By By Zoey Chow, Florence Fong
The Naked Finn first opened in 2012 within the serene, verdant grounds of Gillman Barracks as an indie seafood ‘shack’, humbly walled with vinyl sheets instead of concrete. It sold upmarket but simple, uber fresh seafood stripped of any frills and kept to its bare essentials, often cooked a la plancha (seared on a griddle) like how Spanish seaside joints do it. Seasoning usually comprised just sea salt and olive oil, with a smattering of Japanese inflections including sakura ebi. Condiments such as fiery sambal belacan added a quirky local punch to the clean-tasting food.
The set-up is presided by the unabashedly gregarious Ken Loon, 44, who back then, was more known for being a cocktail specialist (his previous venture was the beautiful Klee bar) rather than the seafood geek he is today. Ken doesn’t cook here — he has chefs to do that, including one who’s been with him from the start. However, he orchestrates the menu. His almost encyclopaedic knowledge of aquatic life and the ability to procure relatively rare seafood has won him foodie fans, among them serious fine-dining chefs the likes of three Michelin-star French restaurant Odette’s Julien Royer and chef Hideaki Sato of two Michelin-star French-Japanese diner Ta Vie from Hong Kong.
In 2015, the charmingly ramshackle shack did well enough to expand to larger, fancier digs down the road with proper glass walls. Meanwhile, the original space was renamed Nekkid and served snacking portions of Naked Finn’s seafood menu, plus frozen cocktails (the fresh coconut and peach bellini are our faves). It was also famous for its gourmet renditions of lobster rolls and hae mee soup using top-notch crustaceans. But in a somewhat peculiar move, Ken and his chefs later began playing around with cooking meat in the seafood shack. They started serving one or two burgers, grilled iberico pork and steak alongside the fish. Not long after that, Ken’s obsession for sea creatures had somehow grown to include cattle too — specifically those wedged within buns, and Nekkid was revamped into BurgerLabo earlier this year. It now focuses almost predominantly on burgers (aside from also offering a lobster roll and pork roll).
1 of 10 Its 7th anniversary party
This Sunday (December 8) marks Naked Finn’s seventh anniversary. To celebrate, Naked Finn, BurgerLabo, and its surrounding grounds will be transformed into a colourful makan carnival of sorts. There’ll be limited seats, so bring a picnic mat to enjoy the fine eats from seven pop-up food and beverage stalls along the sheltered walkway between Naked Finn and BurgerLabo — many of them at slashed prices. Here are the highlights.
2 of 10 $12 burger cooked by Japanese guest chef from 2-Michelin-star Ta Vie in HK
Chef Hideaki Sato of two-Michelin star restaurant, Ta Vie, will fly in from Hong Kong to present his own take on BurgerLabo’s signature Basic Burger. Chef Sato heads the HK restaurant located in Central, which specialises in French cuisine with an Asian twist. He got to know Ken when the latter held a Naked Finn pop-up dinner in Hong Kong last year, where Sato fell in love with Naked’s seafood.
3 of 10 The Basic Burger
At the anniversary bash, he’ll be serving a slightly thinner (120g vs 170g patty) but cheaper $12 version of the Basic Burger (priced at $23 on the restaurant’s regular menu). It consists of a blend of Japanese A4 Wagyu with Australian Black Angus beef topped with grilled organic tomato, lettuce, American cheese and house-made bone marrow ‘butter’ on specially customised buns from Bakery Brera. Sato will add some of his own flourishes to the burger, which Ken says will be “a surprise”.
Catch the chef right outside BurgerLabo’s ‘shack’ from noon, where he’ll flip burgers over fragrant Japanese binchotan charcoal. Also available: the higher-grade Toriyama wagyu burger at $18 for a single patty instead of the usual $45 for double patties. The minced meat stars A4-grade chuck roll from premium Japanese black cattle.
4 of 10 Discounted lobster roll for $22
Another dish to grab from BurgerLabo is its popular Lobster Roll, which originally goes for $38 with fries and salad, but will be available at the event for $22 sans sides. The roll is prepped Connecticut-style, with 90g of grilled American lobster flesh drizzled with melted butter and crammed into a toasted split-top bun. If you must have some sides, order a round of BurgerLabo’s Truffle Fries with Cheese, also discounted for the day at $3 instead of the usual $4.
5 of 10 Naked Finn’s yummy chilled bee hoon for only $2
This being a Naked Finn anniversary, of course it too boasts its very own pop-up stall, serving its famously no-frills yet yummy side dish of Piquant Bee Hoon: blanched rice vermicelli tossed with an aromatic seasoning including sesame oil, calamansi lime juice and chilled before it’s topped with crispy sakura ebi. The event will offer 150g of the noodles for $2, instead of the usual $8 for 350g. While you’re there, there’s also homemade Prawn Keropok ($3), FYI.
6 of 10 Special five-course lunch by Julien Royer of Odette and Keirin Buck of Le Bon Funk
Chef Julien Royer (right) of Odette and chef Keirin Buck (left) of natural wine bar-and-restaurant Le Bon Funk will take over Naked Finn’s kitchen on Dec 8 to serve up a super special five-course lunch ($188 nett per head) within its 60-seat air-conditioned dining room. Because chef Julien has “always sought out Naked Finn to enjoy an impeccable variety of seafood”, while Keirin believes that “Naked Finn is a restaurant that’s only gotten better and better over the past seven years”. So, to commemorate the eatery’s anniversary, they will cook dishes using only Japanese seafood sourced by Naked Finn, such as Yesso Scallop with Bafun Uni. Unfortunately the coveted lunch slots are full as of now — and we’re not surprised. Interesting fact: Naked Finn supplies some of its seafood as a distributer to restaurants like Odette and Le Bon Funk.
7 of 10 Bakery Brera will be there too
One of the seven pop-up stalls participating at the bash includes Bakery Brera. The bakery crafts buns for BurgerLabo, and will offer other freshly baked goodies like its Insta-famous Cruffins ($4.50), crackly Croissants ($3), Kouign-Amann ($4) and Pain Au Chocolate ($4).
8 of 10 Drinks by Lion Brewery Co and S. Pellegrino
Wash down your meal with Lion Brewery Co’s ice-cold beers ($10 for two pints) on tap and beat the heat with Frozt’s locally handcrafted Fruit Popsicles ($2.20). If you’re not a beer person, head over to the KOT Selections stall for a mini 100ml bottle of wine (from $9) or grab yourself some juices and sparking water (from $3) from S. Pellegrino.
9 of 10 There’ll be live music by singer Joie Tan
What’s a party without music? Joie Tan, a homegrown pop singer-songwriter who debuted in 2008 will be entertaining you while you eat. The songbird released her self-titled debut album in 2018 and has since performed at local festivals like Ignite and Neon Lights. Sounds like fun.
10 of 10 The details
Naked Finn’s seventh anniversary party is on Dec 8, Sun, 11am-5pm at Naked Finn, Blk 39 Malan Rd, Gillman Barracks, S109442. www.nakedfinn.com