12 April 2022
By Alfieyah Abdullah
House On The Moon (HOTM) is a dessert-dining bar housed within the refurbished GR.iD mall – formerly POMO – at Selegie Road. The unique concept is the brainchild of multi-Michelin chef Juan Amador, his protégé Hüseyin Turan, David Marx (The Science Kitchen Berlin), and restauranteur Lim Tai Toon. The concept debut in Colombo in 2018, following which it launched its first international flagship at Singapore’s Great World Mall in 2020.
Why ‘House On the Moon’? Chef Turan’s humour is as tongue-in-cheek as the food is: “The only place surrounded by (Michelin) stars should be a house on the moon.” Although the restaurant is not literally situated on the moon, it has settled comfortably among the vibrant youth culture and prominent artistic expression.
Diners can choose between the eight-course Full Moon (S$68) or five-course Eclipse ($38) menu per person. Drink pairings can be added on to each menu and start from S$22.
The Full Moon menu began with a duo of ‘Snacks of the Day’. I was treated to a Crunchy Pillow with Guacamole, and a Tuna Ceviche with Honey Mustard and Horseradish. On the side, I also had Sourdough bread with a slice of sundried tomatoes accompanied with a slab of Mediterranean herb compound butter.
Albeit its tiny nature, the duo of snacks was vibrant in flavour and truly opened my palette in preparation for the upcoming courses. As I slowly savoured the flavours pinging on my tongue, the chefs efficiently and delicately pieced together the next dish right under my nose.
As there were two of us – my partner and I – Chef Turan recommended we explore different routes with the menu to really enjoy the full experience. My partner chose savoury, whilst I opted for sweet. It seemed such a simple decision to make, but we weren’t prepared for the different paths our palettes were about to take.
SAME, BUT DIFFERENT
Our second course, the Cauliflower Couscous – cauliflower in couscous and panna cotta form, with a drizzle of coriander oil, sourdough crisp and cold tangerine sorbet – involved the chefs gingerly picking out the best micro-herbs to garnish the dish to ensure just the right quantity for balance.
At Chef Turan’s suggestion, my partner opted for a replacement of scallops as a substitute for the tangerine sorbet. Upon service, both dishes looked identical. The first look tells your mind that both of you are eating the exact same dish, yet the minute you have the first bite, it becomes two different experiences altogether. My husband’s dish was distinctively savoury, despite most of the elements remaining the same. On the other hand, my Cauliflower Couscous was punchy in its citrus flavour, and had an entirely contrasting mouthfeel. I could feel my brows furrowing and my mind going “Wait, I’m confused,” more times than it ever did in a Computer Science module I had in university.
THE DISH TO DISSECT
Before we even had time to recover from the mind-blowing concept of the Cauliflower Couscous, another beautifully plated “dessert” joined us at the table. Shallot Curd, a creation of pumpernickel, hazelnut, and tarragon resembles a perfect quenelle of ice-cream in a dessert course. Hazelnuts are featured in several forms: hazelnut foam, pudding, and on its own, dusted in gold.
Eating each element on its own, the flavour of the pumpernickel quenelle is barely there with the other individual elements out shadowing it. However, dig your spoon into the dish, enjoy it in its entirety and the pumpernickel becomes the main focus of the dish itself, adding a prominent sour note. Although the idea of bread ice-cream is enough to throw the regular person off, the Shallot Curd “dessert” resembled a sandwich of pumpernickel bread with a hazelnut and herb butter.
It was beautifully washed down with a comforting glass of Umami Booster, made with shitake mushrooms, sesame, and a hint of ginger. The consistency was closer to a clear consommé, yet the richness aligned more with a cream-based broth. The essence of the shitake was so carefully extracted that it felt as if you had an entire mushroom dish instead of a shot glass of mushroom. For one of the smaller dishes, it was quite a satisfying course and we both started to feel quite full.
MEAT BEFORE SOUP?
One of the highlights of the night was the Spiced Semolina Dumpling. Diners can also opt for a richer and more satisfying course with the addition of beef cheeks. Flavours of ras-el-hanout permeate both the dumpling’s crispy breading and the beef cheeks.
The light dumplings sit on perfectly diced mango and are paired with passionfruit and coconut cream. I enjoyed the sweetness of the mango against the nuances of spice with the ras-el-hanout, which is then rounded off by the creaminess of coconut cream. The entire dish is balanced with the passionfruit which cuts through the richness of the dish and adds a welcome punch of citrus flavour.
Finishing the meal off with a dessert seemed a little out of place for me, especially since I felt as if I had only eaten dessert throughout the entire meal. I chose HOTM’s signature Blue Moon, whilst my husband decided for the sweeter option of Black Forest; a deconstructed version of the original 17th Century iconic German dessert.
Unbeknownst to me, the Blue Moon featured carrots; a vegetable I’ve despised since I was a child. I’ve heard that you can draw out the natural sweetness of a carrot by cooking it with the right technique, but the dessert was surrounded by carrots in all kinds of forms: dehydrated carrots, pureed and juiced.
The abundance of carrot elements was supplemented with a sour cream ice-cream and coriander oil for the extra tang and saltiness. I procrastinated, swirling my spoon around. In the time it took for me to consume Blue Moon, my sour cream ice-cream had already melted. Stirring it around even more, it finally hit me. The Blue Moon dessert was carrot soup.
Think of it this way: pureed carrots, finished with cream. It is exactly what it was once my ice-cream had made its way into the “soup base”. Slowly, the slight spice in the bare juiced carrot was toned down by the creaminess of the sour cream ice-cream. I finished the plate. It was ingenious.
The thought that went into turning a vegetable into a dessert, coupled with thinking about how we refuse to eat our ice-creams after it has turned to soup, made me look at carrots in a new light. I finally understood the madness.
HOTM is truly a universe on its own. It is a culinary journey for those who dare to be adventurous, for the curious, and for anyone who enjoys picking apart elements in their food. Although they do have a regular dessert delivery menu with tarts, it is truly all about the experience, and an appreciation of cooking as an art form with its dessert-dinner menu.
Images: House on The Moon (HOTM)