We had a date with Don Ho!
Not the man, but the restaurant. Nestled within The Working Capitol at Keong Saik Road, Don Ho Social Kitchen & Bar is named after Don Ho, the late Hawaiian musician who is also lauded as the ambassador of the aloha spirit.
I absolutely adore the premises' tropical-themed interior which well-reflects this inspiration. Vibes are casual, fun and vibrant, setting an ideal tone for chillaxing evenings over food and drinks with friends.
Even though Don Ho shares the same seating space as its sister restaurant Loloku, I was "shooed away" and told to use the "back door" (instead of the linking sliding door) by Loloku's staff.
Oh! The proper entrance to Don Ho is actually located at the alley behind the building!
In case you are unaware as well, look out for the side lane next to Loloku, walk passed its graffiti walls, and then turn left to find access to Don Ho.
While Don Ho's inspiration and decor is essentially Hawaiian, its cuisine reflects a fusion blend of East and West.
The single-page food listing gave a good sense of its offerings at one convenient glance. It comprised mainly of small sharing plates and is divided into five sections namely, Land (meat), Earth (bread, vegetables), Sea (seafood), Big Sharing and Happy End (dessert).
Communal dining is encouraged, and the menu states "3 dishes recommended per person".
Aiyah why 3 dishes only? Appreciate the recommendation but it makes those who have a hearty appetite feel somewhat guilty for ordering more and seemingly over-eating. Good reminder for those on diet though. Oops!
We ordered quite a number of dishes to share among the few of us.
Being a self-confessed carnivore, my favorite is undoubtedly the Land section which features meat-centric delights such as Smoked Ox Tongue Sliders ($20), Lamb Rump ($16), Spring Chicken ($18), Grassfed Black Angus Striploin 120g ($20), and Beef Short Rib 600g ($44).
The general consensus was that the Pork Cheeks Char Siu Sliders ($20) was a tad dry and tough, though I find the addition of kimchi provided a refreshing zest and made it still palatable overall.
Similarly, the Beef Short Rib 600g ($44) could do with more juiciness, but the accompanying dip provided some moisture.
One of my favorites of the evening was the Roasted Iberico Pork Jowl ($16) with slow-cook egg. Its meat might not be the most tender but had a pleasant crunch. Those fats are the best part. Just eat it!
Both dishes that we had from the Earth section were memorable.
Wood Roasted Pumpkin & Sweet Potato ($12) might not sound like much on paper, but the simplicity of soft pumpkin and potato chunks paired with the tangy creaminess of garlic yogurt grew steadily on us.
I would highly suggest the Crispy Eggplant ($10) as well. A lot of people I know doesn't like the mushy texture of eggplant, but I say, give this the rendition a try! The eggplant here is deep-fried so it has a layer of outer crispiness to it. Coated in a slightly spicy sauce, it was utterly addictive!
We dived into the Sea section with a bowl of Flower Clams ($16). While my preference is for plumper clams for a more satisfying chew, it was nicely-cooked in chicken broth and white wine with hints of chili, garlic and mint. The Iberico bits lifted it up with some saltiness. I wanted to throw in some spaghetti and slurp it all up!
The Red Snapper ($18) with cauliflower puree, hazelnuts, puffed wild rice and herb salad was another well-received dish.
Portions are generally rather small, so if you come in bigger groups, it might be worthwhile to order Big Sharing plates such as Oven Grilled Whole Lobster 600-700g ($68), Wood Roasted Spiced Beef Short Ribs 2.7kg ($190), Pot Roasted Whole Market Fish 1kg ($68) and Crispy Whole Suckling Pig 4kg ($280).
There are only 3 desserts on the menu - Baklava ($10), Chocolate Pudding ($10) and Passion Fruit Marshmallow ($10) - and my dining companions decided that we should have it all.
A classic case of "there is always room for dessert", but if space is limited, perhaps Baklava would be the comparatively interesting choice which we don't see often elsewhere.
The dessert combines layers of filo with pistachio crumbs, candied almonds, pashmak or what is widely known as Persian cotton candy. Usually sugar syrup or honey is added, but I guess it was left out to make it less cloying, and was paired with pistachio ice cream instead. Not a classic rendition, but nevertheless worth a try.
Beer, Wine, Spirits and Cocktails are available if you need a tipple or two.
Overall, our date at Don Ho went very well. Though sparks did not fly all over the place, the chemistry was certainly there. Food was generally good and service was great. The company I had was the best.
I don't mind returning for a second date.
Don Ho Social Kitchen & Bar
Address: 1 Keong Saik Road, Singapore 089109
Contact: +65 6223 5001
Opening Hours: Daily 6pm to 12am
Prices are stated in Singapore dollars and subject to 10% service charge & 7% GST. Information is correct at point of published date.
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