[SG] Workshop at Bukit Merah | hidden gem perfect for chillout nights!

Monday, January 13, 2014

When you think of "workshops", one would naturally associate it to the place to send your motor vehicle to for repairs rather than a place to fix your stomach. Having walked past this half-a-shopfront bistro previously, one would not help but overlook this hidden gem as it is nestled among the neighbourhood of Bukit Merah.

Quite ironically, there are plenty of motor vehicle workshops located behind where Workshop is located, but this sake bar surely has a more charismatic appeal. Inspired by the owners behind The Flying Squirrel, it offers a range of alcoholic drinks from draft beers, cocktails and wines to sake. Apart from being a chill-out place, it also has a small kitchen behind the scene to prepare Japanese fusion cuisine for its customers.

Fugu Mirin (S$10/-)

Strips of dried cured puffer fish was our appetiser as we waited for our mains to be served. With a dash of mayonnaise on the side to go along, the warm puffer fish jerky-like strips were palatable and would certainly go perfectly with some Asahi or sake. Unfortunately there was work to be done for the evening so we had to pass on the alcohol.

It has a mildly sweet taste to it and what I liked about it was the delicate touch to serve this appetiser warm.

Verdict: 8.0/10

All of the mains come complete with miso soup and choice of 2 out of three appetisers. It includes salad, side and fruits. Between the salads, we were given a choice of either the potato or wasabi crabmeat salad while the sides was a choice of California sushi roll or gyoza. Since we ordered two sets, we had the luxury to try all four different types of appetisers! 

Daily special - salmon chirashi set (S$15/-)

The salmon chirashi did not disappoint, with about six thick slices of salmon topped with fish roe and diced cucumber to give it a nice crunchy texture. The portion size was just nice for me and while I was not expecting to be surprised, I was satisfied with the freshness of the salmon and the overall set.

Verdict: 7.5/10

I enjoyed the wasabi crabmeat salad more than the potato salad though the latter was equally good. The downside was that the taste of the wasabi could have been stronger to make it more memorable.

We realised that when it comes to set menu or bento, there is usually nothing too impressive with the accompanying dishes. The potato salad, California roll and gyoza were all passable and tasted pedestrian. Two of the more memorable Japanese places which offered value-for-money sets with good sides would be Tomi Sushi and Botan.

Wagyu rice bowl set (S$13/-)

This was recommended to us by the friendly server, Carine, who most pleasantly took the time and effort to chat with us while we waited for our dishes to be served. The minced wagyu beef was served with a half-boiled egg while spilled its yolk upon being sliced. The sweet corn and lettuce complemented the texture with a nice crunch but personally, I am never quite a huge fan of minced wagyu beef. I always enjoyed it sliced or as a steak. 

This was savoury and the flavours of the wagyu beef was elegantly enhanced with some good cooking.

Verdict: 7.5/10

Opera cake (S$8/-)

On the shelf were some cakes which we could not resist for our philosophy is to always end a meal on a sweet note, literally. The cakes and pastries available depends on where Workshop sources them from so expect it to change periodically. 

Being rather skeptical about Opera cakes having tried a rather poor rendition recently at Becasse Bakery, we were assured by the quality of the patisseries and this slice of classic Opera cake surely did not disappoint. Fans of this dessert would be familiar with the layers of almond sponge cake soaked in coffee syrup, layered with ganache and coffee buttercream before being topped with a nice chocolate glaze. We enjoyed that the various elements of the Opera were present and more importantly well-received by our palate as it was not overly sweet. The taste of the coffee was also distinct and complemented the dark chocolate and lightly moist sponge cake perfectly.

Highly recommended and would certainly go well with a nice cup of fresh brew or English tea.

Verdict: 9.0/10

Pear almond tart (S$7.90/-)

While I am generally a huge fan of tarts, not many places have served a calories-worthy tart suited for my palate. The tart was one of the better ones tried with a nice crisp and firm touch to the edges and base. The poached pear was also not overly sweet and while the pastry was palatable to our taste buds, we felt that it could have a stronger almond taste.

Verdict: 8.0/10

Mushroom quiche (S$7/-)

We also had the mushroom quiche to go and was our breakfast for the following day. We felt that the quiche was quite disappointing as it lacked the desired level of savouriness and cheesiness. It was a little too mild and the filling could also have been more generous. The saving grace was the tart itself which was biscuit like.

Verdict: 6.5/10

One of the drawing factors to Workshop would be that it is one of the few places around which does not charge 7% GST nor 10% service charge. All prices quoted on the menu were nett and food would be served after self-ordering it at the counter. Due to the small space, it gives a very nice homely feeling but if the place was full, it might give a different vibe.

We were also left to a fresh jug of lemons-infused iced water which was free-flow at no surcharge. Carine was especially attentive to our requests and shared with us about the concepts and inspirations of Workshop.

I always advocate that customer service is key to summing up a nice meal. While the food might not have been the most gastronomical, the prices were very reasonable for the quality and quantity of food served. It was overall a very enjoyable dining experience and we would certainly return one of these days, perhaps on a weekend just to enjoy some draft Asahi and finger food to spend a relaxing evening.

Blk 121, Bukit Merah Lane 1
Singapore 150121
(Located close to the Alexandra Village Food Centre)

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