Fusion cuisine has been saddled with a bit of bad name, especially in the west where most of the attempts at this genre of cooking were half-baked, half-hearted, and frankly, rather poor; hence the oft heard term "more confusion than fusion". It is, however, viewed in a much different light in Asia, aided no doubt by the comparative quality and success of the offerings there. Whilst I rarely ever eat at fusion restaurants in London (there are hardly any places anyway), I frequently seek it out when in Asia - fusion done well can be a quite spectacular thing.
My Humble House, at the Esplanade in Singapore, is a TungLok Group operation that opened in 2002 with the stated aim of promoting the "Art of Dining", and has since spawned offshoots in Beijing, Tokyo and New Delhi. My friends had earmarked this as a place for me to try months in advance of my visit to the island nation, and sent photo teasers in the meantime, so I was rather excited when it was finally time for lunch here on the second (and final) morning of my whistle-stop trip.
The restaurant, a deep room with a bar out front, followed by a dark main dining room, and then opening up to a slightly elevated space overlooking the Esplanade, was practically empty when we arrived, and didn't get much fuller during the service, which was understandable - this was very much a dinner destination. The decor was, to put it mildly, a tad odd. The main dining room, with wavy, pointy high chairs and hues of purple looked like something out of Alice and Wonderland, whereas the elevated area was more conventionally appointed - it was a mishmash that simply didn't work, exacerbated further by the fact that the elevated section was bathed in sunlight, and the main room remained largely in darkness - this was definitely a venue that played better in the dark of night. The furniture and fittings too, had seen better days, with chips and scratches on the bare wooden tables especially noticeable in the light of day. Simply put, the place exuded nothing but confusion - here's hoping the food didn't adhere to the same theme.
The oddities in the decor carried through to the menu, where each dish and category was given an "artistic" name. For example, appetisers were called "The Arousal", from which I choose "A Duet, For Love, For Life" which was Crisp-seared Foie Gras marinated with Seven Spices on Caramelised Watermelon. I'll leave you to make your judgment on the naming convention...
The foie gras was well-seared, but I didn't get any of the purported seven spices. The pairing with grape was fine, if hardly ground breaking; the caramelised watermelon, not. It was a combination that was as unsuccessful in reality as it was counterintuitive on paper.
The concept here is one of small-plate, tasting-size dishes, so I ended up ordering five, following up the foie gras with Awakening from the Deep: Crispy Tiger Prawn glazed with Citrus Cream on Grape Salsa. This, unlike the first, was a lovely, well-balanced dish.
Next, Dance of the Wind: Double-boiled Seafood Consommé in Young Coconut was thoroughly enjoyable - the sweetness of the coconut cutting through the richness of the soup to provide a good contrast of flavours.
The fish dish, From the Earth, Sea and Heart: Marble Goby Fillet simmered in Winter Black Truffle Jus, was my favourite of the meal, highlighted by a wonderfully eggy sauce imbued with the unmistakable, if somewhat faint, taste of black truffle.
As Dreams Fly By: Roast Boneless Chicken marinated in Smoky Sauce was rather less inspired, but still an acceptable plate that ticked the requisite boxes for a roast chicken dish - crisp skin, moist meat, tasty sauce.
Two other meat courses that I had a taste of: Sauntering Among the Golden Leaves: Crispy Spiced Kurobuta Pork Rib in Sun-dried Tomato Reduction and Solitude in the Summer: Roast Marinated Rack of Lamb with Herbs in Port Wine Sauce were both alright (the pork a bit fatty) but suffered from the fact that all the sauces (including that on my chicken) tasted, despite the different ingredients, rather similar.
To finish, two different noodle dishes, of which The Home Beckons: Wok-fried Fish Noodles with Seafood in X.O. Sauce, really a fish rather than noodle dish, was easily the better if for no other reason than the unusual preparation; but both were far too bland.
In a nutshell...
So, despite a rather dubious start, My Humble House turned out to be pretty good. I don't think the quirkiness it tries to instil works, at all, because of the apparent lack of willingness to follow it all the way through, and the absence of a consistent theme. Having said that, the food stands up on its own, minus the need for any gimmickry, and would probably be better served without it, truth be told. Was this an amazing, flawless, take-your-breath-away meal? No. But it did have enough high points to justify, to some extent, the high prices, and to reaffirm one’s belief that good fusion food does indeed exist…in Asia.
My Humble House
#02-27/29 Esplanade Mall, 8 Raffles Avenue, Singapore 039802
Average Price: SGD 80-SGD 100