JIAKPALANG EATING HOUSE
THE BUZZ In a bid to make zi char or informal communal dining traditionally held in non-air-conditioned eateries relevant to the next generation of diners, young chefs like Nixon Low put forth their reimagined versions. For the latter, the update includes the freedom to marry local ingredients with modern cooking techniques.
AMBIENCE Tucked away in a corner, Jiakpalang is one of the five F&B offerings on the ground floor of Fragrance Empire Building. Away from the main Central Business District, the area is a growing hub of offices with a sizeable lunch crowd. Come noon, white-collared types are drawn to the restaurant’s bright and minimalist interior. A long counter and bar tables flank the narrow entrance that leads to a larger dining area at the back where there is regular seating.
FOOD & DRINK Even though small, the eatery is sufficiently versatile to adjust according to the time of day or occasion. In the afternoon, the long counter serves mostly as a cashier where hungry diners put in their orders for reasonably priced healthy brown rice or salad bowls such as the Signature Sesame Soy Chicken (S$6.90). Each option comes with a side of protein, an egg, steamed vegetables and a selection of sides.
For dinner service in the evening, the menu changes to full-on zi char style; instead of bowls, you can choose from an a la carte menu. The usual practice of having steaming white rice to go with the dishes is still encouraged but Low provides more choices such as couscous and quinoa barley. On the whole, the selection is a mix of familiar and new side by side. Silken Tofu with Century Egg Sauce and Tobiko (S$7), for example, is reminiscent of a popular cold appetiser of pickled jellyfish and silken tofu. On the other hand, the Sour Plum Vine Tomatoes (S$7) that have been marinated an entire day are accompanied by wakame or seaweed salad and seems more Japanese inspired.
Low has more fun with the mains as he puts his twist on things. Har Cheong Gai (S$13) or prawn paste marinated chicken wings that are typically deep fried are, at Jiakpalang, made into a chicken roulade stuffed with a chicken thigh, onion, oyster sauce, coriander and pepper mince. Similarly, assam fish head normally served in a ceramic pot is deconstructed in the Assam Pulau Ubin Seabass (S$15); the pan-fried fillet is placed on aromatic eggplant puree, assam gravy and pineapple cubes that have been compressed in elderflower syrup.
Then there are instances where the executive chef comes up with entirely new creations. The Charcoal Katarosu Pork Collar (S$16) takes its inspiration from a local pick-me-up favourite – kopi C. He serves the fatty slices of meat with kopi C sauce and coffee soil, a curious combination of bitter, salty and sweet. While the Ang Ji Kao Stout-braised Beef Cheek (S$17) is derived from watching retirees sit at coffee shops downing a pint of beer with a plate of peanuts nearby. For this, mash potatoes mixed with peanut butter meet the soft beef cheek in a thick stout gravy. Small cubes of nashi pear help a little to cut through the monotony of the hearty dish. Or try the Milo Dinosaur (S$8) dessert that is milo panna cotta, milo crumb powder and milo marbled shiratama (Japanese rice balls) ‘eggs’ plated to look like a prehistoric reptile’s nest.
456 Alexandra Road, #01-06 Fragrance Empire Building, Singapore 119962
Monday to Friday
11.30am to 10pm
Snacks from S$6
Lunch bowls from S$6.90
Dinner from S$7
Desserts from S$7