Ditch the stiff business meetings in favour of meat-on-a-stick and booze.
STICKS AND SAKE
The food: Le Binchotan offers French-Japanese cuisine mostly composed of sharing plates. For your skewer fix at this joint, head for the sumiyaki section of the menu. While most traditional Japanese places would simply do their selections with salt or a sticky-sweet sauce known as tare, chef-owner Jeremmy Chiam has a more contemporary hand with his seasoning. A stick of oily Japanese mackerel gets cut with thyme oil, lime and sumac, while lamb gets a savoury lift with a miso tapenade. There’s even foie gras on a stick, with fennel, orange and a balsamic reduction.
The drinks: It’s got a tight but well-curated wine list that spans smaller producers from well-known regions like Burgundy, and some New World labels including long-standing Japanese winery Grace Wine. The list also expands to include sake, and you’ll find the highly prized Zankyo Junmai Daiginjo, Super 7 – a boundary-pushing sake made with rice that has been polished down until only 7 per cent of the kernel is left.
#01-04, 115 Amoy Street, Entrance via Gemmill Lane.
NEW SATAY CLUB
VIOLET OON SATAY BAR & GRILL
The food: This is the much, much more upscale equivalent of beers and satay at a hawker centre. While Violet Oon Satay Bar & Grill has all of Violet Oon’s Peranakan signatures like dry laksa and kueh pie tee, the humble satay is the focus here. The skewers feature generous chunks of meat, marinated in a heady spice blend and grilled over a charcoal fire. Aside from chicken and pork, they have less common options like 150-day grain-fed black angus beef; prawns marinated in coconut rempah; and – for the more adventurous or old-school eaters – tripe.
The drinks: As with the food, alcohol is taken to the next level here with a drinks programme complete with locally inspired cocktails. Drinks here play on classic cocktail structures with local ingredients, which include a whisky sour built with calamansi; and its Baba negroni – made with Diplomatico Reserva Rum and ginger puree. It’s also got a reasonable wine selection complete with helpful tasting notes and pairing suggestions, as well as spirits and beers to make up the rest of the list.
#01-18, 3B River Valley Road, Clarke Quay.
The food: While the menu at all-day dining concept 51 Soho reads like your typical trendy bistro’s, the flavours are anything but. “Salmon and pearl” comes with almost meltingly-tender fish, crispy skin, and an intensely moreish pearl couscous cooked in tangy pickled vegetable broth. The skewers here are refined versions of the typical mainland- Chinese chuan shops found lining the streets of Chinatown. You’ll find succulent pieces of pork belly, duck gizzard and even halloumi-stuffed padron peppers all dusted with a significantly more balanced version of the ubiquitous cumin-chilli spice mix at chuan shops.
The drinks: It has an extensive selection of spirits and cocktails that play on Asian ingredients, like a version of the Vesper that includes baby bamboo-infused vodka. There’s also a focus on Chinese liquors and spirits with an entire category of cocktails dedicated to stuff like rice-based spirits and wine. Options include the Prosperity Cup: a smooth tipple of rice wine, house-made barley juice, rock melon syrup and white chocolate liqueur.
#01-01, 51 Telok Ayer Street
The food: Dude-food/Middle-Eastern rabble rousers Artichoke has meat-on-a-stick. They come in the form of long, possibly dangerous skewers, so you probably shouldn’t eat off the stick directly. On them you’ll find creations like baby cuttlefish with shawarma spices and chicken fat dressing; and flank steak with padron peppers — all lovingly cooked over charcoal. It also brings in whole lambs now, which get slow-roasted until the meat is pull-apart tender and the fats rendered, and diners will be inspired to use words like “rivulets”.
The drinks: Cocktails here are the purview of bottled cocktail specialists Sunday Punch, and feature South-east Asian flavours like their Pandan Gimlet and Kopi-B, a concoction of local kopi-o, bourbon, vermouth and Campari. In keeping with its reputation as a brunch hotspot, Artichoke also offers house brunch tipples like bloody mary and bellini. There are also beers (both craft and not), well-priced wines, and even after-dinner digestifs to keep the night going.