If one is familiar with Singapore's history, a mere mention of Keong Saik Road will bring to mind its former incarnation as a seedy place of dubious reputation. In more recent times, however, less-nefarious activities have replaced the dealings of its darker past. Local foodies sometimes trawl the kopitiams in search of modest culinary gems served by longtime stallholders. Even more recently, Keong Saik Road has witnessed an invasion of fine restaurants, expensive boutique hotels, and charming bars that offer more than Tiger beer and the opportunity to belt your favourite pop songs on the karaoke system.
As you walk approximately halfway through Keong Saik Road, you will see Tong Ah Building. Occupying a strategic corner, its wedge-shaped stature is hard to miss, which is a good thing for Potato Head Folk which occupies its four storeys now. Bali regulars will more than likely know the name of this rising star in the Indonesian entertainment scene. Having established itself in Jakarta with Potato Head Brasserie, and then with Potato Head Beach Club in Bali, they expanded quickly and have since made their first international venture in Singapore.
It certainly is ambitious. The first two floors are the domain of Three Buns, a burger restaurant. The ground floor houses an open-concept kitchen and barstools with cocktail tables, while the second floor is a boldly-decorated dining room with mix-and-match furniture. The third floor is occupied by Studio 1939 where a full range of designer cocktails take centrestage, and the rooftop is occupied by, well, The Rooftop, an alfresco bar.
Eating at the ground floor has its own charms, you get to see the chefs busy at work and you get to see the refurbished shophouses painted in cheerful pastel colours. Leaning on the counter while you order at the cashier, you collect your number and receipt and return to your table, and watch the street come alive as the sun sets. Just as you get used to the rhythm of street life, your cocktails arrive, hardly taking five minutes. Prompt service, a crucial skill for allowing your customers to have an overall good time.
|Ginger Ninja and Cuba Libre|
As Potato Head Folk make their own sodas, it is only justified to expect their cocktails to taste better than lesser offerings from other establishments. They didn't disappoint. The Cuba Libre (rum, cola and calaman) was Essence of Carribbean in a cup, owing to the unmistakable smoky aftertaste of cane sugar. A good non-alcoholic option is Ginger Ninja, ginger ale made from FRESH ginger (you'll immediately taste the difference). The light carbonation and restraint with the sugar were the other feathers in its cap.
|Naughty Fries: a delicious mess|
One particular item which calls out to you with its siren song is the Naughty Fries: a big, hot, delicious mess of crispy hand-cut deep-fried potatoes, covered in spiced Bearnaise sauce, minced beef chilli, and sprinkled with fried shallots, green spring onion, sliced red chillies, and coriander. The exact spice blend in the Bearnaise sauce (it wasn't a classic Bearnaise sauce) may forever be the Chef's secret, but it was creamy and had the nutty flavour of mature cheese.
What is simpler to enjoy than chicken wings? Wing-It is a basket of 5 big and juicy chicken midjoints and drumlets, fried to crisp perfection and covered in a lip-smacking chilli-and-garlic sauce. Similar to the Naughty Fries, it came sprinkled with fried shallots, green spring onion, sliced red chillies, and coriander. Sweet, spicy, and crispy, these wings make no apologies.
|Smokin' B-Boy - nothing dainty here|
Aside from their cocktails, their burgers are also a display of their dedication to excellence. Thoughtfully put together, they incorporate a wide variety of local and ethnic flavours, and the result is delicious. Take the Smokin' B-Boy, a 150g Angus patty, with double-smoked cheese, bacon cured in beer and treacle, BBQ ketchup, smoky mayo, and crisp onions, all in a fluffy demi brioche bun as smooth as velvet. This is a serious burger, satisfying to heft and to bite into. This burger is definitely for someone who likes their food with big flavours and hearty mouthfuls. Nothing dainty here.
The Rambo features a 150g lamb patty, feta, pickled aubergine, and cumin aioli in a wholemeal bun every bit as delightful as the demi brioche bun the other burger came in. The cumin aioli, while not overpowering, is distinctive enough to give this burger a certain je nai se quoi. As with the beef patty in the Smokin' B-Boy, the lamb patty was pink on the inside with a nicely-seared crust on the outside. You'll be keen to shed First Blood when you return to eat it again.
|Sticky Icky Wicky|
After all that epic eating, a sweet little dessert is fully in order, and the Sticky Icky Wicky hits the spot just right. A sticky toffee pudding with clotted cream, gula melaka, and toasted coconut butterscotch sauce, served in a disposable aluminium ramekin. Their commitment to using local flavours really pays off here. It's straightforward decadence when you combine the sweet richness of butterscotch with the earthy gula melaka.
The food at Potato Head Folk, well-executed and ingenious, includes a wide variety of local and ethnic flavours. This lovely converted shophouse, surrounded by vintage charm, is a place many will find themselves returning to. Sipping cocktails in the tropical heat while tucking in to some hearty food, this is one guilty pleasure everyone can get used to easily.
Potato Head Folk
Address: 36 Keong Saik Road Singapore 089143
Reservations: 6327 1939
Reservations: 6327 1939
~ Colin Sim