Not a wok down memory lane
NEW name, new place, new restaurant? Not quite. We suss out four existing eateries forging new personalities for themselves.
297 River Valley Road
Opens June 14
Why mess with a formula when you've got a good thing going? That was the main question the owners of 4½-year-old Five & Dime faced when they decided to close their cafe in April.
But how they came to their decision was not that simple.
"When we started out, there were just about 30 brunch cafes in Singapore.
"Now, there are like two or three hundred offering almost the same things we did," said co-owner Hsu Chen Kang, 34.
He and his business partner decided to take the pre-emptive step of closing the shop, doing renovations and relaunching with a new concept - all on their own terms.
That was how they eventually came up with Fat Lulu's - a modern Asian barbecue restaurant with a dessert bar, which is set to open tomorrow.
Said Mr Hsu: "The main focus of Fat Lulu's is the grilled meats, vegetables, seafood, and we also have a proper dessert menu. We're moving away from the cafe and coffee culture which everyone is doing right now, and going back to basics."
They intend to keep their prices similar to what you would have expected to spend at Five & Dime too.
This means about $18 for six grilled prawn skewers in an Asian cajun rub, and $22 for a sambal-marinated pork chop with burnt corn and fries.
Salted & Hung
12 Purvis Street
Chef Drew Nocente of the now-defunct 5th Quarter restaurant will be heading a new kitchen at the contemporary Australian restaurant Salted & Hung in Purvis Street.
The chef said this change in backdrop would mark a "fresh new start".
"You've got the curing techniques, some nose-to-tail elements as well as grilling. The feel of the space though is entirely different - it will be more casual, more freestyle and laidback. Aussie-style basically."
Those who enjoyed the popular salt and pepper tripe will be glad to know it is one of the old dishes that will remain on the menu, along with the pork jowl and short rib, which will be slightly tweaked.
Some new items are ocean trout with macadamia and avocado ($16), octopus with saltbrush and ink ($18), kangaroo tartar with beets and juniper ($16), and chicken liver with guanciale and hearts ($12).
"5th Quarter didn't trade well and there were probably a variety of reasons," says Loh Lik Peng, director of Unlisted Collection which runs Salted & Hung, as well as other local establishments such as Pollen, Esquina, Restaurant Ember and Cheek By Jowl.
"Location was one factor and perhaps we didn't find the right concept for the location. We always got great reviews but business was not good.
"For that reason, we decided to end 5th Quarter's run."
While some elements are similar, the new concept is meant to be more casual and family-oriented while the old one catered to couples.
For instance, Salted & Hung will have a more industrial look, with concrete floors and bare walls featuring graffiti art.
"The idea is to make people feel more relaxed... You can turn up in shorts and T-shirt," said Mr Loh.
115 Amoy Street
Opens June 20
115 Amoy Street
Opens June 21
Perhaps it was serendipity that led Spa Esprit Group's chief executive Cynthia Chua to relocate two of her restaurants - South-east Asian bar Ding Dong and Argentinian restaurant boCHINche - to a corner shophouse space at Amoy Street.
The leases for both the three-year-old establishments came up around the same time, just as she found some available units that also happened to be where her own uncle previously ran a restaurant named Beng Hiang.
"It was a good opportunity (to move) as we see how the products for both brands have matured throughout the years and the identity becoming more formative," said Ms Chua.
When it reopens on June 20, Ding Dong's concept will still stick to modern twists on South-east Asian flavours but about 80 per cent of the menu will be different.
Signature dishes such as the crispy duck curry and assam pedas salted barramundi will stay. New dishes include a homemade banana bread with duck liver and kimchi as well as a chargrilled ocean trout with spiced quinoa and green mango salad.
Similarly, boCHINche will retain its focus on Argentinian food. About half the menu will likely be different and it will introduce a wood charcoal grill.
New dishes include braised cuttlefish, chorizo and fennel, as well as lamb rump, artichokes, goat's cheese and dates.
By moving to Amoy Street, she hopes to add more variety to the lunch offerings with the Argentinian cuisine, and perhaps drive a weekend brunch crowd to the area which is otherwise dead on weekends.
Said Ms Chua: "Putting the two together only strengthens the positioning of both brands.
"If one is fully booked, I wouldn't mind hopping to the next."
THE BUSINESS TIMES