Address: Chijmes, 30 Victoria Street,
It’s not easy to find good mid price range of Americanized casual restaurants in SG. Many churn out processed foods or just simply culinary garbage without properly trained chefs. Some of these restaurants even have more than 50% of their menus supported by processed food manufacturers as I discovered to my horror while working for one such restaurant about 10 years ago. While I almost gave up after a disastrous dinner at Changing Appetites in Marina Square recently, my faith was restored when I gave another try @ Hogs Breath Cafe in CHIJMES.
Most menus and flavours at such Americanized Western Cuisine Restaurants are pretty predictable. The usual starters menus, steaks and chops selections, DFIs (Deep Fried Items), milk shakes, mud pies and brownies etc…. So the challenge to win those crucial customer dollars will rely heavily on skill levels of their chefs. From my own professional point of view, the items on these menus are rather easy to prepare with minimum technical difficulties unlike those in fine dining restaurants. The focus is on freshness and doneness to get a winning formula. But if u have a bunch of part time slobs in the kitchen with no proper management, then that's where the food comes out like garbage and this is what happens in most of these kinds of restaurants in Singapore.
Hogs Breath Cafe have been around for quite sometime and have just expanded with another outlet at Vivio City. Though the concept is Aussie owned, the theme is still pretty much an Americanized western bar and grills grub. But I have heard quite a few good words about them from fellow chef colleagues in the industry so I have been wanting to check it out. Taking a visiting friend along as well so that we could have a wider menu, our appetizers were Chicken Tenders with Honey Mustard, Buffalo Wings and Machos Nachos.
First things that won me over about the food were the right doneness. Not only they were deep fried to a nice aromatic crisp, the chicken tenders were also very juicy. This was achieved based on correct cooking skills even though the tenders were made with the inner fillet of breast meat which is often very dry when overcooked. The sauce was decently good as well but I appreciated the doneness of the chicken more that it even tasted just as good with table top chili sauce. The extra seasonings on the breadcrumbs coating also helped to give out better aromas as they arrived piping hot.
The Buffalo Wings with Ranch Dip were not exactly what I was expecting, spicy, sour with a jerk effect on the nose as u sniff at them. Rather than the usual Tex Mex Tabasco Hot Sauce kind of directions, the wings were smothered with a smoky sweet and sour BBQ sauce. Though they were not the real authentic New York style wings, what cannot be faulted were two things. The BBQ sauce was a merit on its own, so good that u do not really need to have the ranch dressing with it. Again the doneness was a score and this has given us more confidence in the rest of the food to come.
Nachos were also a little off the usual that I experience with restaurants in the US. The crucial cheese drizzle was missing and replaced with melted cheese which I found a little too stingy in portion. However the warm chips took well to the fresh home made guacamole and the salsa picante and sour cream supported well though I wish that they had also made the salsa picante fresh too.
Main courses were excellent for their portions, taste and doneness. N finally got her medium rare ribeye steak done as requested with baked potato and salad. She had been trying at various places like Changing Appetites and Madam Q for the past couple of weeks to get it right but they all just couldn’t make it right. Her ribeye steak had nice char grilled edges giving the meat a smoky aroma and the meat was tender and juicy to bite. In fact it was so good that N could just eat it on its own without any sauce. I always feel that a quality piece of meat will always be able to stand on its own without difficulty as long as it is the right chef to bring out the best in it. My seabass was a surprise to me. I had expected a frozen fish fillet like a barramundi chunk but what I got was a nice fresh filleted piece of local seabass. Seared and pan fried at the right temperature, the skin was crisp and the meat moist. The cream based lemon butter sauce did justice to the fillet with sinful pleasures and I can say this is by far the best fish fillet I have tasted in a concept restaurant like these. I must give credit to the side vegetables (broccoli, carrots and corn on cob) and baked potatoes that accompanied N’s steak and mine. The vegetables were fresh and cooked from scratch not processed, and that being so is already a big merit to me for restaurants like these. My friend opted for a Tex Mex Combo that gave her a striploin steak and a chicken chimichanga, which is a Mexican deep fried stuffed burrito. I had no doubts about our guest’s Tex Mex Combo looking at the way how she enjoys it as I did not want to pry into another person’s food. I just tell myself that would be next on the hit list for the next round plus desserts too!