SINGAPORE – As dining in remains off-limits for now, some food and beverage owners have forged ahead with new virtual brands that are available only for delivery and/or takeaway.
They include Dishoom, which offers contemporary Indian cuisine, and Ciao Chow, which serves pasta.
Both brands are by Mr Shaun Leong, 35, and Ms Joanne Toh, 28 – the couple behind Wildfire Burgers in Bencoolen Street, which made a comeback in June last year after closing in 2019.
Seafood restaurant Nude Seafood has launched Nudo Nihon (Nude Japan in English), featuring set menus for home dining.
Chef-owner Bjorn Shen of Middle Eastern restaurant Artichoke offers curry noodle kits under his Curry Daddy brand, which he calls his pandemic project.
A handful of old F&B favourites have also resurfaced as pop-ups during phase two (heightened alert) – a similar trend to last year’s circuit breaker period when dine-in was also banned.
For instance, chef-restaurateur Willin Low’s burger brand B3 – Burger Bench & Bar – which closed 10 years ago, is now operating out of his Relish restaurant at Frasers Tower.
New pop-up concepts include the takeaway-only Tiffin Bicycle Club, run by local chef Desmond Shen.
The former sous chef from three-Michelin-starred restaurant Odette had to temporarily shelve his plans for his new private dining outfit Alter Native when the current restrictions kicked in last month.
For Tiffin Bicycle Club, he works with his chef friends to dish out contemporary Asian cuisine that are delivered in tingkats ($120 for two). The collaborations have featured the likes of chef Marcus Tan of pop-up restaurant Firebrand.
Only 21 tingkats are available each day for three days a week. This week is the last to order. Ordering details will be released at noon on June 14 on the pop-up’s Instagram page.
With Covid-19 curbs easing from Monday (June 14) – the Government said dining in can resume on June 21 if the pandemic situation remains under control – some pop-ups are ending their run soon.
But others, such as Curry Fried Chicken by cocktail bar Jekyll & Hyde, and Coop by modern izakaya Neon Pigeon, will go on even after dining in is allowed.
In the meantime, The Straits Times checks out the offerings from six virtual brands and pop-ups.
What: Seafood restaurant Nude Seafood’s new Nudo Nihon (Nude Japan) menu features premium, value-for-money Japanese fare with generous portions.
Launched on June 5, it offers sets for two ($128) or four ($198) people.
The $128 set is good for two very hungry people. Highlights include clams in sake; chilled somen with ikura and cordycep mushrooms; miso-grilled halibut, as well as yuzu daifuku and Hokkaido mille crepe cake.
You also get a choice of premium chirashi don or unajyu (grilled unagi on rice). I prefer the chirashi, which includes Hokkaido scallop, swordfish belly, salmon, and crispy tempura shirasu (whitebait).
The set for four comes with both the chirashi and unajyu ($38.90 for a la carte portion), as well as Nude Seafood’s popular “Momo” chicken thigh yakitori.
There are plans to serve these dishes when dine-in resumes. I’m looking forward to it.
Where: 01-23 Marina One East Tower, 5 Straits View; open: 11.30am to 1.30pm, 5.30 to 7.30pm daily
Info: Order on website. Free islandwide delivery for orders above $80.
Curry Fried Chicken
What: Is there anything more irresistible than crunchy curry-coated fried chicken?
Each piece – either a drumstick or wing – is coated with curry powder, curry leaves and spices. Prices start at $15 for a two-piece Curry Buddy set with a choice of side and drink.
I balance out the spices with a side of fries topped with lime mayonnaise and furikake, as well as shredded slaw. The mild truffle flavour of the truffle fries is lost among the bold flavours.
The boneless Curry Fried Dirty Chicken Fingers (from $10) are easy to eat.
Curry Fried Chicken may eventually launch as a standalone store.
Where: 74 Neil Road; open: 11.30am to 9.30pm daily (pick-up), noon to 10pm daily (delivery)
Info: Call 8940-2450 or order here.
What: Before you get too excited, this is not related to the famous Indian restaurant of the same name in London.
Instead, it is a new brand that offers a contemporary spin on Indian classics and features premium ingredients such as Australian lamb, Spanish octopus and French chicken.
Punchy flavours come to the fore in dishes such as Hyderabadi Chicken ($20) with boneless French poulet, palak paneer ($18) and Mughlai Shahi Korma Lamb ($26) with roasted cashews.
The spicy gravy from each dish goes best with the Kashmiri Pilaf ($12, good for two people), which uses Anarkali two-year aged basmati rice cooked with saffron milk, spices, as well as fresh and dried fruit and nuts.
Other highlights include octopus masala ($28) and Goan fish curry ($18), which uses Kuhlbarra barramundi.
Add on a pint of Alphonso mango lassi yogurt (473ml, $22) for dessert.
Open: Noon to 3pm, 5.30 to 10pm daily
Info: Call 8882-9607 or order here.
What: The new brand offers six housemade pasta dishes.
My favourites are Spaghetti Ruvida No. 12 ($23) with roasted mushrooms and a chicken liver sauce; and Conchiglie Rigate No. 226 ($28) with bone marrow and a rich oxtail ragu.
The pasta remains firm even though I dig in half an hour after it is delivered.
If you are feeling adventurous, go for the more unconventional Caserecce No. 464 ($26), which is cooked in a peppery sauce made with pig’s head and veal jus.
While I like the texture of the pasta, I’m not a big fan of the chunks of pig head.
For sides, do not miss the creamy Stracciatella ($20) cheese, paired perfectly with basil oil, orange and grapefruit.
Open: 11.30am to 9pm daily
Info: Order here.
What: The brand by chef-owner Bjorn Shen of Middle Eastern restaurant Artichoke offers curry noodle kits.
The current flavour on sale is Khao Soi Ped (Chiang Mai duck leg curry noodles, $18). Khao Soi, one of chef Shen’s favourite foods, used to be on the menu at his now-defunct eatery Bird Bird.
Minimal cooking is required. Just heat up the curry and slow-cooked duck leg and boil the fresh egg noodles. Top with the generous portion of salted mustard greens, raw shallots, herbs and crispy noodles.
The dish packs a big punch of flavours. The deliciously spicy and creamy curry coats the noodles perfectly and you get plenty of crunch from the shallots and crispy noodles.
End your meal on a sweet note with Thai milk tea (add $3 to the kit) that comes with cubes of grass jelly.
Although no minimum spending is required, I highly recommend adding more dishes from Artichoke’s menu.
Where: Artichoke, 161 Middle Road, open: 11.30am to 8pm, Wednesdays to Sundays
Info: Order at least one hour in advance on website.
What: The sake-smoked Kurobuta pork ramen ($16) travels well for delivery.
The noodles and ingredients come separately packed from the rich duck-based paitan soup. The soup is flavoured with niboshi, dried mushrooms and lemon ginger tare that is simmered for 72 hours.
Other options include crispy duck confit ($17) and soft shell crab ($17).
Coop, by modern izakaya Neon Pigeon, also offers burgers, rice and salad bowls.
The Korean Fried Chicken burger ($16) is slathered in gochujang and comes with pickled carrot and cucumber. The meat is tender, though I expected a more battered chicken patty similar to classic Korean fried chicken.
Scoop up the Tokyo hummus ($10) – a popular dish at Neon Pigeon – with curry chips, which makes a great work-from-home snack.
Where: 36 Carpenter Street, 01-01; open: 11.30am to 10pm daily
Info: Order on website, Deliveroo and GrabFood