SPRMRKT Kitchen & Bar’s fundraising dinners in November shines a light on special needs and how you can help
Last year, SPRMRKT Kitchen & Bar rolled out a series of “Dining with a Conscience” dinners in support of filmmaker Mak CK and Buying Happiness, his documentary about orphans in Tanzania. This year, they turn their attention to special needs photographer Isabelle Lim, 23.
Diagnosed with Nager Syndrome, a rare disease that affects one’s face, hands and arms development, Isabelle is deaf and uses sign language to communicate. Despite challenges, she graduated with a Diploma in Fine Arts (Art Photography) from LaSalle last year with the support of the Dare to Dream scholarship, and even held her first solo exhibition ‘See What I See’ at the Enabling Village.
Now she hopes to give back, with the help of SPRMRKT. She will be presenting her photo essay Living with Grace about her grandmother as a silent video at two closed-door fundraising dinners on 23 and 24 November. Her photo essay done in collaboration with her cousin Tham Yin May hopes to make the point that the elderly, just like those with special needs, have every capacity to live with resilience, strength and dignity. The silent video and a particular photo At Ease, will be on display at Here\Now SPRMRKT Daily from 23-30 November, while a six-course dinner menu at $188++ per person will be available to the public at SPRMRKT Kitchen & Bar on 25 and 28-30 Nov. Proceeds will go towards the TODAY Enable Fund, which focuses on enhancing education and skills employment of people with disabilities.
We like the way executive chef Joseph Yeo’s six-course Asian-inspired dinner menu traces Isabelle’s food journey in reverse order, akin to the way you would get to know a person better through the duration of a meal. Chronologically though, it might be better describing the courses from last to first. Because of her condition, Isabelle was tube-fed mostly milk and plain porridge, and could only start eating solid foods from the age of 8. To document this period in her food journey, Chef Yeo prepared a delicious riff of the Peranakan pengat pisang or bananas in a sweet broth. Made up of a crème of banana, coconut cream, coconut milk and gula melaka, topped with caramelised sliced bananas on a lemon crumble base, the ensemble is delicious and full of contrasting textures.
A second dessert, Mocha Sundae, pays tribute to Isabelle’s grandmother’s presence growing up and their many chit chats over a cup of coffee. That inspired chef Yeo to think about NesLo, a local coffeeshop drink made with Nescafe and Milo, and as a complement to it, the idea of multi-coloured ice cream sandwiches sold in ice cream carts. The result is a lovely housemade milo ice cream topped with kopi sauce anglaise sits on a bed of choco pops. And to munch, a rainbow brioche! This is a dish we’d certainly come back for if chef Yeo decides to have it on their regular menu.
For mains, the anchoring dish is Hainanese Chicken Rice Ji Fan, a tribute to chicken rice, a dish that Isabelle tried for the first time when she was in Secondary One and loved. To Isabelle, this was the “best thing on earth” and easily a dish she could have everyday, for the rest of her life. Chef Yeo’s take is a roulade of poached chicken thigh rolled with chicken rice and wrapped with Chinese cabbage. This is matched with a piquant housemade harissa mayonnaise (reminiscent of chicken rice chilli sauce) and a parsnip puree.
As Isabelle started trying more dishes, her favourite-dish-list grew and expanded to include quite a few others. Such as lasagne, her absolute must-order when she dines at a Western restaurant. Based on this information, Chef Yeo decided to make the second main a spin on lasagne that incorporates the flavours of the well-loved local delight, the black bean beef hor fun. He makes the sauce using ingredients such as sautéed minced beef, black bean paste, black beans, red chilli, dark soy sauce and Chinese wine. The dish is topped off with deep-fried quinoa, dehydrated green and red peppers, and red pepper coulis for added texture and vibrancy. Riffing off another of Isabelle’s favourite dishes, chef Yeo presents Hei Zhou Beggar’s Purse as a third main, marrying her love of hei zhou, or prawn rolls, with her love of eggs. His rendition is a prawn roll that uses omelette to replace the usual beancurd skin, which is then encrusted with a tempura fried seaweed, much like the deep-fried wanton skin you’d find in the popular Beggar’s Purse fried wanton dish.
For the entrée, be treated to a Xiao Long Bao Consumme Royale. Next to the milo dessert, this was our favourite dish. It recounts how Isabelle’s taste buds gradually got more adventurous and refined as she tried a greater variety of food, and discovered her love for siew mai, then xiao long bao and that broth of a surprise it contains. Initially she had some difficulty putting a xiao long bao in her mouth, but with time and practice, she is getting better at popping them in her mouth with panache. Chef Yeo picks up on her love of dumplings by serving up a dish of ravioli with steamed foie gras egg flan in a warming, nourishing pork broth, decorated with tiny dots of zucchini, carrots and sliced radishes.
As a start to your meal, you’d encounter Nori Lavosh Miso Goma Dare Botterscotch, a stack of seaweed crackers garnished with dabs of savoury-sweet miso-sesame butterscotch. The hard and dry granite-looking crackers depict the strength and resilience Isabelle has built up so far; and the steel that she, and indeed any one of us, will need in life’s journey ahead.
SPRMRKT Daily and SPRMRKT Kitchen & Bar, STPI—Creative Workshop & Gallery
41 Robertson Quay
#01-01 & #02-01
Tel: 9736 4032 / 9736 4170