8th October 2013.
It was my first encounter with the Chef Damian D’Silva at the World Street Food Congress Jamboree. The chef, also known as “Big D” was introducing a special but simple dish, his signature Century Egg Relish and give sharing his thoughts about hawker food in Singapore and professing his love for chilli.
Intrigued by the man and his food, I didn’t hesitate to make a booking at his restaurant, the Immigrants Gastrobar which serves local heritage food "from the major ethnicities of Singapore – Chinese, Eurasian, Indian, Malay and Peranakan" and located at the food epicentre of the East, Joo Chiat Road in Katong. The restaurant week menu features several of the signature dishes of Immigrants Gastrobar at a small plates concept like tapas.
We had one of each dish available on the restaurant week menu. Upon request for additional options for a friend of mine who could only consume seafood and vegetables but not meat like beef and pork and Immigrants Gastrobar included their Squid Bombs for her.
The charcoal grilled Squid Bombs (15.00+ SGD) was excellent, the flesh was nothing short of succulent and the accompanying spicy gravy was great.
Then there was the Singgang (14.00+ SGD), a non-spicy Eurasian dish of deboned sai toh (wolf herring), cooked with seven different ground spices and enhanced with a dash of coconut milk. This bowl of otah-like dish came served with a few sticks of chilled cucumber. While it was good, I think they could cut down on the salt for this dish. Liang Wei and I thought this would be awesome in a sandwich too.
I really enjoyed their Sweet Potato Masak Lemak (15.00+ SGD), Sweet potato leaves cooked with sambal made of chillies, shallots, shrimp paste, candlenuts and prawns. Coconuts milk is added to amalgamate all the flavors. The result is a fragrant and mellow mix of thoroughly soaked sweet potato leaves and spicy coconut gravy.
One of the more special dishes was the Sambal Buah Keluak Fried Rice (20.00+ SGD). The rice was rather moist and slightly stickier than your usual fried rice. As expected from a buah keluak dish, there is tinge of sourness and one would either love or hate this dish.
You can’t miss out their signature Century Egg Relish (9.00+ SGD), Cold tofu topped with superior-grade mashed century egg from Taiwan. Marinated with sesame, spring onions and homemade pickles, which both my friends swiftly wiped off. I love the addition of pickles to the relish.
Along with these dishes, we also had the Ngoh Hiang, Satay Babi, Sambal Prawns and Babi Assam. The Babi Assam was the least popular. While the pork was very tender, we are just not used to a stew pork dish with sour flavour. Similarly, we were divided on the Sambal Prawns which was a little too sour for my friend but I enjoyed the pineapple-like sweet and sourness of the dish. The prawns were fresh too.
There were two choices for desserts: Sago Gula Melaka which was too sweet and heavy. In contrast, the Kueh Bengkah (8.00+ SGD), cassava cake was really good.
In general, I enjoyed the atmosphere and the Eurasian-Peranakan mix of food served at the Immigrants Gastrobar. While the dishes are generally spicy, Immigrants Gastrobar was able to control the spiciness of its dishes with great finesse. They had the right amount of spiciness to the point of “shiok!” but not overwhelming our tastebuds and its constituent ingredients in each dish.
The restaurant week menu is quite a steal too considering that you can pick 4 out of 7 of their dishes plus a dessert for around 35++ SGD. If you order from their a la carte menu, it might cost significantly more and the portions for the restaurant week menu were just nice too.
467 Joo Chiat Road