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 ($6/2 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.
63 Boat Quay
Nearest MRT: Clarke Quay (NE Line), Raffles Place (EW Line, NS Line)
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]