September 3, 2015

Local F&B industry veterans Indra Kantono and Gan Guoyi are at it again – creating a stir, this time round with a Seattle-style seafood establishment that comes with its own craft cocktail bar, where the latter serves white spirits-based cocktails, wine and craft beer. Named after the whale, Humpback will be defined by pure terroir food anchored by crisp oysters delivered from farm to table.


The Concept

It all started with one trip to the Hama Hama oyster farm in the Pacific Northwest. With their hands dipped in the coldest estuary in the region, Indra Kantono and his wife, Gan Guoyi, shucked live oysters while still standing waist-deep in the water, and eating them fresh there and then during one of their holidays. This extraordinary experience was so deeply ingrained in them it spawned the idea for another new project – Humpback. On arrival at Humpback, diners are welcomed by buckets of oysters standing at the sensually curved raw seafood counter, where the organic shaped bar has become the restaurant group’s instantly recognisable trademark. Mollusks coming from the world’s best sources for each specific breed are carefully selected and imported in limited quantity during their harvest seasons. Oysters from the Pacific Northwest, in particular, are known for their clean, crisp, melon-rind flavour with low salinity due to the pure glacier water that travels downstream from the mountains – a match is made in heaven when these oysters are paired with the white spirits-based cocktails that Humpback has crafted. As with its predecessors, Jigger & Pony and Sugarhall, Humpback embraces a friendly philosophy that makes this new neighbourhood restaurant one that seafood-loving troopers would love to come back to – especially with such accessible tags ranging from $10++ to $25++ for each plate. Oysters on the half shell are available for $6++ each, with Happy Hour promotion from 5-7pm, Monday to Saturday, at just $2++ to $3++ each, depending on type.

The Vibes

Bukit Pasoh Road sits on the edge of a charming neighbourhood renowned for its eclectic juxtaposition of the old and new, from Chinese cultural and heritage associations to contemporary cafes, restaurants, spas, creative agencies and one of Singapore’s favourite boutique hotels, New Majestic. These make it the perfect address for Humpback. With a bit of an indie spirit, Humpback is tucked in a street-facing shophouse on the quietly chic side of the community, pushing the F&B game to a whole new level simply with its artisanal food offerings. Pared down with white-tiled walls, the small-plate seafood joint is enlivened by light hues, high tables and an easy, laidback atmosphere set up by familiar 80s’ to 90s’rock music. The 40-seater has a bustling scene that encourages diners to just roll up their sleeves as they savour the freshest seafood produce from all around the globe at accessible prices.


Fresh Pickings from both Sea and Land

The seafood selection at Humpback will be kept small, but ever-changing, so only the freshest will be purveyed. Besides dishing out sensuous raw produce from the sea, the restaurant focuses on an artisanal menu created by the group’s Executive Chef Polo Seah. The Seafood section, in particular, is designed to celebrate seafood with inventive preparations. While there may be all-time favourites such as black cod, mussels and calamari, the twists lie in how mussels for instance, are served with pork belly; and how hamachi ceviche is cleverly lifted with just a touch of yuzu. Those who want more than just seafood will also have additional options in the sections of Garden, Pantry (gourmet light bites) and Meat – so everyone will be happy to have a splash at Humpback. Anything but ordinary, the Garden and Pantry selections are gems in themselves. From the Garden blossoms dishes such as a beetroot carpaccio with curd, citrus and a crunch from pine nuts; and from the Pantry, a seemingly random assembly of carrots with creamy Tahini yoghurt and a dash of cumin salt simply makes magic in the mouth.

Drinking It All Up

A specially curated programme of 12 signature cocktails, all white spirits-based, elevates the dining experience of seafood and refreshingly flavoured creations. Those who still miss their glass of white with their trout and oysters can choose from a handpicked selection of 20 white wine, champagne and sparkling that make the greatest hits when paired with these food. These are all thanks to the team at the bar headlined by the group’s Bar Programme Director, Aki Eguchi, and Senior Bartender, Long Yishu, who was part of the founding team of Sugarhall, as well as the latest addition to the company, Associate Manager, Tron Young.