When someone has a name like ‘Demon Chef’, you don’t really know what to expect. It’s not like Iron Chef, or even Top Chef, which is self-explanatory. As it turn out, the man to whom that title belongs is quite the character. Alvin Leung has dark green hair, dangling cross earrings, and a vivid personality to match. His most famous dish? A viscous pink condom prepared with tapioca and yam that he serves at his three-Michelin-starred restaurant Bo Innovation in Hong Kong.
But there are no edible contraceptives at 15 Stamford at The Capitol Kempinski Hotel. Leung’s latest concept comes after Forbidden Duck, which opened in the CBD in May last year. And like the casual Peking duck restaurant, he has forgone his signature molecular techniques to pay tribute to different cuisines from the region, from Singapore-style laksa to Filipino adobo. As it turns out, his penchant for tinkering with the DNA of otherwise very regular dishes is quite something.
Your first taste starts something like this: a tangy and refreshing appetiser of Hamachi ($28) candidly dressed in ponzu and roasted sesame. It takes its cue from Japan, using calamansi juice for tartness and fragrance. Or perhaps, the Grilled Hokkaido Scallop ($12) slabbed with buttery adobo sauce from the Philippines, made punchier with fried ginger shreds.
He does a Pork Chop ($38) inspired by the earthier Malaysian-style bak kut teh, marinating his meat in herbal spices like cloves, cinnamon, and angelica root for half a day. It’s then char-grilled with wood from three different countries, which sounds like an overkill, but doing so lends to a very delicious char. Elsewhere, he creates a spicy Thai sauce with mangosteen to slather on a Whole Boston Lobster ($58), and it works wonderfully with the sweet, firm crustacean.
“Paying tribute to different heritage cuisines, I look for the elements of comfort in each dish and bring out these tastes in nouveau ways so that both its heritage and modernity can be appreciated.”
The baller dish — in both price and in taste — comes inspired by neighbouring Malaysia. The US Short Ribs Rendang ($68) is chunky pieces of beef short ribs, marinated and then sous vide for 72 hours into a decadently tender consistency — something you’d find only at the top nasi padang stalls in the city.
Not every dish here is this outstanding. The Laksa, at $32, rivals the price you’d pay for the country’s most expensive chicken rice, at Chatterbox. You get two chargrilled tiger prawns in a tempura style and medium-boiled quail eggs smoked with jasmine tea leaves. The creamy coconut milk broth is similar to traditional Katong laksa, and even the thick noodles are snipped up in the same style. It’s tasty, though hardly transcendent enough for the money you’re putting out.
But the Pomelo Sago with Coconut Snow ($16) will put you in a good mood. Served kachang-style with coconut ice, sago pearls, pomelo bits, yuzu juice, and luscious mango flesh, this is the dessert that gets you puffing cold breaths with each sweet mouthful.
15 Stamford by Alvin Leung is located at The Capitol Kempinski Singapore, 15 Stamford Rd, Singapore 178906, p. +65 6715 6871. Open daily 12pm – 3pm, 6pm – 10.30pm.