As the F&B industry gets more competitive, new players are coming up with fresh concepts to stand out from the pack.
Phat Cat Laundry
4 Jiak Chuan Road
Open Mon to Sat, 5pm till late
Ph: 6221 8262
It looks like a laundromat, it sounds like a laundromat, but don't walk into Phat Cat Laundry on Jiak Chuan Road with a basket of yesterday's dirty clothes.
This new establishment is actually a laundromat-themed bar and restaurant, inspired by the ones commonly found in the US and the UK, where its director Kevin Cheng grew up.
"We thought it was interesting that laundromats are a place where people converge from all walks of life. Wherever you're from, your focus when you go there is to wash your clothes, sit there, and wait for it to finish. It's an interesting social dynamic so we decided to do a fun take on it," says Mr Cheng, who also runs other eateries like the bourbon-focused bar Bourbon Street and Mexican joint Hombre Cantina.
So from the outside, people passing by would notice three fake washing machines with a video behind a glass that makes them look like they're spinning, while the inside is decorated with detergent boxes and other thematic elements.
Foodwise, Mr Cheng explains: "Laundromats are often associated with the fact that they're usually run by Asian people, so we've kind of added an Asian touch to the concept. A lot of the food is inspired by Mandopop songs or Bangkok street food ... and they have influences from Chinese cooking, Singapore/Malaysian cooking, Filipino cooking."
The restaurant's signature dishes include Truffled Prawn Egg Rolls (S$14) with lemongrass aioli and fish roe, a Brontosaurus Char Siew Beef Rib (S$25) slow-cooked and covered in a char siew glaze, and a Sichuan Burger (S$25) made with a cheese-stuffed Sichuan-spiced lamb and beef patty with sambal aioli and pickled cucumbers.
"I think part of the thing is that people would definitely not want to eat in a laundromat, and that's kind of the fun part. Because obviously it's not a real laundromat, you can't do laundry here, but it gives people a different place to go with a different vibe, rather than a normal cocktail bar," adds Mr Cheng.
47 Neil Road
Open Mon to Thurs, 10am-11pm, Fri to Sat, 10am-1am
Ph: 9451 8873
If you're the kind of person who believes in eating with the eyes first, then Epiphyte is just the place for you. The week-old restaurant's concept combines food, art and nature - all personal hobbies of its founder Ivan Tan.
"I used to be an avid cafe-hopper myself, and there's an element of sentimentality missing when I visit certain other restaurants.
When my business partner and I set up Epiphyte, we wanted to make it very personal," explains 28-year-old Mr Tan.
That's why you'll not only find an indoor vertical garden hanging in the airwell of the two-storey shophouse - a nod to his love for gardening - but also art pieces from Mr Tan's personal collection hanging on the restaurant's walls.
These themes have also found their way into the food. The desserts, for example, have an artistic touch to them. Terrarium (S$8) is made with rum sponge, chocolate soil, fresh mint custard and apple compote, while Twilight (S$10) is a Cointreau orange curd with chocolate sponge, and marbled chocolate mousse mimicking a galaxy.
Other than using their own herbs in the main menu, the food is generally straightforward.
Mr Tan describes the cuisine at Epiphyte as "Western with an Asian twist", namely, crab cakes (S$13) with kaffir lime, panko, and tomato-chilli jam, or a grilled striploin (S$27 for 200g) with galbi glaze and kimchi mashed potatoes.
While the restaurant currently only has 40 seats available on the first floor, later this month Mr Tan will also be opening up the second floor of the shophouse, which contains another 60 seats.
He says the intention is to turn that second floor into an event space for art shows, yoga sessions, or even corporate workshops - another element that will set them apart from other restaurants or cafes.
Says Mr Tan: "If you look at the cafe scene in Singapore, everyone is serving eggs benedict and the interiors all look monotonous and generic. We want to stay away from that in as many aspects as possible."
Red Tail Bar
3C River Valley Road, # 01-04
Open 6pm-2am daily
Ph: 6738 2988
Much like the restaurant itself, the mascot for Red Tail Bar is inspired by a nocturnal animal - the Red Tail panda, which is native to the Asian region, and has a penchant for travelling the world. So naturally, the restaurant opens only in the evenings and runs till late, serving a contemporary Asian menu with international influences.
"Red Tail is Zouk Singapore's first restaurant and bar concept and it's set to be a homegrown F&B concept with Asian roots," says Sofie Chandra, head of Marketing and Events at Zouk Consulting Pte Ltd.
She explains that the mascot is "a juxtaposition of East meets West, with a tinge of mischief", meant to be an identity for the brand so that it can eventually explore merchandising, or "collaborations with local designers for installations and products".
Even in the restaurant, not only does the mascot appear on the menu and collateral like coasters and cocktail stirrers, Zouk even commissioned two Singapore-based artists Dawn Ang and Eric Foenander to do a mural of two Red Tail pandas hiding among bamboo.
As for the food, Ms Chandra says: "We wanted to create a menu that is quintessentially Asian, but fresh, interesting and flexible. Asian food is universally appealing, but there is also a huge diversity of Asian flavours that are rarely played around with, and we want to champion these familiar flavours and present them in new and refreshing ways."
So, for instance, instead of the usual Scotch eggs, Red Tail Bar serves a Scotch Century Egg (S$9) wrapped in prawn and Kurobuta pork. And on the pizza menu, it has a Yun Cheong Thin Crust Pizza (S$25) with Chinese liver sausage, string cheese, onions, and fried shallots.
According to Ms Chandra, Zouk decided to venture into "proper F&B" after observing how clubbing habits have changed over time. "Dining is playing a key role in rounding up a good clubbing experience for people in Singapore, so we wanted to create a space for pre-drinks over some sharing plates before the real partying begins."
20 Cavan Road
Open Tues to Sun, 11am-11pm
Ph: 6612 6024
You might balk at the initial idea of having deep-fried lamb chops with a tangy blueberry sauce, but catching your attention with that outrageous combination is exactly what Andrew Lim hopes to do.
The actual dish, however, is not as unusual as it sounds. Instead of the Western-style grilled lamb chops, the 34-year-old chef took inspiration from the way Chinese restaurants pair pork with sweet and sour sauce, and came up with his own version of lamb coated in flour, deep-fried, and later stir-fried in blueberry sauce. He now serves it as one of his signature dishes at his month-old restaurant at 20 Cavan Road, named the.twenty.cavan.
Like a number of other restaurants in Singapore, the.twenty.cavan sports a stripped-down industrial look, complete with a bare brick wall, high ceiling, open kitchen, and communal table. Its menu however, is much less common, as the Chinese cuisine-trained chef Lim prefers to highlight Asian dishes instead of Western ones.
"We wanted to promote our own cuisine in a modern way because we feel Western or European food can be found everywhere now. And most places that do Chinese food are either traditional, or fusion," explains chef Lim, who runs the restaurant with a business partner whom he met while studying at Shatec.
"We've had people comment that they find the food very familiar, a bit like Chinese banquet food. That's exactly what we're going for - modern cuisine inspired by Chinese cooking," he adds.
Aside from the lamb chops (S$20), the.twenty.cavan also serves a beef udon where the beef is marinated with lemongrass (S$$20), a Canton roast chicken with macadamia and cashew nuts (S$18), and stir-fried prawns and scallops in chilli lime (S$20).
Chef Lim explains that opening a restaurant had always been a dream for him and his business partner, and they eventually intend to open more restaurants also highlighting Asian cuisine. "Our next project will also be Asian, possibly Indian. We want people to realise that it's not only Western food that can be done well in a modern way, Asian food can as well," he adds.
This article was first published on October 7, 2016.
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