Time Out says
How do you even pronounce that? You’ll have to ask a Singaporean. According to Urban Dictionary, it’s a word “used to convey a feeling of sheer pleasure and happiness” in Malaysia and Singapore.
Shiok (or rather, SH!OK) boasts an interesting location and an even more interesting owner. The space is that once occupied by the identity-confused Catch, whose menu turned inexplicably Singaporean after a spell as a tapas spot. Then there’s the man behind it: the Singaporean former owner of Bar of Soup, which served soups by the cup but earned a cult following for off-the-menu Singaporean hawker food.
We arrived to find the menu written in Singlish – forcing us to come back with a Singaporean to help us order. The only thing we recognised for ourselves was the chai tow kway ($45, and listed as one of the owner’s favourites). It comes in two flavours, white and black. “Black is the special one,” the waiter told us – and so we went with that. The fried carrot cake was coloured with sweet soy sauce, and came with chilli sauce on the side. Bits of dried shrimp dotted the cake, and though there was a bottle of thick soy sauce on the table, it would not be required. We could’ve been sitting at a hawker stand in Singapore, and this would’ve tasted identical.
The otak burger ($42) was also listed as a favourite of the owner’s – but why? It was a French loaf topped with fried egg, tomato, onion and herbs. We were starting to doubt our Singaporean culinary knowledge, as none of us had ever seen anything like this – except perhaps as part of a greasy fried breakfast at a New York deli. Gazing on the sorry-looking undercooked-egg-and-bread combo, we decided to ask the owner about the dish’s origins.”It’s my own invention,” he said proudly. Look, it wasn’t that bad – but it was also little more than an egg sandwich sprinkled with coriander.
Now that the cold weather had finally begun to bite, a big bowl of bak kut teh ($68) was just the ticket. It arrived nicely peppered, stuffed with piggy parts (from ribs to liver), with fresh chilli on the side. True to form, it tasted medicinal and warmed the belly. This soup is all you need to get you through the winter.
The Assam fish head (seasonal price) would have benefitted from a bit more time on the stove as the head meat wasn’t completely falling apart. The sauce was wonderfully spicy though, blended with crushed ginger, garlic and red curry paste. The meat was sufficiently cooked but retained a freshness uncommon to stews. If you’ve never had this dish before, don’t expect a lot of meat – it’s the gravy over rice that is so special.
On to the chilli crab and pepper crab (seasonal price). The chilli crab was just as tasty as at No Signboard Seafood in Singapore. Fire-red, sweet and hot, the thick sauce found its ideal delivery system in the plump, juicy crabmeat. Happily, the seafood here is brought fresh from the market each morning – which also means you need to place an advance order. Steer clear of the pepper crab though, which was over-salted and stung the mouth. Adjustments are in order.
We’re told there will be English translations when version two of the menu is released (around the time of publication). We must admit though, it was fun to blindly order dishes and learn a new language in the process. At least in Hong Kong, there’s no need to chope a seat.
G/F, 66 Peel St, Soho, 2899 2001. Daily noon-10pm. Meal for two: around $450.