SINGAPORE — HotChic2 joins the happy bevy of restaurant openings in 2021; post-pandemic, optimism in their heart, and hope by the balls of their feet. I understand the ambition, but I can’t wrap my head around why HotChic2 chose the ungodly location of The Grandstand for a premiere outpost.
Half my lunch here was spent discussing its clientele. Office workers? We’re in the middle of Bukit Timah, where work is a leisurely tea by the balcony. Families? On weekends, sure. But on weekdays? Honey, even the rich have to get an education.
The Grandstand is, for all intents and purposes, destination dining wrapped in an infrastructure that’s old, dated, and in desperate need of sprucing up.
The space is ripe for food influencers who only take beautiful food shots with a brief review that hardly disguises itself as anything but pointing. The food, too, is engineered for this purpose; maximum colours, maximum negative space, maximum plating elegance.
Although to be fair, the food here is aspirational. The way a 1-year old toddler is aspirational for wanting to walk. Here, HotChic2’s opening salvo is an ambitious Ceviche of Salmon (S$12++) which, with the meagre pomegranate seeds in the marination, shows valiant effort at balancing the sambal mayo in all its personality and sass. It just needs a squeeze more acidity to be worthy of the moniker.
While pretty food doesn’t annoy me as much as bad-tasting plates do, I draw the line at a Potted Salad (S$10++) that stays true and utterly faithful to its name. Served in a teacup, I can imagine influencers frothing at their mouth at how “Instagram-worthy” this looks. But what it really is, is a damn shame because hidden within the bowels of this cup is an intensely flavourful yam-braised rice served with pleasantly bland edamame.
What I don’t get is that bacon soil which adds absolutely nothing to this dish. And haven’t I seen this somewhere? Why do they keep serving the same preserved strawberries with all my mains? And what’s with all the furikake?
It’s hard not to make comparisons with The Brewing Ground, which completely and utterly shook me to my core and challenged all perceptions I have of cafe food. Unfortunately, I see little of that bravado here in an exclusive menu item of a lightly-seasoned pan-roasted Pigeon (S$68++ with starter of Foie Gras Pate) served with hazelnut mash, delicately pickled broccoli, charred baby corn, and, there it is again, bacon soil.
It’s cooked beautifully with a pink centre and a crispy exterior, but pigeon as a protein has much too much personality to be treated with this light touch. Maybe a sauce would have made this more palatable. Or am I meant to have this with the preserved strawberry that it comes with? Yes, the very same strawberry from the chicken roulade earlier.
The only dish I enjoyed was the Oppo Su Dong Po, which, at S$27++, is quite a steal given the amount of pork belly served. We were instructed to eat it like a wrap—lettuce, sauce, kimchi, pork belly, rinse and repeat. Here, there’s an incredibly moreish sour plum mayo that effectively cuts the pork belly’s fattiness, which, when eaten with the bright homemade peach kimchi, is indeed cause for celebration.
Bring out the fireworks, I say. But keep it conservative because the pork belly is tough at parts, demonstrative of a cooking method that needs more refinement. This comes served with a trio of Taro-yaki balls that are intransigently chewy. It’s a taro-no.
The only dessert I had was the Turkish Coffee Custard which came packaged with the roast pigeon. Once again, I applaud the plating—truly a creation for the eyes and the Instagram feed. It will satisfy the sweet tooth as a dessert, but for me, it misses the mark of being a masterpiece. What I found most egregious are those bold shards of honeycomb that stick to the roof of your mouth. Haven’t we been through this honeycomb phase?
Choices, people. Choices.
The day I visited, HotChic2 was but five weeks into its opening. There’s passion overflowing in parts of this restaurant-cafe hybrid, and according to the pink neon sign in Chinese on the green wall outside, they want you to revel in the merriment of drinking for as long as you live.
Not that it’s something I would pick up, especially since Chinese is not my main lingua franca—I had to ask an intern to translate it for me. One would think a motto as crucial as that would be in a language everyone can understand. But in the absence of clarity, perhaps better, well-thought-out food that doesn’t repeat elements like a broken tape recorder would have made me feel more welcomed, and this trip out to these neck of the woods less an exercise of futility.
Instagram | The Grandstand, 200 Turf Club Road, #01-04, Singapore 287994.
Mon to Fri: 12nn – 10pm
Sat: 9.30am – 10pm
Sun: 9.30am – 7pm
Closed on Sun
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