Monday, April 10, 2017

Firebake: Wood-fired Bakehouse and Restaurant in Katong

We have been waiting so long for Firebake to open. This corner shophouse opposite Jago Close in Katong is the first full-scale wood-fire bread oven in Singapore, proudly using European historical techniques of bread-making.

The menu here features contemporary dishes cooked with traditional European techniques, which complement and showcase the range of wood-fire baked sourdough bread.

For veteran food & beverage consultant Konstantino Blokbergen (above, standing in cap), launching Firebake is a dream come true. He gets to articulate the ideals of ‘back to basics’ cooking, and a return to traditional food ways and a more ‘human touch’ to cooking.

Konstantino's childhood spent in Greece and Switzerland, on farms and his family’s olive tree grove, gave him a passion for wood-fire cooking and sourdough bread-making, along with a devotion to natural, high quality, whole ingredients.

The restaurant’s centrepiece is a pair of wood-fire bread ovens hand-built from 5,000 pieces of brick, in which the bread is baked and selected dishes are slow-cooked. From raw ingredients to firewood to water, everything is as non-processed, sustainable, and close to its natural state as possible.

The flour is organic, sourced mostly from Western Australia. They plan to introduce batches of global ancient wholegrains, milled onsite using a traditional wood and stone flour mill. The salt is natural, non-processed and non-iodised.

Even the water is extra precious. Firebake’s elaborate Nordaq Fresh water filtration system yields water that is as pure as humanly possible with natural salts and minerals intact -- ‘the most primitive stage of water’. The system allows the amount and temperature of water to be precisely calibrated as well.

Rice may be the staple in Asia, but bread is equally significant in the feeding of nations since civilisations began. Breaking bread with your neighbour? It's the basis of bonding and kinship.

The Bread Board (S$10) features the four kinds of breads nicknamed Wave (organic white sourdough), Field (organic wholemeal rye sourdough), Valley (organic sourdough fruit loaf), and Rock (organic rye sourdough), served with a very special butter and Greek olive oil.

Anchovy Dip, The Field (S$8)
The dip is like a mayo, but with a boost of umami. It's made with eggs, oil and anchovy. When paired with the wholemeal sourdough bread, it's a snack you can't get enough of.

Smoked Eggplant, Spiced Hummus, Tomato, Manchego (S$15)
The eggplant is roasted in the wood-fired oven and then served cold, not warm. It's topped with spiced hummus, marinated heirloom tomatoes, crunchy barley and topped with Manchego cheese and mint.

Heirloom Tomato, Pickled Cucumber, Feta, Mountain Oregano (S$17)
This salad has juicy sweet heirloom tomatoes marinated in an INCREDIBLE smoked oil overnight. The oil gets its potent aroma from a burning piece of charcoal dropped into it. It's strained until it's clear but the charcoal flavour remains.

Tomato gazpacho (blended tomato) and vinegar are added to the tomatoes. Mix it all up with the pickled cucumbers with dill, feta marinated in oregano and white sourdough croutons, and you have a salad that's not only beautiful but memorable.

Norwegian Blue Mussel, Lager, Chorizo (S$25)
The blue mussels are cooked in a broth of shallots, garlic, chorizo and Kingpin lager (because lager is associated with wheat and bears connection with the bread). They are finished with butter and garnished with parsley.

I loved the mussels but not so much the bitter aftertaste of the lager. Beer lovers might take delight in this though. I wonder if we could get a non-alcoholic version...hmm.

Cured Norwegian Salmon, Bread Crust, Dill, Leek, Pickled Onion (S$25)
The salmon has been cured in salt, sugar, fresh dill, coriander powder, fennel seeds, lemon zest and finally pan-seared to get a crispy rye crust.

It's accompanied with pickled onions, fresh dill, drizzled with dill oil, grilled
leek, and served with Australian leeks that have been sauteed in olive oil and finished with a beurre monte (butter emulsion).

Grilled Pork Belly, Garden Vegetable Broth, Rye Bread (S$22)
Here we get a slab of pork belly that has been brined, sous vide cooked and grilled. It's not meant to have a crispy skin, and is served in a vegetable brothwith cubes of celeriac, pumpkin, fennel, carrots, ratte potato.

I'm a meat eater and adore pork belly of all stripes but I have to say the housemade broth and crisp vegetables tasted so pure and good, they completely stole the show.

Roast Half Spring Chicken, Grilled Beans (S$23)
The chicken has been brined overnight, cooked sous vide and then finished off on the grill. It's a good-sized portion, served with roasted beans and mustard jus (beef jus with Pommery mustard).

Braised Lamb Shoulder, Root vegetables (S$26)
The tender lamb is braised in lamb jus and crusted with white sourdough and toasted ground cumin. It sits in a broth made from lamb jus spiked with a plethora of aromatics - coriander and cumin, sage, sage stems, mint stems, rosemary, parsley, onions, garlic, shallots, celery and carrot. Comes with roasted ratte potato and rutabaga.

Rangers Valley Striploin 300gm, Wood-fired Jerusalem Artichoke, Chimichurri (S$38)

The most expensive dish at Firebake is probably the best value dish as well. The charcoal-grilled grade three marble score wagyu carries the right balance of fatty flavour and beefy bite. At 300g, this platter is good for two to share as a main, or for 3-4 pax to enjoy as a side. The wood-fire-roasted Jerusalem artichoke cooked with butter and thyme is also a delight. The beef is good enough on its own, but feel free to add some chimichurri for variation.

Peach, Vanilla, Sourdough Ice cream, Rye Chip (S$12)
The peach is poached in sugar syrup, vanilla and moscato. What's unusual is the sourdough ice cream made from sourdough starter with crème anglaise and churned till smooth - it's almost doughy in texture. Giving this dessert a salty tang are some crispy rye chips.

Firebake Bread and Butter Pudding (S$10)
Fruit loaf is toasted with butter and layered with crème anglaise. You'll have to wait for 15 minutes upon ordering as that's how long it takes to cook in the wood-fire oven.

Firebake looks set to be one of the hottest dining spots in Katong. It's already packing the crowds in at night when it operates. Breakfast and lunch menus will be launched soon.

237 East Coast Road, Level 1
Singapore 428930
Tel: +65 9784 2950 / +65 6440 1228
Instagram: @Firebakesg
Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sundays, 6 pm – 10 pm
Closed on Mondays

Many thanks to Firebake for the invitation. Photos taken using the Canon 5dsR kindly loaned by Canon Singapore.


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