On Facebook, foodie friends have been posting photos of Route 12’s Sotong King Nasi Lemak. One friend complained, “The queue was ridiculous so we went somewhere else.”
You know how popular they are by their opening hours: 2pm-9pm. They don’t want to do the lunch crowd. When I was there at 4.21pm, the shop was 80% full. Although I was the only one in the queue, the food took 30 minutes to reach me; too slow. The long waiting time may account for the long queue my friend experienced.
Although it was newly opened in Oct 2016, their business is thriving through word of mouth. Route 12 is Muslim owned and the food is halal.
Here is the story behind the name of Route 12. Two bikers went on a road trip in Northern Thailand. One of them, Faz, the owner of Route 12, was getting married, and this was his bachelor trip. He promised his then-fiancée that he would be back in 2 weeks; he returned after 4 weeks. On this trip, he was riding on Route 12. Hence the name of the shop, which plays early 80s ballads like Lionel Ritchie’s songs.
The food concept comes from Malaysia where sotong king nasi lemak is all the rage. Faz’s now-his-wife came up with the recipes. She uses bismati rice for the nasi lemak pandan.
The menu at Route 12 includes the usual western food like fish & chips ($7) and chicken chop ($7), but 100% of the customers order nasi lemak sotong king ($14 for 2 pax, $18 for 3-4 pax). You may also order their normal nasi lemak set ($3-$4) but this doesn’t come with the giant squid. If you buy the squid a la carte, it’s $8. So it’s best to come with a friend or two.
How is the nasi lemak? If I include Route 12 in the Best Nasi Lemak in Singapore, it would rank #15 on the list. The rice is ok but not lemak enough; the chicken wings could have been marinated better, and they are almost bland; the chilli is ok, sweet and spicy, almost Thai-like; and I detest the fish fillet because it looks artificial. I would prefer to have ikan kuning.
The saving grace here is the sotong. It’s quite good; nicely chewy, very crispy and salted adequately. It’s also gigantic, and who ever says size doesn’t matter is lying. Big is beautiful. And this sotong is big enough that Jack and Rose could float on it.
Besides food, they also serve Thai drinks. My Thai green tea ($3.80) is not sweet (which I like) but the green tea is weak.
The people at Route 12 are friendly and nice, and this makes a good experience. But I definitely won’t queue for it. Uber Eats does delivery, so look into that if you’re interested. I paid $17.80, enough for 2 persons.
45 Sam Leong Road, Singapore 207935
T: +65 8687 3371
Sat-Th 2pm-9pm, F 2pm-11pm, closed Mon
Overall rating: 3.125/5
Written by A. Nathanael Ho.