For the longest time, it felt like Sugarhall was constantly overshadowed by its big brother, Jigger & Pony, next door on Amoy Street. The rum bar and restaurant was acknowledged in the inaugural Asia’s 50 bars last year, coming in No. 48; and as if to prove it, Sugarhall climbed ten spots to No. 38 in this year’s edition and came in third in the Best Restaurant Bar category at The Bar Awards Singapore 2017.
Things have definitely changed since they first opened in 2014, of course. While overseeing the culinary side of things of the Jigger & Pony Group, Executive Chef Polo Seah (mostly in residence at Humpback) has passed the mantle to Head Chef Gary Lian. Principal Bartender Rhyse Borland – an internal transfer from Gibson – helms the bar, assisted by young talents Sam Loh and Jayden Ong.
A long wooden bar – with the backshelves filled with an extensive selection of rum – is the first thing you see when you enter the space. The dining area at the back features a mix of assortment of high tables, low seating, and banquette seating at the end. With low lights, a laidback (but not sloppy) ambience, and an energetic service team, it’s not surprising that Sugarhall has carved a rep for being the place for fun, communal dinners with friends.
All cocktails on the menu are priced at $22 – tip: there’s a happy hour cocktail list from 6pm to 7.30pm – and I began with my all-time favourite, the San Juan Cooler. Think white rum, grapes, passionfruit, lime, and elderflower tonic; a perfect first drink to start the evening. Plus, it comes with a bunch of green grapes so you can fool yourself into thinking it’s a healthier choice. Or if you need bold flavours to get started, the Signature Bloody Bull is a twist on the savoury twist Bloody Mary. Made with vodka, tomato juice, and a tomato beef broth, we learnt that the intensity of the beef stock was due to it being cooked from bone marrow and tomato juice, before being reduced with root veggies. It doesn’t get too overwhelming, thanks to the accompanying grilled pineapple and pickled carrot.
The food menu underwent quite a complete overhaul. While we enjoyed the previous menu, V2.0 is more refined – it’s probably all the research the team did in NYC last year – without losing the hearty factor that has Sugarhall’s fans returning. The Endives ($14) are a little like vegetarian tacos with the crisp veggies acting as the shells for a combination of Black Cow cheddar, pecan, and croutons dressed with orange vinaigrette, which gives it a perfumed lift. A salad for meat eaters.
Inspired by Humpback’s version (the OG), the Ocean Trout ($17) is brined before entering the sous vide machine at 40 degrees for 40 minutes. Topped with burnt rice foam and ikura with compressed cucumber and avocado purée by its side, order this for a lighter small plate. If you want to just get to the meat, try their Pork Secreto ($19). Known as the butcher’s secret cut, the tender pork (brined in gin and rolled oats overnight before going on the grill) is served with grilled Brussels sprouts, pork rind, mustard cream, walnuts, pickled onion. The Brussels sprouts are a lot less bitter than those we normally get – the secret? A dose of pickle juice before the grill.
There might only be four items on the sharing plates section of the menu, but it’s hard not to want to try them all, so we ordered everything save the whole roasted spring chicken ($32). The two beef options – Hanging Tender Steak ($44, 400g) and Dry-Aged Rib Eye Steak ($74, 400g) are extremely good value. The former might not be a primary steak cut, but it’s certainly one that discerning diners have grown to prize for its flavour. To achieve the desired marbling, the Australian cattle farm from which it’s sourced feed the cows only grain in the last 100 days. Served with a gojuchang sauce and burnt onion, it’s a more forceful dish (not in a bad way) compared to the ribeye. Dry aged for 21 days, the Irish beef has the right balance between fat and beefy flavour. Served with bone marrow butter and garlic confit, it’s a modern steakhouse classic you can’t go wrong with.
The last of them was the Iberico Pork Shoulder ($48, 400g). Also brined in gin and oats, the acorn fed pork has a nutty flavour that’s complemented by the shoulder steak’s overlay of aubergine, red pepper and pine nuts. I would say this is even heartier than both steaks. All this protein was accompanied by sides of Smoked Potatoes ($9) and Kale ($9). The latter is sautéed with a port and red wine reduction and topped with kale crisps and pecans. The latter was an interesting take on the classic baked potato. Boiled baby potatoes are smoked with beech wood, rosemary, and charcoal for 40 mintues and come served with crème fraiche and parmesan.
And Sugarhall has definitely upped the ante in the dessert department. Baked at low temperature for almost an hour and the half, the Strawberry Meringue ($12) was crusty on the outside and soft inside – just the way we like it. What we liked even more was the delicious strawberry daiquiri mousse made with white rum, mascarpone, strawberry purée, and whipped cream. The secret to its goodness, however, lies in the Sarawak black pepper (where Chef Gary is from) in the meringue. Did we mention it was also Inspired by one of the most Instagram-worthy dessert in New York? For something less adventurous but equally satisfying, the NY Cheesecake ($12). Baked and with the right amount of citrus, this one needs no fancy twist.
Sugarhall is located at 102 Amoy Street, Singapore 069922, p. +65 6222 9102. Open Mon-Thu 6pm-1am, Fri-Sat 6pm-2am. Last food order at 11.30pm. Closed Sun.
Top Image: Hanging Tender Steak