“Just google my name and you will find out more about me,” jested the very amicable Chef Benson Tong. So googled him I did. Chef Benson Tong has come a long way from his early days as a hawker selling Cantonese fare 8 years ago and had a lot going on for him these days.
A multi-hyphenate and self-taught award-winning chef, Chef Benson Tong was a Singapore submarine engineer turned chef, a Hawker centre celebrity, then to a award-winning modernist chef and a F&B consultant (Dragon & Dog Dining Consultancy) for many start-ups, cafes and restaurants. As a F&B consultant, he worked in a team to help revamp their menu and revive ailing restaurants.
Chef Benson also does private dining events with service staff in tow in the comfort of your own home and has even cooked for the rich and famous in these private functions!
The contemporary décor dressed in relaxing shades of white and grey tones and classy paintings sets the perfect stage for a gastronomical journey with Restaurant Sela. Chef Benson’s specialty is in fusing European and Asian cuisines and striking the perfect balance between the two, creating dishes that not only nourish the body but a delightful treat to feast upon.
Recently, I attended a foodie Migup event at Restaurant Sela owned by Chef Benson and organised by Migme. Migme is a social entertainment company with a highly engaging and profitable microblogging platform with over 9 million monthly active users in the world. Restaurant Sela had been recently bought over by Chef Benson Tong for barely less than a month and he had overhauled the menu and operations to curate an exquisite menu using premium ingredients that showcase the essence of Asian cooking with a European twist.
Under his leadership, Restaurant Sela has been awarded the New Restaurant of the Year 2015 by The World Gourmet Summit and Wine & Dine Singapore Top Restaurant 2015.
Procuitto Ham & Melon, $16. The procuitto ham, compressed rock melon, wild rocket and pickled beetroot in balsamic gel were a great start to the dinner and the beginning of great conversations. Chef Benson mentioned that they actually brought the whole leg of ham and sliced it themselves. He also explained that by compressing the melons (yes, you can compressed both fruits and vegetables), the juices and flavours would be more intense and concentrated.
By soaking the beetroot in red wine, it helped to remove the earthy flavour of beetroot which is akin to eating soil. I can definitely experience first hand the details and passion that Chef Benson and his team had put into creating every dish. I could hardly believe that Chef Benson did not go through any formal culinary training.
Pan seared US scallops, $16. Pan seared scallops lying on a bed of Forbidden rice (Pulut Hitam) with salted egg cream, yellow frisee and red radish were just heavenly. I asked Chef Benson “What is forbidden rice?” He explained that the Pulut Hitam (black glutinous rice) is purple and there is a “purple” in the Chinese characters of the Forbidden City (紫禁城) in Beijing, hence he coined the name “forbidden rice”!
I love it that the red radish lends a crunch and contrasting taste to the soft and succulent scallops. The salted egg cream was also very mild so as not to overpower the taste of the main star of the dish – the scallops. Chef Benson reiterated that care was taken to balance the delicate fusion flavours of these East meets West dishes.
Miso Chilean Sea bass, $32. Sea bass with confit shimeji mushrooms, crispy leek, arugula in a lemon dashi broth. The sea bass contains a lot of good fats and omega-3 and even if it was overcooked, the flesh does not become hard. I love the firm, chewy texture of the sea bass in the lightly salty and zesty lemon dashi sauce.
Kakuni Style Pork Cheek, $20. Chef Benson informed us that the pork cheeks were imported from Spain as pork cheeks were hard to source locally. The pork cheeks were braised and simmered for over 6 hours to become fork-tender flesh and were so utterly tantalizing!
Tip: Chef Benson shared with us that if you cook the pork cheeks in BEEF FATS, it will taste like beef cheeks and most people would not be able to tell the difference!
Semolina Cake, $12. The semolina cake with torched meringue was served with passion fruit coulis and passion fruit curd. The texture of the cake was rather lumpy and granular and was not my favourite dessert of the evening.
Dehydated pineapple Pavlova, $10. This decadent dessert consisted of charred pineapple, vanilla ice cream, thyme, spicy paprika and salted caramel all contained in a lovely meringue cake with crisp crust on the outside and sweet and marshmallowy-soft centre on the inside.
Good food is like a piece of good art piece to be enjoyed and appreciated. It was a lovely evening sharing culinary experiences with Chef Benson. But the night does not end there for him. He is off to Curious Palette (a sister café of Strangers’ Reunion) at Prinsep Street to help improve their menu as he is their F&B consultant.
For the entire month of August, if you dine and snap a photo of your food in Restaurant Sela and upload the photo in Instagram (remember to hashtag #RestaurantSela and tag them), you may just win a private dining experience with Chef Benson in the comfort of your own home worth $500!
Do also join me on my food tasting experience and journey on Instagram @vetleow!
32 Seah Street Singapore 188388 (Next to Mint Museum of Toys)
Phone : (65) 6337 6358
Email : [email protected]