Could your next date night use a bit of whimsy, mamas? What about stellar views? Or custom cocktails? I recently got the chance to try the 7-course tasting menu at the new burrow-in-the-sky location of The Rabbit Stash, passion project of celebrated local chef Matthew Mok, and can wholeheartedly recommend it for a special night out.
Located atop the boutique Wangz Hotel near Tiong Bahru, Rabbit Stash takes advantage of its full-length windows with views overlooking treetops and the CBD. There’s outdoor seating on the patio – perfect for enjoying a cocktail from the resident mixologist or grooving to live music on weekend evenings – along with a “live garden” wall that will eventually yield veggies and herbs to incorporate into dishes.
Chef Mok emphasises seasonal, local ingredients – the menu changes every few months, and he even tweaks it on a daily basis depending on what he comes across at the market – and has designed his menu around what he calls his “ENSOPHI” (Exotic, Nostalgia, Soil, Ocean, Pristine, Heritage, Impression) philosophy. Each of the set menu’s seven courses embodies one of those themes (2- and 3-course menus are available at lunch, and at dinner guests can opt for 4- or 5-course meals as well).
Rabbit Stash (named because the chef was born in the year of the rabbit) was a finalist for “New Restaurant of the Year” at the 2013 World Gourmet Summit and Chef Mok was a top 5 finalist for Singapore’s “Chef of the Year” at WGS in 2014. He says ENSOPHI is an actualization of his culinary journey and personal life (for instance, he’s spent a lot of time in Australia and is a surfing enthusiast, hence “Ocean”, and is quite proud of his Peranakan “Heritage” and incorporates Nyonya dishes into his cooking).
He’s also got a background in construction engineering, which manifests itself in colourful, carefully constructed dishes that are often so pretty you almost don’t want to touch them. This began with our pre-meal “snack” that featured lime mayo and a pot of “yam jam” along with paper-thin butter chips slotted into a hand-carved tree (in his apparently infinite spare time, the chef also draws most of the artwork on the walls and woodworks much of the serving ware).
The first course, “Soil”, felt quite literal, with little green blobs of slightly salty asparagus gelee and a mildly sweet beetroot “mushroom” atop olive crumbs that actually resembled dirt (but were so tasty!). I didn’t feel the accompanying parsnip puree added much to the dish, though I did love the crumbly beurre noisette.
Next up was the “Pristine” course, highlighting clean, pure flavours with minimal seasoning or manipulation. Featuring succulent langoustine (even this was semi-raw), cabbage dashi and a first-born egg, the dish was comforting and warm. The smoothness of the egg and langoustine balanced perfectly with the crunch of the accompanying brown rice.
The follow-up, “Ocean” was heavier with a medley of bold seafood tastes, all of them delicious. My two favourites were the “black coral” squid ink sponge with scallop (which I usually don’t like!) and tempura shrimp with mashed banana. Sounds crazy, but it totally worked.
“Nostalgia” was a hit with everyone at the table: a fragrant lobster broth with delicate purple crab, handmade noodles and black roe. The broth was rich and almost gravy-like, but so tasty I wanted to lap up the whole bowl of it! The noodles were also perfectly springy.
The “Impression” course – Berkshire pig with granny smith apple, watermelon, and potato “mud” – was intended as an allusion to flora and fauna. The brightness of the watermelon, apple and green beans contrasted nicely with the earthy “mud” and crushed peanuts. The pork was incredibly juicy and smelled heavenly, though I found the accompanying piece of crackling a bit tough.
The final meat course was “Heritage”: Peranakan-inspired beef cheek with a beautiful barley porridge. I’m not usually much of a beef eater, but it was so soft and tender, with a lovely sweetness from its red date and port-soy reduction. It might have teetered near sogginess, but never quite got there.
I’m still dreaming of the “Exotic” dessert course: Mango tiramisu with Thai green curry sorbet and slightly spicy pear and blueberry. I’ve honestly never had dessert with such a kick before. It was filling and put a bit of fire in my belly, but wasn’t heavy at all – the perfect capper to a meal that had tickled my palate from start to finish.
I’ve barely mentioned the inventive cocktails that incorporate local ingredients like lemongrass or red bean (all created to pair perfectly with the dishes), or the quirky wine list with boutique finds from Australia, France, Germany and Chile. Needless to say, both only serve to strengthen the case for Rabbit Stash.
In my experience, 7-course meals can often feel like a slog, but with its playful plating and surprising flavour combinations, all done with Chef Mok’s masterful technique, the meal at Rabbit Stash felt like a frolic in the garden.