The Masses’ new menu still impresses
Chef Dylan Ong is a restless man. The Masses opened in 2016, and we are into his 10th menu change.
This is good news for those of us who are equally fickle and restless, as the constant updates keep diners on their toes.
His latest adjustment coincides with the Beach Road restaurant's physical revamp. The kitsch factor is out, replaced by a sedate and less frenzied decor.
And like the look, the food has grown up too.
The Franco-Asian approach is still there, as are the wallet-friendly prices, but there is a maturity that is comforting in these troubled times.
A few dishes I loved from the previous menus remain, like the lamb char siew and cauliflower, but there are new items from this latest seasonal menu that impress, and a lot of them involve sauces.
Visually, the French onion veloute ($15.90) is stunning.
As the creamy liquid flows down the plate of morel mushroom and a bright yellow yolk, it is like performance art.
But it is more than just pretty.
The onions are steamed and cooked in milk for a smoother finish, and it has a subtle, alluring sweetness.
The threadfin ($23.90) comes with three different sauces, which feels like it is trying too hard. But it eventually melds to become a delicious master sauce.
There is a bergamot gel, XO sauce and anchovy-chicken eggless mayonnaise.
Just typing it gives me a headache.
But once you taste it, it seems as if it could cure all.
The savoury taste with a hint of earthiness and delicate sweet flesh of the fish make it special.
On the other hand, the abalone ($17.90) appeared so plain that I was surprised when I tasted how robust the sauce was.
The chicken consomme is drizzled with chive sauce, and while it looks tepid, it has a fullness that almost overshadows everything else.
Luckily, that was not the case.
Another winner is the Maine lobster (from $39.90), which tastes great and looks amazing.
Again, the sauce takes centre stage.
It is a shellfish cream, with cognac and tomato paste, and it goes down smoothly.
Toppings such as cuttlefish, braised leek and fermented black beans add to the dish too.
Of the new offerings, I find the pork jowl pithivier ($15.90) the least successful.
While the pork has the same marinade as the lamb char siew, somehow the magic isn't there.
The puff pastry feels dense, while the pork jowl with savoy cabbage and smoked bacon doesn't manage to compensate.
It is hardly a case of this being a bad dish, because it isn't. But against so many winners, this pales.
I don't know what the next incarnation of The Masses will be, but it's fun guessing. In the meantime, enjoy menu No. 10 quickly as it will be gone in a few months.
85 Beach Road #01-02
Tel: 6266-0061; Opens noon to 3pm, 6pm to 9.30pm daily