I’ve never met celebrity chef Angela May. Neither have I watched her shows, nor tasted her food. So, when the City Nomads gang checked out her new eponymous restaurant at the Heeren, it wasn’t until she sauntered out at the end – cutting a svelte figure, radiant in her pristine chef whites – when the link between creator and creations made instantaneous sense.
We don’t mean to say that the food at Angela May Food Chapters is all veggie burgers and steamed tofu. In fact, the flavours the kitchen dishes out are surprisingly nuanced – at once feisty and light-handed, hearty yet restrained. Quite like Chef Angela herself, petite but unwavering. She speaks of the cross-cultural DNA of her menu with confident gusto; it’s the culmination of her culinary training at the Cordon Bleu Sydney, her recent base in the melting pot of New York, and her extensive travels within Asia. The last of which is evidently her trump card, one that prevents her healthy dishes from crashing headlong into bland territory.
Amongst the a la carte starters, we first baulked at the blasphemy of pureeing dou miao (pea shoots) into a soup ($22), but were immediately converted upon first sip. That lovely blend of green and creaminess reminiscent of pesto is amped up by a fragrant prawn stock, with chilli, lemongrass and kaffir lime doing a Thai do-re-mi on the tastebuds. Paired with crispy leek offering an added smoky intensity, the soup manages to even up-stage the delicious, grilled tiger prawns nestled within the salty green elixir.
Angela May Food Chapters might as well close if it flops on its salads, but thank god it delivers. A cold scallion noodle salad ($18) does a refreshing interplay of both flavour and texture with the trio of soy shiitake, pickled cucumbers and fresh pear. Wasabi lettuce is the star of an asparagus and arugula mint salad ($24), its inherent bitterness and spiciness meaning little else other than its lightly honeyed vinaigrette is needed, including a tempura wasabi leaf that’s an oddly cloying stab at adding some crunch to the salad.
Whether it’s the land or the sea where the entrees draw inspiration from, the meal continues to peel back layer after layer of surprise. Fresh coconut strips aren’t there with a Red Mullet Filet ($32) just to be the aesthetic doppelganger for noodles – they’re there to provide a cool, almost gelatinous counterpoint to the hot, firm-fleshed fish. The broth the noodles sit in is a one-note hit of coconut milk, but it’s not unsalvageable with a pinch of chilli flakes. New England lobster roll ($42) invokes images of decadent, mayo-dripping buns soaked in hot butter, but Chef Angela’s version gives the New England lobster room to shine with a gentil laksa yoghurt sauce, with bites of actual laksa leaves unleashing a scintillating aroma. The macho husband or tai-tai male BFF can chow on a Grass-Fed Tenderloin ($54), aggressively seasoned and grilled to give your palate a smoky backbeat. Go easy on the accompanying kale salad – an obscenely generous smattering of chilli padi lurks beneath.
While Chef Angela carves a niche with sweet choux pastry for her dessert selection, we’re not sure if we’re fans. The batter feels a tad too heavy, and combined with sweet crumbly topping and thick creamy filling, renders the choux a schizophrenic end to a meal that has been on-personality thus far. If you must order one, opt for the unconventional Cucumber Jasmine Mint flavour that’s a clever, palate-refreshing trifecta of flavours.
In all, Angela May Food Chapters is a heartfelt venture driven by a thoughtful mind and a keen eye on standards. Its pastel hues and light wood finishes ooze femininity, though its washed out concrete, angular furniture and a closed kitchen can render the space quite cold at times. Prices are generally steep, and hence extra unfriendly, though the service is anything but. Nevertheless, this latest collaboration with the folks at Deliciae Hospitality looks set for great things!
Angela May Food Chapters is located at #02-02, Robinsons The Heeren, 260 Orchard Road, Singapore 238855. Open 10.30am-10pm daily.