Off the Menu
Helmed by owners, Patrick and Ava Zhang (not related, they stressed), Azhang recently moved from its previous abode at Joo Chiat Road to its present location amidst a row of cafes and restaurants now occupying the sites of the pub-haunts of not too many moons ago.
When hubby and I first chanced upon this place last weekend, we saw the menu comprising an assortment of grilled/roast meats, soup, salads and some local dishes, and were decidedly unimpressed. Luckily for us, a family of four had ordered a rack of roast lamb ribs and it looked and smelled very edible indeed. Scanned the one-sheet menu and couldn't find anything listed as roast lamb ribs, enquired with the hostess and discovered that from time to time, Azhang dishes out 'off the menu' items, depending on the chef's 'inspiration' and the requests of regulars.
Having decided to brave the roast lamb ribs, we were told that it would take awhile to be served as there was only one cook (Patrick himself) in the kitchen. To still the growing hunger pangs, we ordered a small crock of the homemade chicken liver pate together with a small basket of home-baked focaccia bread. Just look at that wonderful texture of pate and bread.. hubby was not much of a liver person (his loss), and the whole crock of pate ended up at my corner and was soon totally wiped clean. Hubby, in the meantime, was quite happy dipping the fresh focaccia slices in olive oil with a few drops of balsamic vinegar.
Finally, the roast lamb ribs arrived, crispy on the outside (we understand that they were roasted over lava stones), succulent tender meat within, well-flavored and just the right touch of honey probably either drizzled or basted on during the last part of the roast. Obviously, we didn't bother with the knives and forks - the dish called for finger-licking techniques.
Besides the lamb ribs, I had the pumpkin soup which was thick and very hearty soup while hubby ordered the beef curry. Although the curry had no coconut milk, it definitely did not lack flavors and the strong spices melded very well together. A word of warning, this dish is subtlely SPICY - it does not hit you immediately but halfway thru' the dish, you suddenly realize that your nose is sniffing and your hand is reaching out for relief in that glass of cold water. And oh, did I mention that the beef shin used in this curry has been cooked until it is so tender that Azhang didn't even bother to serve this with a knife or fork - just a lone spoon, that's all the cutlery you need.
Told my lunch kakis about my weekend meal at Azhang, and a few days later, we had reserved a table for dinner and upon enquiry of his 'off-the-menu' item for that evening, agreed to try out Patrick's Moroccan paella.
The saffron-flavored rice came in a huge WMF shallow pan, with a variety of seafood (mussels, squids, prawns and fish) and chicken meat, dotted here and there with bell peppers and sliced chilli. Slightly spicy, it was delicious gaining a special flavor from the burnt rice-crust (the socarrat) at the bottom of the pan (an absolute must for paella).
To accompany this dish, we had a platter of sweet potatoes cooked with sweet potato leaves. A most unusual platter, it had hints of Peranakan cuisine with the addition of chopped dried prawns (hae bi) and spices. Quite quite yummy too!
My company of 5 also ordered desserts, a chocolate pudding (which is almost like crumbled rich chocolate cake drizzled with chocolate sauce and topped with cream) and a tangy sorbet... but my apologies for the absence of pics - by this time, with the amount of carbohydrates consumed, the mind had kinda gone into "non-alert" mode!
If you have the time to spare (after all, 1 cook in the kitchen may sometimes mean a leisurely wait with a glass of wine in hand and do ensure you have an amiable dining companion), do give Azhang's dishes (both on or off the menu) a try, and after dinner, go ahead and have a chin-wag with Patrick and Ava, a couple of friendly hosts.
6 Mohamed Sultan Road, Singapore