Pick your poison. The Belljar, known for their luxurious whisky lounge and cocktail bar, has officially launched their restaurant on the first floor. They present a menu made for savouring their selection of fine drams, and not the other way around. Expect not a set cuisine, but a plethora of dishes with elements from an English pub, Japan and, of course, Singapore.
Head chef Liew Min is no stranger to the kitchen. Her childhood weekends are spent making pasta or peanut puffs with her mother, or trying out a different cuisine. Even as she works through the mountainous workload at SMU, she continued to pursue her passion after school, anyway she could. She may have started out as a dishwasher, but it was not long before she took over as brunch chef at a fine dining establishment. And, of course, she now stands as the culinary prowess behind The Belljar.
The kitchen may be spanking new, but it sure is warming up to a good crowd. They serve a decent lunch menu, featuring a crowd pleaser: the Miso Tobiko pasta (S$16). A little on the drier side, the dance of sweet and savoury of the white miso and flying fish roe switches out to the strong, peppery flavours of arugula leaves. There is also the Gochujang pasta (S$16), which uses the bright red paprika paste ubiquitous in Korean cuisine. Here, Liew Min balances out the spice with peanut butter and sweet corn.
Those who want something lighter can go for the Aburi Sushi Set (S$15). A decent platter of eight, four of salmon and four of tuna. The salmon is an easy favourite. You get a hint of smoke from the light sear, a touch of bitter from the arugula and the sweet flesh of the fish itself. The tuna could lose the mayo, but, perhaps, what was missing was an accompanying dram to cut through it. A light, fragrant whisky with a hint of sweetness might do the trick.
And, I leave the best for last. The Har Cheong Siew Yoke (S$15), is, as The Belljar puts it, “the illegitimate child of two all-time favourites”. More of a lean cut, it still boasts a nice crunch of pork crackling. The prawn paste is not as overpowering as your usual tze char variety, but, instead, gives you hints of that strong, salty flavour we are so familiar with. A must-have by the bar.
Commendable, as Chef Liew Min dances from one cuisine to the other. But, she is still (mostly) a one-man kitchen with her iron lady-ing her way through all the courses. Speed poses an issue, but not a deal breaker. Many will still visit The Belljar for its collection of whiskies (mainly Scottish and Japanese) and intimate lounge, but, the menu is worthy of a look.