A mercurial gem rises in Dempsey Hill with Moonbow
Take a glance at Moonbow’s blue-and-white accented menu, and you might mistake the restaurant for its predecessor – which is understandable. After all, their space was once occupied by Dempsey Hill darling Blu Kouzina. Moonbow, however, is very much doing their own thing.
First off, its namesake refers to a rare atmospheric phenomenon more commonly known as a lunar rainbow – one that co-founder Dylan Soh, witnessed and drew inspiration from. He then roped in chef Heman Tan – a certified nutritionist, dedicated triathlete and ardent ceramist.
It’s in the lattermost capacity that Tan – who once sought tutelage from celebrated sculptor Ng Eng Teng – contributed designs to Moonbow’s suite of custom-made ceramics. Apt tableware, then, for the restaurant’s updated decor that’s all-pastel pink, muted orange and plush liveries all around.
Despite the main dining hall’s 5m tall ceilings, itself a reminder of the area’s colonial roots, and Moonbow’s elegant trappings, Tan’s cuisine is decidedly unostentatious. He’s got close to four decades of culinary experience and a resume that includes a year in London serving backpackers pub nosh.
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Moonbow’s menu is, by and large, split down the middle – with classic European fare reining in his Asian-slanted, slightly more temperamental mod-European grub. It’s an ethos that’s exemplified by Tan’s amuse-bouche-esque palate opener – a cloud of candy floss topped with savoury furikake.
Thereafter, starters include a faux escargot garden, complete with micro-cress shrubbery, crumbled mushroom soil and lychee pearl raindrops. An arrestingly earthy truffle gelato, mashed edamame and crisp sourdough toast make up for flavours and textures.
There’re also cold-smoked Fine de Claire oysters, served along a citrusy yuzu granita, cucumber pearls and a roll of oyster leaf (an herb found in the Northern hemisphere that tastes oddly like the bivalve they’re named for); a medley of cauliflower, done four ways, with an assorted nut and garlic crumb; a creamy Jerusalem artichoke soup matched with runny egg, lumpfish caviar and sunchoke chips that’s a comforting blanket on cold days.
Through some curious machinations and a hush-hush supplier, they’ve also procured untrimmed pork tomahawk chops from a 9 to 10-old pig – which gets aged for four days, cooked sous vide for close to sixteen hours and seared with housemade BBQ glaze. Accompaniments include a pineapple compote, caramelised lime and a rustic hunk of roasted garlic.
Other highlights include an irreverent reimagining of black chicken, typically relegated to herbal soups and fortifying tonics, now chargrilled and paired with bearnaise, “ugly” heirloom tomatoes and a sprinkle of gold powder for a touch of theatricality; pan-seared fillet of barramundi, topped with fermented red glutinous rice wine and oyster mushrooms.
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For dessert, you’re treated to Tan’s self-designed wooden treasure drawer, based on his muse of the traditional Eight Treasure Box. Therein, sweets include a mango passion mousse, raspberry financier and truffle cheese macaron among others – with a dual centrepiece of just-cooked souffle, split open and laced with melted dark chocolate; and orange granita, frozen tableside with liquid nitrogen.
Their wine programme, by and large, is dominated by European sensibilities with occasional appearances from the Americas and Australasia – though there are notable inclusions of the non-alcoholic. The inclusivity continues in their beverages with Lyre-powered mocktails, bubbly and a selection of cocktails, conventional and novel, including the Italian Connexion – a delightfully light, gin-based potion comprised of citrus, cucumber caviar and prosecco to finish.
Despite occasional tableside theatrics with servings of liquid nitrogen or soup served a la teapot, it’s impressed upon us that Moonbow isn’t about fine dining. Nor is it tedious, or insipid, or hoity-toity – it’s all about elegant conviviality that’s well-suited to the bucolic dining enclave that is Dempsey Hill.
#01-21, Block 10 Dempsey Road. Tel: 9010-2717.