Diners searching for a gastronomic experience off the beaten track need look no further than Sonder. Tucked in a Henderson industrial estate, the location is as surprising as the creative dishes you’ll find there. The dual-purpose venue is the first independent venture of chef Joe Leong. Being the son of celebrity chefs Sam and Forest Leong carries its own pressures, but Chef Leong embraces the challenge with a glint in his eye and proudly adds that his grandparents played a crucial role in his culinary journey.
Sonder by day (12pm – 5pm), is a bakery. Chef Leong’s creations include a Butter Brioche, and a Flavoured Focaccia that sit alongside his superb Viennoiserie offering butter croissants, and fresh fruit tarts that go toe-to-toe with the best patisseries in Europe. For those looking away from sweets, Sonder offers set lunches with options of two or three courses, priced at $30++ and $45++ respectively. The menu includes the Beef Pastrami Sourdough Sandwich ($20) and Whole Pork Knuckle by Grandpa Prin ($45) which is perfect for sharing between 2-3 pax. The pork knuckle has the perfect crackle that wraps tender meat underneath; a side of fresh vegetables provides a crunch of refreshment, while a sweet and sour Thai dressing livens things up.
Journey of flavours
When the sun goes down Sonder morphs into a refined omakase restaurant that takes diners on an elegant and succulent journey of Euro-Asian flavours. We started with a mixed bread basket of wonderfully warm homemade breads accompanied by three types of butter made inhouse: Kombu, Salted butter, and Black Garlic – the challenge here was not making a meal out of the bread alone! Thankfully, the amuse-bouche soon arrived, these bite-sized morsels sent our taste buds skyrocketing. The first was the Sea Urchin, served on a black sesame cracker with a citrusy calamansi foam, followed by the Mapo Spinach Tofu, deep-fried tofu topped with Szechuan-style minced pork on top.
Our first dish was the Aubergine, Red Curry Sorbet, Pearl Onions, Sun Dried Cherry Tomatoes. At first glance the contrast of the cold red curry sorbet and the grilled aubergine took us aback, but the layers and textures worked. Home-made salty potato crisps balance the tanginess of the curry and add a welcome crunch.
Next up was a nod to the red dot’s iconic chicken rice dish. The Risotto, Roulade of Chicken, Spring Onion Pesto was superb. The risotto was creamy and matched the juicy slices of roulade perfectly, accompanied by a punchy spring onion pesto and chilli sauce.
For a meatier bite we tried the Kurobuta Pork Collar, Burnt Apple, Coconut Glaze. The pork is marinated for 24 hours and then charcoal grilled to add smoky layers. Served with burnt apple for fruitiness and a coconut glaze, it brought our beloved Asian-born Kurobuta back to the geographical centre of this East-meets-West dish.
To close this gastronomic experience, Chef Leong introduced his exquisite hand-crafted desserts. The Red Ruby, a coconut sorbet served over a delicate crumble with a back flavour of rose water was the ideal start. Then came the Sonder Apple Crumble, a flawlessly crafted candied red apple that took the fairground toffee apple concept to new heights. We used our spoons to crack the brandy covered “skin”, then dipped into an airy creamy mousse filling and scooped up the crunchy crumble at the bottom. It was the perfect end to an amazing meal.
Verdict: Sonder’s creations come from the Chef Leong’ heart, with his stories and personal journey reflected in each dish. Grab a seat at the counter and let Chef Leong share stories behind the dishes as they’re served. There are three set menus available, The Petit Menu ($88++), The Classic Menu ($138++) and The Gourmand Menu ($188++) – serving up four, six and eight courses respectively with a choice of the signature dishes.