Keong Saik Snacks has been rebranded as The Study.
British superstar chef Jason Atherton strikes again with this casual dining eatery, another collaboration with hotelier Loh Lik Peng and his third venue in town, after Esquina and Pollen. This time, it’s a cosy 30-seat shophouse space on the ground floor of newly opened Naumi Liora – in the mornings, the restaurant also doubles up to serve breakfast to hotel guests. While we’re fans of Atherton, and particularly the appealing atmosphere and tapas of Esquina (located just a short walk away), we can’t help feeling as though Atherton is becoming one of those chefs who simply lends his ‘celebrity’ credentials to a location for branding purposes. On our visit, one week after the public opening, Atherton had already left town (en route to Hong Kong, where he opened tapas bar 22 Ships in Wan Chai), and executive chef Andrew Walsh (also leading the team at Esquina) was nowhere to be seen either. We couldn’t help thinking back to the opening weeks of another favourite diner: &Made by Bruno Ménard, where the Michelin-starred chef was a constant presence (granted, he’s perhaps the only celebrity chef to have actually relocated here).
That said, we were impressed by the well-trained manager of Keong Saik Snacks, who explained each dish as it was served at the table and patiently answered questions. The menu offers a mix of slightly highbrow options among more common diner grub. The fun D-I-Y tuna tartare ($17) gets high marks, with cubes of fresh tuna served alongside condiments like wasabi mayo, Vietnamese dressing, black and white sesame seeds, coriander, chives and soy that you can mix and match, while a thin crouton gives some crunch. Another standout is the deliciously sinful grilled bone marrow ($18), topped with braised ox cheek and caramelised onions that’s accompanied by two slices of bread dabbed with a slightly tart ‘gentleman’s relish’ (a spread of butter, anchovies, cinnamon, nutmeg and Worcestershire sauce) to help cut the richness.
There’s also a short list of wines (all but one available by the glass; from $12-$26) and beers ($14-$17/500ml) to call on if that doesn’t suffice. Less impressive are the pedestrian Jason’s Very Hot Dog ($19) and the Ibérico ham and Manchego cheese toastie ($18), which could have done with more of that classic combo filling or less bread – both are somewhat pricey as well. You’ll fare better with easy, comforting eats such as The Kimchi Burger ($20), a solid effort with housemade kimchi served on the side; although the fact that fries ($6) don’t come standard doesn’t sit well with us.
Desserts are spot-on: make sure to save room and order up some light and fluffy hot doughnuts ($8) that come with your choice of either vanilla or caramel (our pick) crème Chantilly. When you’re finished, you may be invited to continue onto The Library next door for some expertly-crafted cocktails with a tongue-in-cheek approach. In truth, we’re more excited about being able to order from Atherton’s menu at that password-protected bar – those looking for a dose of gourmet junk food to pair with their drinks will surely be pleased. However, on its own for dinner, Keong Saik Snacks just doesn’t quite cut the mustard. Jamie Tan
|Venue name:||Keong Saik Snacks (CLOSED)||Contact:|
Naumi Liora Hotel
49 Keong Saik Road
|Opening hours:||Daily noon-11pm|