Around the Telok Ayer neighbourhood where most dining joints operate out of shophouses, back alleys are an integral social space for restaurant staff. The back alley is where you slip out to for a brief respite when that precious break time finally comes around. It’s where you shoot the breeze with your fellow F&B comrades between shifts. It’s where you go to decompress after a long day of service. For Eugene See, Miller Mai and Jeremmy Chiam – the three cool cats heading Birds of a Feather, Ding Dong and Le Binchotan respectively – Gemmil Lane is their al fresco hangout of choice for trading grouses and tossing repartees with brassy Singlish humour. Now thanks to Gemmil Lane, the self-styled Backstreet Bengs will be presenting an unorthodox six-hands dinner of sorts, done musical chairs-style where customers will shuffle around the three neighbouring joints to nosh through six courses.
More than an excuse for the three friends to collaborate, this six-hands dinner is also a celebration of their kampung, Chinatown. To that end, each restaurant will be showcasing two dishes: a signature from their regular menu, and another completely new dish conceived with the precinct’s food heritage in mind. Here’s what to expect:
Birds of a Feather
Flag-bearer for contemporary Sichuan cuisine, Birds of a Feather takes an East-meets-West approach with chef Eugene See at the helm. From the restaurant’s repertoire is the Baked Eggplant, modelled after Sichuan’s iconic yuxiang qiezi, but baked rather than stir-fried. In addition to the housemade yuxiang sauce – a combination of chilli oil, doubanjiang, garlic and pickled chilli – chef Eugene dials up the cosiness with mozzarella cheese, molten from the baking process, and strips of deep-fried mantou.
As for the event, chef Eugene has opted for a Sichuan interpretation of chwee kueh, presented in the restaurant’s trademark whimsical aesthetics. Instead of the usual half domes, rich flour batter is steamed into a slender, cake-like block. The dressing of crispy kohlrabi bits, chilli oil, pickled daikon and pickled black fungus delivers the familiar salty-savoury notes with a welcome jolt of heat and acidity.
Repping Ding Dong’s modern Southeast Asian small plates concept is the iberico pork collar – marinated for six hours in char siew sauce and given the sous-vide treatment. Pineapple espuma, light as air and honeyed in character, plays off the sweetness and heft of the meat. Crunch and snap turns up in the form of pork scratching and pickled pearl onions.
Chef Miller’s penchant for the elegant carries over to the Chee Cheong Fun, his submission for the six-hands dinner. It’s a nod to his love of seafood, and the constant presence of rice rolls in his childhood. For this elevated version, scallop paste is fashioned into silky smooth sheets and rolled up with a filling of tiger prawns and blue swimmer crab. The seafood motif continues to play out with a finishing sauce of clam broth, fish sauce and lime juice.
At Le Binchotan, the cuisine is a modern amalgamation of French and Japanese, with an emphasis on the centuries-old technique of grilling over binchotan. So it’s only fitting that chef-owner Jeremmy is putting forth the eponymous Edible Charcoal as his signature dish: Think saikyo miso- and port-marinated pulled beef short ribs, wrapped in an edible charcoal-dusted spring roll skin and deep-fried.
Rib-sticking food is clearly chef Jeremmy’s forte, and his ode to congee is comfort food made luxurious. Instead of a thick, sticky porridge, chef Jeremmy poaches akitakomachi in a deeply umami broth of kombu, dried scallops and dried anchovies till just al dente. The pearly grains are then served ochazuke style with more of that soulful broth, and draped with bafun uni, charcoal-dusted youtiao, and moreish sheets of sakura ebi paper.
The six-hands dinner takes place on 31 October at 7pm, and is priced at $90 per person. Reservations must be made in advance to firstname.lastname@example.org; confirmed guests will be informed the day before the event on the itinerary for the evening, and their first port of call.