New York's Clinton St. Baking Company & Restaurant comes to Singapore

Chef Neil Kleinberg and his wife DeDe Lahman run the 32-seat restaurant in New York.
Chef Neil Kleinberg and his wife DeDe Lahman run the 32-seat restaurant in New York.PHOTO: CLINTON ST. BAKING COMPANY & RESTAURANT

In a sea of hipster cafes and restaurants, one brand's determination to stick to tradition is paying off.

For the past 14 years, Clinton St. Baking Company & Restaurant in New York has been attracting crowds who queue for up to two hours on weekends for brunch.

On Saturday, it opens a 60-seat outlet here in Purvis Street serving the fluffy pancakes, burgers, buttermilk waffles and fried chicken that have made the 32-seat New York restaurant an institution. It is run by American husband-and-wife duo, chef Neil Kleinberg, 57, and Ms DeDe Lahman, 44.

"We are classic and traditional. People want food that is really good to eat. This transcends anything hipster. With us, you don't have to analyse what you eat, that is someone else's job," Ms Lahman, a former magazine editor, tells Life in a telephone interview from New York.

The menu here is the same as in New York. Pancakes ($18) come in three flavours - blueberry, banana walnut, and chocolate chip - and are served with maple butter. There will be buttermilk fried chicken and Belgian vanilla buttermilk waffle ($21) served with honey-Tabasco sauce and warm maple butter; and buttermilk biscuit sandwich ($13.50) with scrambled eggs, melted cheddar, house-made tomato jam and bacon.

Other breakfast staples include Southern Breakfast ($18) with two eggs, sugar-cured bacon, cheese grits and fried green tomatoes; Eggs Benedict on buttermilk biscuit ($20); and brioche French toast ($18). Sandwiches, burgers and milk shakes are also available.

Chef Kleinberg, who opened his first restaurant Simon's when he was 22, says confidently: "You could have these dishes anywhere, but we do it the right way."

Australian chef Garry Edgley, formerly from Resorts World Sentosa, has spent two months training with Kleinberg in New York and will head the kitchen here.

Local ingredients will be used as far as possible, while items such as blueberries and maple syrup are brought in from the United States.

There will be a special dish for Singapore - waffle with caramelised pineapple, macadamia nuts, toasted coconut and vanilla cream.

However, Ms Lahman says: "We always do classic combinations. We never try something as an experiment on customers, we stick to time-worn traditions."

The couple will make their first visit here next month. They have Thai business partners here who run a furniture company.

They say they wanted to open here because "Singapore is a sophis- ticated and culturally-diverse city, and the gateway of Asia".

They chose Purvis Street for its "neighbourhood feel", which Ms Lahman says will match the vibe of their New York location on the Lower East Side.

The couple met in 2000 at the opening night of a fish and chips take-out place. Within 10 months, they got married and opened Clinton St. Bakery & Restaurant. They have three children.

At the restaurant, he runs the kitchen while she handles the front of house and marketing.

"I do what DeDe tells me to do," he laughs. "She's the boss."

Ms Lahman, who used to run a yoga clothing company, adds: "We cannot function without each other, although we work independently. It's always clear what our responsibilities are and there is a natural division of labour.

"We always talk about food and always fight about work. That's the secret of our marriage, we are together yet separate all the time."

Planning the menu, however, is a collaborative effort by the duo. In 2010, they penned the restaurant's recipes in their Clinton St. Baking Company Cookbook. It was voted by The New York Times as one of the best cookbooks for the year.

Singapore is their third overseas venture, after Dubai last year and Tokyo in 2013. They are looking to open in Bangkok next year and are also considering China.

Ms Lahman says: "It's important that our guests here feel that they are in an authentic New York eating place. It will be delicious, lively and exciting, but classic and traditional. That's the spirit we want to bring to Singapore."

• Clinton St. Baking Company & Restaurant, 31 Purvis Street (tel: 6684-4845, for inquiries only) opens on Saturday at 9.05am. From Sunday, it opens from 8am to 6pm daily.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 16, 2015, with the headline 'Classic New York brunch here'. Print Edition | Subscribe