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May 19, 2012 08:26 AM

Singapore - Nasi Lemak and stuff at Wok & Barrel

I came to Wok & Barrel seeking good nasi lemak. Whilst the version here was above average (by Singapore standards), it didn't hold a candle to the ones I tried in Kuala Lumpur in the past year, like Madam Kwan's or Sakura (, Village Park ( or Nasi Lemak Antarabangsa (

Anyway, we opted for nasi lemak and dishes (ordered a la carte for sharing) today at Wok & Barrel:
- the Nasi lemak, topped with crispy ikan bilis, was drier than I'd have liked, but had a faint coconut milk flavor and scent;
- Five-spice braised pork - meltingly soft but not as fragrant as I'd expected;
- Chicken curry - tasty, aromatic, but the single portion was too small - a mere drumstick;
- Otak-otak was pretty tasty;
- Brinjal (aubergines) with sambal - agaiun, lacked the chilli "oomph" factor;
- Egg omelette and achar - the omelette was very dry (like those we get in hawker centres, too, come to think of it) but the achar was pretty tasty.
- Chilli soft shell crab - which was highly recommended but seemed underseasoned and underspiced to me.

The other dishes on the menu we ordered inlcuded:
- 5-spice braised pork with pasta
- Beef rendang pizza
Both dishes were fusion Singapore-Italian attempts which fell short in the taste department.

Complimentary vanilla ice-cream topped with banana jam was interesting.

Address details
Wok & Barrel
13 Duxton Hill
Singapore 089597
Tel: +65 6220 0595

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  1. It'a a bit over-priced for local food, don't you think so, klyeoh? For the price of one portion here, I can have 4 portions in a typical food court.

    1 Reply
    1. re: M_Gomez

      Truth be told, I was expecting something much, much better from this place. Maybe it's over-hyped?

      But I had better luck at the new Tiong Bahru Bakery at Eng Hoon St - absolutely fabulous croissants and decadently rich Kouign-amann, amongst the many delicious baked goods on offer there. The laidback atmosphere and old neighborhood setting kinda reminded me of some fave places of mine like Bakesale Betty in Oakland or Tartine in the Mission District of San Francisco.

    2. I would recommend Ponggol Nasi Lemak Centre 榜鹅椰浆饭中心 in 965 Upper Serangoon Road. My grandmother's old house was around the corner, and this was her favourite place for a nasi lemak meal.

      1. Singapore's fast-moving dining scene, with its fickle crowds and sky-high operating costs (unrealistic rentals) claim another victim: Wok & Barrel closes this Sunday!

        1 Reply
        1. re: klyeoh

          So sad. I think the news last Sunday mentioned that the owners got fed-up with high kitchen and service staff turnover.

        2. u ever try boon lay power nasi lemak? i remember loving that place back when i was studying abroad at NTU (i know its far as hell from everything), i thought it was like the best thing ever at the time

          this was a long time ago (and nasi lemak was something new to me at that time), but i know its still there and very popular

          9 Replies
          1. re: Lau

            I was told of this place, but never gotten round to try it. Singapore nasi lemak tend to be dry-ish, compared to Malaysia's moist, coconut-rich versions. My fave nasi lemak place in Singapore used to be sold at Rocovo coffeeshop in Goldhill Centre (next to United Square) in Novena, but it's been defunct for years now, and I'd never been able to find a suitable replacement.

            1. re: klyeoh

              man thats the one thing i was really was disappointed i didn't get to try a good version of in KL was nasi lemak b/c i absolutely love it and the place i looked up ended up being too far for me to go to in the short amount of time i was there. its def my #1 thing to go eat when i go back to malaysia next time

              i was debating going to book lay power nasi lemak next time im in SG a) to see if its as good as i remember it and b) for nostalgia's sake since i haven't been all the way over there in 10 years

              1. re: Lau

                What a pity! I remembered you mentioning that you stayed at the Ritz-Carlton during your last visit to KL? It's less than 10 minutes' walk to Sakura Restaurant ( along Imbi Road. *That* place, in my opinion, serves the BEST nasi lemak in KL!

                Forget about all those other "famous" nasi lemak places in KL which food bloggers here talked about: Nasi Lemak Antarabangsa, Nasi Lemak Cikgu, Madam Kwan's, or Village Park Nasi Lemak (which boasts the clientele of even the Malaysian Prime Minister) - been there, done that. None of them hold candle to Sakura, except perhaps Madam Kwan's at Suria KLCC, IMO.

                1. re: klyeoh

                  what?? damn it, i know exactly where sakura was, i kept walking by it b/c i was eating in that area the whole time.

                  That whole area behind the Ritz by Restoran Oversea and Soo Kee Mee had great food. I must've walked by sakura like 5-6 times while I was scoping out that area while my friend was napping (that area seriously set off my foodar the minute i walked into it).

                  i saw the name "sakura", saw this big restaurant that didn't seem that full and sort of wrote it off...i can't believe that! AND i cannot believe no one at the hotel told me that! i specifically asked several of the malay staff and they pointed me to some tourist trap type stuff

                  man malaysia has some wonderful food, i really need to go back

                  1. re: Lau

                    " i specifically asked several of the malay staff and they pointed me to some tourist trap type stuff"
                    I'm not surprised - firstly, the hotel staff usually wouldn't have dined in Sakura themselves as the prices are way above what they can afford (wages are shockingly low in Malaysia for service-level staff, not that Sakura is expensive in any way), and secondly, Malay-Muslims in Malaysia are very, very orthodox in their dietary requirements - more so than Malay/Muslims in Singapore or even Indonesia. Sakura is Chinese-owned but, despite it being "pork-less", Malays would generally avoid stepping into a Chinese-owned eating establishment here in KL.

                    Most of my Malay-Muslim colleagues here would *not* even step into a Hindu-vegetarian restaurant like Saravana Bhavan, because it's "not halal". Those who'd eaten with me in those places have been warned by their fellow Muslims against going there again.

                    1. re: klyeoh

                      ahh interesting, that makes sense

                  2. re: klyeoh

                    also i dont think it popped up when i was looking for blog posts around the area...blehh

                    1. re: Lau

                      Weellll, having been in KL for close to 2 years now, and getting to know local KL-lites and the food scene here, I found out one thing about KL foodbloggers - they are a pretty commercialized bunch. KL restaurateurs have refined the art of cultivating the goodwill and favor of the city's food bloggers to an almost ridiculous level. So, most restaurant openings will include almost any and every better-known food bloggers who'll be given free meals and extra-attentive service. In return, they write favorable reviews of the restaurants in question.

                      I can't tell you how many times I'd relied on well-known food blogs to seek out such-and-such restaurant, only to come away puzzled and non-plussed at the inconsistency between the rave reviews given to such restaurant(s), and the mundane, boring food and amateurish service I received there. Objectivity in food reviews is a precious commodity in KL's food blogging scene indeed.

                      Of course, there *are* good food bloggers in Malaysia, e.g. Motormouth from Ipoh, and What2See: The Best of Penang Food by CK Lam.

                      1. re: klyeoh

                        thats interesting, you know i sort of feel like in Asia in general there seems to be more of a link between the restaurants and the bloggers themselves and the restaurants trying to court the bloggers to write good reviews than there is the in the US. Maybe i'm wrong, but it seems like i hear about that alot in asia