Rowell Road is possibly one of the few corners in Jalan Besar that is not particularly linked with food, considering how the rest of Jalan Besar seems to be littered with F&B establishments all around.
Taking over a shophouse that was left vacant for a number of years, Sideways is the latest concept by the same folks behind The Hangar. Primarily a spot meant for sharing plates and drinks, we visited Sideways during their soft launch period, where the menu consists of a few small hot and cold bites as well as an extensive list of alcoholic drinks to choose from. The interior features limited seating; only 5 dining tables that sit either twos or fours, while seats are also available by the bar counter. The decor at Sideways is undeniably raw; from the red-bricked walls to the concrete tables, the interior screams of an industrial flair. A particular focus at Sideways would be their wood-fired oven; the heart of the Mediterranean-inspired fare served here.
Going for the pickles to start off the meal, the Beetroot Pickles came with a slight hint of zestiness — the beetroot carries a bit of crunch, but leans closer to the sour side; we personally would have preferred the beetroot to have carried a little sweetness and whilst being softer for better texture and contrast of flavours. Still pretty decent, however.
(Sourdough + Smoked Eggplant and Peppers Dip)
Our love of bread eventually got us to order the Sourdough, which is painstakingly baked in-house daily from their wood-fired oven. We had also gone for a dip; the dip being the Smoked Eggplant and Peppers Dip, to go along with the bread. The Sourdough here is light and fluffy; chewy, but not as dense nor crusty as those from other local indie bakeries, yet carries a slight sourish flavour from the fermentation process of the dough — a slight difference in texture that still works out pretty decently overall. The dip was stellar — tangy flavours from the bell peppers matching up well with the slight earthiness of eggplant whilst laced in olive oil, the dip carried a zippy yet aromatic flavour that gives the sourdough bread a burst of flavour.
(Stuffed Baby Squid)
Being the first hot small dish to be served at our table, the Stuffed Baby Squid may come in a pretty small portion but comes big in flavour. Not only was the baby squid smoky without being particularly rubbery and was pretty easy to chew apart, the baby squid came stuffed with a bacon-esque cut of pork which helps to elevate the dish even more by adding a savoury contrast for better flavour. The baby squids sit atop a pile of mint leaves, which apart from improving the aesthetics of the dish, also helps to refresh the taste buds from the savoury notes of the stuffed squid.
(Spanish Pork Belly)
We also ordered the Spanish Pork Belly; essentially similar to our local roasted pork, the Spanish Pork Belly comes with a crispy skin while the meat is absolutely tender; fatty and melt-in-the-mouth whilst being savoury from the spice rub without carrying any undesirable porky stench. Rosemary leaves come atop the pork; the herb possibly included to cut through the meatiness of the pork belly.
(Grilled Taglani Cheese with Figs)
The Grilled Talagani Cheese with Figs was the weakest link during our meal; while the cheese was crusted nicely on the outside whilst drenched with greek yoghurt and dressed with caramelised figs for a hint of tanginess and sweetness to cut through the cheesiness of the dish, the grilled Talagani cheese was, however, a little too firm and spongey. It lacked a smooth, luscious and creamy texture that would have made the dish felt decadent like it should have been; not as rich as we would have expected it to be.
Jalan Besar may have plenty of eateries, but Sideways is an establishment that feels different from what other spots in Jalan Besar have to offer. There may be no lack of drinking spots in Jalan Besar, but Sideways attempts to bring in vibes from the Kampong Glam neighbourhood into Rowell Road; a street that carries a notorious past of its own. We liked how Sideways felt raw, yet with a well-curated menu that features food made from scratch; we did feel the food could possibly be fine-tuned a little more to achieve a better overall impression, such as the Beetroot Pickles and the Grilled Talagani Cheese with Figs which can be further improved. Service was good; the staff were hospitable and friendly; patient and willing to answer queries from the patrons regarding the food and explain the concept behind the establishment further. With the right vibe with food that is mostly a hit, Sideways is a spot that would work great for dates and after-work drinks; we did wish service could have been a little faster, considering the food did come a little slow while technical problems plagued the billing system from working properly. Otherwise, a drinking hole in a spot off the beaten track that is worth exploring whilst in the area.
109 Rowell Road