I was cleaning up the blog archives when I noticed the many entries for Asian restaurants. Enough that I decided to purge them from the general restaurant list on the Best Eats page and give them their own column. Seeing them like that I realised that for a city with poor pickings in this category, I’ve managed to find most of them.
I’m always looking for a kick in my food. An I-can’t-put-my-finger-on-it flavour that makes me keep borrowing into the dish in search of enlightenment. Spice. Heat. Magic.
At home, my kitchen trinity is not onions, celery, carrot but garlic, ginger & spring onions.
When I heard about Hawker 45 opening and claiming to do street food I thought: “Hello!”. Then when I read on their menu that their influence came from Brasil, India, Japan, Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Peru, Philippines, Singapore (Are you still with me here?), Thailand and Vietnam I thought “Oh dear. Another one of those.” Lets face it, you wouldn’t go to a “European” restaurant and Europe is not nearly as flavour diverse as the places listed at Hawker45.
Anyway – I’m there, my bum is on the seat. I order. The server with honey coloured eyes from The Dominican Republic tells me the Laksa (15€) is her favourite. When it arrives, a dainty portion of rice, garnished with two large shrimp and a couple of clams I wait for her to realise she’s given me the wrong dish. Afterall I know Laksa to be a noodle based dish and this is rice. My server explains that this is how Laila makes it.
Laila Bazham is the petite head chef with roots in the Philippines and Brazil. She is calmly bustling around the open plan galley kitchen with her sous chef (also a woman) from Senegal working seamlessly alongside her.
There are two things about the scene playing out in front of me that I love. First, women cooking professionally, together. Second, diversity. Fusion food created by these women, who grew up eating different flavours from what is typical in Spain and who can manage an arsenal of challenging ingredients? It’s more likely to work than a Spanish chef who spent sometime in Asia and liked what they ate.
It does. My not noodles but rice Laksa is a beautiful dish (even for a non-soupy rice lover like me who suffers from same bite fatigue). The nutella dessert (6€) interpretation – fried bananas with house made chocolate ice cream and a mysterious white fluff – fab.
Prices? A la carte works out quite steep for lunch but you can opt for either the 12€ or 15€ lunch menu (the latter includes 3 courses, coffee and a glass of biodynamic wine). Another option is “6 dishes, chef’s choice – 35€. That’s my plan for the next visit.
From what I saw at Hawker 45, what Laila is making seems to be more high-end than street food, a glance at the kitchen kit she is using is proof without even tasting her food. If anything, the food at Hawker 45 reminded me a little of another Filipina chef Tatiana Levha at the much celebrated Le Servan in Paris.
Hawker 45 is doing something different, quite special and much-needed in this city. I am coming back for the 35€ menu. And I’m bringing friends.
***This post was changed to reflect the feedback provided by the management at Hawker 45. See the comment section below to read some interesting facts about Hawker 45 like USB chargers under the table and complimentary reverse osmosis, and gently re-mineralized at a low level.***
Carrer de Casp, 45