1. Ola Beach Club
46 Siloso Beach Walk, Sentosa, S099005. Tel: 6250-6978.
Open Mon-Fri 10am-10pm; Sat-Sun 9am-10pm. Last orders 9.30pm. www.olabeachclub.com
On a late Friday afternoon, we somehow find ourselves with sand in our feet and cocktail in hand, standing at a pier watching a man fly several meters into the air on water-propelled shoes (it’s a water sport called jetblading, see above pic). Looks like fun, but better him than sports-averse us. We’re spending an unlikely weekday in Sentosa at four-month-old Ola Beach Club, a multi-concept space that overlooks a substantial portion of Siloso beach. It’s been a very good day of chill Hawaiian vibes. After all, Ola, which means "life" in Hawaiian, is the brainchild of Hawaiian former corporate lawyer, Christina Tran. In 2010, Christina left her Singapore-based corporate job to find something new in life, and, back in Hawaii, ended up working with a water sports company called Seabreeze, which inspired her so much that she decided to bring it to Singapore.It offers adrenalin-pumping sports like jetblading and jet pack skiing. Seabreeze was formerly located at the Wavehouse, and when the multi-storey space at Siloso Beach became available, Christina decided to turn Seabreeze into a full lifestyle experience, and set up restaurant and bar Ola.
The LOOK & VIBE: Ola combines Seabreeze’s water-sports services with a breezy al fresco all-day diner and a cocktail bar upstairs with a great view of the beach. There are only subtle Hawaiian motifs scattered around, like tiki mugs and the odd tropical flower graphic, so don't expect grass-skirted staff and hula dances here. Overall there's a laid-back island resort feel to the place. But at night, it turns into a thumping beach lounge with sexier, cocktail-drenched vibes supplied by a DJ who serves up a hip mix of retro, deep house and techno tunes.
ON THE MENU: The menu here, available both at the dining room and bar, is made up of rather sophisticated Hawaiian-inspired tapas and mains, devised by the head chef, with some input from Christina. Tthe sea-blue Uliuli Tiki ($22), shaken up with vodka, tangy curacao orange liqueur, passion fruit puree, and topped with a thick cap of coconut foam for an Instagram-worthy burst of rich hink hearty plates with Japanese-American touches, like the ubiquitous sashimi-topped poke bowl, tacos, burgers and pastas. The plates are prepared by a chef who’s had stints at OCF and L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon. Cocktails here, made by a bartender formerly from Bar Stories, have fun and whimsical Hawaiian touches. For instance, tropical flavours.
Ahi Poke, $20 (ORDER THIS!)
This is a customisable poke bowl. Choose your fave type of rice, toppings, and sauce. On our visit, we had a mix of everything: jasmine and brown rice with chunks of tender shoyu-marinated tuna, crunchy tobiko, chopped kimchi, guacamole, fresh cranberries, pomegranate and pumpkin seeds. Talk about fusion food. There’s a lot more texture here compared to other poke bowls we’ve had, with a pleasant tartness from the pomegranate that pairs well with the salty tuna. Yummy, and healthy, too.
Kalua Pig Taco, $25 for two
The “kalua” in the name is a nod to the traditional Hawaiian method of cooking pork by burying it in the sand with coals. Nothing so intense here, though this dish is still laborious to prepare. Pork shoulder is cured in salt for a day before it’s steamed and then baked for three hours. It’s pulled into shreds and tucked inside a crisp corn taco shell, along with chunky guacamole, tomato relish, and chilli chutney. The meat is wonderfully tender and bursts with a subtle smoky sweetness. A bit pricey for the smallish portion, but it’s delish.
Grilled Octopus, $18.50 (ORDER THIS!)
In this starter, tiny baby octopuses are prettily plated with charred artichokes, fava beans, and tomato confit. It all looks a little precious and insubstantial, but the octopus is amazingly tender and the robust flavours in this warm salad make us wish it were a main dish instead.
Loco Moco, $28
This classic Hawaiian dish consists of rice topped with a hamburger patty and fried egg. This atas version features a juicy flame-grilled 150g wagyu patty crowned with a runny yolked panko-crusted egg, kombu and sesame seed-studded Japanese rice, plus fries on the side. The patty is juicy but a little under-seasoned. Goes together quite nicely with the umami rice, though we’d rather eat an actual burger instead.
Baked Hawaii, $15
A riff on the popular Baked Alaska dessert, but with Hawaiian flavours. This parfait-like sweet with a layer of meringue is brought to the table and briskly flambéed with coconut-infused rum till lightly golden brown. Beneath its billowy lid lies a less attractive fruity mix of pineapple confit, nata de coco, aloe vera, and vanilla ice cream. It’s a little too sweet, but so much fun to watch.
BOTTOM LINE: The tasty if slightly pricey grub here provides a cool introduction to Hawaiian comfort food. The water sports at this charming, breezy club are a little too hard-core for lazy us, so we’ll just drop by for a nibble and drinks. $$-$$$
2. Red Tail
#01-04 Clarke Quay Cannary Block, 3C River Valley Rd, S179022. Tel: 6738-2988.
Open Mon-Tue 6pm-11pm; Wed 7pm-3am, Thu 7pm-2am, Fri 7pm-4am, Sat 7pm-5am & Sun, 6pm-11pm. Last orders 30 mins before closing. www.redtailbar.com
Unless you've been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard of Zouk’s move from Kim Seng Road to Clarke Quay. Love it or hate it, the relocation comes with a fresh burst of style in the form of adjoining pre-party dining and cocktail options like this hip modern Asian gastro-bar named after the adorable nocturnal Red Tail Panda, a tribute to the red-eyed clubber clientele it aims to feed before and after a night on the dance floor. The restaurant serves up quirky Asian-inspired sharing plates and craft cocktails in an achingly trendy 65-seat space.
The LOOK & VIBE: Like an izakaya with a pop art makeover with its dark, red-tinged lighting, graphic wall art with pouty lip installations, and its boisterous millennial clientele. It's quite chic and a step up from the old Zouk's Wine Bar, which we always found a little bit sleazy. Be warned, it gets rather packed here at peak hours with the party crowd, so don’t come here for a quiet and romantic dinner, obviously.
ON THE MENU: The kitchen is helmed by 27-year old chef Chan Kar Meng, who was scouted by Park Bench Deli chef Ming Tan, who helped conceptualise the menu at Red Tail. They worked together to create the list of contemporary Asian bites, though it’s Meng, formerly head chef at café Necessary Provisions, who’s stationed in the kitchen here. There’s a bar bites selection available till midnight, comprising mostly zi char favourites like Popcorn Coffee Pork ($18), bite-sized pork collar served with laksa leaf pesto, and a glammed-up version of the club’s famous old hot dog, Zouk Sausage & Mash ($12), a nod to the food truck version dished out to clubbers at the Kim Seng Road Zouk. For dinner, there are slightly heftier Asian-fusion sharing plates that are available till 10pm. And what’s a Zouk eatery without drinks? Don’t expect the usual headache-inducing Long Island Tea, though. Fancier craft cocktails featuring local ingredients are offered here instead.
Fried Chicken Skins, $13
An addictive bar snack of chicken skins fried to potato chip-crunchy consistency. The skin is painstakingly removed from the chook by hand then air-dried for maximum crispness before being deep-fried and doused in a super rich salted egg and curry leaf sauce. A tasty mix of crunchiness, creaminess and piquantness.
Cold-Smoked Mekajiki, $21
A raw fish salad of smoked sliced swordfish loin paired with little mounds of coconut panna cotta, dots of tangy red currant gel, and earthy, soil-like crumbs made from olives. It’s a beautiful looking plate, but the flavours don’t quite meld. The heavy smokiness of the swordfish and its chewy texture are at odds with the coconutty flavour of the panna cotta, while the olive crumb adds a cookie crumb-like dryness in the mouth. The umami fish is quite yum on its own, though, but overall, this dish is too highbrow for a pre-clubbing meal.
Beef Tartare Yuk-Hoe, $25
This cold main course marries French steak tartare with the Korean marinated raw beef salad called yuk hoe. It features raw hand-cut Australian grass-fed tenderloin mixed with a sweet and spicy gochujang-spiked Korean ketchup, chunky hazelnuts, tender pickled pear, all bound by a raw quail’s egg. The beef is fatty, tender and sweet, and the dressing spicy, sour and savoury. Delish, except the portion is a tad modest.
Pandan War, $18
Forget Vodka Ribena. Red Tail's craft cocktails offer a classier way to get high. This concoction features pandan-infused mezcal (a smoked agave liquor from Mexico) mixed with fiery ginger ale and lime juice. There’s a strong pandan flavour in this that stands up surprisingly well to the smoky mezcal, making it a super smooth and zingy drink.
Uphill Ding Ding, $20
If you hate beetroot, this is not the drink for you. Grenadine syrup made not from the usual pomegranate but beetroot is spiked with gin, bittersweet herbal amaro liqueur, lemon juice, and served with crunchy beetroot chips. The beetroot’s strange savoury-sweetness passes quickly, giving way to a complex mix of herbal flavours and a tangy fruitiness. It's a potent, earthy cocktail that kinda grew on us.
BOTTOM LINE: The gourmet inflections in the main courses here are a bit out of place for a Zouk diner. We’ll probably pop by on a quiet weeknight for cocktails and the heartier, simpler bar snacks instead. $$-$$$