This is the first time in a long time that I felt so relaxed in a bar. These are the reasons why.
Reason #1: Decor
So tired of using the word ‘industrial’ to describe a bar, and luckily, Starker isn’t. It is a modern two-storey building with green glass and clean lines, situated within Zhongshan Park. And if you sit in the al fresco, you’ll see fathers playing football with their toddlers, old folks line-dancing and people walking dogs. Such a lovely and peaceful sight!
We sat in the al fresco but there was no direct sun, so it was cool. The breeze was soothing, calming. I felt easy like Sunday morning. This is life, man.
You can also sit in the air con area. The first floor is a narrow strip in front of the kitchen, and the second floor has an old world charm with an edge: brick wall and Gothic chandelier.
Reason #2: Ambience
It was brisk and bustling on a Wednesday night, and although there were so many people, it didn’t give a crowded squeezed feeling. Everyone seemed happy. No need to keep up with the hipster Joneses. Unlike so many bars in the city, Starker is unpretentious.
Reason #3: The Award-Winning Beers
When I drink, I get headaches. But miraculously, Starker beer didn’t give me a migraine. It might be because the beers are freshly brewed from malted barley and wheat and will be discarded after 7 days. Starker, meaning “stronger” in German, revives an Old World style of beer drinking, which complements the Old World decor. Unfiltered and unpasteurised, the beers give a robust, clean, crisp and smooth aftertaste. At 5% alcohol content, the beers are not gassy, so you won’t feel bloated after drinking.
The beers cost $10 (1/2 pint), $18 (1 pint), $70 (2l barrel) and $170 (5l barrel). I highly recommended the lager, which won Gold Award for Beer Fest Asia from 2010-2012. Do you notice some beers leave you a bitter and dry tongue? Starker’s lager isn’t like that: it is smooth from the start to the end, and the taste is malty, fruity and quite complex, with a sweet aftertaste. The Aromatic is a lighter, sweeter, citrusy, herby version of the lager, while the Dunkel a dark, roasted version that would go very well with BBQ food.
Starker has newly launched an award-winning lychee beer. Unlike Taiwanese lychee beer which is overly gassy and monotonous, Starker’s version has layers: first, there is a sweet aroma of lychee, and the tone changes to something darker, on the brink of bitterness, before returning to a sweet lychee aftertaste. This is quite awesome, and very suitable for (almost) teetotalers like me.
Reason #4: Reasonable Prices
Happy hour is from opening to 8pm, with wines starting at $8.80 a glass. Seriously?! What a steal.
Reason #5: The Delicious Food
After local Chef Bryan Siah graduated from culinary school Shatec, he went on to have 15 years of experience at restaurants such as Modesto and the defunct Bice Italian Restaurant at Goodwood Park. The menu is designed to complement beers but is tasty on its own rights. A kids menu and a Sunday brunch menu (10.30am-2.30pm, price range $8-$16) are available.
For bar grub, go for the roasted pork belly ($12.80). Super shiok. It is roasted till it is crispy outside but still retains a moistness and doesn’t taste oily or fatty at all.
Chef Siah’s specialties are: (a) the pork knuckle ($38.80), which uses pork hock, marinated for a day; (b) braised lamb shank ($26.80); and (c) baby back ribs with homemade BBQ sauce ($22.80). He said, “If you leave here without trying the ribs, you’ll live to regret it!”
Starker sells 40-60kg of ribs a week–that’s two times Jolin Tsai’s weight. The ribs are first steamed to rid its smell, and then braised for 4 hours. As a result, this is one of the tenderest ribs I have. You don’t even need cutlery, the meat just falls off the bones. The sauce is unique too, not overly sweet and there is a undertone reminiscent of braised peanut.
How do you judge if these ribs are good? The meat doesn’t get stuck between teeth.
Chef Siah’s background is Italian food. The angel hair pasta in seafood aglio e olio ($24.80) is executed perfectly, the perfect al dente texture, coated evenly with aromatic spicy olive oil, which goes very well with beer.
On the new menu is a fantastic lamb rack ($28.80). It is seasoned lightly with salt and pepper, and topped with garlic, crumbs and rosemary, maintaining the lamb’s integrity yet bringing out excellent flavors. Cooked beautifully, a tender rosy pink within.
A generous serving of Creme brulee ($8.80), as big as my fat face, gorgeously caramelized and rich.
One thing that I like about the food is that they all came hot. You know Singaporean mothers, they always say, eat your food while it’s hot.
All in all, the beer is smooth, the food hearty, the bar cosy, the price comfortable. This is my new hangout. I’ll bring the rest of my team here.
EDIT: Our team went back anonymously and spent $120 for 3 persons. We tried the lamb shank, fantastic, with tenderest meat thoroughly marinated. The service was amazing, when our beer went warm, they brought out new frosted glass to transfer the beer in the new glass.
Written by A. Nathanael Ho.
Thanks, Nicholas, Nate, Alvin and Bryan for their hospitality, and to Starker Fresh Beer for the sponsored post.