyme, rosemary, black pepper and salt, then baked. It is then taken out, lightly torched, and draped with thin slices of lardo.

That, too, is torched and the cabbage is served on egg yolk emulsion and lemon puree, with a sauce of brown butter, anchovies, parsley and garlic spooned over it.

It is simple, but sensational. The vegetable is not quite meltingly tender - it retains a bit of bite. Have some of it with the rich egg yolk sauce, the tart lemon puree and the umami-laden brown butter sauce and that is a mini-tasting menu in one dish.

Another unforgettable one involves snails and squid. Tender and springy, they sit on a circle of squid ink pasta and a pool of green sauce made with spinach, parsley, chervil and roasted garlic. Lemon foam is the acidic element that makes the dish sing.

The foie gras dish also gives me a jolt. First, there is liver poached in red wine, then an aerated version that is like whipped cream. The accompaniments - batons of grilled brioche and the tart passionfruit - are not out of place.

What takes this dish to the next level is coffee, in the form of coffee wafers. Who knew goose liver would go so well with it? The flavour combination is startling and perfectly right.

So many things are perfectly right in this restaurant. What it needs is for word to get out there, and better lighting.

WHERE: DSTLLRY Par Christophe Lerouy, 01-01 Infinite Studios, 21 Media Circle MRT: one-north TEL: 6334-4816 OPEN: Noon to 2.30pm (Wednesdays to Fridays), 6 to 10pm (Mondays to Saturdays), closed on Sundays INFO: www.dstllryco.com

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 10, 2017, with the headline 'Food Picks'. Print Edition | Subscribe