Hawker Bar TorontoPosted By Jennifer Ho Dec 12 2012 · 0 comments · Dining Out
“Prove that you love me and buy the next round”. Have any words rung truer than that? I think you know the answer. The cheeky little sign sticks out over the restaurant’s entrance, announcing its presence in bright red and white letters, suggesting the place itself might be where you can test that love out. Meet Hawker Bar.
Coming to the restaurant on a suggestion of a friend, I had no previous knowledge about the place. Only once I started looking at the menu did it hit me the place served Singaporean food! I would have never guessed. The decor and the atmosphere is decidedly minimalistic and neutrally adorned – nothing that trumpets its Singaporean flavors or roots. Arriving for a late dinner, the tiny place was packed – hot too! After giving the hostess our coordinates, we headed over to the Communist’s Daughter around the corner for a drink.
After a good thirty to forty minutes, we were called back and given a table. To get the ball rolling, we started with the Singaporean chicken wings which came thoroughly coated in an exquisitely sweet chili soy sauce. The sliced hot red peppers sprinkled over the wings gave it a good, spicy kick that we all enjoyed. Between the three of us, we did away with table manners and went in with our fingers, making sure to get every last bit of meat off the bone. How we do. You should too.
The skewered curry pork satay sat pretty in a rich, almost buttery peanut sauce. The meat was grilled well and almost squirted juice as we bit into them. While the temperature and textures were right, something was missing. Couldn’t quite put my finger on it. In any case, paired with the pickled cucumbers we ate it up.
The baked tofu represented the last of the entrees. Served with fried mushrooms and taro root, doused with black vinegar and chili jam, the tofu was silky and smooth. Spicy too! This on top of rice made it pretty delicious.
Getting into the heart of the meal, we dug into the rendang braised ox cheek curry which came with coconut rice. The two together were a great combination, flavors true to Singaporean cuisine. Lots of sauce too – plenty for all to mix in with the rice. At least that’s what I like to do.
Finishing us off, we had a healthy portion of Singaporean vermicelli noodles tossed with hot chili, veggies, sesame seeds all garnished with fresh sprigs of coriander. This one was one of my least favourites as it didn’t stand out to me as unique or different. It tasted as it looked which wasn’t very exciting.
For dessert, as if we weren’t already bursting, we had fried green bananas served with red bean ice cream along with shaved ice topped with red beans and green jelly. The green bananas were thicker and had a crispier skin than the yellow variety. The red bean ice cream had nice thick chunks of actual red beans inside, which I particularly liked. The shaved ice was a rendition of a typical ASEAN dessert dish – not bad. Only suggestion – perhaps including more toppings or a choice between toppings i.e. mochi, litchee, fruits, coconut strips etc. might make this dish even better!
You can sort of tell what the restaurant is going for. In an attempt to bring Singaporean street food to Toronto, there’s been a bit of a cultural mash-up with some influences that render the food unique, though not entirely within the range of a strictly Singaporean aesthetic. I think the restaurant has for the most part, succeeded in making Singaporean food its own by fusing a host of different culinary perspectives and styles. Overall, we had a pretty great time here. Food was good, company was even better.
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