At this café, the cuisine of chefs like Willin Low, Shen Tan and Damian D’Silva – Low coined it mod Sin for lack of a better term to describe the melding of piquant Eastern flavours with meaty Western fare – gets repackaged for the masses. A passion project of ex-banker and durian enthusiast Chung Deming, this quick-service space in the new, hidden-away wing of Icon Village near Tanjong Pagar MRT station is his earnest attempt at selling familiar comfort food updated with a modern flair.
Burlap gunny sacks hug wood-framed panels on the walls and counter, while layers of corrugated metal pitch a false ceiling over the 30-seater room. The décor is perhaps a little under-polished when juxtaposed against the tired exposed pipes-and- bare concrete aesthetic plaguing its peers, but The Quarters’ look rings true to its Singapore-loving cuisine and the ‘come as you are’ affability of the establishment, affirmed on a blackboard panel on a back wall.
Open for breakfast with Western-centric egg and bread dishes on offer ($10, includes coffee or tea), The Quarters moves on to locally tinged dishes for the rest of the day. Crisp fries are an almost unnecessary accompaniment to a salted duck egg emulsion ($7.60); sharing this with a friend will be a battle of how much sauce you can scoop up with one mere fry. The hearty bowl of chilli crab and asparagus capellini ($18) grows on you after its slightly sweetish first impression.
A duo of dark soy-heavy pulled pork – the Umami Babi ($8.50) – and Bibik en Vogue ($8.50) of the housemade rempah in kueh pie tee shells were perhaps overseasoned on our visit, but pack flavour promise. The dipping sauce of laksa with poached egg, served with toast ($7.80), is better avoided. A layer of oil shelters a watery bath of liquid and rempah solids, and the oozing yolk doesn’t help much to emulsify the mixture.
The final flourish for a meal here has to be the durian crème brûlée ($7). The dish that marked chef Chung’s debut to the F&B industry – he sold them at pop-ups at the Singapore Night Festival and Pasarbella under the Durian Can Boleh label – isn’t as polarising as the prickly fruit. It’s available here year-round and the wobbly custard bears a light perfume of the fruit’s funky top notes.
Besides the standard serves of hot and iced coffee brewed with Papa Palheta’s Throwback blend in a Synesso machine ($3.50-$6), the café also shakes up a mix of lemon, mint and dill that’s carbonated with soda to make the Quarterade ($5). A tight menu of Peroni ($8), house red and white wines ($8-$12) and Yamazaki 12 ($11-$14) is also available for a post-work drink.
The service here is earnest, and chef Chung even takes the extra step to emerge from the kitchen and chat with his patrons. There’s no doubting his lofty aims of endearing his cuisine to the masses, and in this casual setting, it just might work. Natasha Hong
|Venue name:||The Quarters||Contact:|
16 Enggor St
|Opening hours:||Mon-Thu 8am-10pm, Fri 8am-11pm, Sat 10am-11pm, Sun 10am-10pm|
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