SINGAPORE - (THE BUSINESS TIMES) Let us begin by telling you exactly what Mo'mor Izakaya is not. It is not an izakaya, and it is not a Mo'mor. We have no idea what a Mo'mor is, but it implies a certain level of cuddliness that this does not have.
Mo'mor is the third attempt by meat purveyor Swiss Butchery to make a restaurant out of the cramped Tanglin Post Office basement space that is linked to its street level shop. Its last attempt was Maca - helmed by a promising chef who has since found himself a bigger stage elsewhere.
But rather than stay the course, it's changed tack with a new menu and name that seems randomly generated by an algorithm fed with cues like "should sound catchy and reflect current dining trends". Hence Mo'mor Izakaya, which admittedly sounds more enticing than, say, "simple food cooked well", which more accurately describes its winning formula.
So, yes, three times really is the charm for this tiny eatery that's finally found its niche by matching its modest space with smart yet down-to-earth cooking.
56 Tanglin Road Post Office
Tel: 6463 8080
Open 11am to 11pm (Mon to Wed); 11am to 1am (Thurs to Sat); 11am to 11pm (Sun)
Comforting and accessible, you almost imagine conversations like this going on in the kitchen: "Chef, we just got a supply of hamachi collar and soft-shell crab - what kind of culinary frontiers shall we conquer with this?" Chef: "I know what we can do - let's just cook them!"
There is no particular plot to the menu - which is divided into two main sections of tapas and mains, with plenty of sub-sections in between.
The cooking style is generic Western, with a smattering of Japanese ingredients thrown in. Which really sounds like a recipe for ho-hum, uninspired cooking if not for the sight of the young chefs behind the kitchen counter going at their ingredients with utmost concentration punctuated by spurts of uncontrolled flames.
What comes out are some of the fleshiest soft-shell crabs ($16) we've had in a while, meaty and not mushy on the inside surrounded by a brittle armour of crispy deep-fried batter. Hamachi collar ($16.90) comes from a good-sized critter, so there's lots of moist flesh to be dug out from its crescent-shaped crevice. Some pretty deft grilling and seasoning lend a nice char on the surface and perfect timing means there isn't a dry morsel to be found, and no fishiness to detect. We can't say the same about the sashimi chirashi ($36) which is a sorry collection of defrosted fish that were once alive maybe a year or so ago.
On the other hand, a slight "fridgy" whiff in the grilled iberico pork jowl ($12) is the only tell-tale sign that Spanish pork is always imported frozen rather than chilled. But its well marbled meat and bounce are enough reason to continue eating it. Especially when it's paired with just the right contrast of sweet pickled green apple slices.
What really has us tipping our hat to the kitchen is the grilled Japanese squid ($19). Smeared with a rich miso-like paste with numbing shiso pepper that makes temporary tongue paralysis a welcome sensation, the smoky grilled flesh is tender with an amazing bite to it. We're so used to squid with varying levels of rubberiness so to be able to bite right through without any resistance feels like we've just eaten a magic trick of some kind. We should ask how it works but like a good trick, it's probably better not to find out.
Chilean sea bass ($34) passes the frozen test since cod (the Chilean bass's other name) is pretty indestructible in the first place. Here it's pan-fried with a nice crusty exterior even if we're not totally won over by the saffron sauce which emphasises the already rich, milky texture of the cod. Leeks hard enough to stab someone with add to our mixed feelings about this.
Desserts swing towards the funky side, but in a good way. Oba leaf ice cream (a vaguely herb-scented vanilla ice cream) sidles up to gobs of yuzu sorbet which perk you up along with freeze-dried raspberries and cookie crumbles. We prefer this to the light, lavender-scented sponge which gets all its dessert dreams crushed by unreasonably sour pineapple slices which refuse to release any kind of sweetness despite repeated grilling.
With crazy good-value set lunches starting at $15 for two courses, the place is usually packed so make sure you book early or be forced to eat outside in the alfresco section. While the food is more dependable than outstanding, Mo'mor Izakaya's got the formula right by keeping things simple and pricing it right.
Its name may be fictitious but deep down, it's all real.
WHAT OUR RATINGS MEAN
10: The ultimate dining experience
7-7.5: Good to very good
This article was first published on May 16, 2016.
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