Meta has been on my to-eat list ever since it opened back in early 2016. Early reviews had pegged it as "the restaurant" to watch, and sure enough, the intrepid little restaurant garnered a Michelin star the following year. Which then made the tiny galley of a restaurant extra difficult to get into. So it was serendipitous that we ended up at Meta over the weekend.
We'd just finished at the gym late in the evening, and were running down my to-eat list for last-minute reservations. It was 8.30pm on a Saturday, and we'd initially been informed they were booked out for the night. But then, we got an SMS update that a table had suddenly opened up. "But it's the table right in front of the door" they pre-warned when we called them back, "not the bar stools in front of the open kitchen". Obviously, we were fine with that.
Ermagawd, Meta Restaurant was well worth the wait. Easily one of our best meals of 2018 to date, it was cool with nary a whiff of pretension. The crowd was hip and stylish but not painfully so. Service was upbeat, interactive and knowledgeable. And dinner was sublimely inspired; the unexpected melding of flavours was just brilliant. I suppose, if I had to describe Meta's food, it'll be effortlessly inventive.
Note that Meta offers only set dinners, and a 7-course ($158), with complimentary amuse-bouche nibblers here and there, was, I thought, decidedly value-for-money.
We were first served a quartet of snacks, starting with the Beef Tartare flecked with black garlic, which umami bomb underscored the fullness of the body of the red meat.
Next up was a Sago Chip laden with octopus dice, ikura, colourful seaweed, and a light aioli. Intense, contrasting flavours and textures, all wonderully balanced.
The richness of the Foie Gras Tart was countered with a beetroot relish, burdock root and fragrant chrysanthemum petals.
The last of the snacks was a baby bottom-smooth Chawanmushi speckled with sweet Spanish prawns, toasty prawn oil and fresh dill.
The first course was a Japanese Madai, apparently a variety of snapper, served cerviche-style with basil oil, yuzu-infused cherry tomatoes, avocado cream. Clean piquant flavours abounded the chilly dish.
The Hamaguri Clam, with fennel cream, dill oil and chives, was a half-and-half, strictly as a matter of preference. I'm not crazy about clams in general and this was no different. But I loved the treatment of the scallop, deconstructed into some kind of silky blanket, it was pure genius.
This was followed by a flawless Pan Seared Coral Trout, which paper-crisp skin was pure perfection. Charred broccolini and white asparagus lent crunch, while a velvety yuzu sabayon lent flavour.
The Deep Fried Quail's Leg, which looked like it was meant for Lilliputians, was paired with the quail course. I don't usually eat fried foods but this was juicy and scrumptious.
The Oolong-Smoked Quail Breast, aromatic and succulent, was set atop celeriac puree, portobello cream, quail jus, and crowned with wilted baby spinach and edible petals.
The Beef Short Ribs, slow-cooked for 48 hours for a plastic-fork tender softness, was sumptuous. Char grilled pearl onions, earthy shitake puree, a tuscan kale chip, and horseradish rounded this smashing construction.
The first of two desserts, a White Vinegar Compressed Peach, zesty and refreshing, was harmonized with Sicilian blood orange, fromage blanc, and orange dust. This was exactly what we needed to cleanse our palates after the heavy opulence of the beef course.
The Poached Strawberry, green tea crumble, pistachio nougat, lemon sponge, vanilla ice-cream, and pistachios, was a contemporary rendition of classic, comforting flavours.
Just when we were about to waddle out of the restaurant, a complimentary platter of petit fours landed on our table, with miniature Chocolate Mushroom Macarons and Chocolate Banana Financier. Yummy.
9 Keong Siak Road
Tel: 6513 0898
Open Mondays & Saturdays from 5.30pm to 11pm for dinner only;
Tuesdays to Fridays from 11.30am to 2.30pm for lunch; 5.30pm to 11pm for dinner;
Closed on Sundays