Having walked past Wok & Barrel on several occasions, I finally visited them last week on recommendation from a good friend of mine who was raving about their food...
The concept is basically Singaporean makan classics with a twist, and rather than sweating it out in a hawker centre, you have the pleasure of being seated in a more intimate, minimalistic style restaurant...with air conditioning and a bottle of ice cold beer or wine if you so choose...And indeed I do.
I think a lot of people are initially put of by the idea of a more upscale Singaporean restaurant..Myself included. The mentality of: "Well why should I go there when I can get the same food in a Hawker centre and pay so much less?" comes to mind.... So let me remove some myths straight up.
One) The food at Wok & Barrel is fantastic.
Two) Prices are super reasonable for the quality (and quantity) of food you get. Especially for the area.
& three) Atmosphere. Simple, but chilled out, and a big plus...AIRCON! Hallelujah!
Honestly, as soon as I found my bearings, sat down and saw the menu, I was already feeling that i'd made the right choice to overcome my premonitions. Unlike other venues in the Duxton area, you are probably going to spend around $15-25 on your meal as opposed to $50+. And they have a very groovy selection of craft beers and boutique wines at reasonable prices....
Anyway, for the food that night, I let my dining buddy get to work and order some of his tried and tested personal favourites.
First up was the grilled brinjal with chilli ($5.90). Thick grilled pieces of brinjal lathered in a tasty sambal. Strong, yet balanced flavours and brinjal cooked to perfection - tender without being overly oily as it is in so many places. Oh, and the sambal sauce is Chef Shen's own secret recipe. Super yummy.
As we continued munching the brinjal, the next few dishes arrived, first of which was the nasi lemak rice ($1.90), accompanied by some belachan topped cucumber and of course some salty, crunchy ikan bilis. Great texture and fragrance from this, and of course an ideal way of soaking up the chili sauce.
And then the first meat arrived, beef rendang ($9.90), which i'd heard so much about. Looking at it, it doesn't look fancy, if anything a bit sloppy. But don't let looks fool you. This is one of the best in Singapore. The beef is so soft it practically dissolves in your mouth while the rendang spices dance on your tongue.
Soon the beef was accompanied by the spring chick ($14.90), a wonderfully large piece of marinated chargrilled chicken. This tender and juicy slab, tempered by the slight char taste from the grill, it sat on a bed of baby spinach and was accompanied with the W&B coleslaw.
Aside from these dishes, we also ordered some omlette ($1), achar ($2) and coleslaw ($3.90) to accompany it all. What particularly impressed me was the coleslaw. No mayonnaise, this coleslaw is tossed with vinegar, sesame oil and other spices to make a lighter and frankly better version that what one usually finds in the local eateries.
After demolishing everything in site, washed down with a few glasses of some phenomenal Portuguese wine, we sat back, very pleased with ourselves at the meal.
Frankly, Chef and founder Shen has done a superb job in creating a friendly and relaxed atmosphere to enjoy some fusion twists on classic dishes. Portions are generous, service is attentive but not overbearing and prices are very reasonable. Moreover, you can tell a lot of thought has gone in to every dish. I get this funny feeling that pretty much everything on the menu would be at least decent, if not great.
And from what I've heard, they also make some pretty mean sandwiches or yummy nasi lemak sets at lunch-time for about $10 a piece. Akan datang methinks.
After visiting their facebook page, I came across this:
The Wok & Barrel's signature dish of Bak Chor Mee Pasta. Silken handmade tagliatelle with 5 Spice Roast Pork. (image from Wok & Barrel Facebook Page). No need for words, just look at it!
With that in mind, I am already planning my next visit for later this month....this time for lunch and the sets are in my sight.
Written by The City Nomad