Singapore restaurants revamp and rename to stay relevant

Revamping menus or restaurant interiors is how some brands stay on top of their game

To stay afloat in the food and beverage scene, making minor tweaks to menus or interiors may not be enough.

Some business owners are going all out with revamps, overhauling or expanding food and drink offerings, renovating premises and even renaming the restaurants.

At least six brands have been revamped in the past four months. These include The Library in Keong Saik Road, which expanded into the space of its sister restaurant The Study and changed its menu; Korean restaurant Your Woul at Novena, which is now run by second-generation owners and renamed Ho Rang I; and contemporary Asian restaurant Kite, which has replaced its a la carte dinner menus with set meals.

As part of the rebranding, Mr Edward Chia, 28, who runs Ho Rang I with his brother Eugene, 25, did not want to only renovate the restaurant. He says: "People like to dine in well-decorated restaurants, so we felt it was time to update the look. The recipes remain the same, but we want to introduce diners to more traditional Korean dishes presented in a modern way.

"It's not about following trends, but to give people an insight into the food culture. Once people understand the culture and return, this beats hype any day."

His mother and aunt, who are Korean, will still oversee the cooking, as they have for the past 10 years since the restaurant opened.

The Chia brothers also run takeaway Korean rice-box shop Dosirak at China Square Central, as well as Third & Sixth bar in Seah Street.

The French Stall in Serangoon Road closed in July after 16 years and re-opened a month later as Breton. The closure was intentional, says consultant chef Xavier Le Henaff, 55. "We needed to break from The French Stall image to change the menu. The stiff competition and slower economy have also affected business. Not only are diners spending less, but they also dine out less."

Now, the menu focuses on seafood and meat from Brittany, along with desserts such as choux puffs and crepes. Chef Le Henaff adds: "Singapore is a very different city compared with 16 years ago, when the pace of life was slower and eating habits not too fancy. It is important to stay relevant, but yet niche."

The Kilo group of restaurants has also gone through changes. Its Kilo Orchard outlet closed in September, leaving just Kilo Kallang and the two-year-old Kilo Lounge, which used to share the same space as Kilo Kallang.

As the venue was not approved for the parties, Kilo Lounge had to move. The brand re-opened last Friday in Tanjong Pagar.

Kilo Kallang is now air-conditioned and the menu has been updated with new dishes.

On how the revamp works for the brand, Mr Javier Perez of Series of Intentions, Kilo's holding company, says: "Many F&B concepts come and go. To have true staying power, you'll need to stay on top of the game.

"We feel the nightlife scene in Singapore has dwindled in the past few years. People aren't going out like they used to. If they do, it's to the same old concepts with no sense of culture or focus on the guest experience. We hope Kilo Lounge creates a reason for a great night out."

In the tough industry, it does not matter when the revamps happen.

Just 14 months after opening, Kite has spruced up its food and drink menu. Gone is the a la carte dinner menu and cocktails. Now, three set tasting menus are available, along with a sake selection.

Kite's owner Quek Sue-Shan, 36, says: "Initially, Kite was largely inspired by tapas restaurants and food-sharing concepts, but sustaining a restaurant wasn't as simple as placing all the best items on a menu. As I began to understand head chef Dannel Krishnan's repertoire, I realised what we set out to do wasn't doing justice to his food and him.

"Also, the strong flavours of our cocktails then clashed with the complexity of his food."

She also owns Sprmrkt, which has outlets in McCallum Street and at STPI at Robertson Quay.

•Follow Eunice Quek on Twitter @STEuniceQ


New on the menu

PARADISE CLASSIC

What: Launched in 2009 as Paradise Inn, the casual dining chain under the Paradise Group has relaunched with a new name and new dishes such as Espresso Chicken ($13.80), using chicken instead of the usual pork ribs in coffee sauce; stewed silver needle noodle with salted fish in claypot ($13.80), where the salted fish is steamed before hot oil is poured over to bring out its fragrance; as well as a three-layered osmanthus pandan cake ($4.20 a portion), a dessert with coconut milk, pandan and osmanthus jelly. Returning favourites include braised tofu with crystal prawns in claypot ($18.80) and stir-fried pork ribs with bittergourd ($13.80).

Where: Eight outlets, including B1-110 Suntec City, 02-06 Eastpoint Mall, and B1-48 West Coast Plaza; various opening hours

Info: www.paradisegp.com

KILO KALLANG AND KILO LOUNGE

What: To keep things fresh for diners, the now air-conditioned Kilo Kallang offers new dishes such as salmon poke with watermelon, sesame, shiso and sesame cracker ($18); sea urchin with matcha cream, Earl Grey and garden pickles ($28); "atas" lentils with jamon Iberico, bacon, manchego cheese, poached egg and fresh truffle ($34); grain-fed beef cheek guisado with congee, bone marrow and watercress ($36); and Mezcal poached plums with raspberries and pear, mascarpone gelato and coffee ($12). Other highlights include venus clams ($19) with blood orange, miso and sake.

Two-year-old Kilo Lounge, which used to occupy the same building as Kilo Kallang, started out as a post-dinner hangout and party location.

In January this year, the parties had to stop as the area was not approved for nightlife use and its owners had to search for a new location for Kilo Lounge. It relaunched last Friday at 21 Tanjong Pagar Road.

Where: Level M Ture Building, 66 Kampong Bugis, open: 6pm till late (Mondays to Saturdays), closed on Sundays

Info: Call 6467-3987 (after 4.30pm) or go to www.facebook.com/kilokitchen


PHOTO: KITE

KITE

What: It started out a year ago with a more tapas-style menu and cocktails. Now, contemporary Asian restaurant Kite has removed its a la carte menu for dinner to focus on just three set menus - the 10-course Kite Essentials ($75), 12-course Kite Experience ($90) and a seasonal omakase menu ($120 to $160).

Some new dishes to try include red snapper "Kinilaw" with coconut calamansi vinegar, chilli, and galangal - a take on ceviche; mentaiko somen with Hokkaido scallops, tobiko and unagi; and Welsh lamb (pictured) with tamarind mango chutney, chaat potatoes and spiced jus. The kinilaw and somen are also on the a la carte lunch menu.

Where: 01-01, 53 Craig Road, open: noon to 3pm, 6 to 10.30pm (Tuesdays to Fridays), 6 to 10.30pm (weekends), closed on Mondays

Info: Call 9729-7988 or go to www.facebook.com/kiteoncraig

HO RANG I

What: Previously known as Your Woul, this Korean restaurant is now known as Ho Rang I (which means tiger in Korean) and helmed by the sons of the original Korean owner. The expanded menu items remain steeped in tradition, as the recipes are passed down from the grandparents of second-generation owners Edward and Eugene Chia.

Favourites on the dinner menu include the signature seafood pancake ($22 for two); haemul tang ($62 for two), spicy seafood soup with flower crab, mussels, Hokkaido scallops and clams; and samkyub sal (pork belly, $26 for 200g).

Kick back with beer and the newly introduced fried chicken (from $29 for a half chicken), made with locally farmed chicken and served with Yangnyeom spicy sauce or ganjang sauce (Korean-style soya sauce).

From next month, the restaurant will open until 2.30am daily.

Where: 165 Thomson Road, open: 11.30am to 2.30pm, 5.30 to 10.30pm (daily)

Info: Call 6251-0123 or e-mail reservation@horangi.sg

BRETON

What: After The French Stall closed in July, it re-opened in the same premises less than a month later as Breton, to focus more on seafood and meat dishes.

Highlights include live lobster served with rice pilaf ($54), grilled in butter sauce, paprika-scented butter or flambeed with Lambig, a type of cider brandy from Brittany (add $12). Other menu items include grilled New Zealand ribeye ($39 for 300g) and grilled pork ribs ($28), with barbecue sauce and lentils. Consultant chef Xavier Le Henaff, 55, also runs a Chef Xavier's Market (9.30am to 2pm on Saturdays) selling live lobster, charcuterie and pastries.

Where: 544 Serangoon Road, open: 3 to 10pm (Sundays to Thursdays), 3 to 10.30pm (Fridays and Saturdays)

Info: Call 6299-3544 or go to www.breton.com.sg

THE LIBRARY

What: The popular cocktail bar has expanded its space, taking over the space of its sister restaurant The Study.

While the old menu included food such as burgers, fried calamari and fries from The Study, the new version called Supper At The Library features street food such as char siew spring rolls ($7), kimchi hot dog ($9) and kaya toast ice cream ($6).

The drinks menu is split into three categories: Strong & Dangerous, Sexy & Tropical and Sophisticated & Crazy. Options include Pineapple Monk ($24), which includes Plantation pineapple rum, dark rum and tropical bitters; and What's Abi ($24), with pisco, passionfruit, wasabi, peppermint, citrus and Amargo Chuncho bitters.

For the next six months, The Library is collaborating with traditional Chinese medicine brand Eu Yan Sang on a pop-up at the bar. The brand's herbs are used in five cocktails, including Rice & Shine ($24) with London dry gin, ginger rice shrub, bay leaf, ginseng, chrysanthemum and fresh lime.

Where: 47-49 Keong Saik Road, open: 6pm to 1am (Mondays to Saturdays), closed on Sundays

Info: Call 6221-8338 or e-mail eat@the-study.sg

For more food stories, go to www.straitstimesfood.com.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 18, 2016, with the headline 'Fresh offerings'. Print Edition | Subscribe