5 Best New Burger Joints To Check Out
We sink our teeth into the meat and buns (rice at one Japanese joint) at these cool hawker stalls and hip restaurants. (A version of this story first appeared in Issue 1379, Mar 23, 2017.)
1. Corner Burger
228 EAST COAST RD, S079329. TEL: 9736-7264.
Open daily except Mon. Tues-Sun 8am-3pm; 5.30pm-9pm. Last orders 2.30pm & 8.45pm. www.facebook.com/cornerburgersg
Former co-workers-turned-hawker stall partners Desmond Yong (left) and Silas Lim serve up hearty burgers with local flavours.
IN A NUTSHELL: Like all good Easties (people who grew up in the East Coast enclave), Silas Lim, 29, feels a deep connection to time-honoured foodie haunts in the neighbourhood. So when the former head bartender of modern Asian restaurant Ding Dong decided to set up his own F&B business, he wanted it to be sited in his childhood stomping ground. His hawker stall, Corner Burger, which opened last October, is nestled in Katong stalwart Brunners Coffeeshop. “This coffeeshop has fed my family for years, so it holds special meaning to me,” he said. “I grew to love burgers when I spent a year in Oregon, America, on an exchange programme (while at uni, he has an arts degree with honours from NUS) and recognised that it was hard to find a good, affordable burger in Singapore. “With this stall, I want to feed people great burgers I’d eat myself.” Why become a hawker? He says: “I’ve always looked to part-time jobs in F&B to give me inspiration for the classroom during my uni days. After I graduated, I realised people in this industry have powerful stories to share, but no way of telling them, either due to financial or language barriers. So I’m taking it upon myself to learn with them and hopefully be the mouthpiece for positive change.” He adds: “Running a hawker stall is a lot more challenging than operating a restaurant because you have to do everything yourself.” Silas cooks at the stall with former Ding Dong junior sous chef Desmond Yong, 32, who’s a partner in the business. Silas’ girlfriend, 29-year-old doctor, Ophelia Lim, also has a share in the biz.
WHAT’S COOKING: There are five burgers on the menu. Besides a wagyu burger, the trio purveys burgers brimming with flavours from their Singaporean childhood. They recently opened a second stall, Kampung Bowls, beside Corner Burgers, selling comfort Asian dishes like babi pongteh, served as rice bowls.
The lush patty, a well-seasoned combination of juicy Australian wagyu chuck and sirloin, is sandwiched between lettuce, tomato, lightly tangy lemon mayo and melted cheddar. The meat is cooked to medium with a decent sear though we’d prefer it slightly more charred. It’s a simple and satisfying combination encased in a crisp-edged brioche bun.
What's more deliciously nostalgic than a tasty slab of griddled luncheon meat, a fried egg with a runny centre, and a pillowy, well-toasted bun? With each humble element carefully chosen and cooked, this is proof that sometimes the simplest dishes make for the most enjoyable eating.
There is a smoky-saltiness that permeates this number. Marinated in fu yu (fermented tofu) before it’s breaded in panko crumbs (made by drying baguettes and pulverising them in a Vitamix blender) and deep-fried, this pork collar fillet is a joy to crunch into and very tender. A smear of fu yu mayo binds it all together between a glossy brioche bun.
BOTTOM LINE: There's something extremely heart-warming about the burgers here. The flavours are earnest and honest, and the prices easy to stomach. $
2. Grit At Pek Kio
#01-45 PEK KIO MARKET, 41A CAMBRIDGE RD, S211041.
Open daily except Mon. Tues-Fri 5pm-9pm; Sat 9.30am-2.30pm & 5pm-9pm; Sun 9.30am-2.30pm. Last orders 2.30pm & 9pm. www.facebook.com/gritsg.pekkio
Kieran dishes out hearty burgers and elegant western dishes. The stall’s name embodies the partners’ values of hard work and tenacity.
IN A NUTSHELL: When pals Kieran Chin, 26, Richie Chung, 29, Jeremy Tan, 28 and Sargunan, 26, opened their hawker stall in Pek Kio Market last October, they planned to offer restaurant-quality Western fare like deboned whole roasted chicken. But they quickly discovered that residents in the area had certain expectations of a western hawker stall. “People just wanted the basics like chicken chop,” said Kieran, who graduated from Shatec after his ‘O’ Levels and went on to work brief stints at Tippling Club and Momofuku Ssam Bar in New York, before studying banking and finance at University of London in Singapore. Why become a hawker? Kieran shares: “I got really bad eczema while working at Tippling Club and had to stop work. So I decided to study finance because my family has a background in the finance sector. He adds: “I began looking for a job after I graduated, but around the same time, my partners came to me with this project, so I thought, why not give it a go? With a hawker stall, the risk is much lower than if we’d opened a restaurant. Plus, I grew up around Pek Kio, so I chose a stall at this market.” Only Kieran cooks at the stall daily — his partners have day jobs and come by to help out whenever they can.
WHAT’S COOKING: While there’s the usual chicken chop and steaks on the menu, Kieran and his partners have made it a point to differentiate their offerings with good quality ingredients and the French culinary techniques he was trained in at Shatec. Additionally, there's a collection of five burgers.
There’s nothing fancy about the burgers here. The peppery patties are formed using Australian rib-eye and ground lean beef, and then pan-fried to a dusky pink medium doneness inside, with a light crust outside. What adds good flavour to this decent cheeseburger is the smoked cheddar draped on it. Sturdy white buns made for the stall by a local bakery bookend the burger after it’s topped with a tangle of caramelised onions.
The passable beef patty is perked up with a thick nugget of foie gras and an oozy-yolked fried egg. As far as hawker food goes, it doesn’t get any more luxe than this. The foie is deftly fried so that it boasts a thin, caramelised crust. This is the kind of solo Friday-night-in-front-of-the-TV grub that most of us dream about.
Kieran’s restaurant experience is evident in refined dish. This lean but tender cut of Aussie steak (‘picanha’ is the Brazilian name for the rump cap, the top part of the cow’s backside) is cooked to a warm, dark red centre. There's a sweet, mineral flavour to it, counterpointed by an herbaceous knob of melting butter that sits atop it. Comes with mashed potatoes that are almost Robuchon-esque. They're so silky and buttery, we practically feel our arteries closing in on us.
BOTTOM LINE: Pek Kio residents sure lucked out with this stall. The modern Western food here — more so the steak and chicken chop than the good but unremarkable burgers — is excellent for its prices. $
3. 25 Degrees Burgers, Wine & Liquor Bar
200 MIDDLE RD, S188980. TEL: 6809-7990.
Open daily except Sun. Mon-Thurs 11am-1am; Fri-Sat 11am-2am. Last orders 12.30am & 1.30am. www.facebook.com/25DegreesSG
IN A NUTSHELL: This Hollywood import was one of the pioneer “premium” burger restaurants that took off when it opened at the Roosevelt Hotel in Los Angeles in 2005. As testament to its appeal, TimeOut mag named it one of the best burger restaurants in LA a decade later in 2015. 25 Degrees, owned has since spawned a franchise with an outpost in the Pullman Bangkok Hotel G and this one at the chic boutique Hotel G along Middle Road that debuted two weeks ago. Both the franchise and boutique hotels are owned by Hongkong-based lifestyle-hospitality management group GCP Hospitality. Interestingly, the name 25 Degrees refers to the “precise temperature difference” between a raw and a well-done hamburger.
Truffle Fries and Curly Fries
WHAT’S COOKING: Like the LA original, this branch serves solid burgers (five types) made from high-quality ingredients. You can even craft your own burger by choosing from a list of meats, condiments, sauces, cheeses and toppings, like roasted red pepper and Canadian bacon. This burger outfit also boasts a Happy Hour that lasts from 3pm to 7pm, when guests can go to town with one-for-one on all sides (stuff like crispy Truffle French Fries and Curly Fries), cocktails, and half or full pints of Hoegaarden and Stella Artois. The kitchen is helmed by the franchise’s consultant chef, Frenchman Sylvain Royer, who’s based in Bangkok but visits the Singapore outpost monthly.
Like all the beef burgers here, this one holds a succulently thick, cooked-to-medium 200g patty comprising a mix of US Angus sirloin and chuck roll (the area close to the cow’s shoulder). Don't release the burger from its brown paper wrapping for easier eating — you’ll need it to catch the tasty, beefy juices that will dribble all over your hands. This burger has the right balance of flavours — softly tangy crescenza (a creamy cow’s milk cheese), sweet caramelised onions, earthy gorgonzola (Italian blue cheese), bitter rocket leaves, charred bacon, and piquant Thousand Island dressing. The brioche buns, made with organic flour, are sturdy yet airy enough to catch those delicious drippings. Sadly, they were dry and stiff when our colleague visited on another occasion.
The same juicy patty, but spiced up with Mexican-style heat. There are jalapenos, chipotle and mezzo secco jack (a drier Monterey Jack cheese) and a luscious spread of fresh avocado. Like eating a great taco in burger form.
The malty flavour here is buttery, nutty and goes well with the spongy bits of blended marshmallow. Drinking this makes us feel like kids again.
BOTTOM LINE: Very good burgers (when the buns aren't dry). The well-priced drinks also make this a fab place to hang out at with your squad.
4. Teppanyaki Hamburg Nihonbashi Keisuke Bettei
72 PECK SEAH ST, S079329. TEL: 6908-4348 (NO RESERVATIONS).
Open daily 11.30am-2.30pm, 5.30pm-10pm. Last orders 2.30pm & 10pm. www.keisuke.sg
The Japanese hamburg is more meatloaf than burger, because the patties are thicker, more seasoned and cooked through. Here, the beef shoulder is minced to two sizes so you get a nice creaminess from the fine bits and some bite from the chunkier ones. The tender patties give way easily to the prod of a chopstick. The meat is very savoury, yet not overly beefy like the more charred and tightly packed Western-style hamburgers. We suspect there are some Asian ingredients in its marinade, like soy. We love this with the demi-glace sauce, a rich brown gravy. If you don’t gorge on the tempting salad bar, this petite 150g patty might not be enough to satiate heartier appetites. Should you need a second patty, it will cost you an additional $10.80.
The more Instagrammable of the two main courses, this larger 180g patty reveals a molten core of cheddar, mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses when sliced. Their flavours are mild and compliment the beef well. We like it with the slightly sweet teriyaki sauce that cuts through the richness of the dish. We’re not hot about the accompanying dry breaded prawn, though.
VERDICT: Great value for money. The salad bar alone is worth half the price of the main course and the meat patties are super comforting and delicious. $$
5. Philly Shack
3A RIVER VALLEY RD, CLARKE QUAY, S179017. TEL: 6837-0675
Open daily. Sun-Tues 11.30am-11pm; Wed-Sat 11.30am-2am. Last orders 10.15pm & 1.15am www.facebook.com/PhillyShackSG
WHAT’S COOKING: Philly Shack tries to stay true to its theme of beguilingly sloppy Yankee fare by using ingredients as authentic as Chees Whiz, that orangey processed cheese sauce (fromage snobs may turn away now). In fact, if you so much as mention spice, the servers will bring you several baskets rattling with 64 different bottles of hot sauce. If you’re a sucker for pain, ask for the spiciest they have — The Widow No Survivors Hot Sauce. Its name is itself a warning. The Singaporean chef here used to work for American restaurant chain Chili’s.
The Philly Shack may be named for its Philly Cheesesteak, but the real star here is this burger. Its juicy patty — made of 170 grams of US beef rump, brisket and chuck — is hooded in generous strips of bacon fried to a blistery crisp, oozy American cheese, slices of homemade pickles, caramelised onions, fresh tomato and shredded lettuce. The thick patty, cooked to a succulent medium, is warmly flavoured and has just the right amount of fat. Pulling all those flavours together is tangy barbecue sauce and a soft, toasty brioche bun that’s crisp around the edges. Unfortunately, there are issues with consistency: the patty was bone dry when our colleague visited on another occasion.
Ask any cheesesteak lover from Philadelphia in the USA, where this sarnie was created by two hotdog vendors, and they’ll tell you that their famous sandwich should comprise a few basic things: a generous tangle of griddle-fried, thinly sliced rib-eye steak and onions, a slather of artificially processed cheese (that’s where the Cheez Whiz comes in), and a spongy bread roll to house it all. The cheesesteak here checks all the boxes. Its flavours meld nicely together to provide a satisfying, messy sandwich.
BOTTOM LINE: A decent spot when you want no-holds-barred good-quality American-style fast food, though the quality can be hit-or-miss. $$