Published on Monday, 24 April 2017 00:00
Written by Cheryl Teo Kai Lin
We Singaporeans take pride in our traditional local fare, but we are also extremely receptive to tweaks and improvements in our beloved local favorites especially when quality is amped up. The nasi lemak gets an atas makeover at VILLAGE Nasi Lemak Bar while retaining its fundamental flavors and it is more delicious than ever.
VILLAGE Nasi Lemak Bar opened just early this year. With brightly painted graphic murals aptly depicting the vibrant Singapore food scene, colorful high tables and stools, concrete floor randomly affixed with traditional nonya-styled tiles, and brick walls, this gastrobar oozes a hipster arty-farty vibe while keeping it both casual and cozy.
This has got to be one of the coolest restaurants we have been invited to which serves local cuisine. The longitudinal restaurant embraces the communal dining concept with long tables, reminiscent of kampong days, where large groups of friends and families are able to sit down and have a pleasant meal boisterously talking over each other and roaring with laughter.
Communal dining back then in the village was where friends, family and strangers came together to enjoy the simplest pleasure of life: eating. Strangers will become friends, and friends will become family, and family will develop a strong sense of kinship, everyone amicably bonding at they partake in a delicious meal. VILLAGE Nasi Lemak Bar intentionally furnished its interior with communal tables and long bars with the idea of socializing while eating being the core of its dining experience.
The food served at VILLAGE Nasi Lemak Bar speaks for itself. Everything is made fresh to order and served piping hot. The chefs have developed their own secret recipes for many of the dishes and sauces, and will be next to impossible in replicating these items unless you manage to pry the recipes from their cold, dead hands. This is local cuisine at its best.
Crispy Crumbly Chicken Wing Set, $7.80
Served on brown paper as an ode to its humble and rustic origins, the ingredients that go into this atas plate of nasi lemak are top-notch. Each set is prepared fresh upon order, a huge game-changer in terms of quality that very distinctively sets it on a higher pedestal than the nasi lemak served in hawker centers where ingredients sourced are sub-par to lower costs, cooked in large batches and left to sit out for hours.
Each set is served with a big and juicy truffle onsen egg – aromatic, musky and woody that explodes with a gooey yolky goodness, further intensified by the earthy richness of the truffle. The egg is best stirred in with the coconut rice for a creamy texture and bigger flavor. If you are the kind of foodie who thinks it is extremely blasphemous to burst a yolk, you may shove the entire egg in your mouth and let it overwhelm your tastebuds with the deep musky truffle flavor of the rich and viscous yolk. Either way, the egg is divine, pure and simple, and definitely a much more sumptuous upgrade from the usual sunny-side up with its overcooked and hardened yolk (gross) served at hawker centers.
The fragrant coconut rice is topped with hushpuppies that add a lovely crunch and a savory tinge with each bite. And of course, the quintessential sides of salty ikan billis and peanuts are not forgotten. The chicken wing is extremely crispy and crumbles with hardly any resistance as you bite into it, succulent and tender meat waiting to spurt its juices out from within.
Instead of sliced cucumber, the nasi lemak set is served with a side of julienned pickled cucumber, refreshing and zesty, wonderfully complementing the sweet and spicy sambal chili with just the right amount of kick.
Besides the Crispy Crumbly Chicken Wing Set, there are five other scrumptious sets to select from: the Crispy Crumbly Chicken Drumstick Set ($8.80), the Golden Ikan Kunning Set ($7.80), the VILLAGE Rendang Beef Set ($7.80), the Village Rendang Mutton Set ($9.50), and the Spicy Sambal Sotong Set ($9.80). All the nasi lemak sets are served from opening to 6pm, where thereafter the menu switches over to Asian tapas dishes.
VILLAGE Rendang Mutton/Beef, $6.80
VILLAGE Nasi Lemak Bar's rendang is as authentic as they come, with completely no modifications made to this classic dish except for the quality of the mutton and beef sourced. The softest and fattiest parts of the goat and cow are used in the preparation of this dish. The rendang sauce is creamy, thick, chunky, luscious, moderately spicy and packed full of hearty flavors. We preferred the mutton rendang over the beef rendang as we are fans of strong taste, and the earthy and musky fragrance of the mutton paired with the abundance of fats distributed generously throughout the meat further intensified the shiokness of the dish.
Spicy Sambal Sotong, $7
You know that you are not short-changed when you are served an entire sotong from the tip of its head all the way down to its tentacles. The sotong is grilled to bring out its caramelized juices, sliced into bite sized pieces and served with sambal and a light sweet sauce by the side. We loved dunking each piece and generously coating it with sambal till it's brick red and packs a fiery kick. The sotong is naturally sweet and springy yet tender and juicy.
Kampong Otah Otah, $2.20
Smooth, soft and chunky in some places, the Kampong Otah Otah is spicy and flavorful. It is tender and moist with the slightly smoky fragrance from grilling attap leaves till they burn. This is great as an add-on to your nasi lemak set or simply just to eat as a spicy snack.
As night falls, VILLAGE Nasi Lemak Bar rolls out its tapas menu. Grab some friends or colleagues after work, unwind at the bar with a couple of beers (only $11 for a full pint, $9 during happy hour) and indulge in some delicious tapas dishes inspired by bold local flavors and ingredients.
There is a promotional set of 3 tapas dishes for the fixed price of $25 if you pick from a list which includes the Asian Chicken Feet Glass Salad, Shredded Papaya Slaw, Crispy Nonya Style Peanut Ikan Bilis/Anchovy, Golden Chicken Pops and White Truffle Japanese Edamame.
Asian Chicken Feet Glass Salad, $9
The Asian Chicken Feet Glass Salad ($9) stood out amongst the tapas dishes as one of the most creative and delicious twist. The older generation in Singapore had developed a taste for sucking away at the skin of chicken feet long ago, something that most of the younger generation have failed to develop a penchant for due to the gnarly and wrinkled appearance of the claw. VILLAGE Nasi Lemak Bar managed to get around the seemingly disturbing presentation of eating chicken feet by painstakingly slicing off the skin around the feet and tossing away the remnants of the claw. The skin is springy but not rubbery, adding a bounce to the crunchy texture of the vegetables. It is tossed with sesame seeds, chili padi, and a zesty and tangy sauce, which results in a refreshing and invigorating chilled tapas dish that may contain beauty benefits thanks to the chockful of collagen found in the skin of chicken feet.
Shredded Papaya Slaw, $8.50
Crispy Nonya Style Peanut Ikan Bilis/Anchovy, $8.50
The Shredded Papaya Slaw ($8.50) is a Singaporean take on the traditional Thai papaya salad and tastes almost as authentic as its Thai counterpart with the exception of the salty, crunchy bites of ikan bilis scattered throughout. The Crispy Nonya Style Peanut Ikan Bilis/Anchovy ($8.50) is a particularly good tapas dish to pair with a beer for its sweet, salty and slightly tangy flavors.
Singapore Style Kueh Pie Tie, (6 cups) $11
Village Special Summer Roll, $10
If you are craving for small bites that are hearty yet light on the palette, go for the Singapore Style Kueh Pie Tie ($11) that packs a juicy crunch in its medley of cooked vegetables or the Village Special Summer Roll ($10), Vietnamese-style spring rolls shredded chicken, herbs, crushed peanuts and slices of Korean peach.
Golden Chicken Pops, $12
Golden Salted Egg Yolk Chix Mid Joints, $12
Tangy Chilli Crab Sauce with Golden Bun, $10
For a substantial snack exploding with flavors galore, get the crispy Golden Chicken Pops ($12), the crunchy yet succulent and tender Golden Salted Egg Yolk Chix Mid Joints ($12) laden with rich and gooey salted egg yolk sauce, or the sweet and spicy Tangy Chilli Crab Sauce with Golden Bun ($10) where the mantous are soft as clouds within and able to be fully saturated with the rich and sumptuous chili crab sauce.
Address: 57 Circular Rd, Singapore 049412
Hours: Mon – Thurs 10am – 10pm, Fri 10am – late, Sat 12pm – 9pm (Closed Sun)
Tel.: +65 6443 0400