Employees Only Singapore: Where Quality Drinks and Food Are Not Mutually Exclusive
With a gimlet in one hand, a slight growl from the tummy nudges you to call for the food menu, peruse it briefly before you settle on the parmesan fries with a side of truffle aioli. That’s as far as your bar gastronomic journeys will take you. To be perfectly honest, the same circumstance unfolds for the most of us—retreating back to our tiny corner of comfort rituals for fried things when the libations start to get frisky. At this lively joint on the bustling Amoy Street, you can, not only get a Frozen Cuba Libre every night of the week, but the kitchen churns out unsuspectingly good nosh till wee hours of the morning. Hear me out.
It’s a raucous scene of late-night partying at Employees Only Singapore—with one too many drinks on the agenda, revellers would know how to fill up on food first before hitting the streets. However, if you’re not up to speed, there are plenty of solid full-fledged menu options choose from. If you can muster enough strength and willpower to tear yourself from the allures of the arched bar, traverse across the grounds to the banquet seatings where dishes find safer grounds on lacquered table tops. The menu is simple, albeit comprehensive in a sense that it covers the likes of typical pub grub, ahem, burgers, to more complex bites that emulate the decadent New York style.
While the menu carries over many successful dishes from its original outlet to Singapore, the chefs have fastidiously incorporated a few twists and turns to keep patrons on their toes. The Red Snapper Crudo offers a glimmer of hope of what the meal is panning out to be—raw slices of fresh snapper are splayed out, ringed by fresh lime juice, micro coriander and tomatillo. It’s piquant and very appetite inducing. Share the Mini Chicken Tostadas with chipotle and lime—a nod to Chef de Cuisine, Mauricio Espinoza’s Latino heritage. Crisp planks of tortilla chips hold an abundance of shredded marinated chicken, purple cabbage and feta cheese. It’s pretty as a flapper and definitely just as flamboyant in the flavour department.
No visit to Employees Only is complete without partaking in their hand-cut steak tartar. Considered the cash cow of the food menu at all EO franchises across the globe, my initial bite followed by an audible sigh was living proof of its success. Blushing hand-cut steak is dressed with egg yolk, salt, shallot, a spritz of lemon and a dash of Worcestershire sauce. The best part about it all, watching your friendly bartender mix it, tableside. You get all the satisfaction of biting into crisp crostini plus the flavour burst from the steak tartare. The greens on the side are tartly dressed and ideal for chasing each rich bite. The cocktail Ready, Aim, Fire is good for that too, but we would imagine you’ll be nursing one already.
Main course is Barramundi coked Veracruz style—characterised by Spanish, Afro-Cuban and Caribbean influences—cooked in a mildly tart tomato sauce flavoured with olives, capers and more. It’s a health-conscious diner’s dream; you can identify them as the party pooper in the group or the lady in the bodycon dress nursing a tall drink. The common consensus is to skip that for the more substantial offerings such as the Tagliatelle with Roasted Squash, Capsicum and Black Olives or the Ramly Burger. The latter, an ode to the Pasar Malan staple is upscaled with a succulent beef patty wrapped up snugly in an omelette napkin and drizzled with gravy. The delicious heavyweight finds nesting grounds between spongy sesame seed freckled buns. You’ll need wet towels for this one. Make it two.
A couple of visits ago, I encountered an acquaintance who was finding solace in a slice of Butterscotch and Mascarpone Cheesecake. When asked, “Is it good?”, she shook her head irrefutably claiming that it was “disgusting”. It wasn’t till she had scraped the last crumb off the plate that she blurted out: “It’s the best goddamm dessert in the house. I didn’t want to share.” Fast forward to present times, my mannerisms emulating her uncouth behaviour the moment that very same cheesecake touched the table. The butterscotch laced with salt renders a few creamy mouthfuls of sublime goodness.
Though Employees Only is not what you would consider a destination dinner spot, (trust me, most of you will be nursing your $27 cocktails without a clue that you could be having a solid pasta dish with that), the menu reveals many promising dishes such as the steak tartare. The scent wafting from the burger oil smudged on your shirt will haunt you all the way home. I will gladly return very soon.