Address: 204 Rangoon Road, Hong Building (218451)
Cuisine tags: Dessert, breakfast, lunch, dinner
Good for: That creative moment where you feel like anything is possible
Summary: One of the best shows in town, all within the confines of your plate
Welcome to Non-Entreé Desserts. It’s a sugar-filled, fun-loving space near the end of Rangoon Road. Worked all summer to cut a couple of pounds? You’ve come to the right place to get back into shape.
Enter into the store to find yourself nestled in a space filled with ‘antiquities’ from the past. From floor to ceiling, original Gameboys and a plethora of Archie comic books grace the walls. It’s a subtle reminder of the experience which seeks to open up your eyes to the underlying complexities of something so seemingly simple.
The word entreé refers to a dish that is often served before a main dish. In this vein, the ‘non’ refers to anything but the main dish. It’s a clever twist on words, given that the store is none other than a dessert joint. A simple twist on the order of dishes, but much less complicated than deciding where to place the grave accent over the letter ‘e’.
Increasingly, the demand from consumers raises the expectation for restaurants to play a relentless game of catch-up. As diners, we’re spoilt for choice. In Singapore alone for example, the launch of the Michelin guide hints at the range of options available. From starred outlets to bib gourmand recommendations, the allure of choice removes the need for patrons to be limited to a circular number of restaurants.
A reflection of such creativity has spawned in all shapes and forms. Take for instance, Chef Tatsu’s creative spin on presentation at Waku Ghin, or Chef Han’s interpretation of local fusion at Restaurant Labyrinth. For a dish that certainly impresses, take a visit to Chef Royer’s smoked egg creations at Odette (or JAAN, for a more wallet-friendly option). In the wave of this movement, branches such as Non-Entreé Desserts have flourished.
One of the highlights at Non-Entreé Desserts is the Singapore Breakfast ($13.90). It’s a complex replica of buttered brown-bread toast, two hard-boiled eggs, with a side tray of what appears to be soy sauce and white pepper. In all honesty, I was wondering how far the attempt to create a unique dessert experience could stretch. With little faith and arguably low expectations, I cracked the eggshells… revealing a creamy white coconut panna cotta. Surprisingly, even the shell of the eggs was edible and turned out to be made of chocolate. As one would normally do, I broke the bread into two and dipped it into the cracked ‘eggs’. Instead of ordinary brown bread, I bit into a Hainanese kaya parfait wedged between unusually delicate toast. Indeed, a most Instagrammable moment depicting the delicate balance between expectation and reality.
After dusting off the crumbs, we then moved on to lunch. Glancing through the menu, we deliberated between the Bak Chor Mee ($14.90), or the evergreen Nasi Lemak ($14.90). The Bak Chor Mee – though interesting and most certainly unique – seemed less palatable when compared against the Nasi Lemak. Perhaps it was a gentle reminder of an earlier experience at The Coconut Club (see previous post) or my weakness for coconut that urged me to choose the latter.
The Nasi Lemak was presented as one would expect. Served on a banana boat-like plate was a mound of coconut rice flanked by a piece of what appeared to be fried fish, an egg, and a dollop of sambal chili. Having been deceived earlier by the Singapore Breakfast, I was well-prepared for any tricks up their sleeves.
Instead of rice, the mound was a combination of pandan, gula Melaka and coconut mousse. A welcome surprise, but nothing too extreme. As for the egg, the chefs at Non-Entreé differentiated the hard-boiled egg in this rendition from the Singapore Breakfast. Here, the egg was crafted out of mango yoghurt and had a slight tang at the end. To balance out the texture of the dish, a slice of fried onion tulip, ikan bills and peanuts lent a welcome crunch. It added a balance between sweet and savoury, signposting toward the origins of the dish. As this item was only available for a limited period of time, a future suggestion would be to revise the recipe for the sambal Chili. Composed of raspberry and lemongrass, the pseudo-sambal strikes as an oddity. It’s neither sweet nor savoury; a synthesis of Southeast-Asian and European flavours gone wrong (much unlike the EU-ASEAN relations we’ve maintained thus far).
With breakfast and lunch complete, the remaining item was none other than dinner. A quick glance through the menu revealed a common incline towards the aged sake within the I-ke (pond) Urban Garden series ($17.90). As a Japanese garden-themed item, noticeable effort was placed in the presentation of the dish. From the choice of koi fish as the centerpiece to the celadon-colored bowl, subtle shades of Japanese culture were carefully embedded. The ‘pond’ arrives dry, with the umeshu koi poised as if patiently waiting for some life within its surroundings. In comes the glass teapot, filled with what appeared to be chilled sencha and sake. Tipping the spout into the bowl turns a once dormant scene into an atmosphere of life, as the (non-edible) leaves and flowers rise to the top, while the goji berries and the koi soak at the bottom of the pond. It’s a five-second snapshot that truly takes your breath away.
With a definite 10/10 rating for presentation, we turned towards the flavor of the dish. While I enjoyed the mix of flavours from the sesame brittle, the matcha mochi and the sake (no-doubt), others were lukewarm to the soya flour encasing the goma sesame gelato. Regardless, we were still blown away by the detailed features of the koi and its magically thin outer texture.
Having sampled three different meals, there was only one thing left to do while seated at a proper dessert outlet.
Cue the chocolate avalanche ($13.90).
Perched atop a u-shaped crust sits a dark chocolate lava cake, all ready to cave into the glass bowl beneath. Mind you, we’re not talking about any old chocolate nibs used in the baking process, but a generous amount of dark Valhrona chocolate waiting to ooze out. We took the plunge, slicing through the edge of the cake and watched it plunge into the ravine below. This was followed by the heavy rush of warm chocolate which melted both the chocolate and almond ‘soil’ and the orange-infused vanilla ice cream.
While the lava cake was undeniably gratifying (and calorific if I may), it wasn’t the most extraordinary lava cake I had sampled (for reference on flavor alone, try the Dempsey Cookhouse and Bar’s chocolate lava cake). Yet, plus points were certainly awarded for the use of orange which cut a zesty finish through the chocolate.
For future visits, I’d certainly take a stab at the rest of the avalanche series (think matcha) available at Non-Entreé.
Overall, if you’re looking for a place to bewilder both your guests and yourself, take a step into this paradigm shift on Rangoon Road. From breakfast to an evening dessert, you can expect your sugar cravings to be well taken care of. All you’ll have to do is have an open mind, and be ready for the best trick-eye show in town.
*All opinions and images are that of the author’s. This was not a sponsored review.