The East Bureau: Reinventing Asian classics with Italian techniques
Pan-anything cuisine is always tricky to attempt: one runs the risk of being called pretentious and over-adventurous; not pushing the boundaries nearly enough; or at worst ruining the original dishes. Remarkably there have been several brave endeavours in Singapore, few of which are by the CRE8 Group. The homegrown F&B company is behind huge successes like Supply & Demand as well as Equilibrium, both of which feature dishes with a hint of Southeast Asian flavours. Their newest and boldest venture, The East Bureau, plunges into the deep end with an extensive menu of Pan-Asian creations. If you fall into the group that enjoys this niche cuisine, then The East Bureau is a spot worth checking out.
Housed in the new rooftop garden of Marina Square, the restaurant-bar is quite the sight to behold with its palace-like decor reminiscient of Chinese dynastic architecture. It may seem cheesy and over-the-top, but in fact exudes a laid back charm. Coupled with the stellar view, it's perfect for a lunch with your family, a dinner date, or after-work drinks with colleagues.
Simply labelling the cuisine fusion would not do TEB justice. More accurately, it is the amalgamation of Pan-Asian ideas and flavours with Italian culinary techniques that characterises TEB. The menu is inspired by Chef Samdy Kwan's childhood days and travels around Southeast Asia. Despite being trained in Italian cuisine, Chef Samdy has always been keen on exploring creations reflective of his Asian heritage. TEB is thus the reality of his dreams.
And this is evident from TEB's menu. Each dish had a distinct Asia-meets-Asia element, yet conceptualized and re-presented with a touch of contemporary European. Our starters were the perfect example. Essentially a spin on the familiar Shanghainese drunken chicken, the Poached 'Drunken' Chicken in Savory Cucumber Granita (S$15++) incorporates the often overlooked accompanying cucumbers as an icy granita, added a unique textural contrast while simultaneously keeping the dish cold. It sounds strange, but was really very delicious and most impressed. The health-conscious would find their House Seafood Salad with Confit Vine Tomatoes in Chuka Fu Dressing (S$16++) an absolute delight. Packed with fresh seafoods and sashimi, it makes for a light yet satisfying appetizer.
The highly recommended Savory Soya Milk Panna Cotta with Shoyu Jelly and Abalone (S$15++) unfortunately was a tad too funky for us. Inspired by the Taiwanese savoury soy beancurd, the dish came topped with a thick layer of salty shoyu jelly and a dash of mushroom powder. While the idea was novel and noteworthy, the soy sauce was overpowering and fell too heavy on the palate.
For warmer sides to share, go for the Homemade Pork and Shrimp Ngoh Hiang Shrimp Rolls with Spicy Dip (S$14++). Think generous fillings, delicately flavoured with five-spice powder, wrapped in spring roll skin instead of the usual beancurd skin for additional crunch – simple, homely, and delicious. Alternatively, the Taiwanese Inspired 'Lor Bak' with Poutine Fries (S$12++) would be another crowd pleaser. Featuring Supply and Demand’s famed fries, TEB’s Eastie poutine came topped with a sweet mince, Japanese takuan pickles and bits of egg white. While the savoury melt-in-your-mouth 卤肉component wasn’t as prominent, the superb chunky fries and complementary flavours made up for it.
Our favourite was the Thai Basil Minced Pork Gyoza (S$12++). The iconically Thai pad kra-prau makes an appearance at TEB as homemade potstickers: lean yet juicy mince, bursting with fragrance from the abundant holy basil, paired with a piquant Thai chili sauce. Intense and innovative, it won our hearts instantly.
The Bureau Signature with Prawn (S$20++) - Garlic, fish sauce, Thai spices, homemade broth, chili, sesame oil
As tempting as it may be to have a go at other enticing sides from their extensive menu, reign yourselves in and save a little space for the heartier mains - because TEB dishes up lovely pasta and rice dishes. The Bureau Signature pasta for one was an absolute delight. A Thai take on the classic aglio olio, the perfectly al dente linguine was served studded with fresh crunchy prawns. We loved how the liberal use of fresh aromatic herbs brought so much to the dish; every bite was like tasting a fireworks show: bombastic and magnificent.
Homemade Glutinous Rice with Lap Cheong and Shiitake Mushrooms (S$13++)
If you could only order one carb dish though this would be our first pick. Not for the sticky rice which, though tasty, was not outstanding; but the generous topping of crisp smokey Chinese sausages that added tons of flavour, and the charred bits of rice that came into contact with the hot stone bowl. It’s absolutely delicious, and really quite addictive.
Dynasty (S$18++) - Trio of desserts
A meal without dessert is never complete; in fact at TEB we'd go as far as to call it a sin. If you thought they were adventurous with their savouries, TEB's sweeter creations are as - if not more - exciting. Influences stem from Chinese, Japanese, to Indian cuisine, resulting in a menu both intriguing and diverse.
The facination with 3 great dynasties of China gave impetus to Dynasty. Han was a peach sorbet topped with oolong goji berries; Tang was an almond white chocolate mousse on a chocolate almond cake base, topped with jasmine-poached pear and red dates; Qing saw a genmaicha dew sprinkled with popped rice. Three divergent rules, three different ideologies, three ensuing histories - all tied together by the importance of tea in Chinese culture. Unique ideas aside, this plated dessert was nothing short of stellar. The tea components were distinct and bold, without overpowering other ingredients. It's unmistakably Western, yet the flavours were also markedly Asian. A masterpiece, we would call it.
Ménage à Trois (S$19++) - Mini 'croquembouche' tower of "bo luo" cream puffs
While the Ménage à Trois does not boast such an ideological backstory, it is no way inferior. Huge palm-sized profiteroles are filled with salted egg yolk crème pâtissière, whipped orh nee paste, or black sesame soy milk crème bavaroise. It's hard to tell what's what so each bite becomes quite the surprise. The fillings were smooth and rich, wonderfully contrasted against the airy choux and its crisp cracked crust. The copius amounts of luscious coconut caramel slathered on made it all the more a decadent treat.
Though we barely tasted a third of TEB's offerings, suffice to say we were utterly impressed. The ideas though unorthodox, were original and revolutionary without feeling contrived. That and flawless execution made TEB a restaurant we'd be keen to revisit over and over again.
The East Bureau
#03-03 Marina Square
6 Raffles Boulevard
Sundays to Thursdays: 12pm-3pm; 6pm-10.30pm
Fridays & Saturdays: 11.30am-3pm; 6pm-1am