A Chef’s Playground

Kolabo offers aspiring and professional chefs a space to experiment, explore and showcase their unique cuisines to discerning diners.

Tucked away in a quiet residential area of Telok Kurau is a kitchen where chefs are busy slicing and dicing, and guests are eagerly awaiting for the next special dish. It’s a hive of activity during meal times, but this is no ordinary space. Kolabo – a play on the world “collaboration” – is a private dining studio where aspiring and professional chefs can bring their fresh ideas to the table, express their creativity and present their cuisines.

Kolabo was set up in September 2021 by founders Joan Tan and Robin Teo, the same team who also run Japanese fresh seafood supplier Soshinsen. Teo, who is also Soshinsen’s strategy and commercial lead, says, “We particularly enjoy working with passionate chefs who have dreams of starting a restaurant in the future but perhaps do not have the resources or ability – whether it is flexibility in terms of time, financials or lack of space – to do so at the moment. With the current setup, we provide them with a space where they can come in, create and execute a menu in a private closed-door setting for up to 20 persons.”

Expect the unexpected

Diners are welcomed in a homely intimate environment without any of that fine-dining pretension. Menus change regularly, depending on the chefs, from Japanese sushi and kaiseki omakase to Italian, French and Greek cuisines.

“We are honoured to have hosted both experienced and up-and-coming chefs in the Singapore food scene. We have welcomed veterans such as chefs Fabrizo Aceti and Ace Tan, although some prefer not to be named,” says Teo.

A diverse range of dishes as well as interesting ideas have literally come to the table. He highlights one interesting idea that was tested and developed by MasterChef season two winner, chef Derek Cheong. As part of the petits fours of his menu, he experimented with artisanal chocolate bon bons, serving flavours such as Pistachio Lime, and Miso Genmaicha. “He recently launched a brand named Kakkow focussing on these unique domes of goodness!” shares Teo. His personal favourite? There are too many, he says, but they include chef Sherwin Poon’s Saucisson En Croute, chef Fabrizo Aceti’s Saffron Risotto and chef Angus Chow’s take on Vegan Tuna Belly.

A Space For Ace

Chef Ace Tan has an impressive resume, having worked at notable establishments such as three-Michelin-starred Les Amis, Flower Child restaurant in Seoul, and most recently as head chef at 1-Group. He has since been serving progressive Asian dishes at Kolabo while planning a move to Hong Kong in the coming months to set up a restaurant group. “It doesn’t make sense to rent a permanent space,” he says. “And I still have a lot of friends and former guests who want to try my new creations.” These creations include a cold chawamushi dish with century egg, and Madai fish marinated in calamansi shoyu. Other advantages of Kolabo, he shares, are convenience and better logistics. He can easily order fresh ingredients through Soshinsen, resulting in less waiting time and more predictable deliveries.

Kolabo is able to synergise with Soshinsen for an enhanced experience. As Soshinsen imports both fresh and frozen Japanese produce, it is able to offer high quality seasonal products to chefs at competitive prices. Diners benefit too. “Customers who have had a meal at Kolabo can also directly purchase ingredients to try and replicate the same dish at home. For frozen items, this could even be picked up on the same day,” says Teo.

Kolabo hopes to collaborate more with younger chefs who are looking to get more hands-on experience, and provide mentorship opportunities. Teo says, “As a team, we have always believed in giving back. Another collaboration would be to work with more charities, or to do more fundraisers.”

There is much to look forward to at Kolabo, whether you are a chef or customer. “While we prefer to keep the finer details on the hush for now, we have over the last year gotten a multitude of serious offers to open up more locations so that is definitely in the works,” hints Teo.

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