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Watch VLOG#13 The Journey of a Decade at Salted & Hung on Youku (China)
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On my second month of moving back from Shanghai, I was elated to learn that my favourite chef from Shanghai, Scott Melvin of The Commune Social was coming to cook in Singapore for a 2 night pop up at Salted and Hung. Needless to say, I rushed to make the reservation as soon as I could.
Note: This article will not be a scored restaurant review because the food that we had were not fully representative of the restaurant — some of the dishes were by Chef Scott Melvin, some by Chef Drew Nocente and others by the both of them.
The Journey of the Decade dinner was about two friends, Scott and Drew, coming together after a deade of friendship. They had previously worked together under Gordon Ramsay at his London restaurant, Maze and also Jason Atherton’s Table No. 1 in Shanghai.
Salted and Hung is a quaint little restaurant on Purvis Street in Singapore, serving contemporary Australian cuisine and specialising in house cured meats and grilled items, courtesy of their Josper grill. Chef Drew Nocente runs the kitchen, and hails from Brisbane, Australia.
The restaurant sits about 60 persons, and features a casual but comfortable decor, with playful murals and quotes on the walls, more notably: “All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others” from George Orwell’s Animal Farm. The lighting was rather dim for the first half of our dinner, which cause some alarm to me as it would severely hinder the quality of my videography. Luckily towards the second half, they decided to turn up the lights to a more apparent brightness.
The restaurant features an open kitchen, offering diners a full unrestricted view of the hectic dinner rush within, and also mouth-watering whiffs of aromas coming from the Josper oven.
Service was quite excellent, although two bills were charged on our credit cards which caused some alarm, to which we were later informed that the first bigger bill was charged erroneously and had been voided. Phew.
That aside, servers were knowledgable and courteous. Plates were cleaned and refreshed without any feeling of intrusion. Water was refilled proactively, most of the time. Pretty good, for a staff consisting of mainly young part-timers.
Let’s talk about the food.
We paid $98++ for 10 courses, featuring dishes from both Chefs Scott Melvin and Drew Nocente. One of our diners did not eat raw fish nor beef, and we were generously given a replacement dish for him, which is why you will read about some dishes that were not on the set menu.
by Scott and Drew
This was a conservative dish, classic pairing of beetroots, goat cheese and pine nuts. The chunks of beetroots were sweet and tender, roasted to a mellow sweetness which contrasted with the tartness of the pickled beet slices before being rounded off by the goat cheese cream.
Scallop emulsion, anchovies and pickled onion.
I first thought the presentation of this dish was a little peculiar; serving the baby gem lettuce simply halved. Later I realised it was a stroke of genius because the dressing when placed upon the halves, would naturally flow within, coating every leaf evenly.
The taste of the vinaigrette was quite acidic, coupled with the pickled onions. Thankfully, the anchovies added a saltiness that kind of, but not completely offset the tartness of the dish. While I thought it was a good appetiser to start off the meal, one of my dining partners found it far too sour. Alternating between bites of this and the beetroots made the beetroots tasted sweeter, almost like a sort of pairing.
by Scott and Drew
The Australian tuna arrived looking almost like salmon, with their orange hue, possibly due to the neon light above us. It was a more savoury version of tuna tartar, with the tartar sauce together with tuna reminding me of an elevated deconstructed tuna sandwich. The deep-fried lotus root chips added a welcome crunch to the otherwise soft textures, alongside creaminess from little pieces of avocado.
Oyster cream and apple
I believe this was the second time I’ve had this dish, the first time at The Commune Social in Shanghai. Featuring Japanese Kingfish, this dish was everything I expect and missed from Scott.
Superbly light yet balanced flavours and textures, between sweet crunchy apples against succulent toothsome kingfish. Sweet flavours of the apple versus the naturally sweetness of the Kingfish, brought together with a superbly umami-laden oyster cream with little accents of kaffir lime leaves and dill throughout. What a delight.
Gin, horseradish, pickles and nori ash
The Norwegian Mackarel was our friend’s replacement for his tuna dish and is part of the a la carte menu.
It was simply a fillet of smoked / torched mackarel, still a little medium rare within. As expected from an oily fish like Mackarel, fishy flavours are more apparent, howeven in this case it was a little bit overpowering for our tastes.
Yuzu, wakame, ink
This was the second replacement dish for our friend who didn’t eat raw seafood. It was a roasted squid from the a la carte menu. I forgot to take a photo of this, hence this was an iphone photo from my friend. That said, I decided to include this dish in this article because it was easily one of the best dishes of the evening.
The squid had an remarkably tender texture, with just a little bite. The flavours of the squid were pleasantly concentrated, enhanced with a sprinkling of Spain’s gift to the grilling world: ‘Soot’ from the Josper oven. Ok to be clear, the ‘soot’ is actually char-roasted salt.
For the uninitiated, you might be wondering, what is wrong with these people? Serving and eating carbon from an oven.
First of all, the Josper oven is a speciality and very expensive oven from Spain. While it looks like an oven, it is actually a charcoal-powered grill and oven together. Due to the closed design, the internal temperature can go up to 300 degrees celsius, taking literally seconds to sear a piece of meat using the grill function.
Due to its heat, it is popular for chefs to roast salt in a Josper oven to attain a charred smokey salt, which I refer to as ‘Josper Soot’. Sprinkling this Josper Soot over dishes add a tint of smokiness.
I’ve eaten at many restaurants that used Josper ovens, and Salted and Hung so far, does the best rendition of ‘Josper Soot’. Unlike many of the other restaurants I’ve tried who always served their grilled dishes with larger crumbs of ‘Josper Soot’ that impart a slight bitterness, Salted and Hung uses an fine artisanal sea salt from Australia which imparts a slight subtle smokey charred flavour.
Roasted Red Cabbage
Bonito and Rice
Scott’s roasted red cababge dish was served looking and smelling like a Japanese Okonomiyaki, due to the abundant wavering bonito flakes on top.
On taste, it was rich, umami-laden with perhaps a little soy sauce flavours, and of course the bonito. Crispy rice puffs added some texture, while the cababge itself was roasted tender but not fall-apart. I was truly amazed at how savoury and rich this cabbage dish tasted, although after a three pieces, it started to get cloying.
Cauliflower and Sriracha
There are two types of sweet breads — from the throat or pancreas. What we had was probably a veal or lamb sweet bread. I have not had much experience eating sweet breads since this part of the animal is not very popular in my part of the world. The texture was soft with just a bit of resilience, with a slight gamey aftertaste — one that I did not enjoy.
The buttery sauce together with the cauliflower and nutty flavours from cashew nuts complemented the sweet bread nicely, although I wished there were more of it to mask that after taste. Not my cup of tea.
Confit & Grilled Beef Tongue
Pickled shallots and endive
Scott’s beef tongue was served in a thinner full length strip as opposed to a thick cross section.
The beefy flavours were lovely, with a slight char and smokiness from what I believed to be finished for a few seconds in the josper grill. The edges of the tongue were a little crispy but thoroughly fork tender within.
That said, i thought the garnish paired on top was a little messy and didn’t really harmonised with the flavours of the beef tongue.
Fried capers were added to the dish, but I had always felt that frying capers was a waste of the ingredient, because they tend to lose their signature tart and pickled flavours, instead becoming mini salt grenades.
Cabbage and bone marrow butter
Drew’s Spanish Iberico pork chop was an impressive hefty 1 inch slab, cooked medium. The meat had a nice smokey crust, whist still being just a little bit pink. The pork was moderately fat and had a pleasant aroma, none of the pork stench that we sometimes encounter, a testament to it’s freshness and quality.
I particularly enjoyed the pairing of pickled bok choy, which gave a lovely balance to the fattier parts of the meat. The mustard seeds however, left little to be remembered on the tongue.
This was our friend’s replacement for the beef tongue. It was a hefty brick of locally sourced barramundi fillet resting in a yuzu dashi and topped with some tender squid.
I thought the squid was a little bit weird with it’s soft slippery texture against the flakey fish meat.
Flavours were otherwise light and refreshing from the citrusy yuzu with a slight smokiness from the ‘Josper Soot’.
Peanut Butter and Jelly
by Scott and Drew
This dessert intrigued me because of how I thought it would resemble Kim Melvin’s peanut and red fruit dessert. In reality, it was indeed very similar, in fact, I thought it rivalled Kim’s version.
I especially liked the huge dollop of frozen peanut parfait which gave way to a sort of fruity jam within, resting on top of a shortcrust pastry base. Really, really good stuff here. I hope they keep this on the menu.
Bacon and salted caramel
The biscuits I would assume were inspired by some sort of army ration, given their ANZAC name which stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corp. They were pleasant, and I finished mine quickly in a couple of bites before remembering if I had tasted any bacon or caramel.
So that concluded a pretty epic evening at Salted and Hung in Singapore.
While this was only half a review of the restaurant’s offerings, I was very impressed with the food and style of the cuisine. They reminded me heavily of The Commune Social in Shanghai, except with a Josper grill and focus on grilling, which is a good thing.
Salted and Hung is definitely now on my top 10 western restaurant list in Singapore!
I am looking forward to try out more of their food in the days to come, especially their weekend brunch.