|Firebake at East Coast Road|
As they say, no burn no taste. The popularity of fancy ovens and grills, not least the Josper grill and Burnt Ends’ custom-designed kiln, has spawned a whole new interest in oven and grilled fare and the recent opening of Firebake at East Coast Road is proof that this obsession has finally arrived in the East.
Designed, owned, orchestrated and helmed by Konstantino Blokbergen (“Tino”) , a former hotel F&B director and F&B consultant of Swiss-Dutch-Greek parentage, Firebake is both a bake house and a grill.
At the heart of the eatery is a pair of wood fired ovens (one tunnel shaped and another dome-shaped) handbuilt by craft men using 5,000 bricks; it’s here that an array of sour dough breads is baked and select dishes are slow cooked. Just a bend away from the ovens are two sets of 1880s refurbished wood fire-powered Husqvarna cast iron stoves from Sweden that come complete with wood-burning grills.
The restaurant is casual and sits 56, 20 seats are clustered around an L-shaped wooden counter that abuts an open kitchen and the rest of the wooden tables spill out to an open verandah bound by a five foot way. It sets the scene for the rustic menu of breads, salads, smoked foods as well as slow-cooked and charcoal-roasted meats, all reasonably priced to appeal to the neighbourhood’s residential clientele.
To start, the dish of heirloom tomato salad with pickled cucumber, dill, oregano-marinated feta with sourdough croutons (S$17++) rises to the occasion with a deep-seated BBQ umami from the smoked oil that the tomatoes are marinated overnight in. If you ever tire of the garden-variety salad, this is for you.
You can’t come to this bakehouse and not order one of Tino’s old-fashioned sour dough breads made completely with historical European techniques using organic Western Australian flour, non-processed and non-iodised salt as well as Nordaq Fresh filtered water. Pick the ambient or toasted bread board (S$10) that comes with a slice each of white, rye, fruit and wholemeal sourdough bread alongside Greek olive oil and a slab of cultured butter. Tino’s sour dough breads hark back to the breads of old in Europe, a little denser than what we are familiar and certainly more flavoursome. Be careful not to be overly enthusiastic with breads early on in the meal as it may hamper your appetite.
If there’s one dish we cannot recommend enough, it’s the grilled pork belly with garden vegetable broth and rye bread (S$22). The fatty pork is brined, slow-cooked, then pan-roasted until its crackling beams with an ultra crispiness often seen in “siobak” (Chinese roast pork). It arrives in a subtly sweet broth of pumpkin, celeriac and fennel gloriously studded with chunky ratte potatoes, bits of fennel and some carrot cubes.
The charcoal-grilled Rangers Valley striploin (S$38++ for 300g) is also a standout. Served with a side of wood fire-roasted Jerusalem artichoke cooked in butter and thyme, the beef is tender with beautiful licks of char and pink, marbled insides. If you like your meat with chimichurri dip, it’s there although we much prefer our steak neat.
As mundane as it might sound, one should not overlook the roasted chicken on this menu. First brined, then sous vide before going into the oven, the half spring chicken (S$23) is aptly succulent and arrives basking in a savoury beef jus finished with Pommery mustard.
If you like those plump and succulent Norwegian blue mussels, Firebake cooks the molluscs in a Kingpin Lager broth with heaps of shallots, garlic and chorizo strips. Yes, the beer’s alcohol needs to be properly burnt off to reduce the pungency from the beer but you get the gist, it will be slurp-worthy when the kitchen irons out its cooking kinks.
For the great breads and rustic bistro fare that come hand in hand with wallet-friendly prices, Firebake makes for great family dining. Pity it’s not in my neighbourhood but then again, good food is worth the schlep to the East.
237 East Coast Road, Singapore 428 930 | +65 66653 7400.
© Evelyn Chen 2013
Please note that the reviews published on this blog are sometimes hosted. I am under no obligation to review every restaurant I’ve visited. If I do, the reviews are 100% my own.