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Mod-Asian fare: Barley water martini and salted egg risotto, anyone?

Hip sips, small bites: Two cool, new fusion eateries offering cocktails and innovative small plates

1. Kite
1. Kite
26 Jan 2016

1. Kite

#01-01, 53 CRAIG RD, S089691. TEL: 9729-7988. Open daily except Mon. Tue-Fri noon-2.30pm; Tue-Sun 6pm-midnight. Last orders 2.30pm & 10pm for food; midnight for drinks. www.eat.at.kite.sg

Nestled along quiet Craig Road is this restaurant-bar that serves up Euro-Asian small plates and craft cocktails with a few Singaporean flourishes. It was opened last November by the people behind hipster cafe and grocery store SPRMRKT at McCallum Street. Kite is a pretty, brightly-lit and narrow 40-seater in a former shophouse. It screams old world sentiment: soft tungsten lighting, Peranakan-style floor tiling… mixed with mod industrial stone and wood touches. The name itself, pointing to kite flying, is supposed to evoke childhood memories, as is the “modern comfort food” whipped up by chef Dannel Krishnan, 27, the boyish chef who used to work at modern European restaurant, Bacchanalia. The cocktails are shaken up by bartender Samuel Sim, previously of Horse’s Mouth Bar.

ON THE MENU: The food here is of the cheeky, deconstructed variety. Think battered, tender veal Sweetbreads (offal), served with McDonalds-esque curry sauce and called “Nuggets”. It’s Instagram-worthy and mostly quite tasty, though sometimes a little too conceptual instead of satisfying. The plates here work better as sophisticated tipple-time tapas. Just as well, because the cocktails are fab.

Kite: The Food & Drinks
Kite: The Food & Drinks
26 Jan 2016

Kite: The Food & Drinks

Chicken Skins (Above left, $6)
These apparently take a whole day of rendering and cooking in their own fat to make, but it’s worth it because the shatteringly crisp skin, coated in a sticky-sweet bourbon glaze and juniper salt, is excellent. None of the unpleasant chewiness that comes with lesser versions.

Dirty Vegetables (Above right, $10) 


This makes for a good picture, but that’s about it. The main deal is the heirloom carrots and organic asparagus, served raw on a bed of finely-ground coffee tossed in browned butter to form a loose “soil”. The thin slivers of vegetables are lovely and crunchy, but this is essentially vegetable sticks in a mildly sweet, buttery “dip”.

Kite: The Food & Drinks
Kite: The Food & Drinks
26 Jan 2016

Kite: The Food & Drinks

Black Spanish Pig (Above left, $18)
On a menu of delicate plates, this is probably the heartiest offering, and our favourite. A fatty cut of pork shoulder is lightly smoked, then grilled till pink in the centre. Served with bits of crumbly walnut cake, chunks of chestnut and tart apple and plum sauce. The meat is rich, fat, tender and the sweet-sour sauces remind us of a moreish cross between Chinese char siew and smoky American barbecue, with jammy English touches.

For Goodness Sake (Above right, $18)
A mix of sake, gin, barley syrup and lemon that goes down like a smoother, earthier dry martini because of the viscous, lightly sweetened barley syrup (like a thicker Chinese-style barley water) and rice notes from the sake.

Salmon 42deg ($14)
Thick salmon fillet cooked sous-vide at 42°C with a still-rare centre and a nice tender flakiness surrounding it. Topped with ground bonito and furikake, and served with a mildly vinegary seaweed salad with cubes of apple. Good, if a little unexciting.

BOTTOM LINE: A sexy and hip gastrobar with solid cocktails and pretty good small plates, even if some of the dishes try a bit too hard to impress but don’t taste super satisfying. Drop by for drinks with creative bites, not a hearty meal.
 

2. Fu Lin Bar and Kitchen
2. Fu Lin Bar and Kitchen
26 Jan 2016

2. Fu Lin Bar and Kitchen

127 TELOK AYER ST, S068596. TEL: 6423-0311. Open daily except Sun. Mon-Sat 10.30am-3pm; 5pm-midnight. Last orders 3pm & 10.30pm for food; 11.30pm for drinks. http://jemmeteo.wix.com/fulinbar

People bemoan the disappearance of hawker favourites, but maybe all it takes is a hybrid makeover for the business to remain viable. Like this traditional yong tau foo outfit at Telok Ayer that, in the evenings, turns into a cool mod Asian tapas bar. The brand, which dates back to the ’90s and has five other hawker stall outlets, was bought over by a husband-and-wife team about six years ago. The Telok Ayer branch was converted into this dual-purpose 80-seat eatery last November when the shop’s lease was about to be renewed. The owners headhunted Spanish-influenced chef Warren Poh, 30, who’s done stints in various tapas joints like Catalunya and Foodbar Dada, to lead the upmarket revamp. In the day, it’s yong tau foo business-as-usual served by a team of old-timer aunties, except you’ll be slurping it up in brooding, east-meets-west hipster surrounds, like a grungy Chinese medicine hall with industrial decor. After 5pm, the bar and tapas kitchen take over.

ON THE MENU: Not quite full blown tapas, these are small plates with Asian touches and an occasional Spanish flair. Think a crustacean-laden risotto thickened with salted egg yolk, and grilled meats from a charcoal oven. There’re also local plates like the signature yong tau foo (the same deal as in the daytime, but pre-selected for you). The plates we sample are delish, but sadly the bar is less impressive, with a humdrum-sounding list of cocktails like Lychee Martinis and Cosmopolitans.
 

Fu Lin Bar and Kitchen: The Food & Drinks
Fu Lin Bar and Kitchen: The Food & Drinks
26 Jan 2016

Fu Lin Bar and Kitchen: The Food & Drinks

Crab Risotto (Above left, $25)
Perfectly cooked risotto simmered with crab stock, then studded with tender, sweet chunks of spanner crab and charred leeks, and stirred with savoury salted egg cream and a mound of tobiko for umami depth and texture.

Sea Ravioli (Above right, $14)
More like one giant shui gao wrapped with tender wanton skin instead of pasta. This is filled with chunks of crabmeat, shrimp and drizzled with a light seafood broth. Soft and pillowy, it bursts with lovely briny flavours.
 

Fu Lin Bar and Kitchen: The Food & Drinks
Fu Lin Bar and Kitchen: The Food & Drinks
26 Jan 2016

Fu Lin Bar and Kitchen: The Food & Drinks

Iberico Steak (Above left, $26)
A 200g cut of Iberian pork collar that’s grilled in the charcoal oven. While it’s got a nice smoky charred exterior and slightly pink middle, it’s unfortunately a little dry on the outer edges.

Fu Lin Yong Tau Foo (Above right, $9; serves two)
An assortment of about 10 fish paste-stuffed peppers, beancurd and tau kee, all fried and served blanketed in a signature sweet and savoury soy-based minced chicken sauce (also comes in a soup version on request). There’re no noodles or rice at night. The mostly handmade morsels are crispy and yum, but the much-touted "special sauce" is a little bland and lacklustre compared to the robust flavours coming out of the tapas kitchen.

Fu Lin Bar and Kitchen: The Food & Drinks
Fu Lin Bar and Kitchen: The Food & Drinks
26 Jan 2016

Fu Lin Bar and Kitchen: The Food & Drinks

Yang Tau Foo ($18)
The only fusion offering on the otherwise safe cocktail menu. We should’ve stuck to the classics. This is a bizarre vodka and soy milk concoction. The thin and watery milk doesn't blend well with the vodka, which has a harsh, bitter bite. Stick to one of the sakes here, like the fruity and rich Kiminoi Nama ($26 per 300ml).

BOTTOM LINE: Hearty, tasty Spanish-Asian small plates in a chic vintage setting, though we’re less crazy about the unexciting bar and yong tau foo.

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