Just a stone's throw away from my office is Maggie Joan's, an exclusive bespoke dining spot that probably only those F&B insiders or those actively tuned into any latest food news (be it on social media or printed Mags) would have heard of. It's tucked behind the alleyways of Telok Ayer Street, with a wooden, nondescript entrance leading to a dark, edgy dining area--very much like passing through the walls into another world in Harry Potter's fiction.
Maggie Joan's is named after the two grandmothers of co-owner. Even though it's said to be the elegant, refined copy of its sister restaurant Moosehead, the righteous Mediterranean-inflected lunch menu which had just recently expanded, feel just as comfortable as ever--from the start right to the end.
The complemtary Homemade Sourdough made a dignified arrival with Smoked Beef Fat. Yes, not butter (or even Echire butter) but something that fare even better in terms of taste and worse in terms of calories. But you won't even have a chance to grab an extra slice even if you want because the dish will vanish in seconds.
The small platter of Cheese Arachini ($9) tasted just like a flavorful plate of risotto redolent with the umami from the four cheese--gorgozonla, langres, epoisse, ricotta)--except that they came with a crispy Panko coating, a touch of truffle oil and some sweet tomato chutney. It's a dish I would love to replicate at home and share with the family.
Being a fan of chickpeas, I swooned at the sight of the Gypsy-style Baked Eggs ($16-see top pic) that was served in a nice cocotte with some milk bread. Beneath the bubbling surface of red and white was a pool of comforting Spanish-inspired chickpea stews that made even better with savoury Iberico chorizos. Packed with so many amazing layers of flavors, this is one dish that spoke to the heart and soul--like those churned from nonna's kitchen.
Quoting what my table partner has said, this plate of Cured Salmon ($17) will be suited for an eat-clean Monday lunch. Indeed, the shallots, chives, dills and Greek yoghurt brought vitality to the tender chunks of salmon which have been cured with salt, sugar, lime and coriander. The taste is clean and sharp; not overly salty like smoked salmon nor absorbed in heavy soy sauce like Japanese rice bowls. Cucumbers and sourdough croutons added that necessary crunch without stealing the limelight away from the salmon.
But I think my eat-clean plan will fail because the Hand-cut chips ($9) are too difficult to pass up. I always thought I only like crunchy chips until I encountered these rather mushy fries here. Being steamed, blanched in oil at 140 degrees and deep-fried at 220 degrees, those Sebago potato wedges were merely seasoned with rosemary, sherry vinegar and Maldon salt yet they were so moreish and comforting to eat. I think they are good on their own without the creamy ricotta dip.
If you are feeling gluttonous, there's a Fried Chicken Sandwich with green Harissa coleslaw, pecornio cheese all encased in a Middle Eastern-style Joujou bread ($18). I loved the texture of the bread which comes close in between a pita and panini. Make sure to squirt every drip of the burnt lime for that perky juiciness when you sink your teeth through the bun. As tender as it is, I prefer if the Panko-crumb coated chicken was crispier.
Of all kinds of pasta, a pappardelle--flat pasta sheets that are wider than fettuccini--is usually the first to be crossed out of the menu. Especially when it's pair with hearty meat sauces. But for this rustic plate of House Made Pappardelle with Lamb Ragu ($26). I am happily proven wrong by its delicious and uncomplicated taste. The NZ lamb shoulder was braised till fork tender and eliminated of any gameyness, with a surprising pop of flavor from the rosemary and Parmiaggiano Regganio.
We capped off the meal with the dessert of the day ($10), which happened to be a silky 65% chocolate ganache riding on top a thin-lining of salty peanut paste. Served with tangy Creme fraiche, this dessert looks deceivingly simple but tastes mind-blowingly good. Earnest yet elegant treat that won't cost you a sugar coma after the meal.
Upholding the stance on good food and social bonding, this place is truly provides the ideal temporary lunch escapade away from the crowds. For an average spending of $20-30 for lunch here, this will be my to-go place if I am looking for an occasion lunch treat with colleagues without having to spend a bomb at typical executive set lunches that can set one above $50.
My only complaint is that this comfortable settings encourages linger and I will have to drag my feets reluctantly back to work.
Maggie Joan's Dining & Bar
110 Amoy Street #01-01 (Entrance from Genmill Lane)
Closed on Sundays