Local fusion food

It was a Friday night in a pub area of town. Many people were going out to chill and there was this pressure to finish the meal quickly and leave. The increasing noise level as more customers came in was also not conducive to a nice dining experience.

The day before, I had wanted to revisit a place for nasi lemak. On reaching the place, I realised I had left my wallet at work. Dang! The next day, I decided to see if there was another place that had great nasi lemak and I found out about this place. Unfortunately, this place is closing on March 3, about the time that this review would have been posted. One of the reasons was the high cost of rental in this place and shortage of good manpower. Indeed, my friend ordered a glass of mango rose beer (one of their own crafted beers) and the cost of the beer was close to the set dinner we ordered. This is to be expected in an area like this. And they allowed a beer sampler, which was nice. One would need to do a roaring business of drinks in order to survive here for long.

By its name, this is a fusion place of local food (mixed with western ingredients) and beer (the hint coming from the barrel part of the name). Wines are also served here. It is basically a place where one can enjoy good local place in air-conditioned comfort, at higher prices but not exorbitantly high, for a place in this location. The local food here can be found elsewhere for less. To pay for such food at higher prices, even if the food is fancier and more upmarket, eaten in air-conditioned comfort, requires a paradigm change. There were the added appetiser and desserts but what drove me to this place was the nasi lemak. So this review will begin with the nasi lemak and move on to the meal as a whole.

The chef used good rice for the nasi lemak. The lemak or coconut fragrance in the rice was rather light. It was a little hard to taste after the strong garlic flavour in the appetiser, which was a lettuce and mushroom wrap. If there had been less garlic, it would not have taken away the taste from the rice as much. The garlic in the appetiser overpowered the taste of the coconut in the rice. The mushroom was obviously a high value item, but its combination with lettuce plus the strong garlic flavour took away from the dish as a whole.

The five spice pork and beef rendang were good however, as were the desserts of tiramisu made with kueh balu (nyonya sponge kueh) and another banana dessert. I’ve elaborated on these where I’ve posted the pictures.

The meal in itself was carbo heavy(due to the rice) and the added sweetness of the desserts(calorie laden). The food converted to sugar very quickly. This is something to be aware of and not a criticism of the food itself as we found our eyelids rather heavy shortly after the meal. Perhaps if they had served coffee as part of the meal to go with the yummy desserts, it would have been a nice added touch (and the coffee would have kept us awake).

From hindsight, we could have done with less rice and perhaps one less dessert. We could definitely have done with one less salad. If we had ordered one set dinner and settled for ala carte signature-like dishes for the other items, our experience may have been more pleasant. If I have time, I’d revisit this place again.

Wok and Barrel, 13 Duxton Hill Road. Tel: 62200595.

Lettuce and mushroom wrap. I couldn’t work out which part was the wrap. Perhaps the lettuce were wrapped around the mushroom. The garlic taste was overpowering and I love garlic usually.

Nasi lemak with five spice pork. There was a choice of sweet sambal and spicy samba on the respective cucumber slices. The coconut in the rice was not strong enough but may be fine for a predominantly Caucasian/westernised dinner crowd. The spices had indeed gone into the pork and this was good.

The beef rendang was spicy and nice. The beef itself was tender and flavourful. The coleslaw was on both dishes and unlike coleslaw which is usually made with mayonnaise, this one had a sourish vinegarish taste to it. I liked the concept but it seemed just sour unlike achar (pickled vegetables) which is sweet, sour and spicy. I was not sure if this added to the meal as a whole or took away from it. On its own or just eaten with plain rice (which people who have simple bellies are inclined to do) this coleslaw would have been great.

Tiramisu made from kueh balu (Nyonya light sponge cake). Nice.

Banana dessert. Nice as well.

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