[SG] Communal - where bonding takes place!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

It was actually our first time participating in a large scale dining group with a bunch of stranger foodies last evening at a Burpple event. We were the first to arrive and admittedly, it was on an awkward note that the dining session kick-started but thankfully it ended on a pleasant note and it was a pleasure meeting like-minded food enthusiasts. Apart from the guys at Burpple, we also got to learn about a meet-up group, Coffee & Cravings, where they kindly stayed back and chatted with us to provide an insight of their operations! It is actually a pretty interesting concept where they plan new eateries around Singapore to visit and practically anyone could just join in, make new friends and most importantly, enjoy good food!

As the evening progressed, the diners warmed up to each other and conversations started to spark. The catalyst was none other than food itself! Jayne had kindly arranged for the restaurant to serve the portions for sharing so that everyone present managed to get a taste of what they had to offer.

Cornbread with honey butter (S$6/+)

The first appetizer to titillate our appetite was the cornbread. There was a beautiful fragrance to it that carried a strong butter and corn aroma. The crisp crust on the edges was what appealed to us most. Coupled with the grilled corn niblets and the rich honey butter, it was certainly a joy to savour. Our only complaint was that it lacked moisture within the cornbread itself, tasting a tad dry for our liking. While the luscious honey butter was elegantly scooped, it dropped points in terms of delivering the sweetness of 'honey'. Nonetheless, it seemed like a good start to the evening already.

Verdict: 7.5/10

Parmesan and Parsley French Fries (S$6/+)

This simple dish made a classic entry to the dining table with its alluring aroma from the melted Parmesan cheese. As parsley is typically a mild-flavoured herb, we felt that it failed to enhance the bold cheese. The french fries were done the way it should be, crisp on the outside, warm and soft on the inside. As the grated cheese was drizzled sparingly across the french fries, the distribution was rather disparate so expect to taste the french fries plain or with clumps of cheese. It was a good offering but nothing spectacular to wow.

Verdict: 7.0/10


The chefs had thoughtfully distributed the 3 types of soups ordered into smaller portions for sharing. Referring to the above picture, starting from top down, we had the celery soup with croutons, pumpkin soup and Caesar salad soup. The celery and pumpkin soups were off the menu items and subjected to change as they were 'Soup of the Day' and the normal offering would come at S$9/+. The Caesar salad soup, on the other hand, is a regular feature on the menu and is priced equally. 

Personally, we found it rather upsetting that the celery soup was a touch too raw in flavour though it might suit the palate of some. By the time the soup came to me (which was admittedly quite a while later), the croutons was completely soaked so it was rather distasteful but other dining companions gave praise to the well-toasted croutons to complement the smooth soup.

The pumpkin soup on the other hand went really well and tasted velvety smooth. It had a beautiful richness and knowing the goodness packed in this ingredient, I could not help myself but slurped up the remaining bowl.

I thought it was pretty cool to drink a Caesar salad. The menu stated that it had bacon and aloe vera but I struggled to distinguish those two ingredients from my tasting. Nonetheless, it packed some lovely nutritious greens in that blend. While I enjoy and love my daily dose of greens, carnivores or meat-lovers might wish to take their cue elsewhere.

I held no qualms about the freshness and quality of ingredients that went into making the soups and it certainly warrant a spot as a starter dish when I return for a second visit.

Verdict: 8.0/10

B&G - Biscuits and Sausage Gravy (S$6/+)

Apparently this was quite an acclaimed dish on the starters' menu according to those familiar with the restaurant. I was expecting something crispy and crunchy when I read biscuit off the menu so this somewhat messy presentation threw me off guard quite a little. I found it too heavy to be lined up as a side dish for the savoury sausage gravy was rather satiating on my appetite at least and you would not really want that ahead of a heavy meal. There was a slight salinity in the gravy and the finely diced spring onions gave an interesting twist in flavour. You could taste some of the finely diced sausage in that gravy but quite frankly, I would not coin the carbohydrates in this dish a biscuit as it tasted more like a buttery scone. I hesitated at the thought of a second serving and while others at the table bagged praises, I had a different opinion to match.

[Edited] Thanks to sweegeok and Jayne who had brought to my attention that the biscuit for this dish had its origin in the States and Canada which were similar to the British scones that I am more familiar with after the years of living over there. It is often made with buttermilk and traditionally served as sides. Like the cornbread detailed above, they do not need time to rise before baking and are henceforth termed as 'quick breads' by chefs and bakers alike!

Verdict: 6.5/10

Fried chicken, crushed la ratte potatoes, spinach (S$18/+)

Personally, it would probably be the last thing on my mind to order a fried chicken dish on an adventurous food tasting session. This was however their signature dish so it would be a shame to walk away not having a bite of that crispy batter coating the tender and moist chicken. The chef obviously pampered his proteins with delicate care and it was evident in the chicken breast portion that we shared. Despite being the leanest cut, it was well-prepared and the flesh was succulent and tasty. One would expect a deep-fried dish as such to be overwhelming greasy, this was surprisingly a clean and crisp rendition. The batter stole the limelight with a golden-brown crust where you could hear the crispness with each crunch.

Affable Chef Ryan was most gracious in sharing the secret recipe in creating that addictive batter. Unexpectedly, bourbon was a key ingredient and not forgetting the all important touch of acidity from fresh lemons. He later added that the temperature for frying the chicken had to be monitored and should ideally be within 320-325 Fahrenheit Celsius. When probed for further ingredients and preparation methods, he stopped short and warmly reciprocated with a smile.

On a separate note, the dish served seemed slightly different from what was written on the menu. Our fried chicken and the greens were served separately but I reckon that on any given day, it should come complete on one plate. We liked that good quality ratte potatoes were chosen which were characterised by its unique nutty flavour and smooth buttery texture. Excellent complements for the fried chicken for sure.

Verdict: 9.0/10

Braised beef cheek, smoked potato purée, brussels sprouts (S$26/+)

That saucy gravy left an impressionistic mark and reminiscing that beautiful unami taste was enough to make me swallow my saliva while writing. The flavours were bold and savoury to say the least. It seemed like a harmonious unison of brown, barbecue sauces and beef stock simmered down to an intense gravy. I had mixed feelings about the red meat after trying a few mouthfuls with my concern on quality assurance in preparation and cooking. We tried the the protein served on 2 separate plates and had distinctly different verdicts. The first tasted too dry and stiff for my liking with the beef coming off in strands while the other plate was spot-on brilliant, with a moist tenderness. The crispy deep-fried red onion strips gave a much desired crunchy texture to the main and hint of sweetness as it was mildly caramelized. I thought that while the accompanying complements such as the smoked potato purée and brussels sprouts were prepared flawlessly, the star failed to shine on its own accord.

Verdict: 7.5/10

Boston lobster, mac and cheese (S$22/+)

Admittedly, I am not a fan of cheese, so when a dish as such which contained 3 different types of cheese came up to the table, I naturally cringed. With Parmesan, gruyere and white cheddar cheese added to the macaroni topped with toasted bread crumbs, it was too salty for my palate. Of the 3, I actually favoured the gruyere which had a nature of being creamy and nutty when young and tasting more assertive, earthy and complex with age. Unfortunately, it was hard to distinctly differentiate given the overwhelming salinity of the dish. Upon tasting, I had to wash it down with almost the entire glass of water! The lobster meat came in bite-sized chunks and while there were not a lot to go around the table, the portion I tasted came across as fresh and I particularly enjoyed the bouncy texture. There was also a natural sweetness in the seafood owed to the freshness of the ingredient. 

Verdict: 6.5/10

With the starters, sides and mains happily in our tummies, there was no way to conclude the evening without satisfying our sweet-tooth cravings. Let the desserts come on already!

Monkey bread with vanilla ice cream (S$7/+)

Being an eatery that prides itself as the 'New American Restaurant', it was a no-brainer to find this sweet, sticky, gooey pastry which is commonly served in the States for breakfasts. While the origin of this dessert pastry is unknown, some claim that it resembles the monkey puzzle tree and hence the name!

By chance and coincidence, one of our co-authors, sweegeok, spotted the chefs preparing the dessert. The chef had the 'bread balls' individually coated in melted butter, cinnamon and sugar before placing it in a moulded cake pan which was then cupped out onto the serving plate. There was a luscious whiff of cinnamon when the server landed the plate on the table. Under the spotlight, the vanilla ice cream was quick to melt, so apologies for the unglamorous shot! Served warm, the baked segments were easily pulled apart with a slight tug on the fork. It was particularly enjoyable as the bread itself was surprisingly chewy and went well with the saccharine syrup though some might argue that it was a touch too sweet. The warm bread was cordially matched with the plain-tasting yet richly flavoured vanilla ice cream - can you resist? Not us for sure!

Verdict: 8.0/10

Hot chocolate soufflé with strawberry ice cream (S$9/+)

The strawberry ice cream was rich in flavour and creamy but there was nothing too impressive about it. The highlight though was the shredded lime bits in the ice cream to give a hint of acidity and tang. I was divided about how the ice cream is a good complement to hot chocolate soufflé for I thought it was quite a mismatch in terms of flavours and tastes. By the time I got to trying the soufflé, it was lukewarm and though the top was crowned with a nice crisp crust coupled with a soft and moist texture underneath. Soufflé means 'to blow up' in French, which is an apt description of the underlying process in the creation of this dessert with key ingredients involving custard and egg whites. While the individual components of the dessert tasted 'okay' on their own, I insist that the combination was flawed when pieced together.

Verdict: 6.5/10

Lemon tart (S$7/+)

The lemon curd was held by a pine nut crust and topped with sculpted fresh whipped cream. It was then neatly tucked under a fine slice of caramelized lemon. The surface of the lemon curd was also lightly torched and while meticulous attention had been cast to enhancing the presentation of the dessert, the flavours unfortunately were a disappointment. The lemon curd lacked intensity and boldness in the acidity to give a biting tang like the one tried at Maison Kayser. The crust of the tart was limp and was short of a clean  crispness that a buttery tart should resemble.  

Verdict: 6.0/10

Strawberry shortcake (Complimentary)

Chef Ryan was most generous and served us complimentary desserts. Sandwiched between the lemon-black pepper scone was fresh strawberry compote and whipped Chantilly cream. The scone was good, texture wise, with a crisp crust and on the edges while the inside was soft and moist. It however lacked a strong enough buttery taste to it and came across as bland and flat. We were left scratching our heads as we could barely taste any lemon or black pepper in the scone. While the strawberry compote and Chantilly cream worked beautifully in accompaniment to the scone, the highlight itself was barely sufficient to placate the diners at the table. The ingredients were premium and would a be worthy-try.

Verdict: 7.0/10

For the early diners, do note that Communal has a 1-for-1 offer on selected beers and cocktails for orders placed before 8pm. Customers have a choice of limited bar seating, comfortable sofas or even outdoors. The servers were attentive and accommodative to our requests. For the price-conscious, we felt that the items were appropriately priced in accordance to the quality of ingredients. The 10% service charge was also waived from the bill so you only pay the mandatory 7% GST on top of the menu prices. With the bill divided equally among the diners, I was really surprised to be paying just S$29.50 per person. Overall, we enjoyed our dinner and while there were some hits and misses on the dishes, we left pretty impressed. Grab some pals and head down today for some beer and fried chicken!

12 North Canal Road
Singapore 048825
Tel: 6221 7790

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