Published on Tuesday, 28 June 2016 00:00
Written by Cheryl Teo Kai Lin
An unassuming little bistro lies tucked away in a secluded corner of Waterloo Street, within the premises of the Singapore Council of Women's Organisations, home to some of the most mouth-watering culinary offerings in Singapore. Paper Crane is one of those hidden gems that you stumble across while treading off the beaten path, a covert place which you will fall in love with, and return frequently for clandestine dine-ins with the privileged few whom are in on this sensational secret.
Fortunately for all you foodies out there, I'm not very good at keeping secrets, especially when I have discovered the treasure trove of cafes, I feel like I have to brag about it to the world. Though the mini restaurant might not look like much, there is something that keeps drawing diners back, there is a certain charm to the unpretentious restaurant that endears itself to a customer, a mystical pull that can only be attributed to the phenomenal taste of the delicious grub adhering its memory to your brain.
Paper Crane was established back in December 2015, and have already amassed a legion of loyal fans. It is the brainchild of an ex-magazine writer and a Canadian chef who mastered the tricks of the trade in Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Art. Chef Paul Pavlakovic has about 15 years of experience working in kitchens, with the bulk of it being spent in Canada before coming to Singapore where he worked at Wild Honey and Bridge before the conceptualization of Paper Crane.
Chef Paul's philosophy on food is simply keeping it simplistic. He sources for the freshest produce available, pays the utmost attention to the cooking process, and ensures that every component has a purpose in the dish. Too often, restaurants try to come up with complex dishes that may sound great on paper but contain way too many things that do not actually add to the value of the dish. Chef Paul looks to his grandmother for inspiration, who made everything from scratch, from sausages, relishes, pickles to moonshine. It was just the way people used to cook back in the day, and he wants to bring back that authenticity.
That is the sole reason why Paper Crane has a strong DIY approach – all sauces, relishes and salad dressings are made from scratch in-house. They make their own pita bread, rye bread, pasta, and etc, and they are really proud to be able to sincerely announce that the food is made with a lot of heart. Much like Chef Paul's grandmother would, they try their best to minimize wastage and put every bit of the ingredients to good use. The beef fat that is trimmed off the steaks are used in sauces, coriander roots are dried and used to flavour stocks, and excess vegetables are turned into relishes or pickles.
Another extraordinary perk of dining at Paper Crane is that Chef Paul is happy to be your very own personal chef during your time there. No, you can't bring him home, even though you will be very tempted to kidnap him after sinking your teeth into all the glorious food he whipped up. Paper Crane has a FULLY CUSTOMIZABLE menu. They can cater to your whims and cravings just as long as they carry the ingredients for it. They do have a menu that is written down on a chalkboard with dishes that frequently change up to keep things fresh and exciting, but you may feel free to reinvent a dish and have Chef Paul cook up your own bespoke meal.
Paper Crane carries a variety of carefully curated craft beers at $12 or $15 each.
Citra Sunshine Slacker by Evil Twin Brewing
A collaboration beer between Evil Twin and 7venth Sun, this session IPA that has an ABV of 4.5% features mangoes, grapefruit, guava, apricots and lemons all riding atop a bready malt layer. It is a deep golden yellow with a white fluffy head that lingers, medium creamy carbonation and a strong aroma of citrus that makes it the perfect refreshment for a hot and humid day.
Brewdog 5 A.M. Saint
Brewdog's esteemed craft beers need no introduction. This 5% beer is a great mix of American Amber and Red Ale with a dark crimson color. It contains flavors of nutmeg, cinnamon, roasted sweet grains, caramel, butterscotch, tropical fruits, faint molasses, and herbal spices that has lots of sweetness but with a nice bitter sharpness that prevents it from being too overwhelming. It is a strongly-carbonated complex mix of malty, grassy, and roasted flavors with a smooth palate that is tepid but delightfully bittersweet.
La Chouette The French Cider
La Chouette is a pure apple juice cider with a 4.5% alc/vol produced and bottled in the Mont-Saint-Michel Bay, one of the cradles of cider making in France. It has a slightly hazy deep orange body with a small white head, and a fragrant aroma of sweet apples and caramel. The flavor is sweet, fruity and floral with strong notes of apples and flowers, and delicate bubbles for a bubbly mouthfeel. It is very easy to drink and goes great with anything.
Mexican Charred Corn Salad with Spicy Grilled Chicken, $15
Zesty, tangy and smoky are the trifecta flavors that make up this salad that aids in opening up your palette. Corn on the cob is slightly charred before the corn kernels are sliced off, tossed with coriander, scallions, and lime, and topped with a juicy grilled chicken thigh that has been perfectly caramalized over the grill with just a bit of spicy kick to amp up the intensity of the salad.
Greek Chickpea Salad, $10
I am actually not a fan of chickpeas because it has a texture akin to boiled peanuts that I don't appreciate, but I was absolutely blown away with how fast I fell in love with this salad, chickpeas and all. A colorful confetti of chickpeas, olives, cucumbers, onions, cherry tomatoes and various fresh herbs are tossed in a greek yoghurt dressing made from scratch in-house. Feta cheese and sumac spice (deep red berries that have been dried and ground into coarse powder with a tangy lemony flavor) are spinkled over for bursts of tartness. Since chickpeas are mild in tast and absorbent, they took on the flavors of the delicious greek dressing. The chickpeas have a nice bite to them, inundated with the savory goodness of the delicate greek dressing. A mouthful of the flavor-implosive chickpeas with the sharpness of the onions, the green freshness of the cucumbers, sweet cherry tomatoes, briny olives, and rich feta cheese will convert any carnivore. This chilled salad is creamy, yet light and refreshing.
Pearl Barley and Mushroom Salad with Grilled Seabass, $20
The Pearl Barley and Mushroom Salad goes for just $10, with the option of adding on a generous chunk of fresh sea bass either pan fried or grilled for an additional $10. The sea bass is imported in daily from Ah Hua Kelong, and was just swimming around nonchalently, oblivious to its impending doom, mere hours before it was harvested and delivered to Paper Crane, so you can be sure that it is as fresh as it can possibly get. The grilled sea bass has a crispy skin that crumbles away in your mouth with very buttery large flakes of moist meat that tastes distinctly like the sea. The salad contains pearl barley cooked in vegetable stock, shiitake mushrooms that are roasted with garlic and thyme to bring out the earthy flavors, red onions slow-cooked for sweetness, and heaps of fresh herbs, onions and cherry tomatoes to liven up the dish. The pearl barley and mushroom salad mimicks the mouthfeel of risotto without being too overwhelming.
Kimchi Fries with Grilled Steak and Cilantro Mayo, $15
This dish makes for the perfect Instagram picture that you can flood with hashtags of #foodporn, #foodgasm and various other sexy terms to describe the appearance of it. People say not to judge a book by its cover, but with this particular side dish, you can judge away, because it tastes as heavenly as it looks. I can eat this for every meal and not get sick of it. So deep was my love for the Kimchi Fries with Grilled Steak that I polished off the entire plate by myself though I am not a big eater. Big, fat steak-cut fries are deep-fried till a luscious golden-brown and then mixed up with kimchi so that the fries are infused with the spicy tanginess of the pickled Korean cabbage. A pile of kimchi is set in the middle of the plate with a wide moat of kimchi fries going around it, and for the final touch it is crowned with an exceedingly succulent striploin steak (grass-fed New Zealand beef) grilled medium-rare, sliced into thin slivers and oozing with fatty juices. The flavors of the fluffy fries, crunchy spicy-sour kimchi, tender striploin and refreshingly creamy cilantro Japanese mayonnaise meld together and form a perfect symphony of multi-dimensional tastes, textures and fragrances that swirls around in your mouth and give your tongue what people call a food orgasm.
Southern-Style Deep-Fried Chicken with Fries and Slaw, $15
Paper Crane's fried chicken is inspired by a comfort food that originated from the southern states of U.S.A. Widely famed for its greasy, crisp coating, Paper Crane takes the classic American dish to a whole other level. Chicken thighs are marinated in buttermilk and secret spices for no less than 24 hours, ensuring that moisture is locked in and the meat is tenderized to an almost buttery texture. It is then rolled in a corn meal flour mix which gives it a crispy but never greasy crust after it is deep-fried. The crispy exterior is the epitome of perfection; it breaks down into savory crumbs, and as you bite into the meat, it explodes with juices and is so soft that it practically disintegrates in your mouth. This is by far, the best chicken I have ever had. Move away “11 secret herbs and spices”, there is a new chicken in town that everyone is clamoring for. I also highly advocate asking for choko fries to go along with your fried chicken, it is a vegetable of the gourd family that is a great alternative to the usual starchy potato fries that can get a tad bit overwhelming and leave you feeling uncomfortably stuffed. The choko fries are sweet and juicy yet crunchy and light, which will perfectly balance out this hearty meal.
Pesto Spaghetti and Mushrooms, $10
$10 goes a long way in Paper Crane, especially with this delicious pesto pasta made from scratch with pine nuts, parmesan cheese, fresh basil and minced garlic. Garlicky, herby and buttery, the aromatic fragrance of the pesto sauce wafts to your table from the kitchen as they are cooking it, and you can't help but slurp your way through the entire plate. The mushrooms add a touch of earthiness to the pasta. It is a light and savory dish served in a hearty portion.
Thai Fish Burger, $20
A thick fillet of sea bass (delivered fresh every day from Ah Hua Kelong) is pan-fried so that it forms a lovely, crisp golden-brown coating all around and is sandwiched between two buttery and fluffy brioche buns along with a mix of cabbage, green mango, fresh Thai basil, home-made cilantro mayo and green chili sauce. The multitude of yummy ingredients in this burger wonderfully complemented each other – the moist and flaky sea bass with a nice, fresh crunch from the cabbage, a sweet zest from the green mango, a licorice-like flavor of the slightly spicy Thai basil, the creamy and refreshing cilantro mayo, all packed with a punch from the spicy green chili sauce.
Address: 96 Waterloo Street Singapore 187967 (Located within the premises of Singapore Council of Women's Organisations)
Opening Hours: Mon – Sat: 11am – 10pm (Closed on Sundays)
Telephone No.: +65 6837 0836