Back in 2015, Chef Lee Boon Seng won the prestigious Global Chef Challenge and was the youngest chef to be selected in the Singapore team at that time. He’s made a name for himself with his knowledge and prowess in classic European dishes, and with his new restaurant Imbue, he mixes in Asian influences, in particular, through the sauces he adds to his recipes.
Above: Chef Lee Boon Seng
Imbue opens today (1st November 2023) and is certainly worth a visit if you love discovering innovative textures with familiar flavours, and presented beautifully without appearing pretentious. We sampled the 8-course menu ($198++), and while not every course was to my liking, I’m pleased that I did try certain dishes that I’ve never had before. Read on for what to look out for.
Oyster mousse, jellyfish, fennel, citrus white soy
The oyster flavour comes out pretty strong in this first appetiser and that’s the thing that hits you. Then when you bite into it, there’s a smooth pâté texture that’s quite lovely, but then you’re surprised by chewy bits (which is the jellyfish). It was interesting and certainly deconstructed.
Drunken chicken, doubanjiang, Shaoxing wine
Ooooo, this was crunchy. The Shaoxing wine flavour comes through nicely and this actually does taste like Drunken Chicken. Again, interesting. I quite liked this one and would eat it again.
Century egg crab, kelp paste, Kaluga caviar
Oh wow. This was very tasty and I understand why this should be eaten last out of the three appetisers. There was something special in this dish that was flavourful — perhaps the kelp or the ginger. I couldn’t taste the century egg though; but I do believe that was what made this dish salty.
Smoked yellowtail, plum ginger, lapsang souchong, mountain yam
I love yellowtail and even more when it’s smoked. This dish looks fancy and its description is even fancier. I do like that the fish is made into “noodles”, but as wonderful as this dish sounds, I wasn’t a fan of it. It tastes like a spa, with the strong hints of lemon balm. It was also rather salty with lots of pickled ingredients inside. You may like this, but I didn’t.
Abalone, ginkgo nut custard, preserved chilli, pine nut
I’ve never eaten anything like this before. The texture is like a buttery chawanmushi and has the right balance of crunch and flavours. It’s rich, balanced and overall delicious. Highly recommended, and the best dish of the night.
Horse mackerel, aged tangerine, raw vegetables, onion potato pancake
Don’t expect Peking Duck because this protein is fish. But you wrap this in a similar fashion and bite into it like a taco. If the pancake was crispier, this experience and mix of textures would be complete.
“MALAI” bread, malt, ginseng honey butter, thyme
When this is served, the smell of warm brown sugar hits you and these simple flavours are delightful. The honey butter is really yummy as well; you can really taste the sweetness of the honey but not so much the ginseng — which is a good balance. The bread was fluffy too. I generally love bread and this was good bread.
21 days aged fermented bean wagyu rump cap, daikon soubise, macadamia morel
The wagyu was rich as expected, but not fatty. When you eat the entire dish together, the daikon cuts through the richness of the meat and balances it quite well. The sauce was unnecessary as the rest of the ingredients are good enough to stand on their own.
Squid sausage claypot rice, squid ink egg sauce, truffle, herb
I’m honestly quite full at this point (not a bad thing) but still managed to enjoy this dish. This is an elevated claypot dish which is reminiscent of the charred sides of traditional claypots you’ll get at the hawker centre. The crispy bits added on top of the rice are very nice and give it that crackling texture. I couldn’t finish this bowl of rice but I can see those with bigger appetites loving this at the end.
Strawberry sorbet, peach gum, rice wine lees espuma
This is a palate cleanser. The rice wine is really quite strong so dip or pour it sparingly.
Yuba pavlova, sesame oil, Meyer lemon curd, black lemon
Chef has a thing with flowers and everything’s very pretty. This pavlova was very airy and like eating a super light meringue. If you’re full, this is the perfect ending to your meal because it’s so light. The lemon curd is lovely. The perfect ending for the meal.
These small dessert bites were too much for me so unfortunately I didn’t try them. They looked very pretty though and their flavours sounded interesting (eg. a soya sauce nougat).
Ask about Imbue’s wine pairing for whichever course you choose (from $68++). Their wine list is extensive and the staff gave pretty good recommendations for the meal.
If you love cocktails, try Grains (Grey Goose vodka, kefir, apple, vanilla) and Opera (Black Tears spiced rum, Mr. Black Coffee, Couverture, Five Farms Irish cream) — both came highly recommended by the team at Imbue and did not disappoint. You can check out Imbue’s full cocktail menu here.
Imbue is located at 32 Keong Saik Road. Reservations can be made on the restaurant’s website at imbue.sg.
Prices start from $58++ for a 2-course lunch.