Wandering up Keong Saik Road you can’t help but marvel at the array of thriving eateries that line each side of the narrow street, from traditional dumplings to thoroughly modern menus. As people stream up and down the famous street and the cars edge past each other, horns tooting, there is an inviting, vibrant atmosphere, just one of the reasons that it is one of the focal points for foodies in the Lion City. The area is packed with creativity, from the sleek agencies dotted along the road to the innovative culinary concepts that call it home. While our eyes flitted around multiple potential dining destinations, we remained focused on our mission, to track down and check out Don Ho Social Kitchen & Bar, one of the hottest new additions to Singapore’s competitive food scene.
For the uninitiated, it lies in an alley round the back of Keong Saik, with a single light outside a pretty unassuming entrance, giving it a speakeasy quality and nodding to the confidence of the team behind it that people will find them. And they do! Don Ho has made an instant impact on a city that boasts more than its fair share of exciting options when it comes to eating out, an outstanding achievement in itself but when you consider that none of the creative forces behind it have a restaurant background, it’s very impressive. The first thing that strikes you about Don Ho, apart from the beautifully colourful décor, is its staff. There’s a genuinely warm welcome waiting and the pride that each member has in the concept is evident. We’re used to Ibiza, where the level of service in recent years has gone through the roof, but we were bowled over by our experience during our recent visit to Don Ho. From the minute Cat welcomed us front of house and talked through the menu, and throughout the night when Arun and Prun looked after us, it was flawless.
In its own words, Don Ho offers a, ‘social evening experience which celebrates shared dining and fresh tropical cocktail creations”. Having enjoyed a selection of dishes chosen by the chef Shiman Woon to share, we whole-heartedly agree that it is definitely the way to eat in this stylish haven of cool. The cocktails are created by mixologists that surely studied at Hogwarts, delivering a multitude of taste explosions throughout our sampling! The menu is split into categories – Earth, Land, Sea and Happy End (not to be confused), and is packed with interesting, engaging and unbelievably tasty flavour and texture combinations. The Big Sharing option is a must for slightly larger groups but there are plenty of choices for filling your table and enjoying a good inter-plate nibble. We confidently placed ourselves at the mercy of Chef Woon, who decided on a selection of dishes to capture our attention. We started in the Earth section, with the Zataar Flat bread with thyme (S$14), which was complemented by a creamy yoghurt dip. The bread was light and crispy and the full flavor of the thyme and the subtler yoghurt made for an impressive opening act.
It was still pretty early but Don Ho was already busy; the crowd a mixture of workers celebrating the end of the day, couples enjoying an intimate romantic experience and groups, boisterous in their chat, lending a good balance and creating a warm vibe. The music is on point, from the choice – a mixture of soul, funk and rare groove – and the volume, allowing conversation to flow while remaining in the background. Our gastronomic adventure continued with two individual favourites combined to perfection – smoked sweet potato humus (14) with hazelnut dukkah, burnt onion and home-made focaccia. Our dalliance with the Earth came to a tasty conclusion with the pimientos de padrón (14) in sherry vinegar and sea salt. As we let the first wave of food settle, we sipped a couple of tropical concoctions from the varied cocktail menu – the Yuzu Mule and the Don Ho Sling, altogether far too easy to drink!
The main courses were plucked from the Land section of the menu consisting of the spice crusted beef short ribs (44) and the roasted Iberico Pork Jowl (18), with slow cooked egg, miso, radish and burnt onion. The beef was tender and pulled from the bone with ease, packed with flavor and literally melted in the mouth. We were advised that the best way to enjoy the pork was to mix the slow cooked egg in amongst it, which we did, and it was delightful! We did suffer some table envy when the burgers were delivered to the table next to us, looking magnificent and definitely on the wish list for our next visit!
We’re not huge dessert fans normally but the thought of the Happy End in the shape of the self-saucing chocolate pudding with vanilla bean ice cream, hazelnut praline (10) was too much to ignore. Crack the top shell of the chocolate and release the oozing sauce, which, when mixed with the ice cream is enough to put a smile on anyone’s face. It was the perfect climax to an amazing dining experience and with a recently launched brunch option on Saturday and Sunday, it won’t be long until we drop back into Don Ho.
More Information & reservations:
Tues – Sat 6pm till late
1st Seating 6.30pm till 8.30pm
2nd Seating 8.30pm till late
Sat-Sun 10am till 4pm
Last Order 2.30pm