Fu Lin Bar and Kitchen looks every bit a member of the industrial-cool posse of café and bars that have mushroomed across our dining scene in recent years.
What earned a reputation as a yong tau foo shop has undergone an Instagram-this revamp. By day, tofu permutations stack atop trays on wooden bar counters. But after dark, strategically placed spotlights and brooding tech-house tunes lure the office-worker crowd back to iron out the day's stress with cocktails, beers and a menu of Asian tapas.
Since its inception, Head chef Warren Poh's application of Asian flavours with his Spanish training were, on the whole, pretty successful. However, the current menu leans heavily towards Sichuan influences and less of its roots of the once-promising Spain-meets-Asia angle.
Fresh whole squid ($17) yields tender rings of meat accented with fried garlic breadcrumbs, while the spicy eggplant ($12) is wok-fried to silky perfection with a touch of wok hei and generously portioned for sharing. Meat skewers ($20) were skillfully executed as tender cuts of mutton and succulent pork is deftly seasoned with a 5 spice dry rub and cumin seeds, then finished off on the grill for a slight char to taste. Firecracker chicken ($14) features the usual suspects of crunchy fried chicken, numbingly hot chillis and peppercorns that goes down well with an ice-cold pint. There’s still the joint’s famed, gravy-rich yong tau foo served at night, albeit pre-assembled with tofu and fishcake-stuffed veggies ($8/seven items).
Sichuan mala dumplings ($12) are touted as the must-order dish, but while the dumplings alone were neatly wrapped, jam-packed with juicy minced meat and chives, it arrived in an extremely watered down sauce that lacked any depth. It is as if Sichuan chillis and peppercorns came in a two-in-one pre-mix with instructions to just add water. But whatever you do, stay clear from the smoked duck Peking wrap ($16). An utter gutter of a DIY dish that saw a lacklustre presentation of doughy cold-to-touch popiah wrappers, ready-to-eat duck meat, sad spring onions and – once again – a watery sweet sauce that could possibly amount to the greatest diss–track for all Peking Duck craftsman out there.
The drinks selection is pretty functional but if an Old Fashioned ($16) is a measure of a bar's worth, stick to your beers ($10-$16). Our meagre two-sips were more watery than elegant and markedly bitter.
Fu Lin, with its 'social bar' aspirations, works better as a small plates restaurant with drinks than as a bar that just happens to sell snacks they fancily call 'tapas'. But with the exodus of the promising Asian-meets-INKA angle coupled with bang-average drinks, it serves as a convenient spot for some after-work happy hour and nosh. But only if you’re in the area.
Time Out Singapore reviews anonymously and pays for all meals. Read our restaurant review policy here.
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