Photo: Regent Singapore
There are times when you just have a craving for something fried or satisfyingly crispy to go with a refreshing hand-crafted cocktail or a delicious glass of wine. After all, nothing is better than nibbling on something while you’re having a heart-to-heart with your gal pals. Here are the best places for some of our favourite bites (vegetarian-friendly options included) which you can pair with a revitalising drink or two.
1. Kushikatsu at Kushikatsu Tanaka
Photo: Kushikatsu Tanaka
If you love fried food breaded with panko, then Kushikatsu Tanaka is the place for you. Boasting over 165 outlets in Japan, Kushikatsu Tanaka is renowned for its famous Osaka-style fried skewers (from $1 per skewer) and signature special dipping sauce. Everything can be skewered, breaded with finely-ground panko crumbs and deep-fried here. This includes the usual prawns, chicken, and plump oysters to more unique items such as fork-tender braised pork belly, and gooey and chewy Oreo cookies, all encased with a thin, crispy golden crust.
Do also look out for seasonal items (yes, deep-fried too), such as mentaiko and sweet and soft white leeks. The secret to these delicious skewers lie in their unique oil blend, which includes beef fat, and also their signature sweet-savoury-tangy dipping sauce (please take care not to double dip in the sauce bowl). The boisterous restaurant also offers a large range of Jim Beam highballs (over 15 varieties) including the Triple Berry Highball, Triple Citrus Highball and Aomori Ringo Highball, all from $6.80.
Kushikatsu Tanaka is located at 3A River Valley Road, Merchants’ Court Clarke Quay Block A #01-01B, Singapore 179020, tel: 6258 3789.
2. Bunon Karaage at RVLT
Photo: Xie Huiqun
For natural wines and great food, look no further than RVLT. Founded by veteran sommeliers Alvin Gho and Ian Lim, the fuss-free wine bar comes alive after 5.30pm and fills up rather quickly, so do try to grab a seat as early as possible. The food menu here changes rather frequently, but a few classics remain and we have our eyes set on their awesome Bunon karaage ($12) — this “secret” recipe is courtesy of Chef Shigeru Nakaminato from the famous wine bar Bunon in Tokyo. The well-seasoned (we know sake and Japanese soy sauce are involved) chunks of fried chicken are lightly dusted with starch and deep-fried to a golden brown and served simply with a wedge of lemon.
Give the lemon a good squeeze and enjoy the lightly crispy chicken that is at the same time oh so tender and juicy. This dish definitely calls for drinks, and we like it with a crisp white wine or bubbly. Feel free to ask for recommendations. Other must-tries include their signature Patty Melt ($26) made with Westholme Wagyu patty and melted cheese, sauce gribiche (a mayonnaise-like sauce made with cooked egg yolks, capers, cornichons and herbs) and ketchup, between thick slices of toasted milk bread. Good for sharing, but you might change your mind.
RVLT is located at 38 Carpenter Street, Singapore 059917, tel: 9679 5166.
3. Har Jeong Frog Legs and Spam Fries at Relish
Photo: Xie Huiqun
Following the closure of mod-sin restaurant Wild Rocket, local chef Willin Low has opened a second branch of Relish (the first branch at Cluny Court is best known for their classic and locally-inspired burgers) at Frasers Tower on Cecil Street on November 2018. Expect familiar favourites such as his signature Laksa Pesto Linguine ($17.80) and delightfully spicy Hae Bee Hiam Spaghettini ($17.80). Fried must-tries here include the moreish Har Jeong Frog Legs ($10) made with fresh frog legs. They are deep-fried in a prawn paste marinade batter until they are crispy on the outside, but the meat still retains good texture (please check with the staff for availability).
Best washed down with Asashi beer on tap (from $5 for half pint all day till 8pm) or a lip-smacking Relish Lychee Mojito ($12.50) made with Havana rum, lime, mint leaves, lychee and a touch of sugar. And most certainly try the sinful Spam Fries ($8), which are fried without any batter or flour to achieve the perfect crust with a soft mushy meatiness inside, served with kaffir mayonnaise. Still one of the best ever spam fries in our books.
Relish @ Frasers Tower is located at #02-12/13 Oasis of Frasers Tower, 182 Cecil Street, Singapore 069546, tel: 6904 5458.
4. Crispy Golden Cauliflower at Manhattan Bar
Photo: Regent Singapore
While artisanal handcrafted cocktails rule at Manhattan Bar at The Regent – they were named #3 in World’s 50 Best Bars and #1 in Asia’s 50 Best Bars for 2018 – their tempting bar bites, such as the Boston Lobster Tacos with Yuzu Kosho Mayonnaise and Flying Fish Roe ($28), also have a strong following. We particularly enjoy the vegetarian-friendly Crispy Golden Cauliflower ($14). The cauliflower is first parboiled with water and apple cider vinegar, then separated into florets, coated with tempura batter (made Manhattan’s house draught beer Knickerbocker lager) and deep-fried to a glorious golden brown at 195 degrees Celsius. Served with salty, earthy Gorgonzola, fruity bits of pomegranate seeds, and a smooth blend of cauliflower stem, tahini, sour cream and Japanese mayonnaise, this is one addictive snack. Pairs well with their Solera-aged Negroni or a glass of bubbly Champagne.
Manhattan Bar is located at Regent Singapore, 1 Cuscaden Road, Singapore 249715, tel: 6725 3377.
5. Fried Shishito Peppers at LeVeL33
Photo: Xie Huiqun
At LeVeL33, the world’s highest urban brewery, you can nibble on bites from their Beer Dining menu from 2.30pm to 11.45pm. In addition to the usual deep fried snacks such as Southern fried chicken ($22) with lager pickled daikon and garlic dip and sweet potato fries ($13) with Cajun spices and wasabi aioli, why not try the vegetarian-friendly fried shishito peppers ($10)? Japanese shishito peppers are deep-fried until tender and sprinkled with salt that has been infused with the bitter yet floral aromas of the hops (used to brew the house beers), and a powder made from espelette peppers (the only French spice to be classified under the AOC certification). These slightly crunchy sweet-savoury peppers make great nibbles and go well with an aromatic, hoppy, malty and slightly bitter Indian Pale Ale ($9.33 for 330ml from opening to 8pm, $12.33 after 8pm).
LeVeL33 is located at #33-01 Marina Bay Financial Centre Tower 1, 8 Marina Boulevard, Singapore 018981, tel: 6834 3133.
6. Fried Sage Leaves at Bar Cicheti
Photo: Bar Cicheti
At this chic wine and pasta bar, you can enjoy your favourite pastas and Italian antipasti with a selection of wines curated by beverage director Ronald Kamiyama, who is happy to help with pairing suggestions. To start, a simple dish of Fried Sage Leaves ($8), salvia fritta in Italian, comes recommended for bites. Fresh sage leaves—only the largest—are washed and dried, coated in a carbonated batter of rice, corn and wheat flour, and individually fried to a beautiful golden brown and finished with a sprinkling of Maldon salt. When done well, each delicate golden batter-gilded leaf is savoury, crispy and almost melt-in-the-mouth (think: guilt-free chips). Kamiyama would pair this with white wines such as a light, refreshing New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc from Hermit Ram or a Prà Monte Grande Soave Classico from Italy with good acidity to cleanse the palate. Do follow up with outstanding dishes such as beef brisket meatballs ($15) with a robust tomato paprika sauce and Parmesan cheese and al dente Rigatoni with a lightly tangy and spicy arrabbiata sauce topped with creamy stracciatella cheese (from $20 for small) for a charming night out.
Bar Cicheti is located at 10 Jiak Chuan Road, Singapore 089264, tel: 6789 9801.
7. Edible Charcoal at Le Binchotan
This may look like lumps of charcoal, but we assure you it is far more delicious then what it seems. In short, it is pulled beef wrapped in popiah skin ($23), rolled in powdered bamboo charcoal and deep-fried, then further rolled in shichimi togarashi (a Japanese spice mixture). In full, it is tedious to prepare. The beef filling is prepared with Angus short ribs, braised for 16 hours in saikyo miso (sweet mild miso) and port wine jus until uber tender, then pulled apart. It’s served with a garlic yoghurt – the chefs confit garlic for some three hours and then mash it into plain Greek yoghurt. Each crunchy bite gives way to tender and full-bodied braised beef; gets us hungry just thinking about it. This dish is rather rich, so do pair it with their Ume cocktail ($22) made with gin, rum, fermented plum and sansho, which has good acidity and citrus to help cut through the richness.
Le Binchotan is located at 115 Amoy St #01-04, Singapore 069935, tel: 6224 1045. Entrance via Gemmill Lane.
8. Crispy Pig’s Ears and Intestines at Eliza
Eliza, a modern Asian bar and cocktail club, is the latest concept by the good people behind Sum Yi Tai and Mona Lounge at Boon Tat Street. Patrons can expect curated cocktails, Shanghai cuisine, live playful rearrangements of music from the 2000’s and also DJ sets filled with House Anthems, Acid Jazz, Disco and Nu-disco. Besides the potent cocktails, food here is another draw. For fried bar bites, go for the crispy spiced pig’s ears ($10) and fried pig intestines ($12). Both the ears and intestines are first braised, sliced and then deep-fried. The crunchy pig’s ears and crispy-on-the-outside-and-tender-on-the-inside pig’s intestines are pretty addictive. Perfect with drinks, especially whisky and beer. If you need something more substantial, go for their Shanghai Red-Braised Pork Belly ($16) and Noodles with Ebi and Spring Onion Oil ($12).
Eliza is located at 113 Telok Ayer Street, Singapore 068582, tel: 6781-4708.
9. Avocado Fries at Idlewild
Photo: Xie Huiqun
Inspired by the decadence and romance of air travel’s resplendent years, Idlewild, the new bar at InterContinental, takes guests on a journey through popular travel destinations along the transatlantic route. Drinks here, conceptualised by Head of Operations and Creative, Andy Griffiths, are based on 10 cities along the popular Transatlantic Route – Dublin, Rome, Lima, Lisbon, New York, Casablanca, London, Paris, Mexico City and Havana – and they have 20 signature cocktails (from $20 each). Each location is also represented with a tapas-style bar snack (from S$15), which brings us to the highly unusual Avocado Fries ($15) that pays homage to Mexico City.
Thick slices of avocado are coated in a layer of chopped almonds and deep-fried to a crisp. Definitely one of those love-it-or-hate-it creations (avocado fans rejoice). Go on, dip one into the lemon mayonnaise; the crunchy almonds gives way almost immediately to the creamy, mushy avocado. On its own, we think it needs a tad more salt. But when paired with the refreshing Sugarloaf ($24) made with Plantation pineapple rum, 1840 Cognac, spiced tepache (a fermented pineapple beverage), tamarind and lime, it plays well. Other bites to look out for include the Cubano ($18), or Cuban sandwich, which has marinated roast pork loin, Virginia ham, gherkins and yellow mustard, and the Hazelnut and Cheese Tortellini ($15). Think: blue cheese, roasted hazelnut and bechamel sauce and brown butter. Yum.
Idlewild is located at 80 Middle Road, Lobby Level, InterContinental Singapore, Singapore 188966, tel: 6825 1045.
10. Crispy Pork Jowl and Crispy Brinjal at New Ubin Zhongshan Park
Photo: New Ubin Seafood
You don’t usually go to a cze char eatery for small bites, but this is no ordinary cze char spot. Known for its hearty and comforting yet innovative local dishes, New Ubin is perhaps best remembered for their tender USDA Black Angus Rib-eye cubes served with ‘Heart Attack’ Fried Rice. But for something light, go for their Grilled Crispy Pork Jowl ($14++ for 125g). The pork jowl is grilled over coals in a Spanish MIBRASA oven, leaving behind a crispy exterior wrapped around the succulent meat. Served with a specially concocted miso gula Melaka sauce which adds a nice sweetness to the dish, we love how every bite gives a satisfying crunch as the flavourful juices of the meat floods into the mouth.
Pair the dish with another addictive offering — their Brinjal Delight (from $15). Thin slices of brinjal are caramelised and deep fried, then fried together with dried chilli, creating a crispy mouth-feel that is accompanied by a sweet, spicy and tangy flavour. Best of all, you get to enjoy all these snacks in a tranquil hotel atmosphere. Best paired with a crisp sauvignon blanc or an aromatic pinot noir.
New Ubin Seafood Zhongshan Park is located at Ramada by Wyndham Singapore at Zhongshan Park, 16 Ah Hood Road, Singapore 329982. For reservations, call 9740 6870 or email email@example.com.