Review: Growing pains don’t derail The Kongsee’s thrilling mod-Sin journey

·3-min read

The gastrobar is dead, long live the gastrobar. In its place is the izakaya, the term of choice for trendy new bars like The Kongsee.

Or maybe it’s just Chef-Partner Willin Low’s fondness for the casual Japanese concept – his last venture Roketto, which closed in April this year, was also an izakaya. But The Kongsee joins a list of recently-opened venues like Honcho and Itchy Bun that seek to recreate the izakaya’s raucous atmosphere over booze and bar food.

What The Kongsee does differently is localise the experience. They serve modern-Singaporean cuisine, which Low is widely credited for popularising. Homegrown brewers supply the beers, while cocktails are inspired by the island’s neighbourhoods. Even the name comes from an amalgamation of the Hokkien word for ‘company’ and the Malay word for ‘sharing.’

“It is our hope that The Kongsee will be a welcoming space that connects people with the delicious melting pot of different cultures and communities in modern Singapore through our food, drinks and convivial hospitality,” Low said.

The Kongsee Chef-Partner Willin Low (Image credit: The Kongsee)
The Kongsee Chef-Partner Willin Low (Image credit: The Kongsee)

Under bar bites, the juicy Iberico Satay (S$15 for 2 pieces, S$30 for 5) is the clear winner, a trinity of beautifully caramelised pork skewers, rich peanut sauce, and sweet Sarawak pineapple salsa. The punchy Tandoori Chicken (S$12 for 2 pieces, S$24 for 5) was a close second, offering garam marsala-marinated chicken satay with sharp Kashmiri chilli yoghurt.

Less rewarding was the Mini Roxy Crab Laksa (S$12 for small, S$20 for large). Based on the renowned dish from Katong, The Kongsee’s take is lighter and sweetened with wild-caught crab, but the touch of coconut cream failed to offset the spice. Chicken Barley Risotto Roll (S$14 for 2 pieces, S$25 for 4) cleverly wraps chicken rice in Vietnamese rice paper rolls, but the dish arrived hard and cold.

From left: Iberico Satay and Mini Roxy Crab Laksa (Image credit: The Kongsee)
From left: Iberico Satay and Mini Roxy Crab Laksa (Image credit: The Kongsee)

Barramundi Ceviche (S$19) is one of The Kongsee’s main dishes, and it’s a joy. Locally farmed fish from Fresh Kuhlbara is tossed with fresh herbs and vegetables and topped with pomelo, transforming it into a creamy, refreshing dish best eaten on the accompanying papadum crisps.

Kongsee Fried Chicken, or KFC (S$S$18 for 3 pieces, S$24 for 6), is another delight. The usual chicken wings are replaced with GG French Poulet drumsticks as thick as forearms, with a shatteringly crispy batter over tender meat.

(Image credit: The Kongsee)
(Image credit: The Kongsee)

The Kongsee’s cocktails tell an equally fascinating story of Singapore. Divided between different neighbourhoods, the Kopi O Su Dai Negroni (S$21) under Chinatown has a deep roasty profile like the popular Nanyang coffee. Little India offers the cheeky Goondu Martini (S$21), a boozy, bone-dry drink that turns you as clumsy as the local slang after one too many.

Shiok-Tail is a fun tiki cocktail that honours the Filipino community at Lucky Plaza with adobo spice mix, and white and dark Filipino rums. The glass, however, stops the ice from reaching the bottom, resulting into a lukewarm drink.

Despite the missteps, The Kongsee remains a draw. There are thoughtful touches from the coasters made from leftover baju kurung material, to the old Singer sewing machine as their maitre d station. The hospitality outshines the already exciting food. Keep it up, and they will be a community stalwart very soon.

The Kongsee is located at 10 Gemmill Ln, Singapore 069251. Book here.

The post Review: Growing pains don’t derail The Kongsee’s thrilling mod-Sin journey appeared first on Lifestyle Asia Singapore.

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