Have Lock is a pretty culinary gem in the brand-spanking new KIC Plaza. If you find yourself out near Fudan University, go check out this oasis of the north. The KIC, (Knowledge and Innovation Center), hopes to be a breeding ground for big ideas in research and development. To stand in its sunken plaza is like being steeped in Shanghai’s special brand of optimism. It’s exciting, yet still lonely down there. The projected completion date is set for 2010, but the doors of one cheery Singaporean restaurant are wide open.
Singaporean food is born out of Malay, Chinese, and Indian food culture, and lines can be enticingly blurred. Important ‘S’ words to remember are Spice, Soup, and Sauce. Preparation can take days, allowing for complex flavors to meld. Balancing this complexity with Asia’s emphasis on fresh produce and seafood can equal greatness. I was wary if Havelock had its factions represented or perhaps was a mislabeled Hong Kong restaurant. It turned out to be the real deal, boasting a Singaporean chef and all the right sauces and soup. We slurped chicken coconut curry and prawn noodle soup from the 35kuai lunch set (includes drink and dessert). We dipped crispy chicken wings into a fully fueled chili sauce, and went for the stir-fried pork ribs, with a sweet and tantalizing coffee glaze. Curiosity called for an order of the mixed almond and apple soup (hey, only 15kuai!) Out came a carefully crafted Southern China-style medicinal broth, the pork base added richness sans any off flavors, and hinted on the sweet side thanks to apple and pear.
The clean modern line in the décor and simple white dishware is welcomed and familiar, but appearances made it only as far as the bathroom door, where design and comfort fell short. Hopefully Have Lock can stave off mediocrity while it waits for its surroundings to mature. If so, it’s sure to create a name for itself and perhaps spring up closer to the center!