What it’s like: Sandwiched between the picturesque domes of Gardens by the Bay and Marina Barrage, the relatively remote Satay by the Bay was conceived at the start of 2013 to recreate a feel of the old Satay Club of the ’80s and also pay homage to the old Marina Bay area. It was a popular strip of arcades, bowling alleys and cheap steamboat joints that was around until a decade ago – before drastic redevelopment transformed this area into a prime tourist destination. Unbeatable views of the Marina Bay landscape aside, the roomy 1,000-seat complex is packed to the rafters on weekends. A predominantly semi-indoor area takes on the bare, unfussy vibe of your typical food court, while the al fresco section is much more rustic – there are seven satay stalls in pushcarts (three Malay and four Chinese) and quaint wooden tables and stools that you’ll have to stoop down to sit on.
What to eat: It touts itself as a 24-hour food destination, but the only round-the-clock outlet here is the drinks stall. We were surprised to find half the 28 hawkers shuttered on a Friday night – the only recognisable stall we spotted was Boon Tat BBQ Seafood (previously seen at Makansutra Gluttons Bay), and while the sambal sauce that coated our BBQ stingray ($12/$14/$16) packed a spicy punch, the tough and stringy meat came overcooked.
To our disappointment, none of the satay stalls hailed from the old Satay Club, so we settled on ordering from the halal side first – Sri Geylang Sate could at least call on a decade of catering experience. The sticks of marinated chicken and beef ($7/10 sticks, with prices standard across all the stalls) were smoky and succulent, but we were also impressed with the chunky and piquant peanut sauce. In contrast, City Satay’s (from the Chinese side) watery version missed the mark, though they also offer pork.
Staples like chicken rice and bak kut teh were fronted by no-name stalls and manned by disinterested looking hawkers, but we stumbled upon the highlight of our visit at Bay Front Steamboat Buffet, a veritable nod to the past when cheap steamboat buffets were all the rage. Prices have since doubled; for $22, you’ll get your own steamboat pot and free-flow of fresh vegetables, meat and seafood. Hearty, comforting fare with a slice of nostalgia to boot. If you’re old enough to remember the good times and fancy a trip down memory lane, a decent steamboat meal and good, albeit overpriced, satay could be worth the journey. But if it’s memorable hawker fare you’re hankering for, look elsewhere. Lee Min Kok
|Venue name:||Satay by the Bay|
#01-19 Gardens by the Bay
18 Marina Gardens Drive
|Do you own this business?|