Chef Bjorn Shen’s new restaurant is so compact you could walk past it in two strides and miss it. Aptly named Small’s, the furtive joint is Shen’s newly opened pizza omakase. Its two-metre by two-metre room sits next to the entrance of Artichoke, Shen’s 10-year-old hip Middle Eastern restaurant, at Rochor’s arty Middle Road. The little space — which used to be the 38-year-old Masterchef judge’s office — is now furnished with a kitchen, fit for one, and a countertop area that seats four people. Thrice a week, Shen would open Small’s to guests who would have to book their slots in advance. (The whole month of February has been fully booked.)
Small’s is Shen’s private test kitchen, his anything-goes creative playground. It’s lit in a trendy purplish glow and peppered with the memorabilia of Shen’s favourite movies, like the Sacha Baron Cohen-starring comedy flick ‘Borat’. A portable fish aquarium sits on the countertop, not far from the cabinet that houses his little pizza oven.
A self-professed “food bro”, Shen has always had an unapologetic knack for executing comfort food, a when-the-parents-aren’t-home type of inventiveness. He takes inspiration from McDonalds’ Big Mac and does a mental jot-down of Doritos’ flavour notes. “It's an approach where I elevate trashy junky ideas,” he says of his cooking style. And at Small’s, the proverbial parents are never home. “It’s my safe space to experiment with things that I know I can’t do at Artichoke,” says Shen.
How does it work? If you happen to be one of the lucky ones who secured a reservation, a night at Small’s would grant you and your group (a booking can only be made for four guests — no more, no less) front row access to Shen’s witty remarks as he whips up dinner just an arm’s stretch away.
For the month of February, Shen’s menu (S$500 per group of four) revolves around his “pizza experiences of the ’80s and ’90s”. The course is set to serve 12 dishes that include snacks like meatballs made of abalone mushroom and four different pizzas made Neopolitan-style using fermented dough and ingredients that are individually sourced. There’s Shen’s surprise twist on the stuffed crust and a black pizza crowned with octopus roe. And the menu’s grand finale? A pizza-banh mi hybrid where Shen lumps together the classic ingredients of a banh mi in a hoagie-like wrap.
Being a one-man operation, however, means that Shen can’t cater to specific dietary needs, other than swapping pork with other meat alternatives. But it does afford Shen the freedom to shapeshift Small’s’ menu in a way that the traditional restaurant would never be able to.
“The reason why I didn't want to pigeonhole it as a pizza place is because I might just do something different altogether,” says Shen. “One day I might just change in and decide that I want to just make sandwiches. Or ramen. Or sushi. Chicken nuggets. Whatever.” — Bianca Husodo
Watch how Shen prepares Small’s signature pizza-banh mi hybrid here. Book your seat here. Small’s, 161 Middle Road.
Pascual Merce Martinez
Ann Veronica Janssens’s “Blue, Red and Yellow” (2001).
Years before the Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson or the British sculptor Antony Gormley filled spaces with light and fog, the Brussels-based artist Ann Veronica Janssens invited visitors of Berlin’s Neue Nationalgalerie into a pavilion containing thick rainbow-tinted mist — “Blue, Red, and Yellow” (2001) — making her case for art as experience rather than object. I’ve often wondered why she isn’t more famous, but her coming solo show at Denmark’s celebrated Louisiana Museum of Modern Art might be her star turn. Among the featured works in an exhibition that traces Janssen’s output from the 1990s to the present: a reprisal of “Blue, Red, and Yellow,” the eight-foot-tall iridescent glass panels she calls magic mirrors, her chrome bicycles with reflective wheels that showgoers can ride and a tiny crystal prism she has embedded in one of the museum’s windows. And the venue couldn’t be more perfect: The Louisiana — a glass-walled midcentury building on the Oresund Sound 24 miles north of Copenhagen — is one of the most otherworldly artistic institutions in Europe. — Monica Khemsurov
“Hot Pink Turquoise” is on view from Jan. 23 to May 17 at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Gl Strandvej 13, 3050, Humlebaek, Denmark, louisiana.dk.
Silvia Venturini Fendi offers a collection inspired by her love for gardening, taking the Fendi Spring/Summer ’20 men’s collection campaign to the town of Bagnoli di Sopra in Italy.
Tapping on the bucolic charm of Italian countryside life, Italian luxury fashion house Fendi assembled the brand’s sensibilities and the pristine botanical wonders of Bagnoli di Sopra, a commune located in the Veneto region of Italy, for the men’s Spring ’20 collection. Creative Director Silvia Venturini Fendi called on her long-time friend, film director Luca Guadagnino, of “A Bigger Splash” (2016) and “Call Me By Your Name” (2017) fame, to collaborate on a worldwide campaign for this collection. Guadagnino melded his love for cinema, gardening and the outdoors, and even injected hand-drawn digital art from his latest film, “Suspiria” (in the form of geometric-floral prints), into the collection.
The collection of overalls, cargo pants, shirts and outerwear evocative of workwear and utilitarian styles, is dominated by a muted palette of earthy tones — greens, beiges and browns. A collection of complementary accessories appeared alongside the clothing, and notable pieces featured in the campaign include the “Peekaboo X-Lite” bag made from woven raffia, and the “Large Baguette”, a sized-up iteration of the classic Fendi baguette, made from python skin. — Terence Poh
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