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).