Chilling in the Hood really means chilling in the ‘hood. Very casual. Despite the funky decor with a projected wall mural, servers are dressed in tees, shorts and slippers. In Huccalily’s gushing words, “The place is so unpretentious and no hipsters (yet!). The band look like they sell insurance in the day and then come here to sing, super awesome. Very down to earth. No weird americanized ang moh slang when talking. Their vocals and chemistry on stage are just mind blowing.” Pretty much sums up why it was love at first sound for us and Hood.
Can you spot the Mahjong tiles that form “13 wonders” on the mural?
Hood’s concept is similar to Hard Rock Cafe, Timbre and Shanghai Dolly, with performers on stage every night. One customer said, “Hood is in between Shanghai Dolly and Timbre: Hood isn’t as hardcore as Shanghai Dolly but is edgier than Timbre.” But in actual fact, Hood wins all of them hands-down because Hood has lots of heart, lots of passion, the rest are just money-making mega-corporation enterprises. But at Hood, Nigel, one-third of the owners, who is law-trained, gave it up to manage the bar full time. If you could hear him speak like we did, you’d feel the passion and enthusiasm he has for local music scene.
Each night, a different band plays, including the popular Shirlyn & the UnXpected on Wednesdays. (Check the schedule.) On Saturday nights, Hood welcomes any local band who has enough original compositions to play. In fact, Hood has already hosted 80 such bands. Who knew there are so many local bands with original songs?
When we were there on Tuesday, it was jam night. The ambience was crazy awesome. Audience went on stage to sing and play guitars, singing (soft) rock versions of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way,” La Roux’s “Bulletproof” and even “Just the Way You Look Tonight.” It reminded Huccalily of a small cozy bar in Tokyo where salarymen went, got drunk, sang out loud, dozed off, and woke up to sing again. It reminded me of a small cozy cafe in Dulan, Taiwan where the aborigines gathered, sang, danced, got drunk, and sang again.
From two persons from the band, Singapore Char Siew Baos,
Another two band members went up to join them:
And then two of the audience went up, totaling to 6 people on stage:
Hood is incredible because it carves out a much-needed space for local musicians; because it gives opportunities for local talent; because it provides a space for Singaporeans to support Singaporeans; and because, like the Tokyo bar and Dulan bar, Hood is very local, very representative of Singapore.
Har Jiong Gai or for you angmoh pais, it’s prawn paste chicken wings.
While Hood is a performance space, Nigel the boss, who has been in the F&B business for 15 years, knows that the food cannot be incidental to the bar; the food has to complement the bar. Indeed, he works with the chef to produce Singaporean-fusion Western dishes to suit the local bands playing Western tunes.
Scallops wrapped with bacon
If you just want to nibble, try the local favorites such as luncheon meat fries ($9), shrimp paste chicken wings ($12), oven-baked bacon strips on scallops ($16) and our unanimous favorite, baked portobello mushroom topped with feta cheese, rosemary and garlic ($12) which was moist and flavorful. There are food on skewers too, similar to Tori-Q, such as tiger prawns ($2) which were rather tiny, braised and grilled pork belly ($2) and Norwegian salmon ($3).
Skewers from front to back: prawns, pork belly, salmon.
But to be honest, while the nibbles were passable, the mains shone. All three of us unanimously loved the seafood aglio olio spaghetti with XO sauce ($16), a dish suited for the Singaporean tastebud. The al dente pasta was laced with chilli that gave a tingling sensation on the tongue, just spicy enough to exciting but didn’t overpower the seafood sweetness.
Seafood aglio olio: squid, prawns and mussels
For those who like sweet mains, the Everybody Loves Kungfu Fighting Pizza ($16), big enough for 2-4 persons, is a Hood creation: a thin crust pizza topped with char siew, hoisin, spring onion and mozzarella cheese. The pizza might be a tad sweet for some people. When we ate it, it felt like we were eating char siew rice. And since we like char siew rice and sweet mains, the pizza was a winner for us.
Everybody Loves Kungfu Fighting Pizza looked uninspiring but was big on taste.
The “hot dawgs” are served with very good thick chunky textured fries (we couldn’t stop eating them) and salad with choice of beef, pork or spicy lamb sausages. The Purple Haze dawg ($14) is garnished with sauteed mushrooms, caramelized onions and cheese and the Smells Like Teen Spirit dawg ($14) with apple chutney and blue cheese dressing. While the sausages came piping hot from the grill, we thought the taste of the sausage overpowered the condiments.
Smells Like Teen Spirit dawg
A sweet Betty Boop Cocktail and a thick but not overly sweet Nutella Banana Milkshake
When the three of us stepped out of Hood, we were already texting our friends, telling them about the bar. Danny said he wants to bring all his friends here to celebrate his birthday. Two days after the tasting, Huccalily already returned to Hood, bringing her friends. This place is good for inexpensive large-group (after work) gatherings as well as for dates. If you don’t talk a lot, you can just listen to the songs and if you do talk a lot to your date, then you can cuddle closer to whisper in the ear. We were so comfortable that we didn’t want to leave and when we left, we didn’t say “Goodbye” to Nigel the Boss. We said, “See you soon,” because we are sure we would be chilling in the Hood from now on.
Hood Bar and Cafe
Fri, Sat, PH Eve: 12pm-3am
Rating: 3.667/5 local stars
PS: Thanks to Yoshiko and Nigel for the invite.