From smokehouses and rotisseries to gourmet burgers and nose-to-tail dining joints, there’s truly something for every meat-lover in the Lion City. Here, we’ve rounded up some of the hottest spots to try across town.
Their thing: Dehesa is the newest kid on the block to offer fashionable “nose-to-tail dining”, a style of cooking that utilises the entire animal, including offal.
Dehesa’s Spanish-Italian chef-owner Jean Philippe Patruno (JP) has created a dining experience with flair that offers an escape from the ordinary – a menu of delicious, meaty dishes with rich, robust flavours. This cosy, buzzy little eatery focuses on communal dining and, while you can sit at the bar and watch Chef JP at work, you can also perch on the long wooden benches with other parties of diners, and make yourself some new friends.
The dishes are all for sharing, too, which is perfect since you’ll want to try every single mouth-watering item on the menu. We enjoyed a variety of plates, including the octopus ($28), perfectly cooked and draped with a sinful layer of lardo that melted into the octopus and gave it a smoky flavour.
Other notable dishes included the Ibérico jowls ($28) – a tender cut of meat from under the pig’s shoulder that’s rich in taste – which was perfectly accompanied by a refreshing apple base, and the lala ($15), a clam dish (the clams are procured locally) served with a broth that included fino sherry and chillies.
Don’t leave without trying: The platter of cold meats ($32) – it’s the ultimate example of nose-to-tail dining at Dehesa. Chef JP has artfully used each section of the pig, from the head in the terrine, to the ear and shoulder, and has even thrown in some crackling to create a delicious cold-cuts delight that melts in the mouth. Pair it with a glass of divineRioja ($7).
Their thing: Smoked meat, and plenty of it!
This buzzy eatery on ever-trendy Telok Ayer has a quirky and industrial feel with a rather masculine “metro” vibe. The busy semi-open kitchen houses the two awesome smokers used to smoke most of the meat in-house. This seriously impressed my husband, who ran a locally-reared-and-sourced meat business for five years – I was dining with one pretty discerning customer!
To start, we feasted on a few starters (in hindsight we slightly over-ordered here): crispy pork rinds ($6) – think posh pork scratchings; smoked pork croquettes ($10), featuring Meatsmith’s own bacon; and chicken wings ($14), which can be ordered Nashville-style (spicy) or Southern-style (milder).
What can only be described as “the main event” followed next: the BBQ Platter for two($95) – the chef’s selection of meats including brisket, pulled pork, and chicken, with a few croquettes for good measure, accompanied by a hunk of smoked garlic bread plus a side of your choice: we chose the sweet vinegar slaw ($15 on its own). As if that wasn’t enough, we also ordered the bacon mac and cheese ($10).
Thankfully, the sides are of a manageable size and we polished off the lot – washed down with a half-pint of Pilsner Urquell ($8) and a pint of Brew Dog Dead Pony ($17). This is the right spot for when you’re craving cooked to-perfection meat and artisan beers, downtown.
Don’t leave without trying: The meat platter for two, and the apple cobbler ($8) for dessert.
Their thing: A gastro-bar offering feel-good grub, the Katong branch boasts a Southbend broiler from the US, which helps sear the steaks perfectly, keeping the flavour and the juices in.
The Chop House has something that is hard to come by in Singapore – quality steaks at reasonable prices. The atmosphere is very relaxed, with both indoor and outdoor seating offered all day until midnight, catering for everything from casual lunches and family dinners to group get-togethers.
We started with the burrata ($16) – a melt-in-the-mouth, gooey delight accompanied by a drizzle of pesto and firm, ripe tomatoes. The crispy pork belly ($18) was not too fatty and was covered in crunchy crackling. For mains, we opted for the USDA Prime grain-fed ribeye ($38) and the Australian lamb chops ($32) with a side of French fries ($5) and steamed broccoli with almond butter ($7) – both dishes were cooked to perfection, and exactly as requested, while the quality of the meat was excellent, the ribeye not as fatty as it can sometimes be. We washed it down with a delicious malbec, a steal at just $10 a glass.
We managed to squeeze in some churros ($6), and asago gula melaka pudding ($6) with an odd texture (think sweet caviar balls!) but great flavour from the coconut and pistachios mixed in.
Don’t leave without trying: The Australian grass-fed tenderloin ($32) – extremely tender, juicy and tasty. And, make sure you sample the onion jam– made in-house and the best I’ve ever had.
Their thing: As the name suggests, they’re all about gourmet burgers, from traditional beef and chicken patties to lamb, fish and even tofu and falafel burgers.
Bergs has an unapologetically casual charm, accentuated by colourful wooden tables and chairs, retro tunes (think Grease and Boogie Nights) and baskets instead of plates.
The burgers here are really spectacular. The grass-fed beef is sourced in Australia, from where the three owners hail. All the patties and sauces, including the signature tomato sauce, are made from scratch. They also offer different size options for those daunted by the “Berg-sized” burger ($12.50 to $20); you can get a small burger ($10.50 to $18) or even mini Bergs ($15 for a trio).
We tried the Berg-sizedMiss Piggy ($14.50), which includes bacon and cheese, with some chunky steak-style chips ($6). Offering a decent filling-to-bun ratio, the delicious beef was perfectly accented by the bacon and cheddar; the signature sauce and aioli mix was also finger-licking good (you’ll need a pile of napkins). We also sampled some mini Bergs, including the Budgie Smuggler, chicken in orange honey marinade and sweet chilli sauce, the Porto Polo, chicken in spicy Portuguese marinade and peri-peri sauce, and the Mumbo Jumbo, chicken marinated in Cajun spices with lemon yoghurt and aioli – all three were tasty and different.
We finished our meal with an ice cream sandwich ($7), ice cream sandwiched between two chocolate chip cookies – a fittingly unrefined yet delicious dessert for a night of burger-y goodness!
Don’t leave without trying: Any Berg burger will do – just bring your appetite (and some wet wipes!).
BONKERS FOR BURGERS
There’s no denying the deliciousness of juicy burgers topped with all sorts of goodies. Here are some of our personal picks for the best burgers in Singapore.
“I love Potato Head Folk on Keong Saik. Not only do they have phenomenal burgers, but also the cocktails and finger foods are top notch. Burgers start from $18, but if you have the appetite (or a buddy to share with), try the Truff Rider ($45) – a 150g wagyu beef patty topped with pan-seared foie gras, four artisan cheeses, black truffle and confit of onion jam.”
“I rarely order burgers, but the one I had recently at Open Farm Community was amazing – the meat was tender and succulent, the roll was perfect and the fries were crunchy and hot. Servings are generous though, so go there hungry!”
“Although I love the thought of a nice cheesy burger, I’m almost always conscious that the grease will pretty much immediately attach itself to my stomach, hips and thighs. So for me, a burger is a rare treat, but when I had the Green Chilli Cheeseburger at Meat Liquor it was well worth it. It’s served simply on paper and a tray, no messing around with cutlery (who eats a burger with cutlery anyway? – that’s like eating a pizza with a fork).
For $19.50, you get a big beef patty covered with cheese, spicy chilli butter, red onions, pickles, lettuce, mustard and ketchup. I’ve heard the Dead Hippie Burger is amazing too, so I’m hoping that will be my burger for 2016.”
Their thing: Cured, pickled and smoked meats.
Located on the ground floor of luxury boutique Hotel Vagabond in Jalan Besar, 5th Quarter’s tables are mainly low, making the dining experience extra-cosy, while the deep red velvet floor-to-ceiling drapes, gilt trees and life-sized golden elephant statues give it something extra.
Australian-born Executive Chef Drew Nocente (formerly of Skirt) has mastered the techniques of curing, pickling and smoking different types and cuts of meat. The menu is divided into six themes: “Salted and Hung”, “Fermented, Fried, Braised”, “Smoked, Brined, Cured”, “Grilled, Seared, Charred”, “Roasted and Green”, and “Frozen, Churned, Baked”.
The chef’s selection of five types of charcuterie ($22) from the “Salted and Hung” selection is perfect for trying a variety of cured meats, including a pâté and fennel seed wafers. Or try a plate of kangaroo loin ($12) – its flavours and texture are smooth on the palate. Pork jowl, apple and basil ($12) from the “Fermented, Fried, Braised” category was crispy on the outside but could easily be pulled apart.
Save room for the chocolate salami, salted caramel ice cream ($16) from “Frozen, Churned, Baked” – cleverly created to look like salami with dehydrated heirloom tomatoes and lightly salted caramel ice cream. Finally, don’t miss the complimentary Anzac biscuits made with bacon and topped with caramel sauce!
Don’t leave without trying: the beef tongue, onion, wasabi ($12). I took the plunge and was pleasantly surprised – very tender, and the fermented veggie condiments complemented the flavour.
Their thing: Traditional rotisserie delivering Michelinstar-quality cuisine – meat, meat and more meat, from nose to tail. Their secret ingredient? – stellar consultant chef Asai Masashi, literally cooking with gas.
Though the ambience and the menu are apparently rustic, this is by no means casual food: every dish – and we feasted on several more than was perhaps good for us – is prepared and served to fine-dining standards.
My discerning spouse sometimes sneers at snails, but not tonight: these off-menu beauties, gently glued with creamed potato to a marrow-bone and straight from the broiler, are to die for (or – perhaps less dramatically – just to go back to Shelter in the Woods for).
Our Fines Platter is a generous selection from the Pâté Board ($33 to share), a selection of three of the daily range; and the Charcuterie Board ($37) of three items available today, including foie gras au torchon ($28 per 125g), duck rillettes ($18 per 125g) and pâté en croute ($19.50 per slice), all served with lightly dressed mesclun leaves, poolish brioche and poolish baguette. We’re raving about the divinely short-crust quiche to share ($15), straight from the oven and bursting with fat forest mushrooms, gruyere cheese, onions and fresh herbs. This is as good as it gets anywhere.
Seafood lovers will swoon for the seasonal seafood casserole ($39 to share), a mélange of snapper, prawns, scallops, cockles and mussels in a rich broth; ours comes garnished with a couple of perfect Pacific oysters ($3.50 each from the blackboard). From the rotisserie come New Zealand rack of lamb ($45), four herb-crusted ribs with gravy; roasted French chicken ($22 half, $40 whole); and the succulent yet crispy-skinned signature suckling pig ($35, $68 to share, or pre-order a whole one for $300).
Our wine by the glass includes a lovely white Burgundy ($22) and a suitably complex Bordeaux ($19). Having sampled much of the barnyard and a swathe of the ocean, it’s not easy to find a corner for meringue glacée ($12) and chestnut tiramisu ($17), but we bravely manage the feat.
Don’t leave without trying: In this meaty nirvana, would it it be rude to say the quiche? The snails, the duck rillettes? But what about the suckling pig? And we have to go back for Masashi-san’sduck confit ($30) and côte de boeuf ($158 for two or three to share). If they’re as good as the rest, they’ll be divine.
Their thing: Inspired by yakitori-yagrilling stalls in Osaka, Bincho serves up cocktails, whisky and sake, and specialises in grilled meats, with a focus on chicken.
A hole in the wall located just off Kim Pong Road (close to infamous brunch spots Open Door Policy and Forty Hands) in a traditional kopitiam (coffee shop), you could almost miss this little Japanese diner, which exudes an old-world charm – featuring amee pokstall, rickety brown chairs and marble tables.
After a refreshing cocktail, I’m asked by chef Asai Masashi if I eat “all parts of the chicken”. I know what he’s getting at, and my insides scream “no!”, but for manners’ sake I agree to give it a try. Gulp.
First up is the Miyazaki-style grilled chicken necks ($28) from the traditional yakitori grill, seasoned with special sauce and garnished with yuzu paste and finely chopped spring onion. I’m pleasantly surprised – it tastes tangy and delicious, and it melts in the mouth. I’m told the meat is delivered and prepared freshly every morning. Another treat is the tsukune ($18), a large, minced chicken meatball covered in sweet soy and raw egg (you crack it yourself). Also worth a try is the vegetable platter ($30), a cool combination of grilled and garnished turnips, young corn and eggplant.
Don’t leave without trying: The succulent kurobuta pork with sweet black garlic ($30), a true palate sensation.
MORE MEATY EATS
20 Cross Street, #01-35 China Square Central | clubmeatballs.com
Their thing: All kinds of meatballs, from free-range chicken to grass-fed beef to chickpea, spinach and chilli
Naughty Nuri’s Singapore
15 Stamford Road, #01-84 Capitol Building | 6384 7955
Their thing: Indonesian barbecued pork ribs (yes, the same ones from Ubud, Bali!)
Joo Chiat Road | braseiro-sg.com
Their thing: Brazilian churrasco-style barbecue
FYR Cycene Ond Drinc
19 Boon Tat Street | facebook.com/ FYRBTS
Their thing: Grilled meat platters from a Josper charcoal oven
#01-02 Block 7 Dempsey Road | don-quijote-restaurants.com
Their thing: Spanish jamón dishes and paella de carne (with seafood options, too)
8 Korean BBQ
6 Eu Tong Sen Street, #02-79 The Central | facebook.com/8koreanbbq
Their thing: Korean barbecue with a focus on pork belly – in eight flavours
Sacha & Sons
333A Orchard Road, #03-02 Mandarin Gallery | sacha-deli.com.sg
Their thing: New York-style delicatessen grub (think chopped liver, pastrami and corned beef)
Multiple locations | therotisserie.sg
Their thing: Delicious roast chickens for dine-in or takeaway
Prefer to dine at home? Here’s a list of meaty alternatives to mix up in your at-home recipes.
This article first appeared in the March 2016 edition of Expat Living magazine Subscribe
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