Opened by the folks behind The Laneway Market slightly off Tanjong Katong Road is Brine, a sister restaurant that serves affordable restaurant quality food at Hotel Clover situated along North Bridge Road where Kampong Glam is.
Brine occupies a pretty small space at the side of the hotel on the ground level, with a seating capacity of not more than 20 pax. The space is decked out in dim, ambient lighting with concrete walls, wooden chairs and marble tables decorated with floral elements for a country-like theme. The open concept kitchen seemed well-ventilated and looked like a small workshop tucked at the end of the eatery. We visited Brine during their soft launch phase where they were serving a four-course set lunch menu with rotating items on a daily basis which costs $25+, though they do serve a rotating ala-carte menu of a limited number of dishes for brunch during weekends during this period. Eventually, Brine would be serving up longer list of ala-carte items for brunch as well as for lunch, with tasting menus for dinner.
The first course was the fixed course of “Foo Yong” Egg, Chicken and Coriander. This felt like a twist to the usual starters of soup for course menu; the egg was creamy, while light, fried bits tops it off for a crispy texture. The flavours did remind us of a tzechar-styled dish overall and it’s savoury flavours was something to open up the appetites for the courses to come later.
There were two choices for the second course; we picked the Beef Tenderloin Tartare that was served with wasabi mayo and lotus root. Unlike the conventional tartare, it is served in “aburi” form rather than raw. It is interesting to note that Brine uses halal-certified meat for its meat dishes which accommodates the demographics of its potential customers in the area that it is in. The result was a pretty tender, meaty yet smoky tartare that was rather flavourful, with the meatiness cut by the wasabi mayo that carries a tinge of wasabi flavour less the tingling numbness. Lotus root chips were adequately salted and crisp, while strips of bread are served on the side for the tartare to be eaten with. One of our favourite items in the four-course menu.
For the main, we have opted for the ponzu-brined ribeye that comes with mushroom pate puffed rice and poached hen’s egg. Brining is one of the processes that is used pretty much in most of the dishes at Brine, hence the name of the restaurant. Again, the meat used here is halal-certified; the ribeye was tender and came off easily when sliced without being veiny or extremely fatty, while also maintaining its savoury flavours without being gamey. It went well with the crunchy puffed rice that was umami from the mushroom pate mixed into it, and carries a more silky touch when the creamy egg yolk from the poached hen’s egg is mixed into it. While visually on the smaller side, the portion is rather adequate overall as there seems to be enough of every element without making one feel too full at this point.
The dessert that we had was a fixed option of Mango, Coconut and Lemon Panna Cotta. While the coconut sorbet and mango carried their flavours well in the dessert providing a sweet and refreshing touch (the coconut ice-cream was a little icy, melted a little too fast and seem to need a little more time to set), the lemon panna cotta felt a little bit too contrasting in terms of sourness as it attempted to stand out on its own rather than gel up with elements — perhaps a little heavy in flavour and definitely could be toned down for a more harmonious flavour combination overall.
The Cold Brew works out to be a pretty decent beverage to go along for those who prefer their coffee cold — it’s creamy, nutty and came adequately sweetened; works as a good leisurely drink to go with the food here.
While we were not very impressed with The Laneway Market’s food especially when we made subsequent revisits, Brine seemed to have a slightly different take in comparison. The food at Brine felt more refined overall; probably skewing towards progressive cuisine especially with emphasis on the elements at play and overalll plating of the dishes. The fare felt experimental; seemingly being a departure from The Laneway Market’s cafe offerings that sometimes felt like something was missing. Service at Brine was also commendable; the staff and chef taking the time to explain the elements in the dishes if possible and being receptive to feedback given as well. They are also pretty thoughtful about the demographics of its potential diners being a Kampong Glam, and despite not being halal-certified at the point of writing, they are keeping towards a no pork, no lard menu with the usage of halal-certified meat for its meat dishes. While there are still some things that could be improved on, Brine is a place that is off to a promising start especially for those items that we have tried; the 40% discount for the set menu in the soft launch phase is also a pretty attractive offer that makes them value-for-money to check out during this period. There are still quite a number of dishes that we don’t know about, but this is probably one of the places to keep a look out for as it officially opens on 23 April 2017.
(PS: Brine is still in soft launch phase and would officially open on 23rd April 2017 — a 40% discount off their four-course set lunch menu is available until 23 April 2017 as well.)
775 North Bridge Road
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/brine.singapore/