I've resisted going to Coriander Leaf for a long time now, and if you're a regular reader, you'd know why.
For the uninitiated, I absolutely detest coriander leaves. I hate hate hate it. So notwithstanding the illustrious accolades, or the restaurant being a stalwart of the mod-Sin movement that I love, I have not felt any compulsion to dine there.
Until the other day when we couldn't get a table at El Mero Mero, and saw that Coriander Leaf was just above the cantina. And so, we hopped upstairs and into the restaurant; we figured there would be at least a couple of edible dishes we could ask to hold off the parsley/coriander leaves/cilantro.
It's the biggest irony of the year: me loving the food at a restaurant named 'Coriander Leaf'. Who'd have thought, right?? But WOWZA, Coriander Leaf was truly outstanding. Absolutely incredible. Every dish was finessed with aplomb and flavours were fused harmoniously. Service was stellar as well; we were seated at the chef's table, so in addition to having front-of-house seats to the theatrics of the open kitchen, we were engaged by the affable chefs who somehow juggled conversation through the frenzy of the kitchen.
The Salt & Pepper Squid ($14) was one hell of an addictive nibbler. Like Pringles, you can't stop at one. The batter was thin and crisp, the squid was springy yet soft to the bite, and the seasoning was sprinkled evenly.
The Soft Shelled Crab ($18), deep fried to a delectable crunch, was slathered in a creamy salted duck egg sauce that's all the rage now, and speckled with batter bits for added texture and fried curry leaves for a subtle heat.
The Steamed Seabass Fillet ($24) was technically flawless: the fish was luscious and plump, bathed in an exquisite broth spiked with chilli padi slivers, lime, palm sugar, charred onions, and a spicy relish. This was surprisingly piquant, almost sour, and I would have preferred a more savoury tilt to this. The Hubs slurped every last drop up anyway.
Samia's Signature, the tongue-numbingly spicy Frontier Chicken ($20) was flush with chilli paste and coriander seeds, and lifted with refreshing notes of peppery arugula, lemon and yoghurt cream. This was painfully delicious, I was sniffling through this, watery eyes, runny nose and all. The chilli padi-eating Hubs loved this, and because I'm a little masochistic, I loved it too.
A seasonal special, the Sambal Udang Nanas ($18) of fat succulent tiger prawns fried in a pineapple sambal, was fantastic. Bold, punchy, robust.
The wonderfully fluffy Plain Naan ($3) boasted heady smoky notes of the tandoor.
Coriander Leaf Restaurant
30 Victoria Street
Tel: 6837 0142
Open weekdays from 12noon to 3pm for lunch; 6pm to 11pm for dinner;
Saturdays from 6pm to 11pm for dinner;
Closed on Sundays