First, a confession: I was skeptical about Avenue 87.
Its press release spoke of “well-loved Asian favourites”, “traditional and contemporary techniques”, “familiar flavours of childhood”, and “a sense of nostalgia and comfort”. There’s “kueh pie tee”, “fish soup”, “sambal octopus”, “pisang no goreng” on the menu. The chef-owners may be locals, but Mod-Sin cuisine isn’t always appreciated — its pricing often invites controversy as Singaporeans are notoriously loyal to classics. Would you splash out, say, $30 for fish soup when you can get an authentic, stellar bowl from Han Kee at the nearby Amoy Food Centre for a fraction of that price?
You should. Avenue 87’s fish soup is, hands-down, one of the best things I’ve eaten all year. Part of a six-course dinner tasting menu (at $98++, if you want to know), it arrived dry (as in, soup-less), with a slab of perfectly poached sea bass, a few slices of compressed bitter gourd, semi-dried cherry tomatoes, shreds of deep-fried egg floss, spring onions, ginger and a spoon of anchovy butter milk sauce. Then, a clear broth, said to be stewed in anchovies, roasted sea bass bones and aromatics, is poured later, aimed at the spoon to dissolve its creamy contents. It sounds and looks like a bowl of fancy fish soup without the carbs, but Chef Alex’s and Glen’s recipe is so heroically good it made me quite emotional. I would have eaten a bathtub full of it, had this been an option. Sadly, it is not.
But I digress. We began our meal with some impressive, 100-for-effort chicken chips, which resemble deep-fried chicken skins at first glance but are, in fact, thin wafers of chicken breast that is blended, baked, deep fried and served with a smidgen of pureed caramelised onions and sour cream mix. This came with delightful cups of kueh pie tee filled with a moreish, plant-based concoction that tastes just like assam fish. Then came the first course: a sensational plate of salmon sashimi boasting a riot of textures from the pear dices, sour cream, ponzu-pickled seaweed, soy wasabi granita and Vietnamese rice paper crackers.
Next was the aforementioned fish soup, the star of the show, followed by a sizeable grilled octopus leg that’s brushed with fragrant house-made sambal and topped with a confit egg yolk. It’s a pleasing plate that combines the style of Spain with the piquancy of Asia. Last on the savoury list is a banging, tender-as baby lamb rack, marinated Vietnamese-style and accompanied by a dollop of sweet honey to balance the rich, gamey taste of lamb. Choose a side of honey mustard potatoes or turmeric basmati rice to fill you up before the sweets show up.
As if to make sure you leave truly well-fed and happy, desserts come in threes. If you’re already full by this time, don’t worry, the portions are rather small. A greek yoghurt mousse with spiced honey granola appears after the lamb to ease you into the realm of sweet, then a coconut ice cream with pound cake crumble, papaya and caramelised pineapple. We finished with the pisang no goreng, consisting of a fried coconut custard and salted gula melaka and banana ice cream; essentially a really lovely deconstructed goreng pisang.
I had manoeuvred myself into Avenue 87 on a Tuesday at lunchtime, and there were no empty tables, even though the place hasn’t opened for very long. Rightfully so — Chef Alex and Glen’s collaborative dining venture is quite marvellous. It’s cool, yes, but not too cool that it’s alienating. Sure, the food’s definitely fancy, but still proper food, made with ingredients from Singaporean producers, no less. Plus. there’s more to come: our host shares that the 26-seat lounge-bar on the upper floor is slated to open early next year. Hopefully, Chef Glen, who’s currently stuck in Shanghai no thanks to the pandemic, will be in the house by then to show off more culinary tricks.
Avenue 87, 47 Amoy Street, Singapore 069873, +65 9838 8401/+65 970 5491
(All images: Avenue 87)