Pop-up chef and former Houston Press restaurant reviewer and contributor Cuc Lam has a new restaurant on the way in collaboration with Max's Wine Dive/Tasting Room restaurateur Jerry Lasco. It's called Sing, and menu plans call for a myriad of Asian dishes, with Malaysian, Thai and Vietnamese influences, all of which comprise the melting pot known as Singaporean cuisine.
As fans of Lam's cooking know, the chef has brought vibrant, well-balanced Asian flavors to the table at more than 100 dinners in recent years, including pop-ups at Wooster's Garden and Glitter and supper club-style dinners at her own home. She recently traveled to Singapore to learn more about the cuisine as well.
"Singaporean cuisine encompasses all these different cultures and groups who settled there and brought food there and made the cuisine what it is," she says. "A lot of what I ate wasn’t new to me. My father is Chinese; my mother is Vietnamese, so I grew up eating an array of Asian."
One dish that she's particularly excited to share after her travels is bak kut teh (pork bone noodle soup). "It's Malaysian-born, but there's a huge conflict over whether Malaysia or Singapore owns the dish," Lam says.
It translates as pork bone tea and it similar to pho, says Lam, except for all the pork involved. "The broth is made with bone marrow from pork bone, fennel, star anise, coriander. It's our flagship dish."
The menu will also feature large plates of laksa (spicy curry coconut noodle soup), chicken tikka masala, char kway teow (flat rice noodle stir-fry) and small bites such as lemongrass pepper riblets, mango shrimp spring rolls and roti prata. The menu also happens to be 90 percent gluten-free, and because most dishes are wok-fired, that means food will come out in less than five minutes.
The restaurant will offer counter service and takeout, with seating for about 30 inside and 24 more on a patio. A bar will feature Thai and Vietnamese iced coffee on nitro taps along with beer, wine and sake.
Sing is the first eatery under the new hospitality enterprise NextGen, which aims to draw in a more diverse, youthful crowd that is in the know when it comes to food. "The market is changing. The business behind it is changing," Lasco says. "Guest and staff engagement is extremely important to us. As a business model, we'll also have a greener footprint." That means recycled materials and only offering beers on tap.
Lam says to anticipate loyalty programs and other perks as well. "We'll have invites to pop-ups and sneak previews. We want to make people feel special and let them know their opinions matter to us, whether that's naming a dish after them or teaching them about cooking a particular recipe."
The duo sees the potential to expand with more locations, but for now, they're just excited to get the doors open in Garden Oaks. Catch a preview of the eatery on Sunday, December 17, 12—5 p.m., during the Surfhouse 50th anniversary celebration and grand reopening at 1737 W. 34th, where Sing will be serving up a few dishes.