If there’s any cuisine that I love in this world, it’s Asian food. I just love the flavor, the character and the spice in every bite. I had the chance to experience a taste of Singapore and the rest of Asia at the Bonifacio Global City — Singapore Food Republic by Nasi Lemak. Despite having frequented the area, The Fort and the entirety of the BGC is such a foreign place for me. So when blogger friend Yani of Yaniconquistadora invited me to join them, I was quite hesitant because I know I will have to figure out how to get there. Then Vance of Ang Takaw Ko decided to tag along as she is also not familiar with the place. That made the challenge extra; not that I don’t want her company. I just don’t want to be primary responsible in making her late because I know I will really have difficulty figuring out how to get there, especially because I’m not the type who’d ask for directions. True enough, we were late when we arrived at the restaurant.
Located at the Unit 8 Commercenter, 4th Ave cor 31st Street, Singapore Food Republic by Nasi Lemak is a stones throw away from St. Lukes and HSBC. I have been in this area before, but I remember walking at that time. That explains why we got lost. We hurriedly went inside and up to the second floor where our blogger friends and the owner, Mr. HK Tan were waiting for us. What a shame to keep the most important person in the restaurant waiting! We were introduced to the man who brought the taste of Singapore on this side of the city. After the pleasantries, we focused on the work at hand — food tasting as food fresh from the kitchen were served on the table one after the other, with Mr. Tan giving introduction to each menu item.
We started with the appetizers. First on the chopping block was Kueh Pa Ti – a plate of fried small pastry cups, shrimp pieces, lettuce, jicama vegetable and sweet chili sauce.
This appetizer requires the diner to make a little working with the hands to create the appetizer. Mr. Tan showed us how to do it — place a lettuce in the pastry cup, then the jicama, top it with a slice of shrimp and then put a little sweet chili sauce. This is quite an interesting experience, my first time to have a do-it-yourself appetizer. The fried pastry cup is crispy, the vegetables are crunchy and the soft shrimp all create a texture in one’s mouth. The chili sauce is on the sweeter side though; I would have wanted a little spicy bite. Kueh Pa Ti is good for 8 servings and is a perfect starter as it works out your appetite for more.
Then we had Crispy Baby Squid.
As the name suggests, it is crispy. And it’s sweet and salty. It’s perfect as it is, I can even take this as a main dish. I wouldn’t say it’s special because it’s similar to sweet anchovies that we Filipinos are fond of eating. But I love squid, that’s why I really enjoyed this item. Once served, this should be consumed immediately as it’s bound to harden because of the caramelized sugar that coated the squid. Not surprisingly, I learned that this is one of the bestsellers.
Bursting with flavor that’s sure to awaken your taste buds is the Thai Green Mango Salad served on a beautiful plate.
Then the main dishes were served, starting with a Singapore cuisine fixture, the Hainanese Chicken.
We were served half chicken with two cups of chicken rice and 3 sauces — chili, pounded ginger and dark soy sauce. The look is not at all appetizing for me despite the plating effort. I’m also skeptical because I had some bad experience with other restaurants serving the dish. Good thing Mr. Tan was there to share his “best practice” in eating this food. First, put some soy sauce to a portion of the chicken rice, then add some chicken, and lastly mix in the ginger and chili sauce. I appreciate this way of eating Hainanese Chicken because of the play of flavors that the sauces create, plus it slows my eating down.
The Singapore Food Republic by Nasi Lemak is not just about Singaporean cuisine. Mr. Tan actually had us experience two curry dishes — Thai Chicken Curry and Malaysian Chicken Curry.
I can imagine all the spices and herbs used on these curry dishes. Both are flavorful and despite the common denominator, that is curry, they’re still distinct. The Malaysian version is fragrant and has more spice that I am likely to have it again when I come back instead of having the Thai version which has a creamy and a slight hint of spice.
Then we had Beef Rendang…
One can tell that this was cooked well with its tender beef and flavorful sauce. According to the man of the house, they stew the beef in coconut milk and and mix it up with ginger, galangal, turmeric, lemongrass and chili. No wonder it’s really tasty.
The main dishes won’t be complete without vegetables. We had two — Nonya Chap Chye and Kang Kong Sambal Blachan.
Both dishes looked ordinary, and in fact they are, just given with a twist. Nonya Chap Chye is similar to our Chop Suey and the Kang Kong dish is equivalent to Adobong Kang Kong. Of course, what makes these vegetable dishes special is the special sauces used to cook them. They both complement any meal, especially the ones we had, chicken and beef.
To cap our meal, we were served the King of all Curry, as Mr. Tan calls it — the Fish Head Curry.
Not another curry, you might say. But this dish is actually a welcome treat for those who prefer having fish instead of the other meat. Served in a really large bowl, that’s because the Mayamaya fish head is really big. It’s simmered in coconut milk, tamarind, lime leaves, lemon grass,curry leaf and a ginger powder which is not available in the country. The sauce is thick and the flavor really strong. Unfortunately it was not enough to mask the fishy taste of Mayamaya.
In between bite, we took a sip of the Coffee Connoisseur — the restaurant’s take on ice blended coffee served in a tall glass. My other friends were able to experience Pineapple and Mango Shake. The rewards of getting to the venue early.
Mr. Tan said they experiment on every food and drinks that they offer and make an effort to improve on it until they get it right. The Coffee Connoisseur is a testament to that as I enjoyed sipping on the whipped cream. I’m quite sure they mixed something in there to make it better than the ordinary ones.
Hats off to Mr. HK Tan for this restaurant venture and thank you for an enjoyable experience. I highly recommend the Thai Green Mango Salad and Crispy Baby Squid for starters, then Beef Rendang and Malaysian Chicken Curry plus Kang Kong Sambal Blachan for your main meal. So if you’re looking for Asian cuisine beyond the usual and you’re at the Bonifacio Global City, visit the Singapore Food Republic by Nasi Lemak.
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