Instead of a casual ‘hello’ or ‘how are you?’ there’s a saying in Singapore, adopted from Singapore’s Chinese population, that loosely translates to, ‘Have you eaten, yet?’ Historically, this was a way to scrutinise guests that may have dropped by for a free meal but over time it has turned into a more pleasant greeting weaved into the social fabric of Singapore’s (clearly hungry) culture.
Singapore’s cuisine celebrates its Malay, Chinese and Indian cultures and includes a recent Western influence, which becomes obvious when visiting traditional hawker markets that have evolved over time to include pizza stalls or burger vendors wedged between satay houses and noodle stands.
I didn’t realise it at the time, but my first visit to Singapore House almost 10 years ago was the beginning of a long-term dining relationship. It’s been a first date venue, and one for many celebrations. A casual family Tuesday night dinner and a fancy takeaway option. But as all relationships go, things haven’t always been smooth sailing for this Glen Osmond Road establishment. Who can forget that semi-trailer that came crashing through the restaurant in 2013? Due to trucks in their dining room and other reasons, they’ve had renovations both minor and major but their wall of butterfly specimens remains.
For the most part, things at Singapore House have remained the same. It’s a consistent go-to, an eclectic mix of design influenced by Singapore’s melting pot culture. Owners Hailey and Montie Waraich head up the front of house and kitchen respectively. Always on the go, these two have been driving the restaurant through the best part of the last decade with gusto. Their customers return again and again, and it’s little wonder why.
In part, Singapore House eventually inspired a need to visit the country itself. I recently spent 10 days eating my way through the wonderous city trying everything from cheap street-side vendors to hawker markets, and was lucky enough to nab a booking at Odette. Shortly after returning, news of a menu change at Singapore House landed in my inbox and I knew that I had to go back and visit, armed with a rigorous new benchmark for comparison. This reworked menu expands Singapore House’s cultural reach with a broader pan-Asian influence that now stretches from the shores of Thailand and Cambodia across the Bay of Bengal to Sri-Lanka with a series of introduced dishes that pay homage to family heritage.
The menu is divided into distinct sections including Street Food, Curries and The Others and features set-share options including Feed Me and Feast. We’re introduced to a dish called Street Food Fish that arrives peeking through its banana leaf wrapper and covered in a sauce that oozes seductively onto the plate. This turns out to be a lightly-spiced caramel made from cane sugar that isn’t as sweet as regular caramel but has more of a buttery mouthfeel. A simple but truly delicious dish that I’m certain will be a mainstay.
The next discovery is Egg Hopper, one of the Sri-Lankan inspired dishes new to the menu. A crispy coconut crepe is formed as a bowl that holds itself up with a barely cooked egg in its centre that merges with the exterior for a crunchy, silky and yolky combination that delights the senses. Accompanying the hopper is a chilli jam and fish sambal, served as condiments for your mixing pleasure. A delight.
Next from the Street Food menu is Roast Pork, but this is not your usual Sunday lunch. A plate of uniform bite-sized pieces showcases perfect cooking technique, with a hint of nicely rendered fat sandwiched between a crunchy crackling layer and tender pork. Accompanying hoi-sin sauce cuts through the meatiness with a subtle sweet and suitably salty punch of flavour.
Onto the main event, where I force my guests to share an amazing looking array of dishes, which includes a less than typical Yellow Duck Curry. Punchy bites intertwine flavours of lemongrass and kaffir lime, a touch of turmeric and an ever-present coconut undertone. Clearly an example of a patient chef who has allowed the base curry to develop through layered flavours over time, this is topped with perfectly cooked duck pieces with delicate meat that falls from the bone. While the dish may have been adjusted to suit a western palate there’s still noticeable heat and, for that, there’s a crisp Clare Valley Crabtree Riesling from the wine list that will have even the most spice adverse of diners singing its praises.
Often added to a menu as a vegetarian afterthought, the Singapore House version of Salt and Pepper Tofu is so much more. Resembling chunks that could be mistaken for gnocchi, the tofu itself has a barely spongy interior that is fried golden and crunchy on the outside. The main ingredient is jumbled together with a blend of garlic, curry leaves and red onion that sounds simple, but tastes otherwise. Finally, a Jungle Fish Bowl features a delicate fish broth infused again with traditional flavours of coconut and turmeric. A generous supply of noodles swim in the soup, with crunch added thanks to shredded carrot and sprouts on top. At the lower end of intensity but delectable all the same.
A testament to the hard work of its owners and continual reimagination of its food, if you haven’t been to Singapore House lately, now is the time to ask friends and loved ones, “Have you eaten, yet?”
203 Glen Osmond Road, Frewville
Hours: lunch – Tuesday to Friday and Sunday: 12pm to 2.30pm; dinner – Tuesday to Sunday: 5.30pm to late
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