Review: Clinton St. Baking Company & Restaurant

The one thing worth braving the crowds for at one-week-old restaurant? Its signature pancakes

Fluffy, squishy, yummy
Fluffy, squishy, yummy
09 Oct 2015

Fluffy, squishy, yummy

We arrive at the restaurant almost breathless, desperate to make it before noon when the lunch crush will be unleashed on us. But Clinton St. Baking Company & Restaurant, the Singapore franchise of this New York City brunch institution, is already almost full.

It’s 11.40am on a Tuesday, the eatery’s fourth day of opening here. And the place is heaving with bloggers armed with mammoth cameras (we’re almost embarrassed for using our phone to snap pics), interspersed with young professionals. Mercifully, we snag one of the few remaining seats immediately — the wait was an hour long at Sunday lunch when we called to check. As is the practice at the always-packed flagship branch in New York’s Lower East Side, no reservations are allowed here. Not that its hipster fans seem to mind.

The look & vibe
The look & vibe
09 Oct 2015

The look & vibe

“I was hoping for more of a New York vibe,” laments a famous blogger we bump into. We assume he’s referring to the faintly gritty, homelier Lower East Side charm of the original shop started by New York chef Neil Kleinberg, 57, and his wife, former magazine editor Ms DeDe Lahman, 44. The couple will visit Singapore once or twice yearly.

At this 60-seat local outpost, twice the size of its American cousin, there’s more of a shiny Midtown Manhattan-meets-, er, Singapore’s-Purvis-Street feel. Which ain’t a bad thing. The space is inviting: the terrazzo flooring, handsome caramel wooden chairs, and small marble-topped bar all give it a simple, chic aura of a mod American diner. Incidentally, the Singapore franchise owners are Thais who also own a designer furniture company. 

Pancakes, Cakes & Pies
Pancakes, Cakes & Pies
09 Oct 2015

Pancakes, Cakes & Pies

The same menu of brunch-heavy American comfort food with a “south-western” twang is featured here. Confession: we’d actually lined up for the pancakes voted ‘Best In the City’ by New York magazine a few years ago and left slightly underwhelmed. But ironically, our tower of three pudgy Pancakes with Warm Maple Butter ($18) and wild blueberries (you can also opt for banana walnut or chocolate chunk) today is making us gorge like a half-starved Homer Simpson.

They’re puffy and thick from whipped egg whites, yet not so airy that they’re nothing more than breakfast-y soufflés. They still possess the springy, cake-like body and soul of a pancake. There’s also an irresistible tang and tenderness thanks to buttermilk. Our topping of sticky, piquant blueberry compote is the perfect counterpoint to the rich, butterscotch-like maple butter served on the side. Super delicious, but impossible for one Asian stomach to finish (although our pancakes seem larger than our neighbouring table’s more modestly-sized ones).

The other stuff
The other stuff
09 Oct 2015

The other stuff

The kitchen here is headed by Australian chef Garry Edgley, formerly an executive chef at Resorts World Sentosa. He trained at the NYC headquarters for two months. We spy him valiantly battling the relentless onslaught of orders through the small kitchen window. So be prepared to wait about 30 minutes for your grub. And for some inconsistencies.

The chook in our “award-winning” Buttermilk Fried Chicken & Waffles ($21) is huge, and cooked to a swarthy brown. Meanwhile, a peek at our neighbour’s same order reveals smaller, paler chunks, which they later tell us are succulent (we were kaypoh and asked). Our bird, soaked in buttermilk overnight then dredged in cornmeal and “secret” spices, is robustly flavourful and crunchy-crusted. However, the breast meat is slightly over-fried and not exactly bursting with juices — thigh meat would’ve been more forgiving. And the stodgy waffle needs work. Everything in our Buttermilk Biscuit Sandwich ($13.50) — like the oozy scrambled eggs, melted cheddar and feathery hash browns, is done well — save for the biscuit itself, which gets soggy quickly. Go for the Soft Shell Crab Po’ Boy ($21) instead — it’s one satisfying seafood sarnie.

As if we aren’t already carb-ed out enough, we order dessert: Black & White Layer Cake ($9.50) and Strawberry Rhubarb Pie ($9.50). Thank heavens we do. Both are lovely, the former a dense yet soft and fragrant chocolate and vanilla cake bound together by ganache, the latter buttery pastry cradling saucy, sour fruit showered with sweet, crunchy crumble.

VERDICT: For the gorgeous pancakes and sweet bakes, for the savoury items. The food should improve with time, as the restaurant has only been open for a week. Still, it’s a worthy, old-school American brunch joint amid the tsunami of poseur cafes.

31 PURVIS ST, S188608. TEL: 6684-4845 (NO RESERVATIONS TAKEN). Open daily 8am to 6pm. Last orders 5pm. https://www.facebook.com/clintonstsingapore.
 

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