Its odd that a seafood lover like myself first chanced upon Bastian’s offerings because of a post on a chicken dish, not a seafood one. But yes, that lovely plate of fried chicken and mantou buns on my Instagram feed led me to their page- which to my joy, was bursting at the seams with colour, chaos and comforting crab mains galore.
While I regret taking close to a year to get here despite drooling over their menu more than a normal person should, I’m beyond glad we paid them a visit this weekend. Because our meal there, be it the service or the food was…
Brill-iant. Fin-tastic. Sea-riously good. I do not squid.
I hope I made my point, even if marred slightly by my questionable skills at delivering puns. I just couldn’t miss the…oppor-tuna-ty.
Named after the Rastafarian Composer/Crab from The Little Mermaid, Bastian is more than a restaurant that just does good seafood. During the course of my meal there, the quality that stood out most to me in their cooking was respect. Undiluted, unyielding respect for the produce being used and a sincere, marked effort in conceiving dishes that best showcase them.
And so, even if the all their dishes don’t espouse tenets from one particular cuisine or style of cooking, the running theme is an attempt to offer a flavour profile that best helps the main ingredient in each dish shine. What you get as a result is bold, unapologetic plates of food that score high on flavour and fulfilment.
It is no wonder Chef Kelvin Cheung is called the Willy Wonka of Comfort Food in these parts.
Our little pentad of hunger-driven friends set out to sample their famed Sunday Brunch over the weekend. And this is what we tried:
Animal Style Prawns:
Burger chain In-N-Out’s animal sauce (think: a zesty thousand island with caramelised onions) has reached near cult status in West Coast USA, and Bastian’s take on it is just as commendable, if not better. The batter fried tiger prawns were large enough to make any seafood-loving heart grin with happiness and the sauce was a lovely confluence of sour, creamy and spicy with sweet bits of candied nuts and a fresh crunch from the scallion.
Truffle Fries with Parmesan and Scallions
Having sampled this last week at One Street Over (helmed by the same chef duo that manages Bastian), we couldn’t help but order it again. And unsurprisingly, it delivered- with bursts of savoury goodness in every crunchy bite and a lingering hint of umami from the truffle. Addictive in every sense of the term.
A Japanese-Hawaiian inspired raw tuna salad, all I needed was one mouthful to know my desperate hunt for authentic poke in this city was finally done. The tuna- beautifully marinated with a satisfyingly smooth mouthfeel and the marinade was perfectly balanced, with sweetness from the onion and a salty kick from the soy. The bits of fresh avocado and cucumber mixed in added creaminess and a refreshing break to the palate. I would have loved for a extra mound of wafer-thin rice crackers to mop up every last bit, but that may just be my greed talking.
Avocado Burrata Toast
What really stood out for us here was the bread. Yes, the burrata was fresh and creamy as expected and the avocado was a buttery, mesmerising green but the gluten free bread underneath had an earthy sweetness that made for an interesting mix of flavours and left you wanting another bite. The assortment of mushrooms were a thoughtful addition of texture to an otherwise simple dish, and we finished every last bit.
Paprika deshelled Lobster on Brioche
The lobster in this dish has been treated with reverence, the hearty chunks perfectly cooked while retaining a fresh seafood-y sweetness within. The paprika emulsion was comfort in a bowl- soupy, tangy and wonderfully savoury. And the dish had us all retire into silence while we fished out lobster and buttery, soaked bread much to the delight of our fairly taxed but greedy tastebuds.
This monstrosity on the plate was stuffed to the brim with chunks of stir fried tofu, fresh avocado, a good mix of cheeses and refried beans encased in a crispy toasted tortilla wrap. Even though she wasn’t able to finish it entirely, our sole vegetarian friend looked suitably satisfied as she dug in for more through the meal.
The miscellany of textures and flavours in this sandwich is borderline excessive. But the star was without a shred of doubt the bed of soft suckling pig made in-house every Sunday with a layer of crispy lechon (a filipino pork belly dish) atop. As I savoured it, the phrase “two is better than one” played repeatedly in my head- even if it doesn’t hold true everywhere else, pork two ways is definitely better than one.
The Big Bird
This review feels like its come a full circle, at least in the irony department. As crazy as it seemed that Bastian first caught my attention for a chicken main, it is even crazier that this chicken main ended up being my favourite, despite all the love from the sea our table was showered with through the course of our meal. At the outset, condensed milk, bread, chicken, hot sauce and pickles as a combination sounds questionable but I would be lying if I said it wasn’t an explosion of flavour on the palate.
All the looks of doubt were instantly replaced with those of wonder as the first bite revealed a shockingly good medley of vinegary spice from the hot sauce, tang from the pickles, savoury meatiness from the hunks of chicken katsu ensconced in a crispy yet pillowy vehicle of fried mantou bread.
And that condensed milk glaze drizzled on top was sheer perfection in all its glory. We happily got sweet, sticky bits of it all over our fingers and faces and the joy of devouring this monster is incomparable to anything I’ve had the last 23 years.
Matcha French Toast
I cannot find another dish that describes the term “decadence” better. Almost reminiscent of a revamped Taiwanese Honey Toast, the thick slice of toast was soft and buttery with a lovely crust. The liquid matcha cheesecake within was aromatic and sin in every spoonful and I could quite honestly have the delicious little milk crumbs strewn on top as a meal by itself. A befitting end to a lovely brunch.
The cocktails took a backseat because of the exemplary food, but they were a well executed bunch too. The Sparkling Ruby was a pleasing melange of bubbly Chandon Brut, herby rosemary and tangy grapefruit. The Menning Mimosa was simple but flavourful with distinct notes of citrus-y orange. But the Mango Margarita stood out for its lovely marriage of camino, lime and creamy mango. A real treat!
All in all, Bastian proved its merit dish after dish, emerging a veritable bastion (well, at least in our minds) of lip-smackingly good comfort food amongst its peers and their unique brand of cooking is sprinkled liberally with both, elegance and aplomb.
Mr. Cheung, you’re quite possibly the ONLY chef I trust enough to order blindly and I hope to return for well, pretty much anything you’d serve me from your stellar menu.