Ken Loon (below) of The Naked Finn doesn’t believe in cool concepts – just quality ingredients, cooked to perfection.
When your restaurant is at Gillman Barracks and a 10-minute walk from the main road, you’d better have a good meal and cocktail awaiting guests. So it’s a good thing that The Naked Finn’s tipples and seafood rank among Singapore’s best. The Sunday Times’ food critic Tan Hsueh Yun declared it “the best lobster roll of 2014”. The wait time for an order? Half an hour.
The cosy diner was converted in March to a bar with a new 60-seat restaurant down the road. Expansion aside, Loon’s main philosophy from the start has been “less is more where more is no good”. It carries through from the minimalist decor to the pared-down cooking and famed alcoholic concoctions.
Its coconut cocktail (below, centre), for instance, contains only fresh coconut (frozen, then pureed into an intense sorbet) and Bacardi rum. Meanwhile, signatures like its Mozambique lobsters and sword razor shells are enhanced with just extra-virgin olive oil and unsalted butter.
The story behind Loon’s no-frills menu started in 2008 with his now defunct (and sorely missed) cocktail bar, Klee. “At the time, everyone was trying to outdo each other by packing their cocktails with ingredients. We thought, why put in five ingredients when you just need two? That approach has cascaded over to The Naked Finn.” Similarly, in the restaurant’s simple, thoughtful food preparations, Loon goes against the local scene dominated by cuisine-style cooking, where seasoning masks the essence of the ingredients.
For Loon – a restaurateur so precise he has experimented with over 35 species of lobster and prawn, taste-testing each after a step-by-step heat process – specialising in seafood was an obvious choice. “It’s become a food category. When you ask what people want to eat, they’ll now say seafood alongside Japanese or Italian. It’s also more challenging than meat… Cook fish a minute too long and it’ll be overdone.”
As for hitting that sweet spot with customers, The Naked Finn has the recipe down pat. “We’re not a concept-driven business,” says Loon. “We just take top quality seafood, cook it right and price it affordably.” Sounds simple, but the artistry and appeal of The Naked Finn lie in serving these up together.
The Naked Finn is at 41 Malan Road (6694-0807).
An adapted version of this story first appeared in Female’s April issue.