This retro vicinity has come alive with the birth of hip new eateries, from Caribbean to Japanese, European and more. RACHEL XIE explores five.
MUCHACHOS 22 Keong Saik Road, tel: 6220-0458. Open Mon-Sat, noon to midnight.
THE CONCEPT This industrial-chic space specialises in build-your-own burritos. Choose from one of five proteins (grilled chicken, skirt steak, pork, oven-braised lamb, and battered deep-fried fish), then enhance it with an array of salsas, carbs and other add-ons. The burrito skins are steamed till they’re super-soft and slightly moist. Seating is limited to a long counter and high stools along a wall – so go early. MUST-TRIES Our ultimate combination consists of pulled pork rolled with long-grain rice, mashed pinto beans, sour cream, guacamole (add $2), cheese (add $1), and salsa verde. The burritos are stuffed to the point of bursting in 10-inch and 12-inch sizes ($9 and $12) – a hearty meal guaranteed.
BURNT ENDS 20 Teck Lim Road, tel: 6224-3933. Open Mon-Sat, 11.45am-2pm, 6pm to midnight. Closed for lunch on Mon.
THE CONCEPT This barbecue eatery has a rotational menu that changes daily. It’s a real treat sitting at the 18-seater counter, where you can watch the chefs coax slabs of meat to perfection over coal-fired ovens. All savouries are cooked on the grill, as well as elements of their desserts, including a fascinating smoked ice cream. MUST-TRIES Pop the Smoked Quail Eggs ($6 for five) into the mouth whole – the firm whites delicately singed with smoky flavour burst to release a surprising gush of molten yolk.
The Salmon Skin and Roe ($8) is a masterpiece of textures and flavours of the sea: crackly salmon skin topped with creamy oyster emulsion, pop-in-themouth salmon roe, and seaweed.
Made with 10-hour oven-cooked pulled pork shoulder, pickled jalapenos, cheese, coleslaw, and spicy chipotle aioli between homemade brioche buns, the Burnt Ends’ Sanger ($20) is one hefty stack packed with flavour.
Sharing is caring, but you’d be more caring by telling your friends to get their own Pineapple, Rum and Vanilla ($10). This dessert of roasted pineapple, pistachios, meringue, vanilla ice cream, crispy candied pineapple, and rum glaze has sweetness, acidity, chewiness, creaminess and crunch – a 10/10.
MARIKO’S 4 Jiak Chuan Road, tel: 6221-8262. Open Mon-Sat, 5pm-1am.
THE CONCEPT This contemporary Japanese resto-bar offers a wide variety of sashimi, yakitori, ramen and tempura to go with your cocktails and sake. Dishes like sashimi and sushi are served the traditional way, but chef Elson Lee has added a host of new creations with French, Italian and even local flavours.
MUST-TRIES The sashimi is flown in four times a week, so be sure to ask for seasonal fish that’s not on the menu. We enjoyed spotted prawn, uni (sea urchin), suzuki (Japanese sea bass), black cod, Spanish mackerel and half-grilled bonito.
The Cha Siew Ramen ($18) strays from the typical savoury varieties – this one features springy ramen in a sweet shoyu broth.
Fusing Japanese with Italian is the Pasta Udon Tempura ($25), where chewy noodles and tempura prawns sit in a lip-smacking sauce of thyme, tomato and chilli.
NAPOLEON 206 Telok Ayer Street, tel: 6221-9282. Open Mon-Fri, 11.30am to midnight; Sat, 6pm to midnight.
THE CONCEPT Sharing and sampling are encouraged at this cosy 40-seater. Both the owners are French, which may explain why the menu leans that way, with modern interpretations of classics like coq au vin (braised chicken) and beef tartare. Portions are best for groups of up to four, while the reasonable prices will appeal to those who want to “order more to try”. In line with the sampling concept is the eye-catching wine vending machine, which doles out vino in tasting, half- or full-glass portions (from $2). MUST-TRIES Being lamb-averse, we took a tiny, tentative bite of the Lamb Shank Parma Tier ($22), then a larger mouthful, then another, and another, until only a shallow puddle of lamb jus remained. This dish of shredded meat with chunky mashed potatoes and rich gravy truly changed our attitudes towards lamb.
Make sure you get a bit of every component of the Poached Salmon ($18) in each mouthful – moist fish with the sweet earthiness of pea puree and the saltiness of salmon roe.
Served with vanilla bean ice cream and crunchy, buttery crumble, the chocolate-coated Profiteroles ($12) make for a satisfying dessert.
LIME HOUSE 2 Jiak Chuan Road, tel: 6222-3130. Open Tue-Sun, noon to midnight.
THE CONCEPT Owner Chris Morris, who hails from Trinidad, brings us the first Caribbean restaurant in Singapore – its moniker comes from “liming”, the Caribbean term for “hanging out with friends”. And it has a suitably breezy mood, with homey wooden furniture, and open windows and doors. The way the chatty chefs and wait staff mingle with customers also adds to the convivial ambience. MUST-TRIES Tender chunks of fall-off-the-bone meat in the Baby Back Ribs ($24 for half, $34 for a full rack), glazed in a sticky Trinidad BBQ sauce that’s sweet, salty and smoky all at once.
The Jerk Chicken ($24) has mouth-watering fillets of chargrilled chicken marinated in a spicy, piquant pepper sauce and served with sweet potato done three ways – pureed, grilled and crisped.
Served in a glass, the Deconstructed Pina Colada ($12) is a smooth coconut panna cotta topped with citrusy pineapple compote and a tongue-tingling lime sherbet.