|CN PHOTO: Terence JR Lee|
8Q SAM, 8 Queen Street
Open daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m
This is the restaurant incarnation of Food for Thought—the little corner café across from the National Library (FFT1). This new arrival takes itself more seriously, but thankfully, under the up-market makeover, it still has the sense of humor and grace that made FFT1 such a success. The food is a little more expensive here, but still representative of Chef David Heng’s enjoyable interpretation of Singaporean Western food.
The restaurant boasts a hip, futuristic concept, and seats up to 100. The geometric light wave that dominates the room is a talking point: Made up of 540 pasta sauce bottles hung from the rafters, it captures the idea of doing well by doing good. “We used the sauce in the bottles to cook for several orphanages, and we asked the orphans to write down their dreams and aspirations. You can see these notes inside the bottles,” explains Heng, 28.
Like the décor, the food is similarly eye-catching. The Sage Roasted Pumpkin Risotto comes as a bright-orange hill. Another winner is the Chinese Chicken Caesar Salad. The ginger sesame soya dressing complements the crunchy ikan bilis, and the soft poached egg was delicious.
Chef Heng’s strength lies in his sauces. The blue cheese butter makes the Really Good Steak really Knowgood, and the hoisin har cheong sauce on the baby back ribs is heavenly. The ribs are fork- tender and meaty, but it is the sauce you dream about afterwards. The Chai Spice Brulee Salmon is well-crusted without being dry, as the accompanying mango ginger chutney brings out the full flavor of the fish.
The curry powder on the Crispy Curry Chicken is an interesting touch, and it is served with a tangy sauce that tingles the tastebuds. This is the kind of food that Singaporeans remember from kopitiams, but refined and taken to the next level.
The desserts, however, were universally good. The White Chocolate Orange Mousse came beautifully layered—a sandwich of orange between light sponge and white chocolate mousse. The sweet citrus cuts through the milky, rich chocolate, and left
us nicely surprised.
The Black Sesame Chiffon is a gift-worthy cake—the kind that you’d bring to your in-laws. The chiffon texture is well-done, and the black sesame infuses the cake with a subtle and delightful countertaste that is not too sweet.
The Butterscotch Apple & Mixed Berries Crumble initially seemed pedestrian, but we were surprised by its butterscotch-iness. The berries were tart, accompanied by firm but yielding apples in salty-sweet crumble topped with vanilla ice cream.
The staff were friendly and efficient. They were responsive and quick to refill our glasses. However, they were too quick in serving our courses—before we were done with the salads, the mains had arrived. And dessert arrived prematurely, which was a little shocking—then again, I was there to dine on its fourth day so it was likely the enthusiasm of new staff.
This is a place where divine eats meet social needs. Heng says, “We’re looking at events and programs, some fund-raising, maybe some food competitions, photo exhibitions … The idea is to have community initiatives to bring people together and create social awareness.”