The Foodie in Me recommended The Belljar at Boat Quay, which has nothing to do with Sylvia Plath’s classic novel of the same name. It is a 3-storey bar and restaurant, more bar than restaurant. But that doesn’t mean that they neglect the food. In fact the Asian-Western fusion cuisine is delicious and interesting.
But even before talking about the food, the service is excellent. I made an online reservation. When I walked into the restaurant, they informed me frankly that they had neglected the online reservation, and they were having an event on the first floor where the restaurant is; they wouldn’t have accepted our reservation in the first place. (The bar is on the second floor).
So they wanted to sit us on the second floor. But the sofa and low table, part of their bar decor, make it difficult to eat; if we sat there, we would have to hunch over. The air con would blow directly at the food, which would have cooled the food quickly, making it unpalatable. So I requested, please please please is there another place where we could be comfortable enough to eat? At this point, I was pretty frustrated and in my mind, I was already listing other nearby options to dine.
But their service recovery was excellent; the hostesses said that they would try to squeeze a table for us on the first floor. And they did; they gave us a dark, lonely corner on the first floor, away from the revelers of the event. This is a good example of how servers can make mistakes—everyone makes mistakes from time to time—but they can quickly make amends and resolve the issue.
Even though the corner on the first floor where we sat was inconspicuous, the hostesses checked in on us frequently, refilled water in our glasses, and took our orders in a timely fashion. There were only 2 hostesses, and they had to attend to the event at the restaurant, the alcoholics at the bar on the second floor, and us. Because we were eating and not drinking much—doctor told me I can’t drink so only The Ex was drinking—we were spending substantially lesser than the eventgoers and drinkers but in no way were we overlooked. That’s f***ing remarkable service. I hope the Belljar bosses give huge bonuses to the hostesses.
Ok. Now the food. The menu isn’t extensive. There are only 10 items to pick: 5 for sharing and 5 for mains. Both of us already ordered 4 dishes, so if you come as a group of 4, you can probably order all the dishes.
Although the menu is limited, it is innovative, mixing Western and Asian elements. For example, although the linguine is too nuah, the gochujang pasta ($16), coated with Korean chilli paste and peanut butter sauce, is interesting. It is unexpectedly more sweet than spicy, unexpected because the name of the dish suggests a heavier proportion of Korean chilli paste to peanut butter. The rocket leaves add a nice bitterness and texture to the dish, undercutting the sweetness of the sauce.
The har cheong siew yoke ($15) is a cute combination of prawn paste (usually for chicken wings) and pork belly. The meat is tough, but the crackling is crispy af. Not bad.
New Zealand Grass-fed ribeye (240g, $32): not bad.
The Ex said, “So I guess the favorite dish of the night is sloppy Joe fries ($12), topped with minced beef and cheese.” This is not a slight because it is indeed addictive. It comes hot and crispy (but eat it quickly before it gets soggy). It’s savory—the beef sauce tastes almost like a Chinese roasted duck sauce—and also sweet like potato chips. It would probably go well with beer.
My only grouse is I wish we weren’t relegated to a dark corner in front of speakers, playing loud music, making it hard to have quality conversations. But indubitably, the hostesses did the best they could in a dire situation, and they excelled in their jobs. Although the ja-pa-lang style of food is fun and tasty, I’d suggest adding some greens to the menu. Next time, I want to try the honey dijon lamb cutlet ($28) and if I am brave enough, I would order the century scotch egg ($12)–or should it be named scotch century egg? We spent about $120 for two including drinks.
The Belljar Singapore
18 North Canal Road Singapore 048830
T: +65 8182 2858 / +65 9233 4321
M-F 11.30am-2.30pm, 5pm-12am, Sat 5pm-12am, closed Sun
Overall rating: 3.531/5
Written by A. Nathanael Ho.