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Char Grill: Fancy grass-fed steaks, mentaiko carbonara & the best spring chicken hidden within a coffeeshop

As I was walking around the Kovan vicinity, a vibrant yellow signboard caught my eye— it belonged to Char Grill, a Western stall within a coffeeshop in 121 Hougang. As I perused its menu, I was surprised to find unique dishes like a fusion mentaiko carbonara pasta and grass-fed steaks.

char grill - storefront
char grill - storefront

Aside from offering classic Western choices, Char Grill also had donburi on its menu! Intrigued, I decided to patronise the stall for lunch.

What I tried at Char Grill

char grill - sirloin steak
char grill - sirloin steak

As a huge lover of steak, I was instantly drawn to the Grass-Fed Argentine Sirloin Steak (S$17.90). Like most other Western food stalls, I was able to choose 2 sides to pair with my protein. The side options at Char Grill included Shimeji Mushrooms, Mashed Potato Mousseline, Breaded Onion Rings, Mac & Cheese and more. For my steak, I opted to supplement it with the Mashed Potato Mousseline and Mac & Cheese.

char grill - sirloin steak
char grill - sirloin steak

Though I had ordered my steak at a medium rare doneness, it was served a little more well done. The steak was a little chewy but not too tough, and it had a nice beefy flavour to it. Though I found it to be quite enjoyable, it was simultaneously unremarkable and pretty average in taste.

char grill - sirloin steak
char grill - sirloin steak

Drizzling a generous amount of black pepper sauce over the steak added an extra peppery punch, a flavour enhancement that I found delightful. The sauce certainly amped up the flavours of the beef.

char grill - mac & cheese
char grill - mac & cheese

Next, I dug into the sides that I had chosen, starting with the Mac & Cheese. Each piece of fusilli pasta had been coated in an adequate amount of cheese sauce and was topped with a sparing sprinkle of parmesan. It tasted average, at best, with a fairly bland and mild cheesy flavour.

The Mashed Potato Mousseline was the biggest disappointment— the term mousseline suggested that the potatoes would be silky, light and creamy, but instead, they had a gloopy, thick texture and an oddly sticky mouthfeel. Perhaps simply naming the dish “Mashed Potato” would have sufficed.

char grill - spring chicken
char grill - spring chicken

Though I wasn’t all that impressed by the Grass-Fed Argentine Sirloin Steak at Char Grill, I’m glad to say that I would wholeheartedly recommend the Buttermilk Crispy Spring Chicken (Half). For just S$9.90, I was treated to a large piece of fried spring chicken and my choice of 2 sides.

char grill - spring chicken
char grill - spring chicken

While most spring chickens I’ve tried from other hawker stalls had light and thin skins, this chicken’s skin was a little thicker and a lot crunchier, yet not too oily or tough. It had also been seasoned nicely, with a flavour that reminded me of the iconic McWings from McDonald’s. Additionally, the flesh within was juicy and tender, and tore apart relatively easily.

char grill - onion rings
char grill - onion rings

The sides were, unfortunately, pretty lacklustre. The Breaded Onion Rings had obviously come out of a frozen pack from a supermarket. The Shimeji Mushrooms were tender and paired nicely with the spring chicken, but came in a meagre serving. I would have liked for Char Grill to be more generous with its portions.

char grill - mentaiko carbonara
char grill - mentaiko carbonara

I was the most excited to try the Mentaiko Carbonara Mushrooms & Ham (S$9.90) at Char Grill, but was unfortunately disappointed when I found out that the mentaiko aspect of the dish simply referred to a drizzle of mentaiko mayo over an otherwise regular plate of carbonara. At least it came with an egg yolk on top.

char grill - mentaiko carbonara
char grill - mentaiko carbonara

Mixing the elements together made the carbonara extra creamy, especially when the egg yolk was incorporated into the rest of the dish. However, the overwhelming creaminess of the sauce and egg yolk completely drowned out any mentaiko flavour provided by the mentaiko mayo.

For what it’s worth, the Mentaiko Carbonara Mushrooms & Ham was still pretty comforting and tasty, though I didn’t find the S$9.90 price to be justified.

char grill - truffle fries
char grill - truffle fries

One of my favourite side dishes of all time is truffle fries, so I couldn’t leave Char Grill without trying their Truffle Mayo Fries (S$6.90). I was delighted at how generous the stall was with the truffle mayo.

char grill - truffle fries
char grill - truffle fries

The fries were served hot and crispy, and the truffle mayo was creamy with a noticeable truffle fragrance. The truffle aroma wasn’t artificial in taste, and complemented the golden fries beautifully. For a coffeeshop stall, these Truffle Mayo Fries were pretty decent.

Final thoughts

char grill - dishes
char grill - dishes

I would say that the dishes at Char Grill were pretty hit or miss. The prices are a little steep in comparison to its neighbouring stalls, but are still relatively affordable and satisfying.

Though most dishes weren’t all that memorable, I would return to Char Grill in the future just to order their Buttermilk Crispy Spring Chicken again. If the stall could be more generous with the portion sizes of its sides, that would certainly make its dishes a lot more worth it.

Expected damage: S$5.90 – S$19.90 per pax

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