#01-20/21 The Grandstand
200 Turf Club Road
Mon-Fri: 10am to 10.30pm
Sat-Sun: 9am to 10.30pm
VEERING between a mad idea on the one hand and a serious case of culinary schizophrenia on the other, there's one thing certain about the Tung Lok group's new eatery: It's not kidding when it says it wants to cater to everybody.
It's as if the group took an inventory of current food trends and created a colourful mash-up to cover all bases. Trendy cocktails? No problem - there are concoctions by hipster watering hole Bar Stories on offer. Spanish tapas? Check, thanks to ex-Esmirada chef Roberto Sevillano who helmed Bodegas y Tapas. Want Chinese food? Goes without saying, given Tung Lok's own provenance. Artisanal bread? There's an on-site bakery churning them out, and all-day full breakfast is on the cards. Like music? Local stalwart Dick Lee aims to please with a curated soundtrack that changes with the mealtimes - and if you're planning a private event, they can carve out a stage area for live entertainment.
That's not the end of it, either. There's a fully stocked wine retail section if you want to drink at home, or add service charge to your bottle price and drink it in the restaurant itself, sans hefty corkage. And finally - almost - there's a decent-sized shop with a good range of made-in-Singapore merchandise and eclectic offerings from Tintin paraphernalia to bric-a-brac sourced by Lee.
Presumably, this is one place where a multi-generation family can go without any age group feeling resentful. The oldies can have their dimsum - trolley service will be introduced on weekends soon to revive the old-school dining experience - while the grandkids of drinking age can get a customised cocktail at the bar area. Foodie parents can indulge in Spanish paella and croquetas, and leave with a baguette or rustic walnut loaf for breakfast the next morning. Such, according to the restaurant's manifesto, is the new way of eating for the Modern Asian Diner (MAD).
For the old-school diner, the trick is to discover MAD in stages rather than all at once to avoid shell-shock. If you're in the Bukit Timah area in the morning, a loaf from the bakery - operated by Bakerzin - is a good alternative to the smattering of bakeries in the area such as Simply Bread or Baker and Cook. A dimsum lunch will not disappoint (besides, where else can you find a good Chinese restaurant in the neighbourhood?) especially with tasty creations such as the home-made pan-fried rice rolls (cheong fan) - deliciously chewy logs topped with XO sauce and soya sauce mixture. Also good is the superior broth with a giant seafood dumpling that pretty much bursts with juicy goodness. Other highlights include a shatteringly crispy-crunchy prawn and mango fritter, and an unusual but tasty cigar-shaped spring roll filled with a beef and cheese mixture.
While Chinese food understandably dominates the menu, the Spanish aspect is given good play and chef Sevillano acquits himself decently as he presides over the restaurant's tapas counter (yes they have that too). In this case though, the 14-seat counter acts as an omakase section of sorts where you dictate the price that you want to spend ($50, $70 or $90), and chef Sevillano will create a menu based on seasonal ingredients and whatever he feels like cooking that day.
He could, for one, start off with some home-pressed foie gras terrine interestingly matched with pineapple compote and soft little nuggets of olive crumble which is surprisingly good. Or he might offer his Spanish hor fun - silky smooth sous vide mushrooms brushed with teriyaki sauce and topped with flat "noodles" that are actually long shavings of cuttlefish tossed in a parsley chilli pesto. He also does a tasty cube of fried potato stuffed with a spicy sauce and decent ham croquetas. While his grilled octopus with potato foam was decent, we've had better.
He also has one of the fanciest things to have in restaurants today - the Josper grill from which he turns out wok-fragrant grilled asparagus spears smeared with a nutty sauce of tomato, onion, hazelnuts and almonds. The grill is a beast to master though, so the house special baby back ribs can arrive either moist and meaty smothered in a barbecue sauce that isn't too overpowering, or dried out and stringy.
For dessert, you can either opt for the Chinese black sesame pancakes which are more like crispy pastry wafers sandwiching thick paste or chef Sevillano's miniature Madeleines - hot buttery sponge cakes that are only baked upon order and worth the wait.
MAD is one of those places where food is only part of the deal, so don't expect a full-on gourmet experience here. But while the theme park ambience may take a little getting used to, MAD takes its food seriously so who knows - it might well make mod dining converts of us all.
Overall rating: 7
WHAT OUR RATINGS MEAN
10: The ultimate dining experience
7-7.5: Good to very good