Being born in the 80s, Steam Sia, a modern bistro bar which promises to be a blast from the 60s to the 90s, sounded like such a cute concept that I had to try it.
On entering the eatery, I didn’t quite get the sense of being transported back to the past. Yes, there were old-school paraphernalia on display (some of which were for sale), the tables were of the coffee-shop grey/white marble-topped and wooden-legged variety, and the food served in traditional metal crockery. But it felt like a random hodgepodge of items put together in a dimly-lit room, with nothing to unify them or draw one’s attention. The theme certainly could have come up stronger.
While customers can help themselves to childhood games and free-flow kachang puteh snacks, the waiters did not encourage us to do so. If I had not learned about it from blog reviews I’d read, I would have thought those were just another of the exhibited mementoes (for seeing, and not for touching).
The food had its hits and misses.
Our starter of seafood stuffed ‘sailing boats’ (i.e. oven-baked potatoes topped with seafood) (SGD 8.90) was creamy and delish but the deep-fried calamari with herb mayo dip (SGD 9.90) ordinary.
For the mains, the asian offerings (aka Asian Harvest) fared better than the western ones (aka Western Delight). For example, the nonya chicken curry (SGD 12.90) was quite a delight as it was tasty and thick and served with soft bread, but the signature grilled salmon with fruit salsa (SGD 18.90), while well-presented, was too dry.
A note: Steam Sia charges service charge but not GST. Also, water is not served free.
This was one of those places I think people may want to try for the novelty, but I don’t think there are strong reasons to visit again as the food was just okay and the ambience not fantastic.
5 Hindoo Road
Open 12pm – 12am daily
We arrived at The Black Sheep Cafe at 7pm on a quiet rainy evening and had the entire place to ourselves for the first half of our meal before the tables started filling up.
This Indian-owned/run cafe supposedly serves one of the best duck confit in Singapore, or so says Epicure Asia: http://epicureasia.com/food/top-10/duck-confit. Unfortunately, I found the dish did not live up to its hype. It was far from a lousy rendition but a little overcooked, with the duck skin charred in many places and the meat a tad dry in some.
But the lamb shank, oh the lamb shank, was a different story. It was fall-off-the-bone tender, with a red wine reduction that was flavourful yet not overpowering, and accompanied by mashed potatoes that had real potato bits in them – bearing testament to the fact that these potatoes did not come from a box.
Sadly, the passionfruit soufflé that ended our meal neither impressed nor went well with the coffee ice cream pairing.
So, I won’t be back for the duck confit or the soufflé, but I will return for the lamb shank and maybe to try the crispy pork cheeks.
As an aside, I’ve come across several comments on the internet along the lines of the cafe being so nice for not charging GST! Some tax 101 – it is only compulsory for businesses to charge GST when their annual turnover are more than a million SGD, so it is really not that uncommon for eating places not to do so. That said, I do very much appreciate the fact that service charge is not included in the bill, given that the waiters provide the basic services of taking orders, pouring water and bringing the bill.
As a final point: Take note that the menu at The Black Sheep Cafe is quite limited so don’t go expecting too much variety, but do consider a visit if you would like a taste of decent, affordable French food.
The Black Sheep Cafe
35 Mayo Street
Open Mon – Sat 12-3pm and 6-11pm