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PasarBella Suntec City: Top 3 picks from the new hipster food haven

There are 13 stalls at the new PASARBELLA @ SUNTEC CITY, which feels like a bunch of food trucks in a New York-esque hipster food court. Of the lot, these are the three new-to-market, made-in-Singapore eateries we love best

1. Porsena Deli
1. Porsena Deli
01 Apr 2016

1. Porsena Deli

PASARBELLA @ SUNTEC CITY, #01-455 NORTH WING, 3 TEMASEK BLVD, S038989. TEL: 8876-0300. Open daily 8am-10pm. Last orders 9.45pm. www.facebook.com/porsenadeli

It’s easy to dismiss this five-month-old sandwich bar at a quiet corner of PasarBella as another generic sarnie joint. But that would be a mistake. For one, it’s co-owned by the former head chef of chic small plates outfit, Lolla, Kyle Henderson, 30. Secondly, it’s one of very few places in Singapore that makes its pastrami — a notoriously time-consuming American-Jewish deli meat of cured/smoked/boiled/steamed beef — from scratch.

Kyle, who works behind the counter here, has always loved sandwiches. In fact, he worked with cool sarnie joint Park Bench Deli back when it was just a pop-up store (it now has permanent digs at Telok Ayer), and he says he created PBD’s beloved ‘kong bak pau’ banh mi during his stint. Now at Porsena, together with three other silent chef-partners, he wants to elevate the humble sandwich to something special in fuss-free, casual digs.

ON THE MENU: Think hearty American-style sandwiches with slick gourmet touches: home-made pickles, pates, sauces and braised meats. The eight meat-centric options are held together by breads from local bakery Bakery Artisanal Original (B.A.O). You can choose your dough, though each filling comes with a recommended pairing. The star of the show is the house-smoked pastrami, made in an American electric smoker fuelled with apple wood chunks. For $3, you can make it a set with a soup and a home-made cookie, like the old-school Chocolate Chip Cookie ($1.50), which Kyle says is made from a recipe by his mum, who used to be a Home Econs teacher at Tanglin Trust School. 

Porsena Deli: The food
Porsena Deli: The food
01 Apr 2016

Porsena Deli: The food

Smoked Beef Pastrami ($11.90)

This is a labour of love, though Kyle has updated the traditional American-Jewish method of smoking and steaming pastrami. The slab of Aussie point end (the fattier portion) beef brisket is cured for six days, crusted in a rub of peppercorn and coriander seed, then smoked for six hours in the smoker. It's then further slow-cooked in the oven for 12 hours, before being cooked sous vide to bring up the meat’s moisture levels. The result is a tender, fatty, buttery slab of meat with a reasonably juicy “medium-rare” centre. It’s got great flavour too: intensely smoky and rich, with a subtly spicy punch. Enrobed in melted provolone cheese, the meat’s richness is cut with a slick of zingy mustard, tangy house-made sauerkraut and crunchy dill pickle. It’s best between toasted slices of pleasantly bitter dark rye bread, though our colleague found the former dry and prefers the buttery brioche roll for this. Of course, don’t expect the towering stack of meat common in a pastrami sarnie in New York, nor its other-worldly juiciness. But this is good enough for a Singaporean version. Go at noon, when the meat is freshly prepared and hasn’t had time to dry out as it’s sliced. Interesting fact: Kyle has never actually tasted an authentic pastrami sandwich before in the States (like at Katz’s Delicatessen). He and his team learned how to make this through trial and error. Colour us impressed.

Porsena Deli: The food
Porsena Deli: The food
01 Apr 2016

Porsena Deli: The food

Pork Belly Banh Mi ($9.90), pictured above
Fans of the Park Bench Deli "kong bak pau" banh mi will miss the dark "kong bak" sauce, but we love this too. Tender pork belly cooked sous vide and paired with a smear of creamy, sweet chicken liver pate that gilds each bite. Topped with piquant pickled daikon and carrots, coriander and a spicy drizzle of Sriracha chilli sauce, this sandwich is full of contrasting textures and flavours. The only downside is the slightly too-soft roll this comes served in, which is no match for a shatteringly crisp Vietnamese baguette.

Meatball Sub ($9.90)
A comforting American classic. Five smallish, melt-in-your-mouth minced beef balls luxuriate in a punchy tomato sauce seasoned with plenty of oregano. Slathered in a milky cheddar cheese sauce, and goes great with the pillowy brioche roll.

BOTTOM LINE: Great sandwiches with bold but well-balanced flavours and gourmet touches that make them quite special.

2. Grillo
2. Grillo
01 Apr 2016

2. Grillo

PASARBELLA @ SUNTEC CITY, #01-455 NORTH WING, 3 TEMASEK BLVD, S038989. Open daily 10am-10pm. Last orders 9.45pm. www.facebook.com/grillosg

When Grillo first started out last November, it served only yakitori-style skewered meats. But when that didn’t fly with customers, they decided to serve those grilled meats on rice to form comforting, ever-popular mod Japanese rice bowls. That became a quick hit, which just goes to show how much Singaporeans love their carbs. The owners behind Grillo wish to remain silent, except for chef co-owner Wing Kin Lam, former executive chef of upscale modern Japanese beef restaurant The Fat Cow, famous for its luxe truffle wagyu donburi (psst, they have a humbler version here).

ON THE MENU: A small selection of four rice bowls topped with skewers, all smouldered on an electric grill. The skewers are also available a la carte for $1.50 to $2.50 per stick. We find the toppings generally well made and better than your run-of-the-mill pseudo-Japanese rice bowls. Portions here aren’t huge, though, so don’t count on being super satiated. There’re also a bunch of sides with mod Asian influences, like a pretty tasty Cabbage & Carrot Slaw tossed in a ginger-sesame dressing.  

Grillo: The food
Grillo: The food
01 Apr 2016

Grillo: The food

Garlic Tofu Bowl ($10.90)
We’re usually sceptical about vegetarian options, but this blew us away. Soft chunks of silken tofu are paired with grilled skewers of zucchini and shiitake mushrooms. The tofu is lightly pan-fried so it has a light golden-brown crust and wobbly insides, and it’s got a delicious garlicky flavour enhanced by lashings of garlic soy dressing. Plus points for the al dente short-grained Japanese rice that soaks up the sauce well without getting mushy.

Grillo: The food
Grillo: The food
01 Apr 2016

Grillo: The food

Truffle Short Rib Bowl ($14.90)
Chunks of Australian rib meat are cooked sous vide, sizzled on the grill and then served as tender slices drizzled with a soy-based sauce spiked with fragrant truffle oil. The rice bowl is then crowned with a silky sous vide egg, which leaks creamy yolk for lovely, truffle-perfumed mouthfuls. We find the beef a little under-seasoned and bland, and the fried garlic flakes scattered over the bowl have a jarring bitterness, but overall this comes together quite nicely.
 

Grillo: The food
Grillo: The food
01 Apr 2016

Grillo: The food

Classic Chicken Bowl ($11.90)
Skewered chicken thighs cooked on the grill, charred leeks and minced chicken balls topped with a wobbly egg, all smothered in a slightly too-sweet teriyaki sauce. The chicken is tender, with nice smoky edges and the meatballs are juicy and bouncy. Comforting, if nothing to shout about.

BOTTOM LINE: Funnily enough, with all the meat on offer here, our favourite item is the tasty tofu. But all in all, we like these rice bowls, which make for a quick, affordable lunchtime fix with enough foodie touches thrown in to be memorable.
 

3. Wolf
3. Wolf
01 Apr 2016

3. Wolf

PASARBELLA @ SUNTEC CITY, #01-455 NORTH WING, 3 TEMASEK BLVD, S038989. TEL: 9820-4564. Open daily noon-9.30pm. Last orders 9.30pm. Facebook

Indie crooner Charlie Lim is the man behind the name of this burger joint, owned and run by the people behind Carvers & Co, the roast meat specialist café at East Coast Road. “Charlie’s a good friend of ours,” says boss Soh Wen Ming, 32, who also drums professionally in Charlie’s band. “He kept having this dream that we’d open a burger joint called Hungry Wolf, and wouldn’t stop bugging us until we did”. 

The burgers at Wolf, developed by chef and co-owner Sarah Jane Lim, 30, Wen’s wife, are based on the ones served at Carvers, which the couple opened in 2014. Wen says the burgers there were getting popular enough that the idea of a dedicated burger joint started making sense. “Charlie’s one of our regulars now,” he adds, and from what we can tell, Wolf (located just beside Porsena Deli) is one of the more popular stalls at PasarBella.

ON THE MENU: Five types of burgers featuring made-from-scratch patties, ranging from the classic beef patty in the signature The Wolf ($9.90) to funkier numbers like the pork patty topped with kimchi paste in the Pork Gochujang Burger ($9.90). The chefs here grind and blend whole cuts of beef in-house to form their beef patties. They decline to reveal the secret mix of cuts sourced from different countries. The lightly grilled buns from a supplier are pretty good too, fluffy and buttery with a chewy crumb.
 

Wolf: The food
Wolf: The food
01 Apr 2016

Wolf: The food

The Alpha ($14.90)
This is essentially a double cheeseburger, loaded with two hefty beef patties, salty melted cheddar and sweet sautéed onions. It’s massive, rich and meaty with a nice mix of flavours from the accompaniments. We like that there’s a decent sear on the fresh-tasting patties, which are usually cooked medium and boast a lovely tenderness, and also good bite. That being said, our editor who had the burger on another occasion found the beef patty strangely gristly.
 

Wolf: The food
Wolf: The food
01 Apr 2016

Wolf: The food

Fried Chicken Burger ($9.90)
A slab of deep-fried buttermilk-marinated chicken thigh slathered with salted egg mayonnaise and coleslaw. The chicken has a great crunchy crust and succulent flesh. Together with the rich, if somewhat too sweet sauce (sadly too light on salted egg yolk flavour) and sharp slaw, this is quite yummy.

Wolf: The food
Wolf: The food
01 Apr 2016

Wolf: The food

Kimchi Fries ($8)
We’re on the fence about this. At its core, it’s a trashy cheese fries dish with a bright yellow, artificial-tasting nacho cheese sauce. But paired with sour cream, chives and a heap of chopped kimchi that brings a nice tartness and spiciness to the party, it works. It’s junk food with an edge.

BOTTOM LINE: Classic and creative offerings that many burger aficionados will appreciate. Portions are generous, too.

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