Of all the events this blog has brought me to, the invitation to spend an afternoon with Susur Lee has been, by far, the coolest experience. We spent an afternoon with Chef Lee at his restaurant Bent, learning how to make french meringue, piping our own desserts and sampling his new Veggielicious tasting menu. From watching Chef Lee on various TV shows, my impression of him was intimidating. In person however, he was beyond friendly, excited to interact with bloggers and full of energy. When we got to the “taking pictures with Susur Lee” part of the afternoon, he took us around the restaurant, finding props, joking and striking some impressive professional poses.
Disclaimer: All drinks and dishes were provided free of charge by the restaurant. All opinions expressed below are wholly mine.
The workshop began with a visit to a home garden behind Bent. Chef Lee collaborated with his neighbour, an older Asian gentleman, who grows fresh vegetables and herbs used daily in the dishes at Bent. We snacked on goat cheese tacos made with taro chips and topped with cilantro and a slice of red chilli. An industrial stand mixer was set up and Chef Lee quickly whipped up a batch of fluffy meringue, ready to be piped into hollow bowls. He showed off his technique while talking of his previous days as a pastry chef. Then all the bloggers went to work. My bowl didn’t collapse, I counted that as a win.
Once the meringues were sent to the ovens, we had the privilege of Chef Lee serving up his famous Singapore Slaw along with his son Kai and restaurant manager. With 19 ingredients including fresh flower petals, the slaw was beautiful both visually and in its mix of flavours and textures. The dish will be coming to Bent’s menu soon, a stellar addition.
In between courses, Manuel, the bartender at Bent mixed up 2 delicious cocktails for us. First was the Karate Kid 2, a sour featuring jasmine tea infused gin, nigori sake and yuzu juice. With my love for yuzu flavoured sake, this cocktail was exactly to my taste. Manuel poured the frothy drink out and I happily drank my glass (or two). Second up was the Asian Cesar. At Bent, a good 8 Asian sauces (including chili oil, siracha, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, sesame oil, worcestershire and ginger juice) are added to the Clamato, which then sits with a bunch of fresh cilantro submerged overnight before being served. The drink was spicy and you could clearly taste the siracha.
Listening to Chef Lee talk about the Veggielicious menu, it was clear to see that he wanted to highlight vegetables and show off how delicious and creative vegetarian dishes can be. As a self proclaimed carnivore with a vegetarian best friend, I love finding vegetarian menus that don’t leave me wanting and this one was good. Veggielicious is a 5 course tasting menu that will run from September 9th to 20th at Bent, priced at $45 per person before tax and gratuity. Each dish does have a vegan option as well.
The first course consisted of three dips, a hummus, a spicy tomato stew and the best baba ganoush I’ve ever had. Served alongside the dips were crispy squares of baked garlic lavash, a thin flat bread. Each dip had a distinct flavour and the lavash was a great vessel for them. Second was the Tingly Chilled Soba with a presentation similar to the Singapore Slaw. Quick blanched vegetables were piled high, hiding a treasure of cold soba noodles. A tangy vinaigrette soaked the entire dish and was mixed in before serving. This was my favourite dish of the menu.
Our third course was tempura tofu and shishito peppers with a sweet chili sauce. The tofu used was firm, the tempura batter light and the peppers sweet and spicy. Our last course before dessert was a buttery, creamy wild mushroom quinoa risotto. I was surprised by how rich the quinoa was and the green beans added colour and crunchiness to each bite. The meal ended with a light, refreshing dessert of meringue, lemon curd and fresh fruit. This was the end goal of the meringues we had piped earlier and watching Chef Lee plate the dish was mesmerizing. Every course was full of Asian flavour, fresh ingredients and there was a lot of food. Veggielicious at Bent will satisfy eaters of all preferences. The menu stars vegetables and features a diverse cast from cauliflower to shitake mushrooms. Those who already love their greens will enjoy the fusion spin and those who tolerate vegetables as a side dish will see them in a new light.