Review: Mischief - 'The missionary of the delicious does exist.'
“How do you write a review with just 3 appetisers, Zat?” my good friend and loyal dining companion asked as if I am proclaiming the most absurd in saying that I wanted to review Mischief. Although my usual modus operandi for a review is to have an appetiser, a main dish, and a dessert, I told myself, that just as some places are created for the sole consumption of desserts, there are some places that exist simply as a no-frills food joint with food that aim to complement the alcoholic beverages that they serve. Furthermore, imagine how novel it would be to review a restaurant and determine its value simply through the strength of its side dishes.
Mischief is the kind of restaurant you go to when you’re full from dinner and waiting to catch a show at Esplanade where it is housed. Or you're early for a show but it's too late for dinner. Set amongst other similarly styled food joints such as Alter Ego and Harry’s, it is rather apparent that Esplanade strives to create a very specific vibe of rambunctious merriment, clinking beer mugs, and champagne glasses, voices straining to be heard above the party sounds of the restaurants and the nightly performances at the outdoor theatre. The atmosphere is electric, it’s constantly on the move, and it is exactly where Mischief fits in.
Mischief used to be the brain-child of Cynthia Koh, Michelle Chong, and Daniel Ong but has now been taken over by owner Leonard Tham. Under the leadership of head chef Mark Tang, Mischief prides itself as a restaurant serving up honest American and South-East Asian street cuisine. But at times I feel like Mischief struggles to balance its inherent passion for amazing food with the more commercially profitable exercise of serving alcoholic beverages. The more I study the menu, the more impressed I am at the gamut of choices on offer. I actually think that the food menu can be taken out in its entirety and is capable of holding its own as a stand-alone restaurant with diners who can appreciate the love and care that has gone into creating some of the amazing dishes. Are the dishes mind-blowingly creative? It isn’t. Do the dishes boast a strong fusion thingamajig that is so painfully in trend now? It doesn't. But are they delicious? Hell, yes.
Take the Wagyu Beef Brisket, served in generous cascading slices with a side of gherkins, Jalapeno, and a condiment of American mustard. Presented on a plate lined with greaseproof paper of American patriotic leaning of red, white, blue, and a sprinkling of stars, at first glance, the beef brisket seems dry. Lifeless. And desperately in need of some moisture. But venture closer and you can see specks of black pepper generously seasoning the meat as well as a coat of shine that seems to sparkle in the light whichever way you look.
Upon the first bite of the Wagyu Brisket, I immediately forgot where I was at as the voices and sounds in the background faded into a gradual decrescendo. It’s like biting into a fluffy cloud of cotton candy; soft, gentle, and bursting with all manners of flavours. The 24 hours slow cook process is evident in the utter softness of the meat, each bite easily giving way to the next, like a beautiful waltz. When dipped with mustard, you get a very sharp zing that immediately jolts you back to reality, reminding you that this is not a full-fledged restaurant, although the tenderness of the brisket might lead you to imagine otherwise. And who could fault you for thinking that? The beef brisket. That’s who.
If the Beef Brisket has yet to convince you of the gastronomical prowess of Mischief, look no further than the Crispy Pork Belly, cooked to crisp perfection with a cacophony of spices that sing the most joyous tune; garlic, sea salt, oregano, whole grain mustard, and oregano. I have been searching across this entire island for good crispy pork belly and this right here will be the standard against which all others will be judged against. The meat was soft, flavourful, and cooked to poetic perfection while the skin is brown and crackles satisfyingly to the bite. There was a layer of spiced paste at the base of the meat that I found to be so utterly robust and earthy that I don’t know to cry or smile at sheer joy.
I am however a little bit reticent about their Broccoli and Brie Au Gratin. Broccoli is sauteed simply to retain crunch and add flavour before adding in melted brie cheese in strips at the top. Upon sight, I really could not guess how this would taste. I mean, I know how broccoli tastes. I know how brie tastes. But together, what do you get?
What you get is innovation but at the expense of taste. I want to like this dish passionately with the same love I have for brave and courageous cooking. But the more I tried to make something out of this, the more confused I get. In my head, the creaminess of the brie and the caramelisation of cheese would help balance the crunch of the broccoli. The opposing flavours should come together as one, but in reality, it is two opposing flavours that need perhaps a little bit of acidity to complete the trinity of taste.
If what you’re looking for is a quick drink to pass the time, then Mischief is definitely the place to go to while you wait. But you would be remiss to try their food offerings cooked expertly with passion and heart. The missionary of the delicious do exist and it can be found here at 8 Raffles Avenue, but only if you look close enough and give it the chance it deserves.