Note: This venue is now closed.
It’s exceptionally fitting that Joo Chiat’s newest kid on the block is a gastrobar that showcases local culinary traditions in what’s historically a well-known Peranakan and Eurasian enclave. There’s a strong emphasis on Peranakan and Eurasian cuisine at this laid-back 100-seater, undoubtedly a nod to chef-partner Damian D’Silva’s roots. Known locally as the ‘rebel chef’ – he’s recently just released an autobiography entitled Rebel With A Course – D’Silva, 56, has been active in the dining scene since 1999, formerly at his Soul Kitchen and the hawker favourite Big D’s Grill.
This new venue reflects his style perfectly: up front. The raw, almost industrial setup is softened with playful elements like bright yellow bar stools, colourful tiled-walls and photos of the three partners in traditional Nyonya outfits (with D’Silva looking badass, of course), while the back of the eatery has a more nostalgic feel with mosaic-tiled flooring, exposed brick walls and old-school wooden chairs reminiscent of coffee shops of the past. That marriage of the old with the new is reflected in the food only so far as portion-size is concerned, with D’Silva following the ‘small plates’ philosophy of the growing tapas trend (which is perhaps just becoming a way for restaurants to charge more for serving less food elsewhere). However, we’re pleased to report that coming out of the kitchen are authentic, home-style dishes, with the ceramic serving plates and bowls being an especially nice nostalgic touch.
Standouts include the sambal stingray ($18), a hearty serving of charcoal-grilled goodness topped with slightly sweet homemade sambal chilli (a recipe from D’Silva’s grandpa) – but be warned, it takes about 15 minutes, although it’s certainly well worth the wait – and the unique sambal buah keluak fried rice ($20), an incredibly fragrant creation that was significantly less spicy the second time we tried it (D’Silva responding to initial customer feedback) – if you like it hot, make sure to tell him so, and ask for more sambal on the side. It’s hard to go wrong with ngo hiang ($14), and their version of this classic are firm bites made with minced pork and prawns, accompanied by a garlicky chilli sauce. Pass on the somewhat ordinary items like Bengali lamb chops ($18) and Ayam Kalasan ($12) in favour of Eurasian pork cutlets ($10), D’Silva’s mum’s version of bagadale with potatoes and minced pork. If you’re feeling up for a challenge, give the super spicy Squid Bombs ($14), stuffed with a potent spice blend enhanced with two different chillies, a go.
Aside from the grub (there aren’t any desserts on the menu), there’s also a very decent selection of craft beers (from $12) and whiskies (from $12/glass), as well as a short list of wines (from $12/ glass) to be found at this neighbourhood joint. We suggest pairing tipples such as Hitachino Nest White Ale ($12) or, for something with more body, Japanese single malt Nikka Miyagikyo 12 Year Old ($14), to round out your meal. All in all, this is honest cooking in a charming, relaxed setting (brownie points to D’Silva for – despite his imposing stature – his friendly, gregarious presence), but we’d be the first to admit the old-school ‘heritage’ fare isn’t for everyone; this is one for the die-hard Nyonya fans. Jamie Tan
|Venue name:||Immigrants: The Singapore Gastrobar (closed)||Contact:|
467 Joo Chiat Road
|Opening hours:||Daily 5pm-midnight|
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