Beloved zi char joint New Ubin Seafood (which was awarded a Michelin Bib Gourmand nod last year and moved from Sin Ming to the Hillview neighbourhood) has opened a pop-up outlet at Swan Lake Avenue in the east. Called Garang Grill, it is located within Slake, the cosy 56-seat air-conditioned mod Sin restaurant owned by talented young chef Jeremy Cheok, 32. He had just joined the management team of New Ubin Seafood full-time. This unlikely partnership came about because he had collaborated with the zi char restaurant during a one-night-only stint called Truly Singaporean Makan Session back in 2015. “The owners of New Ubin are branching away from family ownership, and I’m the first person not related to the family that they hired,” Jeremy tells us. “My role in the management team is to develop the menu to help New Ubin stay appealing to Singaporeans in the years ahead.”
And yes, Slake has shuttered last month. Jeremy explains, “Slake only has a few more months left on its lease anyway, so this pop-up is a great way to revive the space. This is a market test for [a potential permanent outlet].” The pop-up will run till May 31, though Jeremy reckons “this may be extended depending on customers’ response”. The highlight here: dishes cooked in a sexy $16,000 charcoal grill oven by Spanish oven makers Mibrasa (similar to a Josper oven) that Jeremy acquired for Garang Grill. The grill is enclosed, so hopefully there won't be, um, complaints of odourous fumes from nearby residents that have recently plagued New Ubin’s new Hillview outlet.
According to Jeremy, Garang Grill (garang means ‘fierce’ in Malay) is so named as he is serving “fierce and bold flavours developed from charcoal [grilling]”. Arang is also the Malay word for charcoal. You can look forward to New Ubin’s popular dishes kissed with Jeremy’s signature European and mod Sin flourishes, such as a USDA Prime Rib-Eye Steak ($90 for 500g; the zi char shop sells its famous steak at $14/100g instead, using the more modest US Black Angus beef) charred over high heat in the charcoal oven and served with bordelaise butter ramped up with beef jus, red wine and shallots. All beef orders come with a side portion of Garang Rice, which Jeremy says is his version of New Ubin’s famous Heart Attack Fried Rice. The decadent rice is still cooked with tasty beef fat, though Jeremy perks things up with chilli padi here.
There are also indulgent seafood dishes such as Uni Oysters ($58 for half a dozen), freshly shucked Pacific molluscs topped with Hokkaido uni, ikura and a drizzle of ponzu (citrusy soy sauce) dressing, and Jeremy’s signature Chilli Crab Rillette (a French, pate-like riff on the local dish) with Mantou ($14). “Garang Grill’s dishes pays homage to certain items on New Ubin’s menu, but it's a different concept and won't have the exact same dishes,” says Jeremy.
Hardcore fans of Slake will have to travel to Ho Chi Minh City to feast on its food again. “Slake already co-owns an outlet there called Scott & Jeremy’s. Singapore is a rewarding but tough market to operate in, and venturing overseas is the path for expansion with the least resistance,” Jeremy shares. And there just might be a New Ubin in Vietnam in the future: “If New Ubin decides to expand overseas, then Vietnam would be high on our list of choices, given that I already have some infrastructure there.”
Garang Grill, 15 Swan Lake Ave, S455711. Open till May 31 daily except Mon, 11.30am-2.30pm; 6.30pm-10pm. Last orders 30 mins before closing. www.facebook.com/garanggrill