Review: Two Hana - 'A youthful homage to a well-loved brand'
The last time I walked the hallowed corridors of Century Square was when I still had a gym membership nearby. Now, I review food, mostly good, some just merely wasted calories, and pray for the best for my waistline. To be fair, I make up for it by swimming rather copiously as evidenced by my caramel brown skin that glistens and glitters like a dream under the afternoon sun. But what I remember from my brief stroll through Century Square was thinking how outdated this mall is. How... Quaint. And how... Démodé. And why isn't the management doing anything to revamp this strata-esque looking mall in hip and happening Tampines that clearly is overshadowed by its cousins, Tampines Mall and Tampines One?
So I leaped with joy asunder in my quivering heart when word got around that Century Square was undergoing a year's worth of snazzying up and most crucially, actually retaining its original name (here's looking at you Compass Point now renamed Compass One). Personally, I love when shopping malls undergo a refurbish. Part of the excitement comes from figuring out how the renovations were carried out, which walls were torn down, and what stores were respectfully relocated and told to make way for more profitable enterprises.
How appropriate then that out of these proverbial rising from the ashes, comes a new concept restaurant, Two Hana and sandwich shack, Seoul in a Sandwich (photos and review on our Instagram page), from the familiar and the original Korean F&B institution, Seoul Garden. We have to remember and pay the respect due to Seoul Garden for being the pioneering Korean food conglomerate in Singapore way before Korean cuisine was clamoured after with the rabid passion of a 16-year-old who insists BTS is DA BEST K-POP GROUP EVA. I wouldn't know much about K-pop sensations, but what I do observe is the slow but steady proliferation of Korean barbecue joints that seem to litter Tanjong Pagar and sees no sign of abating.
Two Hana is Seoul Garden's newest creation, marrying Korean and Western gourmet sensibilities into one. Taking over space from Bakerzin, Two Hana occupies the prime position in Century Square, a feat achievable only by an organisation with pockets deep from all that Korean food success. But I wouldn't fault you for not visually connecting Two Hana to the Seoul Garden group. The disparity is deliberate, calculated, and updated to reflect modern branding standards. And what a beautiful disparity it is. Pastel two-tone coloured walls line the breadth of Two Hana, a youthful homage to a brand that has weathered Singapore's extremely fickle food industry, now looking for a fresh rebrand and once again proving that the only way to weather Singapore's vibrant food scene is by thoughtful renewal. Sprawled on one side is the phrase 'Better When We Are Together' in soft pink, set against an emerald wall and in actuality a nod towards the concept of two worlds coming together but reminds me more of the lyrics to 'Better Together' by Jack Johnson.
The culinary genius helming Two Hana is head chef Nathaniel Jodin, a graduate of Culinary Institute of America and former head chef of GastroSmiths and Joo Bar. Under his leadership, the possibilities of two culinary cultures coming together in a harmonious fusion of gastronomical brilliance is now a reality. A perfect example of this food forwardness is the bite-sized, deep-fried Kimchi Mac & Cheese, an amalgamation of elbow pasta and cheese, given a Korean twist with the inclusion of Kimchi and a dipping sauce that was spicy beyond my wildest imagination. Or the Honey Butter drumlets that come with almonds and garnished with sweet butter popcorn, popped fresh and to order. They’re really serious about their Korean-Western fusion here.
My palate was shocked into confusion upon the first bite of the fish and chip, not for lack of taste or flavour but because this fish tastes so… expensive. Having only been accustomed to the typical taste of Dory in my lifetime of fish and chips consumption, the Pacific Cod exudes a surprising luxe with its creaminess and flaky fall-off-chunks, fried to poetic perfection. The fish is served on top of Doenjang mash, a noted Korean alternative of fermented Soybean paste alongside 2 dipping sauce choices: honey soy glaze (for a salty zing) or Kimchi veloute (a sweetened mustard-like sauce, full of hearty flavour).
The deceptively simple Striploin Bap came served on top of rice, with the typical condiments of sweet caramelised onions, kimchi, 63-degree eggs, namul (edible leaves) and the most incredibly cooked striploin I've ever tasted this year, possibly ever.
If you dine with a partner, do order the Braised Lamb Shank, served in an extremely generous portion perfect for 2 and even more satisfying for a solo diner (stares be damned). We're talking fall off the bone realness in the category of meats for days. The lamb was gaspingly tasteful and a right balance between vitality and buttery sluttishness. I didn't ask what's in the sauce because if it's this good, details are completely not necessary, thank you very much.
Plan ahead and leave room for dessert, choosing from their very brief, but absolutely satisfying selections. The Apple Caramel Waffles with Doenjang sauce is a delight to consume from start to finish; an expertly put together dish of elements that separately are wonderful on its own, but together is utterly earth-shattering. Waffles are baked to a golden brown shade and served stacked with creamy Doenjang Caramel ice-cream (a perfect balance of sweetness and saltiness) in between and green apple slices by the side. There's also the surprise savoury fish cracker that on first thought might not work in this presentation but in reality, lends a touch of balanced sophistication to a dish that is high on sugary goodness.
Two Hana could have easily succumbed to novelty and newness (two of my life's greatest annoyance and choosing to focus instead on drawing in the crowds with their pretty pastel walls and clean minimalist deco. But surprisingly, the food has been lovingly and carefully curated with much thought and care to bring together two distinct food cultures into a single plate. If that's not courage, I don't know what is. And if that doesn't entice you to come in for meal, I honestly don't know what would. Take that as my highest stamp of approval.
(PS: Two Hana and Seoul in a Sandwich is currently applying for Halal Certification from MUIS. Do check with them directly on the progress of their application)