One-MICHELIN-starred restaurant Labyrinth focuses on sustainability focused ingredients and serves new Singaporean dishes that are reimagined by its chef-owner LG Han’s gustatory experiences with local culinary delights such as Hainanese chicken rice and roti. The dinner tasting menu boasts courses such as “Memories of Chomp Chomp Hawker Centre”, which comprises a medley of Han’s reimagined hawker fare such as satay made with local pork, orh luak (oyster omelette), barbecued chicken wing, and otak-otak (ground fish cake) reinterpreted with uni and nori.
“Dining at Labyrinth is like an adventure,” says Han. “At every corner there is a surprise with every single dish being served. On top of that, the ‘Lab’ in the word ‘Labyrinth’ also signifies our commitment to innovation in terms of how we are going to twist local dishes to surprise the diners.”
Beyond the creative prowess exhibited in Labyrinth’s dishes, Han also prioritises sustainability within the kitchen and beyond. Upon entering the restaurant, an artwork creatively strewn with used Nespresso capsules also greets the guests before they settle in. This particular art piece is a custom job done by artist Chee Sau Fen called Pod Cast.
Inspired by Nespresso’s “One Pod At A Time” initiative where each coffee capsule that is recycled holds a world of possibilities, Sau Fen imagines how a plant pod opens and casts its small seeds into the wind, setting in motion the propagation of new generations of plants, regenerating growth in the natural world in endless cycles.
Guests are also hosted in the sitting area with tables made from recycled Singapore tree trunks, crafted by a Singaporean carpenter. “The chopsticks that we use are also made from recycled wood, chopped down from Singapore trees that are cleared for urbanisation,” he adds.
A former banker, Han says that he has found a really great cause in supporting the local produce scene, choosing suppliers that give a high importance to sustainability. “When it comes to selecting our partners, the process starts from due diligence in visiting their farms, talking to the owners, and understanding more of how they grow produce. Apart from knowing the techniques behind their craft, we also want to learn about the passion behind what they do,” he explains. “It is important to look at the different aspects: from the way the produce is grown, to how it's being prepared and packaged.”
Han gets busy in the kitchen and prepares a dish using local xiao bai cai (also known as bok choy) grown in a vertical farm that uses compost made from used Nespresso coffee grounds. On the menu is his reinterpretation of a classic zhi char dish, Coffee Pork Ribs.
“Instead of using pork ribs, I’ll be using local pork cheek sourced from the market, as well as Nespresso Professional Peru Organic coffee for the marinade and the sauce,” explains Han. “The dish will be accompanied by tempura-fried xiao bai cai instead of stir-fried vegetables.”
Han adds: “Nespresso Professional Peru Organic coffee has a very strong character and robust flavour that pairs off very well with the fatty and flavourful pork cheek, creating a harmony of flavours and consistency in the mouth.”
Small steps that lead to big change
“When working with ingredients, one question we ask ourselves is: ‘does this have to be thrown away, or can it be used for something else?’” says Han. Labyrinth prides itself in a minimal-waste cooking philosophy, where ingredients are maximised as much as possible.
Han elaborates with an example of how the philosophy of recycling is practised in Labyrinth’s kitchen through the use of Nespresso coffee grounds. “There is so much possibility to repurpose. Used coffee grounds can be turned into nutrient-rich compost to grow fresh organic vegetables with. We give ours [used coffee grounds] to the farmers to repurpose for their soil.”
Han recalls a visit to Sky Greens, a low-carbon and hydraulic-driven vertical farm in Singapore, where coffee grounds from used Nespresso capsules are repurposed into compost to grow mini greens such as xiao bai cai, used in his dish.
The coffee grounds are combined with other food waste and other raw materials. After which, the mixture is placed in a composting area. During this process of decomposition, microorganisms break down the nutrients in the raw, organic materials to allow easy absorption for the vegetables’ roots. Once this process is complete, the compost is ready to use.
Leaving behind a better future for generations to come
“I personally look for partners who also seek to reduce waste, take care of the landscape and the lives they work with, and who find innovative ways to do so,” says Han.
According to Han, Labyrinth tries to work as much as possible with suppliers whose products have a low carbon footprint, and it is because of this that he feels there is a great brand alignment between what his restaurant stands for and what Nespresso promotes.
“I enjoy working with Nespresso as we both try to minimise waste. They are actively working towards having every cup of Nespresso coffee being carbon-neutral by end of 2022,” he says.
Not only does brewing one cup of Nespresso coffee use a precise amount of coffee grounds, but also specific water and energy levels are taken into account. Because of the careful and exacting standards, resources are optimised, waste is reduced, and a lower carbon footprint is achieved. “Nespresso promotes sustainability through the use of recycling and upcycling, and that’s something I personally believe in as well for Labyrinth,” says Han.
For Han, it is all about leaving behind a world that future generations can be proud of. “We should do our best to take care of our planet. It's our responsibility, and everyone should play their part,” he says. “At Labyrinth, we hope to educate our diners about sustainable dining through good food, and in the process, committedly leave behind a better future for our kids, grandkids, and the generations to come."