So many restaurants in Singapore are about reliving epiphanic dining experiences from overseas, and Humpback is no different. As the lore goes, Indra Kantono and Gan Guoyi (of Jigger & Pony Group) shucked and slurped down fresh oysters at the Hama Hama oyster farm in Washington, which converted Kantono into a man barmy for bivalves. A pearl of an idea grew and Humpback, a seafood joint they’ve set up back in 2015, soon saw a cult following.
Now, 2023 sees an elevated new look and feel – ditching seaside shack high tables for a proper sit-down affair. And no, it won’t be a take on a messy Louisiana boil where you have to don a bib and use a little elbow grease. From the sleek interiors and breezy atmosphere right down to the tasty seafood-forward plates, it displays a firm sense of refinement – very much like watching your siblings grow up. Of course, sharing plates remains the norm here, but you’re more likely to lift carefully stacked elements onto your plate than crack off any limbs.
Ask anyone and you’re likely to hear rave reviews about the oysters. The shells from Hama Hama are flown in within 36 hours just for Humpback. Make a party of it at $4 a shell during happy hour – otherwise, it’s $8 a pop for the mildly melony Hama Hama, crisp and vegetal Blue Pool, and the Summerstone brine bombs. Consider tingling your palate with the classic pairing of Muscadet Domaine L’Ecu 2020 ($19 per glass) from Loire Valley which complements with crisp, floral and saline notes.
Small plates dedicated to the occasional sip and nibble are a surefire way to whet the appetite. Applewood smoked hamachi pastrami ($18) is flavoured with hints of juniper, thyme, and black pepper and rounded with pickled mustard sour cream. Plump Australian mussels ($16) are bejewelled with the freshness of vinegar gel, fennel flowers and chives then stacked atop a toasted brioche. Or simply luxuriate in the brilliant combination of house-made buckwheat bread and airy yuzu butter ($13).
The feast-worthy sharing plates continue with a steady showcase of flavours and textures. Sweet Argentinian scampi ($26) tossed in dashi and tomato pomelo jelly. Meaty purple clams ($31) from Hama Hama come with toasted koji and green asparagus, finished with chilli-dill oil dressing. The exotic swordfish belly bacon ($28) tangoes with handmade ricotta cavatelli and pops of Chitose corn, making it the absolute must-order dish of our evening.
For sweet endings, a toasted castella cake ($14) carries a sincere tune of pure bliss with layers of creme fraiche ice cream and razor-thin flakes of snow salt. You just can’t knock the generally reasonable prices, the banter of the waiters, the sing-a-long ’90s tunes, and delicious plates here. Sail on down.