Returning to Lolla is like coming home to an old friend.
It’s not just the warm company of Thaddeus Yeo, the restaurant’s co-founder. Neither is it the assurance of a messy meal best enjoyed with hands. At Lolla, the food is good, the wine flows easily and the staff are always friendly.
I’m back here to experience, for the second time, a new menu by chef Johanne Siy, who was awarded Female Chef of the Year by Singapore’s World Gourmet Awards 2021 (WGA).
The afternoon starts punchy and bright with a snack. On a tart base sits a bed of spanner crab and spent kelp. The seaweed has a snappy and crisp texture and is topped with an orange mound that resembles uni. Algue, also referred to as crab fat, is a speciality from chef Johanna’s hometown in the Philippines. It’s difficult to obtain, but I’m one of the lucky few to enjoy this delicacy.
The fermented paste derived from salted roe and crab fat is reminiscent of belacan. It wrestles with the sweetness of the spanner crab and is punched up with limau purut – promising a gusty umaminess with every bite. I devour every slither of kelp that falls off the tart.
As Thaddeus tells me, the restaurant prefers to not let their ingredients go to waste and the dashi broth from the kelp is used in the next dish: A marriage of torched oyster, cabbage and a seaweed vinaigrette, with foam crafted from the oyster liquor. What captures our attention is the charred cabbage – it is roasted for a caramelised sweetness and smokiness that melds well with the fleshy, lightly burnt bits of the oyster.
A plate of Hokkaido scallop, served with Bouchot mussels and smoked celeriac arrives. A spin on the traditional Mediterranean seafood soup, the broth is made from prawn and a smoked celeriac puree. Salt finger sea succulents which crown the scallop add a natural salinity.
We move on to the main of a Mandili di Seta, a type of pasta named after a silk handkerchief. Its shape was specifically chosen to contrast the raw edges of the Mudrock Ceramics plate. While synonymous with pesto, the pasta here silkily blankets a comforting medley of mushrooms. It boasts the requisite bite and tension, enfolding a luscious mushroom fricasse and porcini mushrooms.
Next, the subtle richness and tender glazed veal sweetbread is invigorated with a spiced palm vinegar, that is common in the Philippines. Beef tendons pulverised and deep fried to a crisp, instead of braised of stewed, are served alongside. These spice-dusted shards make delicious scoops for the sweetbread, and are a natural crowd-pleaser.
Only two desserts are on the menu, but both are rich with the flavours of fall. I have the Fallen Fruit, where a black apple is slow-cooked in wine for months, and served alongside a miso ice cream and toffee. Like a deconstructed tarte tatin, a crumble of salted sable serves as the ‘crust’. It’s warm and cosy, and I enjoy this with the perfect pairing of a Niepoort Colheita Port 2007. Lightly spiced and honeyed, it tastes like dried prunes.
We end with the pièce de résistance: A black truffle gateau, with truffle tree nuts and shaved truffles, escorted by a whorl of velvety black chestnut puree. The cake is a subtle accompaniment to the heady, heavy notes. Like a swan song for the day, it carries the notes of autumn while remaining down to earth and quietly luxe – just like Lolla.
Lolla, 22 Ann Siang Road, Singapore 069702