Change Is The Only Constant At The Masses

Chef Dylan Ong refreshes the menu at The Masses with his version of neo-local bistronomy.

While The Masses is well tucked away along a row of shophouses opposite Shaw Towers, chef-owner Dylan Ong’s beginnings are anything but obscure, being one-half of the duo that started the Saveur Group of restaurants. Offering affordable French food, Saveur grew from a coffeeshop stall in Joo Chiat in 2011 to an eatery on Purvis Street with several offshoots. In 2016, chef Ong and chef Joshua Khoo relinquished their shares in the business, and went on to different projects.

A homely haunt

Enter The Masses in 2017 and chef Ong’s unwavering desire to reach the masses with food that is not what you would consider mass at all. One of their signatures, for instance, is the C&C&C&C pasta (from $10.90 for a starter portion), an angel hair pasta packed with crabmeat, caviar, clams, chorizo, an optional bafun uni from Hokkaido ($6), and a rich lobster sauce.

Another signature, the duck confit ($16.90) paired with charred kway teow, preserved salted vegetables, grated cured egg yolk, and a mirabelle plum vinaigrette, is a prime example of the ‘neo-local’ cuisine that chef Ong practises. Melding inspiration from his Singaporean heritage with the French techniques of his culinary training, he complements the tender, crisp-skinned duck confit with echoes of local dishes such as braised duck with preserved vegetables and the moonlight horfun, a wok-hei laden noodle dish topped with an egg yolk.

Nagano pork tomahawk

Chef Ong’s admiration for the neo-bistro or bistronomy movement in Paris has him revamping his menu every four months—he’s now into his 7th iteration with an eye on the 8th—in the name of pushing the boundaries of creativity.

A new addition, is the kitting out of the restaurant’s wine cellar with only biodynamic, organic and natural wines, such as the Sam Vinciullo Warner Glen Chardonnay 2017 from Margaret River. A novelty undertaking for them as well, the restaurant’s happy for you to experiment with them as they settle on wine pairings for these wines.

On the food menu, new items include the burrata from Puglia ($16.90), paired with Amela tomatoes from Shizuoka, Japan. The creaminess and natural sweetness of the stellar produce almost do not warrant any of the grilled sourdough it comes with. Another new dish is the Nagano pork tomahawk ($24.90 for 300g), featuring Nagano pork from Quebec, Canada. Inspired in part by the ubiquitous sweet sour pork dish found in many Chinese restaurants, the French chicken cordon bleu and the Hainanese pork chop, this hearty rendition is breaded with Jacob’s biscuits, deep fried, and served with a homemade sweet and sour sauce. A shower of corn, shallots, strawberries, capsicum and pineapple gives it a decidedly fruity aroma.

Golden promfret

To try a different rendition of another familar dish, the Chinese steamed pomfret, go for the Golden Promfret ($19.90) comprising fresh fish supplied by Ah Hua Kelong that’s lightly seasoned and grilled over binchotan, then paired with a piquant ravigote herb dressing, prawn head hollandaise and cauliflower puree.

New offerings aside, our dish of the day is actually the purple cabbage, braised in a homemade chicken stock and enriched with ikura dashi buerre blanc, crabmeat and prawnhead butter ($14.90). Non-cloying and rich with umami, it’s a simple dish that’s a study in flavour.

#01-02, 85 Beach Road. Tel: 6266 0061

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