Cos­mopoli­tan CHI­NA­TOWN

This retro vicin­ity has come alive with the birth of hip new eater­ies, from Caribbean to Ja­panese, Euro­pean and more. RACHEL XIE ex­plores five.

Simply Her (Singapore) - - Home & Food Cook’s Day Out -

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.

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