Keong Saik Snacks by Jason Atherton

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Facade of Keong Saik Snacks
 
In Singapore’s line-up of celebrity chef eateries, Jason Atherton has emerged a clear winner, not least because he has anchored a strong sponsor/partnerin local restaurateur, Loh Lik Peng, who has an uncanny nose for sniffing out hot new trends. Atherton has also raced ahead of his big name peers in planting outposts in the city. His latest eatery, Keong Saik Snacks (“Snacks”) in the buzzy Chinatown enclave, is his third (after Esquina and Pollen) and most quirky yet.

Setting

Interior of Keong Saik Snacks

Originally rented as a warehouse for Esquina at nearby Jiak Chuan Road, the charming shop house space has been retooled into a rough-around-the-edge eatery with distressed walls decked with paraphernalia. Opened since September 2012, Snacks seats only 30, but is decidedly roomier than Esquina. Oother than a cool 6-seat copper clad bar that abuts an open kitchen, diners have a choice of banquette seats that line the right wall or the canteen-style light-wood tables on the left.

This casual-than-chic theme extends to service via the D-I-Y station of cutleries, napkins and condiments (including fast food-style ketchup and chilli sauce in squeeze bottles) that clutter the tables.

What to expect

The moniker ‘Snacks’ is something of a misnomer.

 

Yes, this bijou eatery plates hot dogs and sandwiches – like the toasted Serrano ham and Manchego cheese toasties (S$17) – for those light-meal days.

But you’ll be missing the point if you come here expecting light bites. While the menu of comfort food – some say, gourmet junk food – at Snacks does not raise eyebrows in the novelty department, it is done well – and sometimes with a little Asian twist – thanks to executive chef, Andrew Walsh, who commands the kitchen remotely from Esquina.

D-I-Y tuna tartare
 

Tuna tartare (S$17) is presented D-I-Y style with so-small-it’s-not-funny cubes of tuna enlivened by condiments of chopped coriander, chives, sesame seeds, soya sauce and a lanky tube of fish sauce-spiked Vietnamese dressing (take it from us that you should go easy on this salty dressing). 

Burrata salad with asparagus, fennel, basil and lettuce

Burrata fans will give 2 thumbs up to the starter of blanched green asparagus tossed with shavings of roasted fennel and basil leaves (S$17) crowned with pillows of sumptuous burrata for a creamy finish. Not exactly a weight watchers’ dream salad, it scores on taste nevertheless.

Jason’s very hot dog
 

For mains, the menu beckons with Atherton’s idea of comfort food: ‘Jason’s very hot dog’ doused with carne sauce, chorizo, melted cheddar cheese as well as heaps of shallots and green chillies (S$15) – not cheap, considering Ikea’s no-frills hot dog can be had at S$2 but this rendition boasts sumptuous condiments that Ikea will be hard-pressed to match.

Grilled Canadian lobster with fries and greens
 

The appeal of hot dogs knows no bounds and whilst it lures some, the food snobs among us may prefer to tussle with the grilled Canadian lobster (one whole lobster, mind you, for S$38) that arrives with a light sauce scented with lemon garlic parsley (P.S. the shellfish’s plump flesh makes it worth the struggle). In true junk food fashion, it’s served with more fries than we can handle but the tin of over-flowing seasonal greens compensates for the calorie load.

Warm doughbuts with salted caramel Chantily
 

Sublime deep-fried doughnuts served piping hot with a dollop of gasp-inducing salted caramel Chantilly (S$10), or if you prefer a scoop of home-made plain Jane vanilla ice cream (S$7), round up a simple meal that brings home an equally simple truth by a 19th century French chef, Alexis Soyer: “It matters not how simple the food …… but let it be of good quality and properly cooked.”

Given the no reservations policy, come before 6.30pm to beat the crush of traffic.

Keong Saik Snacks | 49 Keong Saik Road  | Tel: 6221 8338
All photos courtesy of Diana Choo.
For photo story, visit www.facebook.com/bibikgourmand 

© Evelyn Chen 2013

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