Thursday, October 18, 2018

Ash & Char @ McCallum Street - Relaunched and Revamped Into A Chic Gastrobar


Ash & Char at McCallum Street has officially joined the family WEROC Group, who owns and manages a portfolio of lifestyle and entertainment brand. Formally a cafe, Ash & Char has been revamped into a Gastro Bar. With 2 large lightbulbs "chandaliers" mounted on the ceiling as centrepieces, luminating the tuxedo black tables that are matched with sleek black, gold and silver high stools, Ash & Char eases between a cosy venue for lunch during day time and a chill out place as the sun sets.

Crispy Cauliflower 3.8/5

Grill and char cooking methods lie at the core of Ash & Char's concept and I thought this Crispy Cauliflower showcases that fully. Dressed with gremolata, an Italian sauce concocted using lemon zest, garlic, soy and parsley, its sweet, bitter and tangy notes bind well with the slight smokiness of the crisp exteriors of cauliflowers, transforming these humble stalks into addictive bites.

Crispy Kalemari 3.8/5

Crispy Kalemari was ingenious. The rather skinny fried calamari would have otherwise been a rather mediocre cafe side if not for the crisp baked Kale. The color juxtaposition is refreshing, the batter of the calamari was light and flavourful and if there was any bits of greasiness, the crackly kale balanced that out.

Mayura Choco Wagyu 3.5/5 and Signature Char Siu 3.5/5

Two notable items in Ash & Char are their Signature Char Siu and Mayura Choco Wagyu ($18). Rewinding to more than a year ago when I first tasted this Char Siu, it was good but I felt it had a lot of potential to be even better. The honey and soy glaze was moreish yet easy on the palette. As for the meat, those slices with charred edges were extra delicious as the burnt fats tend to melt away with ease, releasing to the meat most of its flavour. If only there were more of such pieces on the plate. However, it seems that nothing has quite changed after trying it for the second time. As for the famed Mayura Choco Wagyu, coming from herds raised with chocolates in their diet, I believe the legendary chocolate flavour would be more pronounced should the meat be treated differently instead of being cut into cubes.

Mentaiko Salmon Aburi bowl 3.5/5

Meant to serve up as a cosy venue for lunch as well, there are a range of pastas and rice bowls to choose from. Mentaiko Salmon Aburi Rice Bowl ($16) is a crowd-pleaser with the layer of torched mentaiko atop the salmon fillet. As much as I love aburi half-cooked style, the salmon fillet is meant to be fully cooked. It gets a bit dry at the skinnier ends but the creamy mentaiko helps to add some fattiness to it.

Tom Yum Seafood Pasta 3.5/5

Tom Yum Seafood Pasta ($16) is one of the mainstayers in the menu. The tangy and fiery Tom Yum sauce is what makes it so popular among their customers. Pairing seafood with it is like a bowl of Tom Yum Gong with flavours being concentrated into a pasta dish.

Creamy Smoked Duck Pasta 2.5/5

As for the Creamy Smoked Duck Pasta ($16), I feel more can be done to elevate this dish that is worthy of their new modern Gastro Pub image. The seemingly dehydrated duck slices can definitely be thicker to begin with.

Char-grilled Waygu Burger 3/5

For classic gastro bar food, we had AC Char-grilled Wagyu Burger ($22) and Fish & Chips ($18). The Waygu patty wasn't as juicy as expected, if not, the light charcoal bun would have been perfect to balance a rich patty. As for the Fish & Chips, what makes it different is the herbs embedded within the batter that seasons the fish naturally.

Fish & Chips 3/5

If you can't make up your mind on what to order, simply go for the WEROC Wings and create a wings platter. One look at the plump chicken wings is enough to whet your appetite. On our platter were Har Cheong Gai ($12/4pc), US Buffalo ($14/4pc), Japanese Teriyaki ($12/4pcs), with side dips at $2 each. They were indeed as juicy as they appeared and the sauces made each finger licking good.

WEROC Wings 4/5

If you have seen or heard about blue wine, here is the chance to try it yourself. Please don't mistaken it as your blue pea flower drink! WEROC exclusive blue wine - Santa Cruz de Alpera Blue Frizzante is an easy to drink wine with tropical notes which makes it suitable for an afternoon tipper, perhaps like 3pm on a Friday? What gives it the deep blue color is simply a food grade colorant. A stronger option would be the Whisky Sour. This chilled and sour concoction is a much needed remedy to wake up the dull taste buds after a long day and I like how the egg white gives it its creamy body and texture.

Blue Wine and Whisky Sour

It is easy to be allured by its grand curve wide frontage where the outdoor bar is, especially when the Tapas and Cocktails Happy Hour promotion starts early, from 3pm to 8pm daily.

Words and photos by Si An. A girl who is allured by travelling, loves the feel of freedom, smell of the rain and the aroma of fine coffee and food. Note: This is an invited tasting.

Ash & Char
21 McCallum Street
Singapore 069047
Tel: +65 91328880
Nearest MRT: Tanjong Pagar (EW Line)

Opening Hours:
Mon-Thu: 1130am - 11pm
Fri: 1130am - 12midnight

1) Alight at Tanjong Pagar MRT station. Take Exit G. Turn left and walk to junction of Telok Ayer Street and McCallum Street. Journey time about 5 minutes. [Map]

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The Sampan @ Boat Quay - Pan Asian Flavours And Avant Garde Cocktails


If I were to just tune up my imagination and visualise a vast white beach in front of me, replacing the Singapore River, this is The Sampan at Bali, not Boat Quay. Though I'm not, with the whitewash tiled walls, wooden furnishing and homeware, former Ku De Ta Bali General Manager, Steve Collinson has quite successfully brought that atmosphere into this 3-storey high restaurant and bar. Drawing inspirations from restaurants and cuisine in Asia, both food and beverages here exude a strong deal of pan Asian flavours and characters.

White Sangria 3/5 and Mango & Chili Smash 4/5

White Sangria ($18) is an elegant cocktail with white wine, june liqueur, clove, calamansi and Asian pear. The woody nuances of the clove stands out which complements the sweetness and acidity of the cocktail. Mango & Chili Smash ($17) surprised me more with its rather simple ingredients - tequila, mango, mint, sugar and lime. It tastes almost like a full-bodied mango juice but accented with an alcoholic bitterness and elevated with refreshing herb, spice and acidity.

Pork and Chicken Choi Bao 4/5

As a start, accompany your cocktails with Light Bites & Salads. I have tried Choi Bao in one of Melbourne's bars before and what's left of that memory is its intensity of wok hei that hit me. If that is the defining trait of this dish, The Sampan's version Pork and Chicken Choi Bao ($3.50/pc) is even more successful with the integration of lap cheong into the pork and chicken bites. The smell of the caramelised dark soy sauce when it is served, will tempt you as much as a plate of black carrot cake.

Mushroom San Choi Bao 3.5/5

A meatless option would be Mushroom San Choi Bao. Texture itself is similar, thanks to the good mix of black fungus, enoki and shitake mushrooms, and the level of wok hei is pretty intense too. But that lap cheong bits are still the winner.

Blue Swimmer Crab and Pomelo Salad 3.8/5

If you like the flavours of Thai and Vietnamese salad, Blue Swimmer Crab and Pomelo Salad ($14) will be right up your alley and beyond, with all the greens adorned with pieces of fresh Blue Swimmer crab meat.

Sichuan Pepper Chicken Spare Ribs 3.8/5

Among wings, drumsticks and spare ribs, I would choose the latter. Sichuan Pepper Chicken Spare Ribs with Spring Onion Salad ($12) is almost like chicken tenders but more succulent and flavourful. The exterior remained crispy even after a while.

Stracciatella and Curried Lentils 4/5

Stracciatella and Curried Lentils ($6.50/2 pcs) may appear to be modest in many ways but each and every of this modish Pani Puri is a darling to be savoured upon. The original recipe calls for sweet, spicy and tangy flavours, and this unique blend of milky stracciatella cheese, cucumber and mint yogurt and curried lentil, not only hit all the quintessential notes that the original recipe calls for, it is even tastier with the freshness of the yogurt mixture soothing out the spiciness of the curried lentils.

Mini Banh Mi 3.5/5

Similar to Choi Bun, Mini Banh Mi ($12) is small in size but big in flavours. The grilled pork neck was well marinated, with slow cooked pickled cucumber to cut its richness. I like the use of rye bread which is firmer and drier compared to a brioche, giving this rich filling a more balanced support.

Crispy Chili Beef 3/5

Crispy Chili Beef with Green Mango Salad and Crispy Noodles ($18) is too overly done with seasoning and dressing. The wok-fried beef itself is quite salty to begin with and the gluey salad dressing weighs the entire dish down even more. It would have tasted a lot better should the green mango salad be clean of sauce and seasoning, and simply toss in to complement the beef.

Valrhona Chocolate and Tofu Mousse 3.5/5

Mango Pudding 4/5

For desserts, you can't get any more Asian with this Mango Pudding with Coconut Sago and Mango Sorbet ($12). The pudding was almost like a solidified puree and the mango sorbet was mango to the core. On the other hand, the chocolate mousse in the Valrhona Chocolate and Tofu Mousse ($14) with Chai Spiced Shortbread and Passionfruit Curd was quite addictive with its saltish-sweetness, coupled with tang from the passionfruit curd.


Boat Quay does need some rejuvenation and I think The Sampan has come in pretty strong with its concept and offerings. Level 2 and 3 spaces are available for private functions or corporate events as well, if you are keen.

Photos and words by Si An. A girl who is allured by travelling, loves the feel of freedom, smell of the rain and the aroma of fine coffee and food. Note: This is an invited tasting.

The Sampan
63 Boat Quay
Singapore 049851
Nearest MRT: Clarke Quay (NE Line), Raffles Place (EW Line, NS Line)

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 1130am - 12midnight
Sat: 430pm - 12midnight
(Closed on Sun)

1) Alight at Clarke Quay MRT station. Take Exit E. Cross the road walk to Upper Circular Road. Walk down Upper Circular Road to North Bridge Road. Cross the road and walk to destination. Journey time about 6 minutes. [Map]

2) Alight at Raffles Place MRT station. Take Exit G. Walk to the river front. Turn left and walk down Boat Quay. Journey time about 8 minutes. [Map]


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