Keong Saik Road is on the cusp of change. In the past couple of months, cocktail bars like Cufflink Club and The Library shuttered its doors while new restaurants and eateries are taking over the buzzy street. Among the new openings is Butcher Boy. This is chef Andrew Walsh’s second establishment in the neighbourhood. His first restaurant CURE, a swish and minimalist spot serving up modern European plates, is just a few doors down.
But there is no sibling rivalry. Butcher Boy is a casual east-meets-west bar and grill that serves up grilled meats with Asian sauces, though we expected a more specialty meat-centric menu from a place that calls itself the Butcher Boy. The Japanese katakana words below the sign are a literal translation, meaning “bu-cha bo-i”, and reflects the Asian influences on Butcher Boy’s menu. It could also reflect Walsh’s attention to Japanese service standards, something he admires.
The Asian inspiration only extends to the food and drink with the space exuding an edgy industrialism, thanks to its textured concrete walls softened slightly by butter-yellow lighting and warm walnut accents. Forget about whipping out your camera phone to take a picture of your cocktail or dish. Unless you’re the sort who brings your own light to counter dim lighting in this precise setting, we say just let the food, drink and conversation takeover. The space is undoubtedly built for sociability, demonstrated by the closely-grouped tables, standing bar space and menu – almost all the dishes are meant to be shared.
The east-meets-west ethos they’re pounding out on the Asian-inspired menu is not a boundary pushing Indie flick but a blockbuster that is easily enjoyed by all. Walsh and chef Nicole Philipson play it right with small plates like the Aubergine Satay with Green Mango and Coriander ($18). The aubergines are soft and mild in flavour, which is perfect when paired with the crunchy green mangoes and carrots. It also picks up the flavour of the rich and nutty satay sauce, which though intense, did not overwhelm the other components of the dish.
Another appetiser of Burrata, Nashi Pear, Kale, Beetroot Slaw ($12) features a cloud of creamy burrata cheese topped with a mix of salt-baked and pickled beetroot. The flavours produced are complex, indulgent, and tantalises the palate.
A nod to our local Kong Bak Bao (Chinese braised pork sliders) is the Fried Chicken, Yuzu Kewpie, Bao ($18). With a combination of the crunch of the fried chicken, the cushiony softness of the bao, the tartness of the yuzu, and crispness of radicchio, it’s hard to go wrong. In fact, it is so good that you should get this dish for yourself instead of sharing.
This being Butcher Boy, we would be remiss not to talk about their grilled meat specialties. On the menu you’ll find US Grain Beef Short Rib ($33 for 180g/$66 for 360g) and US Grain Ribeye ($42 for 250g/$84 for 500g). Meats are paired with five different Asian sauces: Sambal, Black pepper, Vietnamese (similar to nuoc cham), XO Sauce and Yuzu Bearnaise. The sambal tastes like a makcik is in the kitchen grounding the spices and making it from scratch. Be adventurous in experimenting with the sauces as well – put that sambal in your bacon burger, by all means.
Their US Grain Beef Short Rib ($33 for 180g) is sous vide for 48 hours before charring over the Josper grill to garner a smoky character. It is satisfying and done to a turn. The salt-baked Crispy Pork Belly ($32 for 200g), on the other hand, is more hit and miss. While it tries to emulate the traditional Chinese pork belly, the pork here is a tad too salty, especially without a side or base to counter it.
A personal favourite is the Grilled Market Fish, Vietnamese Style ($38). The menu says it is ‘for two’, but it is cooked so perfectly that I would get it as an individual main. Between this fish, the sambal and the satay sauce, it seems that Butcher Boy’s kitchen crew has managed to capture the essence of Asian tastes fully. The fish is fresh, smooth, and flakes off the bone. It is almost akin to the flavour of a comfort food, especially combined with the experience of picking the flesh off its bones with your fingers.
Vegetarian options here are not an afterthought. A charred cauliflower steak drizzled over with sweet teriyaki sauce and burnt apples ($24) produces a compelling bittersweet combination.
Drinks include a wide variety of sake, cocktails, craft beer, mocktails and wine. In keeping with the Asian-inspired theme, many of their concoctions come with distinctive Asian touches as well. The House Bellini ($18) is made from fermented passion fruit, apple juice and prosecco. It is smooth, easy to drink, and the perfect start to the night; recommended for those who are not too keen on heavier flavours. The Thai Basil Tini ($16) is for all cocktail lovers out there. Made with basil and jalapeño infused Colombian gin, the tipple leaves you with an addictive kick at the end of every sip.
Their Street Side Milk Punch ($18), served in a plastic bag like your take-away at the kopitiam (local coffee shop), is a fun cheeky touch. It is made with cachaça, Thai milk tea and salted caramel syrup. The milk tea is secondary and the cachaça is strong, so be aware of this when you order the drink!
Another cocktail to try is The Smoking Carriage ($22), made with Dictador 20-year old rum, salted caramel syrup, bitters and orange. It is sure to incite a chorus of ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ at the table when you open the box to release a cloud of perfumed smoke.
The finishing touch to every meal is the dessert, and Butcher Boy’s sundaes do not disappoint. The Coconut, Thai Rice Pudding, Mango ($12) is true to its origins and good enough to make you return for more – make sure to dig deep to mix the rice pudding with the rest of the sundae. Their Chocolate Textures, Salted Crackers and Matcha ($12) emulates the Milo dinosaur, and the matcha is a brilliant addition; a deceptively simple sundae that’s for everyone to enjoy. They also have an interesting twist on the PB&J sandwich – a Peanut Butter Ice Cream & Plum Jelly Sandwich ($10). While the spiced biscuits that sandwich the ice-cream make for a nice touch, the dessert is not anything to crow about – give it a pass to make room for another sundae!
Butcher Boy is open for dinner daily from 5pm, and for lunch on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 12pm – with a roast special on Sundays.
31 Keong Saik Road, Singapore 089138. Tel: +65 6221 6833