Hawaiian cuisine is not what you call sophisticated, but it sure is a hearty meal that will have you saying Mahalo with a big smile. We are far from the pristine beaches of Waikiki Beach, but we can look no further than Siloso Beach to get our fix of island paradise. Ola Beach Club (FB) lay just minutes away from Beach Station on Sentosa, serving up wholesome Hawaiian-inspired fare and Tiki cocktails next to their own private beach.
They have magical formula going on over there. There is kayaking, banana boats and (wait for it) jet-packs and jet-blades to propel you through the air and ocean waves. If that doesn’t build up an appetite, I don’t know what will. Hunger is the best condiment, after all.
That is not to say that the kitchen at Ola Beach Club needs any help. Chef Liinson Heng has 10 years under his belt, and has successfully recreated the soft, tender meat of a Kalua Pig without an underground oven. While Poi (fermented taro stem, a staple) is still not on the menu, he delivers an addictive bowl of Kombu Rice I can’t get enough off (a bucket to-go, please).
The traditional way to make Kalua pork is a tedious one. It uses an imu, a dirt pit, which acts as an oven to slow cook the entire pig. The use of banana leaves and koa wood helps retain the natural moisture of the meat, all while imparting the a unique flavour. It is served shredded to allow the melted fat to mix into every morsel for a satisfying bite.
Of course, in Singapore, getting an imu set-up will have even Tom Cruise screaming mission impossible. Chef recreates the texture and taste of the coveted Kalua pork, and serves it up as a delectable Kalua Pig taco (S$25 for two) covered completely in cheese. It is a heavy dish, so be generous with that spicy Hawaiian sour cream to ease between bites.
Or, tag someone along and split the tacos. That way, you can move on to their Saimin Salad (S$15). They call it a salad, but the somen noodle base is enough for a meal. Served with a light yet sweet soy-based dressing it is tossed with a refreshing mix of eggs, lettuce, crispy fish cake and (of course) spam.
We can’t leave out the poke bowls. Here, you get to customised a generous serving of Ahi Poke (S$15) with tuna in either kimchi, shoyu or togarashi. While salmon is always a popular choice, the subtle meaty flavour of a lean tuna is always my go-to. Its lower fat content makes a healthier choice as well.
If Chef Heng has not already blown your mind with his rendition of the Kalua pork, then the Huli-Huli Chicken (S$26) needs to be on your list. He sure knows how to treat his meats right. Succulent and big on flavour, thigh or breast.
The sauce is reminiscent of teriyaki sauce. Sweet and salty, and best friends with the burnt leeks. When grilled, it presents a similar sweet taste to onions (with a smoky charred exterior too). There is nothing overly fancy about this dish. It just hits all the right spots.
We have gone through quite a list at this point. To make your time worth at Ola Beach Club, there are two dishes with a big “must-have” sticker slapped on. They are the Loco Moco (S$28) and Grilled Octopus (S$18.50).
The star of the Loco Moco is the juicy wagyu beef patty, but that Kombu rice hiding beneath it was what made the dish. It has bits of Kombu seaweed for little bursts of umami flavour we all know and love. And, that panko egg? Let it ooze gloriously over the patty and rice, mix it up a bit and just enjoy the moment.
Chef Heng has done the kalua pork, huli huli chicken right, and what really took the cake was this unassuming plate of tiny grilled octopuses. There was so much going on on the plate. but every bite was seamless. The slight brine of the seafood, the sweet, nutty olive emulsion to the charred smoke from the globe artichoke. Needless to say, I shamelessly picked the plate clean.
Warning: Those adverse to seafood may need some getting used to.
For dessert, Chef Heng presents his rendition of the Haupia – on steroids. The traditional coconut milk-based dessert is usually served as a white pudding or custard. At Ola, it is served as the decadent Haupia Sphere (S$22). A gravy boat of hot Valrhona chocolate sauce melts the shell to reveal a smorgasbord of coconut flavours. Coconut sponge, coco chantilly and nata de coco – I think you get my point.
There is much to do and a lot more to devour at Ola Beach Club. Every weekend is one activity after another. Bouncy castles for the kids during the day or their in-house DJ spinning everyone into the mood come sunset. They pride themselves in bringing a little slice of island paradise to this corner of Singapore, and, if my return that very weekend was any indication, they have done well.
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