SINGAPORE - From outside, the month-old Fat Chap looks like a typical shopping mall watering hole.
It occupies a ground-floor unit in Suntec City facing the main road where the Promenade MRT station is, and what passers-by see is a bar at its entrance and small tables ringed by bar stools outside.
But the name Fat Chap should give you an inkling that this is more than a bar. So you don't get totally surprised when you walk in and find a spacious L-shaped dining room that ends in a semi-open kitchen.
The chef is a young Indonesian chap from Medan named Selamat Susanto who whips up Asian dishes, including a few traditional Indonesian ones, that are meant to be shared.
There are also snacks to go with drinks. They work as starters too and many are good, so order a few to munch on while your mains are being fired.
Crispy Pig's Ear ($12) is totally addictive. You don't get the crunchy bone you expect from pig's ear because everything is deep-fried to a crisp, but the curry powder it is coated with is perfect - not overly spicy or salty. If you like, you can squeeze a few drops of lime juice over it to perk up the flavours, but it is delicious enough without that. The dish also comes with a small dish of acar and the acidity cuts the fat in the ears.
Crispy Chicken Skin ($8) tastes bland in comparison and you need to dip it in the accompanying sweet plum chilli sauce for added oomph. So if you're having the ears, skip this. But on its own, it's decent.
Asian Buffalo Drumlets ($14) is a better bet. The drumlets are plump with juicy meat coated in a sticky, spicy sauce. They remind me of Korean fried chicken with gochujang sauce, but are less sweet - which I prefer.
Leave plenty of room for the main courses because some of them come in generous portions.
Grilled Whole Fish is perfect both times I eat it and at $53 for a golden snapper, it's priced reasonably too. The fish is fresh, with firm and moist meat, and rubbed in an aromatic spice mix before being grilled. It comes with an excellent sambal belacan, and though the fish is good on its own, it is even better with the added kick. The sambal is fiery though, so chilli cowards be warned.
Marinated Whole Squid ($15) is good too, cooked just right and boasting a pleasant smokiness from the hot charcoals. It is served with nam jim, a piquant and spicy Thai dip of chillies, fish sauce and lime juice.
I'm less impressed with the meat dish I order, Spiced Lamb Spare Ribs ($35). The fat makes it a little too gamey, which the cumin and chilli powder dip cannot mask. I feel the dish may work better if the rack of ribs had been rubbed more generously with spices before being grilled. But if you like your lamb strong, you may find nothing wrong with it.
Suntec City Mall East Wing 01-643, 3 Temasek Boulevard, tel: 6836-5994
Open: 11am to 11pm (Mondays to Thursdays and Saturdays), 11 to 1am (Fridays and eve of public holidays), 11am to 5pm (Sundays)
Food: 4 stars
Service: 3.5 stars
Ambience: 3 stars
Price: Budget about $40 to $50 a person, without drinks
The Indonesian dishes, which chef Selamat says are based on what he remembers of his grandmother's versions, are excellent though.
Oxtail Soup ($20) comes in a well-balanced broth packed with carrot, potato and tomato and meaty chunks of oxtail. The tender meat, which falls off the bone easily, is eaten with green chilli sambal and it's good.
The Asam Pedas ($19) is as good as that in any Peranakan restaurant here. The broth boasts a nice balance of sweet and sour flavours, and the pieces of golden snapper in it are fresh. The dish goes well with rice, but because it is not too acidic or spicy, it is perfectly palatable on its own too.
Among the desserts is something called Klapertart ($12), an Indonesian cake with Dutch influences that I've not eaten before. The version here is a coconut custard served with rum and raisin ice cream, and topped with almond flakes as well as raisins soaked in rum. It's delicious and the alcohol is enough to get you in high spirits without leaving you light on your feet.
So I leave happy, with thoughts that I will be back for some of the other dishes. And definitely for more of those pig ears and grilled fish.
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The Sunday Times paid for its meals at the eateries reviewed here.