1. Greyhound Café Singapore
#01-25/25A PARAGON S238859. TEL: 6235-4078. OPEN DAILY 11AM – 10PM. LAST ORDERS 30 MINS BEFORE CLOSING. WWW.FACEBOOK.COM/GREYHOUNDCAFESG/
IN A NUTSHELL: This super popular, uber chic Bangkok cafe chain serves up an extensive menu of traditional Thai faves infused with their particular brand of ingenuity and whimsy.
WHAT’S COOKING: Initially just an incidental foodie extension of the brand’s fashion business by Greyhound’s founder, Bhanu Inkawat, 62, Greyhound Cafe now boasts 14 outlets in Bangkok and 12 in Hongkong, Beijing, Shanghai and Kuala Lumpur. In fact, the 19-year-old café, which first opened at Bangkok’s Emporium shopping complex, has since gone on to supersede the fashion arm’s popularity. The 100-seater, which takes over Cedele’s Podi café at Paragon, is a franchise brought in by JC Global Concepts, the F&B group behind the Central Hong Kong Café chain. The group plans to open at least four Greyhand outlets here. The Singapore café boasts the biggest menu outside of Bangkok, with 80 dishes on offer. Crowd-pleasers like their Complicated Noodle and Salmon Carpaccio have made it here. Unfortunately, both were sold out when we visited that afternoon. The good news is the flavours have not been tweaked to suit the local palate so your fave Greyhound nosh will still taste like it did in Bangkok. More or less. The bad news? Prices have been substantially jacked up. Signature dishes like their fried chicken wings, which costs just 140 baht (S$5.60) in Thailand, costs $14 here. First-timers may not feel the pinch, but it’s a hard bill to swallow for those who’ve dined at their Bangkok outlets. The food is whipped up by Thai cooks who’ve been trained by the chefs from the Bangkok HQ. As for the higher prices, the owners say that “Singaporeans can afford it”.
THE LOOK: The monochromatic aesthetic that dominates all Greyhound Cafes, accented by galvanised steel and black and white tiles, has also been replicated here. Two Thai artists were flown in to embellish the cafe’s walls and architectural centrepiece — a steel greenhouse with a canopy of hanging plants and butterflies made out of recycled soda cans. The joint boasts an open layout that makes it a great place to chill, watch and be watched.
Greyhound Famous Fried Chicken Wings, $14
This signature dish, synonymous with Greyhound cafes, passes with flying colours. Deep-fried to a golden crisp, each of the 15 split mid-joint wings bathed in a salty fish sauce marinade, is an explosion of flavour and highly addictive. However, paying almost $1 for half a wing dampens the pleasure somewhat.
Soft-Shell Crab with Ink Spaghetti, $27
Two crusty deep-fried crustaceans atop a blackened bed of squid ink pasta. Perfectly cooked al dente spaghetti and shiitake mushrooms are tossed in an umami sauce made with anchovies, garlic and black pepper. Salty, spicy and silky, it hits all the right spots and then some.
Pomelo Salad, $16
A generously portioned salad served with romaine lettuce and wild betel leaf wraps so you can eat it like a hand roll. Beautifully balanced with sharp and spicy flavours, topped with fragrant roasted coconut bits, pounded shrimp and crispy fish, all infused with a sweet lemon dressing.
Spaghetti with Corned Beef and Fresh Chilli, $24
We’re sad to declare this “super duper signature dish” a super duper disappointment. The spaghetti was stringy and undercooked and the deep-fried shreds of corned beef too oily.
BOTTOM LINE: We have not waited in vain for Greyhound’s arrival in Singapore. The food and décor here are mostly as solid as the Bangkok original — apart from the much steeper prices. Give them some time to iron out kinks in their service, though. Some of our orders were mixed up and our drinks only arrived near the end of our meal.
2. Yentafo Kruengsonge
#02-06A/B CATHAY CINELEISURE ORCHARD, S239695. OPEN DAILY 10AM-10PM. LAST ORDERS 30 MINS BEFORE CLOSING.
IN A NUTSHELL: This self-service outfit offers the Thai equivalent of yong tau foo. Yentafo or ‘pink soup noodle’, is a traditional Thai noodle dish that gets its distinct blush from fermented red tofu and Thai red rice.
WHAT’S COOKING? This noodle brand which opened in 1999 is the brainchild of Madam Mallika, a teacher-turned-restaurateur who also runs several other F&B businesses in Thailand. Yentafo now boasts 29 outlets in Bangkok and Laos. The franchise was brought here by Minor Food Group, the folks behind Thai Express and Xin Wang Hong Kong Café. This 64-seater cafe is the first of seven more to pop up here. (They just opened two branches at One@Kent Ridge and Kallang Wave Mall). Yentafo is a popular Thai noodle dish from Hakka immigrants, and like our local yong tau foo, is served either dry or in a savoury clear broth, but made with pork bone, radish and coriander root and topped with familiar faves such as fish ball, fried tofu, black fungus, mushroom and flat wide rice noodles similar to our kway chap noodles. Then there is the quintessential pink sauce made with fermented red tofu and Thai red rice paste that lends it its signature hue. There are four choices of yentafo to choose from (from $6.50 for five toppings) and three levels of spiciness: ‘Dek-Dek’ (not spicy), ‘Jai-Soh’ (spicy) and ‘Rod-Jeb’ (screamingly spicy). Madam Mallika insists on not tweaking flavours or spice levels for the local market. So consider yourself warned. If you’re not up for a steaming bowl of yentafo, there are also standard Thai rice dishes on offer, like Nam Prik Khai Poo ($9), rice capped with a fluffy omelette and served with a spicy, sweet and sour crab dip.
THE LOOK: Bright and airy with natural light streaming in from full-length glass panels. The red and green interior accented with dark wood and shed-like cubicles, is meant to evoke the quaint ambiance of Thai street-side food shops minus the traffic fumes.
Yum Crispy Salmon Skin, $7
What sets this side dish apart is its spicy ‘yum’ sauce. A heady mix of fish sauce, palm sugar, lime juice, chilli padi, shallots and minced chicken, it is an explosive blend of sweet, spicy and sour flavours. And the salmon skin remains perfectly crispy even after being drenched in the sauce. Delish.
Yentafo Kruengsonge (Soup), $8.50
The broth in this signature dish is sweet and you can taste the umami flavours of the fermented beancurd. We tried the ‘Jai-Soh’ (spicy) version and it is plenty fiery with a lingering heat. The dish is meant to be eaten sans condiments, so it’s perfectly sweet, sour and spicy. Apart from the odd but rather pleasant addition of a wobbly cube of grass jelly, which they use to replace the traditional pig’s blood (which isn’t AVA-approved here), the other toppings aren’t particularly outstanding. We prefer this more flavourful soup to the dry version.
Santol Sweety Delight, $5
Round off your meal with this unique traditional Thai dessert. It stars santol, also known as cottonfruit, simmered in syrup, a bit of salt and served with ice chips. It tastes like a cross between soursop, plum and mangosteen, with a cottony yet slightly firm mouthfeel. Good for extinguishing all that spiciness.
BOTTOM LINE: The yentafo soup is more robust than that of our local yong tau foo, but its toppings are pretty ordinary. Still, a hearty and wallet-friendly meal can be found here if you’re in the building to catch a movie.
3. Talay Kata Thai
#08-04/05 ORCHARD CENTRAL, 181 ORCHARD RD, S238896. TEL: 6634-0551. OPEN DAILY. (LUNCH) MON–FRI 11.30AM–3PM; SAT–SUN 11.30AM–5PM; (DINNER) MON–SUN 6PM–10PM. LAST ORDERS 30 MINS BEFORE CLOSING. WWW.TALAYKATA.COM.SG.
IN A NUTSHELL: The first mookata joint in Singapore to offer salted egg broth on top of a premium seafood-centric buffet spread.
WHAT’S COOKING? This all-you-can-eat mookata (Thai steamboat/barbecue featuring a dome-shaped grill surrounded by a steamboat moat) joint boasts a premium spread with picks like Alaskan king crab and Japanese scallops. Talay Kata, which means “seafood” and “skillet” in Thai respectively, is a veritable haven for those with bottomless pits for stomachs. From just $18.80 (weekday lunch) and $28.80 (weekday dinner), patrons get to stuff their faces with up to 100 different items including crayfish, mud crab, and seasonal items like Kurobuta pork from Japan. It’s no wonder the place was teeming with students when we visited on a weekday afternoon. There are also sections where you can create your own shaved iced desserts and Thai papaya salad. The place is set up by the local Jus Delish Group, behind Thai F&B outlets, Som Tam and Gin Khao.
THE LOOK: The look of the 160-seater restaurant, with raw cement floors, corrugated steel fittings and colourful subway tiles, is decidedly fuss-free with rows of tables fitted with an overhanging exhaust system. But you don’t go to a mookata restaurant for the décor, especially when the focal point is the food, on display here in all its full glory at the L-shaped counter in the middle of the dining room.
Salted Egg Mookata
With the salted egg craze blitzing a trail in F&B circles, it’s surprising no one has created a steamboat version until now. And then you realise why. It is, unfortunately, one of those ideas that sound better in theory. Seafood stock is simmered for two hours with real salted egg yolk, whipping cream and Thai herbs. The luminescent yellow broth is, in all honesty, unpalatable. The flavours are jarring and there’s an unpleasantly overpowering aftertaste of preserved egg. The taste profile of the soup doesn’t improve even after being infused with drippings from the barbecue grill above it. You’re better off going with their more traditional soups like chicken, tom yum and bonito. The upside is the buffet spread more than makes up for this gastronomic faux pas. The fresh seafood and meats on offer are unseasoned so enjoy them in all their natural goodness, or drench them in the various house-made dipping sauces like the tart and garlicky “green seafood” one of green chilli padi, fish sauce and palm sugar.
BOTTOM LINE: The seafood is fresh, plump and the portions generous. Go hungry, but skip the salted egg yolk hotpot.
4. Talay Thai Tapas
#01-05 TRADERS’ MARKET, BLK 3E, RIVER VALLEY RD, S179024. TEL: 6337-1838. OPEN DAILY, SUN-THU NOON-10.30PM, FRI & SAT NOON-1.30AM. LAST ORDERS 30 MINS BEFORE CLOSING. WWW.FACEBOOKCOM/TALAYTHAISG.
IN A NUTSHELL: This seafood-centric restaurant dishes out bite-sized morsels and larger Thai street food plates with a mod twist. And no, it’s not related to Talay Kata Thai.
WHAT’S COOKING? The casual diner along the Singapore River is run by local food group Creative Eateries, who’re also behind cafes like Bangkok Jam. With a focus on seafood (‘talay’ means seafood in Thai), this gastrobar serves over 20 varieties of Thai-inspired tapas and heartier familiar faves like Pad Thai.
THE LOOK: This faux seedy restaurant and bar located beside the reverse bungy along Clarke Quay exudes a sense of cheeky irreverence. It’s decorated with rustic red tiles, ornate Thai fixtures, and entices you in with a “Love You Long Long Time” neon sign emblazoned above the cocktail bar.
Spanner Crab Miang Kham, $16
This betel leaf-wrapped snack is traditionally filled with just vegetables. But the peasant dish gets elevated here with a luscious topping of spanner crab meat. It also has roasted peanuts, lime juice, chilli padi and dried shrimp paste. Every tasty mouthful is a party in the mouth.
Nam Pla Prawn Ceviche, $16
This dish is not for the faint-hearted. The shelled live tiger prawns were so fresh, they came still twitching on our plate. Served on a bed of raw vegetables and herbs with a zingy, fiery sauce made with fish sauce and spices.
Tom Yum Lobster Bisque, $14
Your average tom yum goong gets a classy upgrade here with fresh lobster instead of prawn. The tiny portion is served in a shot glass with a skewer of grilled lobster tail. It’s an interesting concept, but the sweetness of the crustacean is overwhelmed by the tanginess of the tom yum spices. Shame.
Thai Tea Lava Cake, $14
A clever Thai twist to the usual chocolate lava cake. It oozes liquid gold infused with the unmistakable aroma of rich Thai tea and is served with a dollop of coconut ice cream. Sheer magic.
BOTTOM LINE: Pretty decent fare, if somewhat pricey for what is essentially fancy Thai bar snacks.