Chung Deming always has a thing about cooking and promoting Singapore cuisine, especially hawker dishes. It got the better of him 5 years ago, when he left his investment bank career to start The Quarters bistro to fully dedicate his time and energies to his passion for modern Singapore cuisine.
We met up at The Quarters for nearly 3 hours but we didn't talk shop i.e. we talked about a lot of esoteric things but not much about food 😄 Even though this was our first meeting, we had a pretty good idea about what we stood for from the World Wide Web. I found Deming in person exactly the same as his online persona. Genuine, passionate, man on a mission.
To me, Deming is right at the cutting edge of the movement to modernise Singapore heritage cuisine, especially street food. It is obvious that Deming is powered by vision and passion, otherwise why would anyone leave a lucrative career in finance for the gritty, cut throat world of Singapore F & B? And... , still have plenty of fire in the belly nearly 5 years
The Quarters is located in Icon Village at Enggor Street in Singapore's Central Business District. (It's beside the Cold Storage - just ask, if you need directions inside the building, which is a maze.)
The decor and furnishings are a pretty subtle nod to old Singapore e.g. the corrugated zinc roof looked like those in the Lorong Tai Seng shanty town of my early childhood.
I asked Deming what does Quarters mean. He replied that it refers to the quarters of Singapore society, our ethnic communities. (Not by living quarters like my shanty town hut 🤭)
The centrepiece mural had eclectic references to old Singapore lifestyle like pigtails, red head scarf, and of course, food. Some of the quirky images left me wondering. Like the Samsui lady, those hardy ladies from Samsui China who did much of the heavy lifting in building early Singapore, munching a burger.
We chatted over dishes which Deming created. I soon found out how to stay authentic while infusing non traditional elements into our culinary heritage.
Wagyu Beef Buah Keluak Pasta (price $24++).
The al dente pasta was well greased and enveloped by a creamy sauce made mainly with buah keluak. The deep savoury taste of buah keluak is an acquired taste which people in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia are well acquainted. I am a fan of buah keluak's assertive savoury taste, so it is easy for me to enjoy dishes which have it as a key ingredient.
Deming is fascinated with the unique Indonesian spice and is currently working on a series of dishes with it. Featuring, spotlighting unique local ingredients (e.g. buah keluak) is one of the Tao of Mod Sin.
The pasta was topped with a generous slab of wagyu beef done medium rare and cut into bite size pieces.
Tender with a slightly chewy bite which yielded beefy juices.
The Quarters's interpretation of the Singapore / Malaysia staple nasi lemak. I prefer this version compared to the radical nasi lemak cheesecake for example.
Read my experience with the nasi lemak cheesecake created by Lepaq Lepaq (which has closed down) 👈 click
It's a burger with two rice patties, a chicken chop, sunshine egg with the obligatory fried anchovies, julienned cucumber, alfalfa sprouts, and sambal chili. It reminds me of MOS Burger rice burgers which I am a long time fan of.
I like the texture of The Quarters' rice patty which is made of a blend of Japanese and Thai rice. It was quite firm and slightly gritty here and there to the bite - quite like the rice with crust in claypot chicken rice. Flavour was subtle savoury sweetish toasty and I wish I could taste more assertive coconut milk which to me is a hallmark of nasi lemak.
Lovely thick chicken chop with crisp lightly spiced outside while inside it was perfect tender juiciness 👌
Savoury spicy house made sambal chili. Deming insists on making everything from scratch honouring the tradition of artisanal hawkers.
Yeah..., I forgot the obligatory photo of the runny egg yolk... 😔 (Do you know how many likes that will get me on the 'gram or not? 😭 )
Oh La La! (price $16++)
Venus clams with spicy sauce and croutons.
I like the savoury sweet spicy sauce which reminds me of chili crab sauce except that here, the briny shellfish umami came from la la clams instead of crabs.
The crispy croutons in the dish got soggy after sponging up the savoury sweet spicy chili sauce. I felt like asking for more croutons to wipe the plate of delicious chili sauce clean 😋
Deming's interpretation of the quintessential Nanyang kopitiam breakfast staple, kaya toast. Thick toasted white bread slathered with kaya and topped with pan seared foie gras (duck liver) and scrambled egg. (Price $18++)
Creamy blend of sweet, savoury, eggy flavours. The distinctive taste and aroma of kaya makes sure you know you are eating kaya toast. There you have it, Mod Sin dish must taste like Singapore dish... duh... 😛
Deming makes his own kaya using his mum's recipe. And, that is
Affogato (price $8++).
Espresso with house made pandan ice cream. I love the taste of the intense bittersweet espresso which is sweetened by the ice cream with subtle pandan flavour.
I don't know why we didn't taste Deming's iconic Duriancanboleh (durian crème brulee) 🤔
Chung Deming is one of the standard bearers of Mod Sin cuisine. After you have tasted Singapore hawker food, come to The Quarters to check out modern takes which stay true to the spirit of Singapore hawker culture. The Quarters' food is tasty with interesting twists, prices are reasonable, ambiance is nice, and staff are friendly. If you are lucky and Deming is in the house, you can get some of his foodie enthusiasm rub off on you. Deming is a go-getter, so look out for more Mod Sin surprises at The Quarters.
Thank you Deming for your hospitality.
Restaurant name: The Quarters
Address: 16 Enggor Street, #01-09 Icon Village, Singapore 079717
GPS: 1°16'29.8"N 103°50'39.9"E 🌐 1.274950, 103.844423
Nearest MRT station: Tanjong Pagar
Tel: +65 6834 4174
Hours: 10:00am - 10:00pm (Sun closed)
Date visited: 21 May 2019