First Bite: Spice Table in Little Tokyo
You might expect a new restaurant from the opening chef of Pizzeria Mozza to be jammed from the moment it opened, and you wouldn't be surprised to find quartinos of crisp Italian white wine. Diligent ingredient sourcing would practically be a given, as would be the wood-burning oven and the complex, small-plate vegetable preparations. What you probably wouldn't expect is that Bryant Ng's serves neither regional Italian dishes nor the food of the Mediterranean, but chiefly riffs on the cooking of Singapore: spice-rubbed sticks of satay; cabbage braised with bacon and dried shrimp; and crunchy fried chicken wings whose crust is laced with hot, South Indian curry. This isn't quite the food of the hawker centers, but it isn't tame.
The famous black-pepper crab is abstracted into a kind of juicy crab canape, the curry laksa is jolted with the strong, toasted shrimp paste belacan and the closest thing to french fries on the menu is the deep-fried cauliflower, which is grand. The Hainanese chicken rice is neither dry nor wet, spicy nor delicate, and probably will improve in the coming weeks. I loved the skewers of grilled beef tripe, which picked up all the smokiness from the grill. And the perfect crossover dish? Sambal potatoes, which is Mozza's fried potatoes smeared with spicy chile paste. Maybe we can all get along.