The Quarters Experience is one of the most comprehensive dining episodes I have had in Singapore. Chef Chung Deming is the mind and tongue behind ten courses, each celebrating local and Southeast Asian flavours in audacious ways.
Priced at $68 per pax excluding an array of cocktails to choose from, it may not be a regular affair for the typical diner. But you can be assured of walking out well-fed and well-informed by the end of the night.
As an arguably major part of the experience, Chef Deming makes rounds to each table, and personally talks every attendee through the journey that brought the dish from concept to fruition.
Let’s begin with appetisers. These light bites of Achar (spiced pickles) were a delicate starter. Looking deceivingly like Yupi gummy burgers of our childhood, the puff pastry caved to give way to a palate-cleansing crunch. The spice and tartness of cucumber, carrot, pineapple, pillowed by a flaky, buttery shell.
Shiok Bak / Roast pork belly with crackling & spicy Rempah. This was such a hit from the get-go. Glances from tables all around converge as the sound of biting into crispy crackling thunders through The Quarters.
The succulent pork, the fat, the Rempah. It’s a thick paste of intense spices you’d want to slather on all your breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Although Cantonese style ‘Har Lok’ is no stranger to the local hawker scene, The Quarters manages to grill these prawns over charcoal to perfection, further marrying them with a solid sauce. The fresh, juicy prawns are allowed to shine through for once, and we are reminded of simplicity; when Har Lok reigned before heavier salted egg yolk and cereal prawn dishes.
Ooh La La is not just in the name. Mimicking Singapore style chili crab, the dish of flambéd Venus clams sits in liquid umami. At this point, my stomach is filling and the marginal utility of this dish has less to do with yielding clam flesh than soaking up chunky croutons with that amazing sauce.
If made to choose my favourite dish of the night, Bibik’s Chicken would be it. It might not be the most opulent or pricey of ingredients, but it is heartfelt. The chicken retains its juiciness and is served with a rich Buah Keluak sauce, which surprisingly doesn’t overtake the honest char of the chicken skin. The charcoal grill might well be The Quarters’ not-so-secret weapon of choice, wielded with dexterity time and again in their prawn, chicken and steak dishes.
And oh my goodness that Buah Keluak sauce / paste. So potent, earthy and generous – with more than enough to go round, it was worthy of accompanying the following main:
Although we were pretty stuffed (to be fair, three of us folks had four pax share), it was no holds barred when we came to Quarters’ Fried Rice. A decent tze char fried rice is irresistible, but this was egg-coated fried rice with two types of salted fish. And I was finding anything to eat that gorgeous sauce with!
Mum’s Cabbage is one that goes straight through the gut and to the heart. The dish of stewed cabbage screams home when bits of minced pork, the sweetness of broth and savoury anchovies come into play. Also, sloppy food ftw!
Charcoal-kissed, butter-poached Lobster is a much-anticipated star dish, and you would know why when you pick up a formidable piece of the crustacean and taste the time spent on making it a reality.
Unreal. This marks the end of a series of seven mains, and it’s on to dessert.
Before the existence of The Quarters, Durian Can Boleh was the first product ever dreamed up by Chef Deming. The zeal with which he describes his brainchild is understandable. Mao Shan Wang Durian, an often polarizing and even offensive taste, becomes the focal point of a timeless classic Crème Brûlée. Think the integrity of fresh durian coupled with fragrant vanilla bean. Texture pulls an equal weight here – that caramelised crunch and dreamy, light curd. This little dessert has stories to tell, and has converted durian haters along the way.
Okay as the last course of the entire Quarters’ Experience, it’s tough to say that the Profiterole or Kaya bomb stood out, especially after the exquisite Durian Crème Brûlée. It’s almost like a consolation for people who unfortunately decide that durian is not for them. But I would recommend this choux pastry any day, because of the refreshing eggy, coconut cream party that breaks out. In any other context than splitting sides from a scrumptious dinner, this is the perfect Singaporean profiterole.
Overall, it was a nuanced dining experience, ebbing between heavier and lighter palates, although it boasts an array of rich flavours overall. Ten courses may sound excessive, and perhaps it is, to someone looking for a fuss-free dinner.
But this is for mavericks. There’s something about taking a homegrown, familiar food and elevating it to inspire new questions. A fresh take on old things, all while translating a deep reverence for the heritage of our Southeast Asian food. That is essentially The Quarters Experience, as explained by Chef Deming with every single dish rolled out that night.
For details and to RSVP for The Quarters Experience, visit The Quarters’ website.
16 Enggor Street #01-09
Phone: 6834 4174
Monday to Friday: 8am – 10pm
Saturday: 09am – 10pm
Sunday: 09am – 5pm