Saturday, June 20, 2009

BTO: Cheers!

Business Times - 20 Jun 2009

Cheers!

Tucker or tipple? These establishments combine decent fare with speciality beverages, and should leave both diners and drinkers satisfied

Tawandang Micro Brewery 
26 Dempsey Road, #01-01 
(Opening soon)

BANGKOK is known for its food, beer and entertainment scene, pockets of which are generously sprinkled along its numerous sois. Beginning from sometime over the next few weeks, however, those looking to experience all that need no longer fly to the Thai capital and trawl its streets - they can instead head to the Dempsey area's latest offering, Tawandang Micro Brewery.

This direct-from-Bangkok brand has two outlets in the Thai capital (one in the city on Rama III road and the other on the outskirts) and was voted by Time magazine in 2003 as the 'world's best Thai-German bar and restaurant'. Granted, there can't be many in that genre in the world, but that vote of confidence plus the fact that both the Thai outlets are packed to their 600-strong capacity nearly every night speak volumes about what Tawandang offers.

On the menu (which will probably be somewhat similar here) are dishes that span both Thailand and Germany, which means you can have the house speciality of deep-fried pork knuckles along with coconut-juice-laced tom yam kung, or mixed grilled sausages and Thai spring rolls with crab meat.

To drink, there are beers that are brewed on-site, of which three types are usually available in the Bangkok outlets: German wheat beer, dark lager and pilsner. All are made in accordance with the Reinheitsgebot (the German beer purity law).

They could be just what you need to cool down when the nightly floor show hots things up - Tawandang's entertainment (if it's anything like what it is in Bangkok) ranges from traditional Thai music and dance to magic acts, acrobatics, comedy skits and even breakdancing. Now, who's not going to say cheers to that?

Fiesta Brasilia 
101 Thomson Road 
#B1-15 United Square 
Tel 6250-0108

WHEN S P Semmy started Fiesta Brasilia, the Brazilian churrascaria restaurant, last November, he had a rather ambitious aim: not only should the food be as authentic as that in Brazil, but the drinks list should also mirror those offered in the original churrascarias.

With that in mind and the help of Fiesta Brasilia's general manager Rethish Rajan, Mr Semmy - who founded Singapore's first churrascaria, Brazil Churrascara, 14 years ago on Sixth Avenue - scoured the country to put together a drinks menu that boasts an impressive selection of Brazilian beverages.

'At first we started small, just the traditional cocktails which we make exactly as they do in Brazil, with properly muddled fruits such as the Caipirinha ($11.80) and a list of Brazilian wines ($42 for the house bottle and upwards of $64 for the rest) that are exclusive to us,' says Mr Rajan, adding that the restaurant also stocks a range of Brazilian wines for its regulars which are not listed on the menu due to the small number of bottles brought in.

'But with a greater demand for authentic Brazilian beverages, we started to expand this list and now we have coffee made from Coffex, a brand of Brazilian beans exclusive to us, and a range of other alcohol such as Brazilian brandy which we use in Cafe Brasilia Royale ($11.90), an after-meal coffee drink with liqueur.'

The restaurant has also just launched the Fiesta Mojito ($11.90) which is made using a Brazilian rum called Cacha├ža, and will go on to introduce an extensive range of Brazilian beers ($9.80 per bottle) by the end of the month.

'Cocktails like caipirinhas and mojitos are popular with our clients because they make good aperitifs, opening up the stomach for all that meat,' says Mr Rajan. 'As for the beers, at the moment we only have the Nova Schin, a light pilsner that has been such a hit with our customers, we knew we had to bring in more. Brazilian beers are popular because they are lighter, fruitier and fresher, so they go better with our food.'

The restaurant's signature food, of course, is the classic churrascaria fare of an eat-all-you-want, on-the-go Rodizio that boasts more than 10 different kinds of tasty, well-roasted meats including beef, pork, lamb and fish, guaranteed to make any meat lover's day.

The additional offerings of soup, salads, pastas and ice cream make the buffet extra value for money although a la carte options are also available.

Mr Rajan says that the restaurant will continue to evolve based on churrascaria trends in Brazil. 'The reason why we have a pasta bar in Fiesta Brasilia is because many churrascaria restaurants in Brazil have one now,' he says. 'We are looking to add a sushi bar because that is the next big thing there now. It also gives guests a wide range of variety while dining at Fiesta because we are more than just meat.'

The Rodizio costs $21.80+ for lunch and $38+ for dinner on weekdays, and $40+ on weekends.

 

Agave 
25 Church Street 
#01-02 Capital Square Three 
Tel 6438-1656 
www.agave.sg

LIKE a desert plant that has sprouted out of practically nothing, Agave (which very appropriately refers to the hardy plant from which tequila is produced) sprung up in Capital Square quite by chance.

'We were previously a beer joint, but the landlord requested that we change our concept because they wanted some variety in the tenant mix,' says its managing director, Charles Guerrier, who is also behind Oosters, the well-known Belgian brasserie along the same stretch. 'It so happened that I have a friend who's a Mexican chef who was willing to cook for us, so we turned it into a Mexican place.'

While Agave may have come about by the bye, that doesn't mean the owners aren't cultivating the establishment properly. The restaurant-bar, which opened in February and takes up two shophouses along a nice restaurant-lined stretch, offers authentic Mexican fare courtesy of Mr Guerrier's pal, Angeles Herrero, who helped set up Cafe Iguana when that first opened. The chef also runs an established home catering business and a small but well-known taco bar at Changi Business Park.

On the good-sized menu are things like generously-stuffed enchiladas topped with home-made salsa (from $15.50 for the grilled chicken version), sizzling fajitas (from $15.50) and yummy cheesy quesadillas (from $12). Nearly everything is decent, although we found the red hot ribs ($17.50) to be more sweet than fiery and rather gristly.

If you can't decide what to have, spring for the Mexican mixed platter ($25) that's laden with mini chicken tacos, slices of hot shitake mushroom quesadillas, tortilla chips with home-made dips and cute beef sopes that resemble petite quiches.

Of course, any place named after a tequila plant had better be worth its salt (or salt-rimmed margaritas), and the drinks list at Agave should satisfy most. Alongside a list of spirits, wine and beer, there are about 15 types of tequilas served here by the glass and bottle, with prices that range from $9 for a glass of Jose Cuervo Especial to $900 for a bottle of Patron Platinum.

For those who prefer their drinks a little more subtle, there's the milkshake-tasting Tequila Rose Cream liqueur ($8 per glass) or the smooth Agavero liqueur ($8 per glass), which is also reputed to have aphrodisiac properties. 'What we have ranges from the basic levels to some very good premium tequilas,' says Mr Guerrier, who admits to having become 'a bit of a fan' after going through numerous tastings.

Thanks to a 'good pick-up' in business since its opening, the concept that began by chance will be consciously grown in future, say the owners. For now though, it's just the one outlet, so go early if you're there for dinner and don't fancy sitting in the stifling heat - there are only three proper dining tables within the restaurant; the rest of the furniture comprises either high tables and chairs, or outside seating.

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