SINGAPORE — Having been up and down Jiak Chuan Road and its vicinity, I am not unfamiliar with the presence of Lime House. Yet, I've never been moved to visit or poke my head around to see what food they serve. I do admit to being intimidated by its predominantly cerulean entrance wall tiled with a floral motif that surrounds a very narrow entrance.
From the outside, the interior looked dark and foreboding, which I reckon is what happens when the only light source came through an opening that's slightly wider than two of me. Inside, the space looked like an attempt at capturing the vibrancy and casualness of a Caribbean cabana. Still, all I saw were colours that were not only mismatched but bright, loud, and garish.
Well, no longer. Lime House Caribbean Restaurant & Bar has now been given a breath of very fresh air while still jibing with the Caribbean notion of limin'—a slang for unwinding with friends over food, drinks, and conversations.
It's a complete 360 degrees face-lift that starts with warm lights that glow under opaque cream shades and complements the swaths of sunlight that floods the restaurant. Gone are the clunky lime green chairs and dark stained wood tables. In its place, deck chairs in blue and white chevron patterns and tabletops the colour of oak. There's a strip of a black and white tiled runway that runs the length of the restaurant for you to saunter in as you find your seats. It's Caribbean-beach chic, and I live for every bit of it.
The food has also been given a nod of dining sensibilities that more accurately reflects the zeitgeist of today's foodscape. For starters, the Oxtail and Eggplant are morsels of softness that has been breaded for a satisfying crunch. Inside, there's a slow-braised oxtail paired with eggplant puree for an easy to eat snack that's creamy and all sorts of luscious goodness.
Elsewhere, the Vegetarian Pelau is an exciting option for the health-conscious with crumbs of sautéed cauliflower, pineapple, mixed beans, okra, and peppers coming together to create a thoroughly flavourful meal. In fact, regardless of dietary requirements, order this and snack on it throughout the meal for a guilt-free indulgence.
In a fitting tribute to the Caribbean, the classic Jamaican Signature Jerk Chicken is a juicy boneless chicken thigh that had been seasoned with a blend of jerk spices such as spring onion, jerk, soy sauce, and berries. A tower of beautifully flaky Old Jamaican Glazed Cod comes stacked with bright pineapple salsa and crispy salted egg fish skin. It all comes together quite heroically and is easily my favourite dish on the menu.
Here, the dessert represents the height of change with a plated presentation that looks as tempting as it is clean. On one side, a round ball of fried breaded coconut flakes that cocoons a scoop of coconut ice cream within— a surprise to the palate when both hot and cold hits you all at once.
On the other side is a mould of layered Caribbean Panna cotta in two colours and flavours—the yellow of a mango and the white of a coconut. On this, rests a mound of fresh diced mangoes to enhance the sweetness of the plate further. It's a very well planned, and well-thought-out dessert that shows just how serious Lime House is taking its refurbishment. On the outside and from its physicality, it might look similar, but like all good things that come to those who wait, it's only the best changes that start from within.