For several months, friends have been telling me that I simply have to check out Wine Garage, the contemporary American wine bar and restaurant in Singapore owned by the same guys that started Brewerkz (and conveniently located just next door). One friend raved about their steak tartar. “It’s the best in Singapore,” she gushed. Another said that she liked the place because of their commitment to trying to source ingredients from organic and/or agriculturally sustainable businesses. Another, less environmentally concerned, said that it had a great atmosphere and “awesome wine list, dude.”
While I’d been meaning to head down to Wine Garage for some time now, because of a busy work and travel schedule, each time I thought I could sneak off to sample some of their food, I had to postpone my visit. This week, however, I finally found some time to drop in. Two friends who had been as recently as last week, three other buddies from out of town, my wife S and I took over a big table in their long, narrow, air-conditioned dining room. As mentioned, Wine Garage sits next to Brewerkz; it’s on the left if you are facing the water. What was interesting to me (and perhaps only to me) is that the restaurant appears to have much more outdoor seating than indoors, which in a country whose average night time temperature is still between 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit, I found kind of surprising. That said, all of the outdoor tables were taken but the indoor area was pretty empty. There’s an old cliche in Southeast Asia… if you look at any restaurant that offers al fresco seating, it’s usually the expats who are sitting outside, happily sweating through their meals while the Asian customers are all inside, ensconced in air-conditioned comfort. Looking at the audience mix at both Brewerkz and Wine Garage the night we were there, I have to say that there is a grain of truth to that old stereotype.
The menu at Wine Garage has a nice variety of yummy-sounding snacks, starters, mains and grilled meats and seafoods. The food is unpretentious and uncomplicated. We started our meal with a variety of starters: hot smoked Scottish salmon with aioli, soft herb salad and toast; mixed charcuturie with pickles, mustard and toasted country bread; crispy braised pork belly with apple, arugula and fennel; steak tartar with toasted country bread and traditional garnishes; and truffled macaroni gratin. Everything was really good (although the macaroni gratin could have used a tad more flavour). I especially enjoyed the steak tartar and the pork belly, which was perfectly balanced — crisp skin with juicy, moist and tender flesh. I have some friends who like to come here regularly after work. They almost always just have drinks and several plates of the starters. I can now see why. These dishes are great for sharing and work very well with a well-chosen wine.
For my main course, I tried the “Garage” burger with aged cheddar and house-made bacon, zuni pickles and hand cut fries. S had the same thing but without the bacon. (We’re kind of boring, huh?) Because the last few times I’ve had burgers at Brewerkz, I have been terribly disappointed, I wasn’t expecting much. But our waiter had recommended the burger over other mains that were twice as expensive (which is also the sign of a really good waiter), so I decided to give it a whirl. And I am really happy I did. The burger was excellent. It was cooked perfectly to my specifications (medium-rare of course) and was moist and tender. I loved the chopped and flavoured zuni pickles, which contrasted nicely with the meat, melted cheddar and yummy bacon. I have to say that the “Garage” burger has very quickly made it into my top 5 in town. (I will, of course, have to try it a few more times to ensure consistency.) One of our dining companions had the roasted Kurobuta pork chop with braised white beans (note to the restaurateurs if you ever read this; “braised” is spelt incorrectly on your menu), marjoram and arugula. I love both braised white beans and pork, so I happily accepted a big helping of both from her. It was delicious. The pork was juicy, tender and fatty, i.e. perfect. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to try my other friends’ dishes. And honestly, I was so engrossed with my burger that I didn’t even think about it.
I was extremely impressed with my first visit to Wine Garage. The wine list was, as my friend said, “awesome.” The food was, while not exactly cheap, affordable and delicious. The restaurant itself has a fun, happy and casual buzz. It’s a great place to hang with friends and simply have a good, uncomplicated but very, very well-executed meal.
30 Merchant Road
#01-07 Riverside Point
Tel: (65) 6533 3188