Ms Skinnyfat

A Food & Travel Blog from Singapore

South-East Asian reinvented at Botanico and Bee's Knees

By Saturday, December 12, 2020 , , , , ,

South East Asian cuisine is often thought of as cheap street eats but at Botanico and Bee's Knees, the talented young Head Chef Sujatha Asokan elevates comforting familiar flavors into finessed plates that explores history and heritage. The 2018 World Gourmet Summit Female Rising Chef of the Year isn’t afraid to feed diners the pungent fermented prawn paste (hae gor) or sneak in some beef tongue in the tacos but trust me, you’ll eat anything she puts on your plate. 
We started at the casual Bee's Knees at level one with some cocktails and bites. You'd regret not getting the Spicy Duck Loaded Fries ($17) with golden thick-cut fries generously loaded with handfuls of smoked duck chunks and liberally drizzled with mayonnaise, mozzarella and a zingy Sriracha cream. The messy rich, umami heat is best paired with an ice cold beer.
Chef Sue also put a SEA spin on her New York-style fiery Shrimp Pizza ($30). The pie is made in-house and stretched a la minute, and has a slightly chewy texture and crispy bottom. This wicked one is made with a squid ink garlic aioli base, topped with tiger prawns, mozzarella and Parmesan, then finished with a special spicy chili dressing made with palm sugar, chilli, garlic and lime juice, and coriander. Man it was addictive though I warn that the flavors are gonna stick around the whole night. 
Check out the Beef Tongue Tacos ($18), a Vietnamese version served on baby bok choy boats with jicama slaw and cashew cream. 
Now now, this Australian beef tongue is brined for 48h and sous vide for another 18 to give it that super soft texture. It's grilled in the Inka charcoal oven before served. I loved the tanginess of the jicama slaw which composed of pickled bokchoy, ginger flower and lemongrass, and toasted rice powder. Super fresh flavors in this one. 
Waste not time in popping the Curry Corn Pani Puri ($10) into your mouth so that they stay crunchy. These crispy pillow puffs are filled with a curried Japanese corn espuma spiced with French Vadouvan which hides the pieces of baby corn at the bottom of it. You wouldn't be faulted for thinking that it tastes a little like curry Twisties. Childhood favorites!
The Rojak ($15)- some locals wouldn't think of paying this amount for while foreigners fear its rotting scent), turned out to be a lovely garden of vegetables suited for most palates. Kohlrabi and seasonal SE Asian fruits such as guava, balonglong, rose apple and green papaya are thinly sliced and served with julienned calamansi skin and ginger flower. The dark and stick pungent prawn paste is tamed and made into a foam to make it more approachable but the essence remained. If you're wondering where the heady flavors are coming from, it's from the house-made prawn aioli and the prawn powder sago cracker. Toss everything the usual rojak way and enjoy.
The humble Wing Bean Salad ($15) was inspired from a staff meal and Chef Sue and her team elevated it to illuminate the sophistication of European techniques and the SEA flavors. They even managed to sneak in some sambal belachan into the punchy dressing made of lemongrass, shallots, garlic and ginger, balanced with a lime aioli. What takes the cake is the sea of fried ikan bilis (anchovies) which gave that textural crunch. 
For mains, the "Assam Pedas" Snapper ($32) grilled on banana leaf was a delightful choice. I enjoyed the crispy bits of the firm snapper which has been touched by smoke in the Inka oven. While the saffron risotto may be rich and creamy, the limey tamarind sauce helped to cut through the richness. 
The "Herbal Chicken" ($29) is a dish that Chef Sue only recently started to enjoy during Circuit Breaker this year but boy she makes a good one. The sauce, made with dang gui (angelica), huai shan (Chinese yam), yu zhu (Solomon’s Seal) and red dates, is richly herbal but delicate at the same time. I enjoyed the gentle sweetness which is perfect with the juicy and tender sous vide chicken breast. She even made the chicken "rice" healthier by using couscous. 
For something rich, there's the 65° Kurobuta Pork Belly ($30) featuring a fatty slow cooked square of meat. The house-made soy-vinegar has Szechuan peppercorn and dried chili infused into it to give it that tangy and slightly numbing sensation which helped to balance the fatty meat. Textures of sunchoke break up the gelatinous bite.
I didn't enjoy the Crab Rissoni ($32) as much as i thought i would. A copious amount of Japanese deep-sea red crab and blue swimmer crab framed the Japanese nori risoni and the rice shaped pasta was topped with a comte custard for extra creaminess. Taste wise, i thought the seaweed nori was a little "fishy" and found it hard to take more bites. 
For desserts, i liked how the BGR (Black Glutinous Rice) ($12) wasn't too sweet and it was quite ingenious to make rice mochi cake out of the black rice. Instead of the usual coconut ice cream, a malty toasted rice ice cream was used instead. If you prefer something sweeter, the Ondeh Ondeh ($12) uses a pandan mochi cake and is served with kaya ice cream and drizzled with gula melaka syrup. 
Botanico and Bee's Knees have definitely taken modern SEA cooking to the next level and I found myself surprised at every bite. Plus i don't think i'd get tired of Chef Sue's food because the flavors are well balanced and the variety is simply amazing. The next level of SEA cuisine has arrived in Singapore. 

50 Cluny Park Road 
Singapore Botanic Gardens Singapore 257488 
Botanico: 9831 1106 
Tue- Fri: 6 - 10pm
Weekends: 11am - 3pm, 6 - 10pm
Bee’s Knees: 9815 3213
Daily: 8am - 10pm

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