Weets Eats: Homely favourites inspired by grandma at Jiak
Just when I thought the home chef trend was slowing down, Jiak appeared.
Its chef Anon Foo, 38, started his culinary journey at his Ah Ma's kway chap stall in Lorong 8 Toa Payoh. As a child, he would be by his grandmother's side, assisting her.
Since then, he has sold barbecue chicken wings and satay, taken part in reality TV food series Food Wars Asia, and in 2016, opened Wholly Crab and Mr Wholly.
Today, his grandmother is still an influence.
The menu is inspired by her, as well as Chinese cuisine done Singapore-style.
Unlike other home chefs, there is a corkage fee if you bring your own alcohol, but he offers whisky pairing at a surcharge.
Jiak has a fixed menu at $70 a head. You'll need at least four diners, and a maximum of 12.
As with all set menus, there are winners and some "meh" dishes.
For me, the star was the Tiger Prawn Dry Laksa.
The richness of the coconut paste, laced with spices, came through. The prawns were fresh and just hefty enough - a satisfying bowl of food.
I jiak (ate in Hokkien) in Jiak with a bunch of opinionated foodies, and when asked to pick between the mains of Dry Laksa and homemade Fish Otah Nasi Lemak, we were divided.
I liked the sambal, but was indifferent to the other elements of the dish. The rice needed more creaminess and the otah was adequately spiced but flat.
But we were united in praise for the Prime Rib Lotus Root Soup. The seasoning was subtle but enough to lift the soup - unlike another home cook who served a soup so unseasoned I might as well have poured myself a glass of water.
The Herbal Emperor Chicken was another winner. It was richly flavoured without being overwhelming.
However, the presentation could have been better. It came already divied in bowls. Maybe the kitchen did not want the guests to wait, but we would have appreciated a "wow" moment when the chicken is served whole.
Salty was the first word that came to mind after I ate a piece of the Foie Gras Ngoh Hiang. Every other flavour was lost. Once the balance is corrected, this might be the dish people return for.
When dining in someone's home, the chemistry between guests and chef is vital.
Some home chefs have extravagant personalities, so they entertain with flair. Some are serious. Others are shy and let the food take centre stage.
Foo falls somewhere between shy and serious. His earnest explanation of his dishes sets the tone, while his beautiful home sets the mood.