bin Zain is quietly one of Singapore’s most accomplished chefs. He has helped
to lead the kitchens of Singapore’s best fine-dining restaurants like Iggy’s
and Waku Ghin to their award-winning heights. His skills at modern
Asian-European cuisine are as good as any international chef.
and affable chef is now at Restaurant Ember at Hotel 1929.
Ember is not without challenges. Under the former head chef Sebastian Ng who
embodied the face and personality of the restaurant for 12 years, Ember earned
rave reviews and built up a fiercely loyal following, a crowd that keeps coming
back for dishes they love so much that Sebastian had to keep them on the menu
chefs are not alike. Sebastian’s style of cooking style is heavy on indulgent
ingredients and prominent flavours. His dishes often have a strong umami
signature. Sufian works with flavours that are more subtle and delicate, using
a greater variety of ingredients including more seafood. Even their personalities
differ - Ng is bold and outgoing whereas Sufian has an easier-going Sunday
is determined to ensure minimal disruption. He understudied Sebastian for two
months to get a sense of what has worked at Ember (essentially comforting
dishes that are simple but tasty, matched with a good price point and stellar
able to be very consistent in his flavours,” says Sufian. That’s something
incredibly challenging to achieve when you’re pushing out 500 of the same
dishes a day. “I’m also grateful I can work with Sebastian’s entire team, many
of whom have been with Ember for years,” he adds.
keep the perennial favourites on the menu. These include two starters of mirin foie
gras and crispy tofu, the two mains of truffle sea bass and 12-hour pork belly,
and the coconut panna cotta for dessert.
gradually introduce dishes of his own like carpaccio of petunia ocean trout,
burrata with homemade pesto, and bouillabaisse. Seasonal dishes will also make
appearances every three to four months.
restaurant is also undergoing a small refurbishment to reflect the change in
chef and refresh the decor more along the lines of Sufian’s personality. A new
logo will be introduced and the heavy dark brown tones of the leather chairs
will be updated with a brighter blue.
To keep the old crowd but attract new diners as well.
look like Ember is about to get a touch of Waku Ghin’s flair for teasing the
best natural flavours out of produce.
“Tetsuya Wakuda taught me to respect produce and appreciate the natural
flavours of quality fresh ingredients. Don’t mess with it too much or try to
overpower the flavours,” says Sufian who is also very impressed with how humble
and down-to-earth Wakuda is. “When he comes into the kitchen, he shakes
everybody’s hands! Not all chefs do that.”
credits Justin Quek as a great teacher when they were both at Les Amis. His was
the last batch to work with Justin before the latter left for overseas stints.
Amis was a twist of good luck and initiative. He had started at SHATEC but the
hotel attachment made him realize it wasn’t serious F&B training. He wanted
a real restaurant, and applied to Les Amis in 2002, then one of the most
prominent fine-dining names in Singapore. He was accepted and spent almost two
years there in total. Then Sufian went on to Iggy’s for four years where he
honed his techniques in modern and molecular gastronomy. A short year with a
bistro in Esmirada followed, after which he joined Waku Ghin’s opening team in
2010 and stayed four years.
his own mother is a very good cook. She is extremely particular about how even
vegetables are cut. Growing up, he loved to eat, and started cooking while in
jokes he cannot cook Malay food.
day I can learn from my mom,” he says sheepishly.
now, he is all set to charm the diners at Ember with exquisitely prepared
modern European and Asian creations.