It was Mama Chan’s birthday; it warrants a special restaurant. Burnt Ends ranks 30th on Asia’s Top, an Australian barbecue restaurant with countertop seating to watch the chefs at work - this will do.
The dining room was intimate and energetic, just one row of bar seats across the open kitchen, where half the space was taken up by the custom built oven and grills, burning apple and almond wood. The chefs were manning their stations with utmost concentration, with Chef David Pynt giving each dish the okay before it goes out. The menu changes daily but there were a couple of signatures that I heard great things about. Dishes are designed for sharing, so the kitchen thoughtfully divided everything in 3’s for us.
This is a raw, cured sausage made with ground pork, paprika and spices. The mincing of chorizo smears the nutty aroma of lard on the crispy sourdough toast, and the familiar powerful chorizo flavours presented in a smooth tartare texture. Personally I still prefer a beef tartare but this definitely perked up our tastebuds.
Beef Marmalade and Pickles
This bad boy is a labour of love; slow-smoked short ribs until the meat is reduced to shreds with a soft poke, followed by reduction of the meat juice with port and red wine, blended with kneaded butter to thicken to a maple syrup consistency. Mix in some carrots and veg sautéed in butter for that jammy sweetness and juicy softness, together with the oh-so-tender beef pieces, laced with small globules of melt-in-mouth tendons – the ultra-concentrated stew was oozing intense beefy richness. The piquant pickles just added that crunch and cleansed our palate for a lighter finish. Mind-bendingly gorgeous.
Burnt Ends’ Sanger (Pulled Pork Shoulder, Cole Slaw, Chipotle Aioli, Brioche Bun)
I was hesitant to order the renowned Sanger; a pulled pork burger is… well a pulled pork burger, and these are easily good from any food truck in London. I’m glad I went for it, because Papa Chan absolutely smashed it. There was so much meat juice locked in the mass of slow-smoked pork shoulder, as if Chef had hidden a small pocket of broth between the layers. The chipotle in the aioli was very restrained, just a brief sharp kick as the meatiness invade the tastebuds. The brioche held up very well against the pile of succulent meat, as a soft bed to absorb the flavours as one bites and release them again with every chew.
Onglet, Burnt Onion and Bone Marrow
We went for 250g, and the chef came to show us the steak before grilling.
I’m a fan of onglet steak; for an inexpensive cut, I think of it as the poor man’s version of tenderloin - lean and flavourful. With the silverskin removed and trimmed, the cut is super tender with very distinctive grain running through the muscles. The chef rocked it under super high heat on the barbecue to give it a nice char without overcooking it. The steak was served sliced, against the grains, revealing the deep ruby meat - a perfect medium rare. The small discs of bone marrow added buttery fragrance as they melted away on tongue, leaving the beefy grease to mingle with the full bovine flavours. This could be the best onglet yet.
Pigeon and Plum (for 2 people)
There was a mini-starter for the pigeon. It was whipped liver pate served on toast with a dollop of cranberry jam. The pate had a note of dark chocolate to suppress the usual offal pungency, it worked beautifully with the tangy compote.
The pigeon was served medium rare, its crimson muscles gleaming exquisitely. The bird carried powerful gamey flavours in its smooth muscles, without being too bloody. The texture was delicate and moist, with a subtle smokiness on the skin. I thought the plum sauce was a tad too sweet though. It was good, but if I could choose again, I would have gone for the pork chop. I feel that the grill works its magic better on hunky meats rather than dingy birds, which perhaps demands more finesse in execution.
A very tangy salad with a generous sprinkle of hazelnuts.
Banana and Butterscotch
Mama Chan got a candle on her banana fritter for her birthday. Dessert is definitely more of an after-thought here - I would have chosen somewhere else if it wasn’t for the candle, for completeness.
Burnt Ends did very well. It has taken barbecue to a new level by adding sophistication and elegance to the dishes. The chefs have mastered the art of slow-roasting, grilling, smoking etc to bring out the best of the meat ingredients, delivering a menu with great variety. Just as we were leaving, someone ordered the prime rib that was going at S$490/kg. That hunk of meat had 'eat-me' written all over it - I’m coming back for that.
20 Teck Lim Road