Restaurant Review: Luke's Oyster Bar & Chop House

Many restaurateurs here don't seem to give much thought to the lighting in their establishments. But it is important.

It may attract someone walking past to dine at a restaurant, and it can signal to the diner what standard he can expect there in terms of both cuisine and service.

In the case of the month-old Luke's Oyster Bar & Chop House at The Heeren, the sophisticated lighting actually makes me part with my money less grudgingly.

I enjoy chef-owner Travis Masiero's cooking at the original Luke's in Gemmill Lane, which opened in 2011, but I baulk at the prices there. For what looks like a casual restaurant in a neighbourhood of midpriced eateries and bars, I find paying $90 for a dozen oysters or more than $100 for a lobster pot pie too much.

It's not that the new Luke's has fancy neighbours. It is on the third floor of Robinsons department store, where you find the women's section. The door is very discreet and I have to walk around the entire floor looking for it, wading through racks of women's clothes and underwear, before I give up and ask a Robinsons salesman for directions.

But once you pass through the door, the mood takes a 180-degree turn.

The layout is slightly similar to the first Luke's, with a long bar counter running the length of the room and tables lined up on the facing side. But instead of the white and pastel colours which dominate the older outlet, black is the principal shade here.

At dinnertime, what adds an aura of sophistication is a row of globe lights on top of a low partition separating the bar from the dining tables. They look classy, casting a soothing and flattering glow over the room.

And through the window, you look across Orchard Road to the lit facade of Mandarin Gallery, a much prettier sight than the dead-end Gemmill Lane.

The menu is largely the same as the older Luke's, with a few new items such as kale salad and deviled eggs with fried oysters.

The kale salad ($15 for a side order) is a fascinating idea. The mildly bitter vegetable is cut into thin strips and mixed with herbs and roasted peanuts. A peanut dressing which reminds me of gado gado completes the dish.

It sounds rather odd, but is surprisingly pleasant, and presents a totally new way to eat the vegetable, which is usually stir-fried or parboiled.

Most of the main dishes are repeats from the older outlet, and I'm not complaining.

The Luke's Clam Chowder ($17), which I order for my starter, is delicious and wholesome, with a generous number of juicy littleneck clams in the creamy soup. It's such a pleasure not to be served overcooked clams, which is what you get at most other places in Singapore when you order the dish.

And my main course of Kurobuta Pork Chop ($60) is suitably succulent and juicy, unlike the dry, bland meat which often passes off as kurobuta pork these days.

In fact, the piece of pork here is so delicious that I try to scrape off the layer of apple jam on top so I can taste the meat better. The shower of wild fennel spice, however, I am happy to keep.

My dining companion's main course of Signature Foley "Georges Bank Scallops" ($47) is very good too. It comprises six plump scallops - which I deem generous - with the shellfish roasted perfectly so they stay sweet and tender. Served with a lemony caper sauce and coleslaw, it is lovely.

For dessert, the Double Fudge Chocolate Brownie ($16) is sinfully rich but very satisfying. It is balanced by a rather light peanut ice cream, and the play of light and heavy as well as cold and warm works.

I like how chef Masiero stays with very classic dishes but manages to make them feel fresh nonetheless. But I still wish his prices are a little lower, so I can go back more often.

Follow Wong Ah Yoke on Twitter @STahyoke

SundayLife! paid for its meals at the eateries reviewed here.



Kale salad ($15)

This new dish sounds strange, but the combination of the bitter vegetable and peanut dressing is quite appealing.



260 Orchard Road, The Heeren, 03-02, tel: 6733-4813

Open: Noon to 10.30pm daily

Food: 4/5

Service: 4/5

Ambience: 4/5

Price: Budget more than $120 a person, without drinks

This article was first published on June 10, 2014.
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