The first thing they tell you at No Milk Bistro along Pahang Street is that it is opened by 4 young below-30 fellas who were apprenticed to a fish soup uncle in Bedok whose philosophy is that a great tasting fish soup doesn’t require evaporated milk. They hung out together as kids, went their separate ways but eventually found their destinies converging at No Milk Bistro. No Milk Bistro not just serves the putative fish soup on the lower floor but operates a bistro on the upper level with a bar counter, lots of drinks – local beers to Makgeolli to Veuve Cliquot – and regionally inspired food, like their Beef Rendang Tagliatelle.
Right off the bat – it is a great story and they do a good job with the fish soup (Sliced Fish Soup (Mackerel) $6++, Fried Fish Soup (Seabass) $6++, a mixed of both $7++). If you’re in the area, craving for a healthy, brothy bowl of fish, this is not a bad choice. However, I wouldn’t especially seek them out. While the soup is pretty flavourful, the fish are a little sad. Though cooked well, they are sliced too thin, and in such small pieces that all I could think of was – will I be full tonight? The thin slicing creates a secondary problem with the fried fish – it becomes a little tough and chewy. I also thought the sliced fish could also have been marinated a little longer in Shaoxing or Huadiao and fish sauce. Just for comparison – my favourite fish soup stalls are Meixiang at Berseh Food Centre and Han Kee at Amoy Street Food Centre.
That said, most of their bistro food is pretty delicious. The Homemade Black Charsiu ($12.8++) for instance. Similar to the KL-style char siew, just as sweet but with a greater depth of flavor – I think it’s the generous use of spices. Even without the fat for the meat to lean on, this char siew has a perfect bite. I just wish it were more thickly cut just so I could enjoy chewing on a sumptuous piece more. The Grilled Pork Belly ($6.9++), equally well-cooked, is redolent of fresh Thai flavours – lemongass, lime leaves. The Homemade Ngor Hiang ($2++) is meaty, succulent and easy to eat. Though, personally I prefer something with more 5-spice, pepper and with a crispier skin. The chilli sauces that come with the grilled meats are all zestier than what you’d find outside; they cut through the richness of the oil and grill and add a brighter flavor to the food.
Both the Modsin pasta dishes – Thai Red Curry Tagliatelle ($18.8++) and Beef Rendang Tagliatelle ($16.8++) – are dishes that the owners are really proud of. The pasta is handmade from a traditional Italian recipe that uses only eggs and flour, and cooked al dente. They do try to do things right by tradition but for me the pasta is a tad too al dente, precariously on the brink of undercooked. I have to qualify though – I like the starchier, mochi-er rice and desserts of Japan so this is really a personal thing, you might like it firmer. The Thai Red Curry is a good option although the prawns are a little overcooked i.e. tough. The Beef Rendang, as the PR team extolls, is their favourite dish of all. It reminded me of the Javanese Nasi Gudeg which is a jackfruit stew cooked with the usual spices and palm sugar – sweet. This is great if saccharine savoury stews are your thing but I feel it masks the richness of the rempah. But the texture is great – slowly stewed so that the meat yields as if it were beef cheeks even though it’s rump.
The Deep Fried Chicken Wings ($14.8++) is so good. Hot when it arrives, super crispy batter, super moist meat – juices flow when you bite into it. I asked if it’s prawn paste chicken, Head Chef Hoe Gern said similar but more Thai – no wonder I tasted lime leaves. So there’s an elevated fragrance to the fried chicken. I asked, why didn’t you include this? It is so good. He said, oh it’s just a bar snack. But it is good. Order if you’re there.
The finishing dish is a delight too. Their Spicy Fragrant Handmade Egg Noodles with Fish Belly ($8++) (you can choose the grilled belly too), basically Mala Noodles, is also on the sweet side but this works better because of the spiciness of the mala so the sugar does help cut through and enrich the heat. The fried fish belly in this case is fried well. Crispy on the outside, moist on the inside. I wonder why they can’t get the other fried stuff – the sliced fish and prawns – right. Small problem; easy to work on.
If you’re in the area looking for great tasting fried chicken wings and casual Modsin food plied with drinks, this is the place to be. Also, while I won’t specifically seek this place out for fish soup, I would for the Mala Noodles.
No Milk Bistro
18 Pahang Street Singapore 198615
tel: +65 6291 5854
1st floor restaurant: 11am – 10pm
2nd floor bistro: 5pm – 12am
1st floor restaurant: 530pm – 10pm
2nd floor bistro: 530pm – 12am
Value / price: 7/10
You may be interested in…
–HE Bistro & Bar, Duxton: Playful Singaporean Fusion Cuisine with Fun Cocktails
–So France, Duo Galleria: Fantastic French Bistro Comes With French Service
–Summer Hill, Sunset Way: Rustic French Bistro by Former Chefs of Cocotte and Bird Bird
–Good Thyme Bistro, AMK: We Don’t Even Have to Try/ It’s Always a
Written by Paul Ng. Deathrow meal: steamed uonuma koshihikari rice, sunny side up eggs drizzled with slow-rendered pork lard, kicap cair dark soya sauce with a side of gribenes. And a bowl of uni. Aspiring taitai. Also co-owner of Provisions Food – local maker of baked goods, snacks, condiments and sauces inspired by the flavours of Asia.