SINGAPORE — My review of Asap & Co surprisingly began at Cafe Gavroche with a decadent free-flow affair of melty Raclette Cheese, high quality processed meats, a small personal bowl of boiling oil, and some of the finest quality red and white wines ever to grace my lips. I went home that night nursing an intense headache, waking up at 1.30 in the morning, head pounding and feeling light-headed—classic (and entirely avoidable) symptoms of having too much of a good thing.
It was to be a week of decadence that culminated in a lunch at the newly-minted Asap & Co at North Bridge Road—Asap means smoke in Malay. Here, it starts with a highly coveted reservation that comes by way of camping in front of your laptop for your preferred time slot to open or a casual walk-in in the middle of the afternoon at 2pm when everyone is either busy at work or having a siesta to stave off a food coma. The latter is easier—what even are food schedules? It’s a narrow social construct; that’s what it is.
The food at Muslim-owned Asap & Co that’s gotten everyone giddy with excitement is smoked meats—exotic in nature, labourious in preparation, and, in its original essence, elephantine in proportion. My curiosity about Asap & Co, though, is not with regards to the meats they serve.
This is, after all, not my first dalliance with smoked meats. Instead, it's an interest that stems from mixed and severely passionate reviews on Facebook that run the gamut from “Delicious Steak. Tender and Juicy. Friendly staff” to “Won’t be dining in here again as I’ve tasted better steaks out there”. As a food writer, I’m naturally duly intrigued.
Obviously, a visit would need some military-precision planning. But with a whole afternoon to spare and nowhere else I need to be, I figured now is as good a time to see what the newest entrant to storied North Bridge Road has to offer.
A quick skim through the menu explains all the teething issues of slow service, wrong orders, and long waiting time. For a restaurant of this capacity, the menu is the epitome of ambitious. Burgers? Unnecessary. Pasta? A luxury. Three pages of breakfast items, thirteen dessert items, and rice bowls? An overkill. For a space of this size, a two-pager would suffice.
Thankfully, for all the grouse I have about their unrealistic menu size, the food has been prepared with pride and a keen dedication to flavour and taste. The Brisket Mantou (S$16++) comes with a side of salad tossed in a delicately sweet dressing of maple—a perfect accompaniment to beef brisket that retains a bold bouquet of smoke and tenderness that makes this such an easy thing to eat.
The Smok Norwegian Salmon Linguine (S$20++) comes served in a sauce of lemak cili padi that has been beautifully adapted for the function of a pasta dish. I say this after having had several iterations where the sauce tastes like a direct adoption of the classic lemak cili padi instead of being reworked, so it works in a dish such as this.
While the pasta was a tad softer than I’d have liked, I give props to the slab of salmon fillet that was incredibly well-cooked and well-seasoned, with noticeable salt granules make the eating experience such a delight. There’s also slivers of lime leaves throughout the dish that lends an adoring bouquet to the entire presentation. I’ll come back just for this.
A hefty presentation of Asap & CO’s Hanger Steak (S$78) was my first introduction to the smokehouse’s offerings of fine meats. Here, it’s of the Wagyu variant with a marble score of 4/5. It comes served on a bed of roasted potatoes, which I was surprised to find quite thoroughly seasoned, and spiced corn on cob that reminded me of the corn cobs they sell at the roadside of Indonesia.
Hanger steak is, of course, more known as the butcher’s cut—a moniker arising from butcher’s bringing it home as it’s deemed too crude for sale. Although visually impressive, I thought the textures too contrasting for my liking—soft, pink as a blushing bride on the inside, tough and rubbery on the outside. Maybe a quicker sear would have made all the difference. If you’ve never had hanger steak, know that it’s incredibly gamer in flavour, almost like mutton. Order it if you’re adventurous. Otherwise, you really can’t and won’t go wrong with a good slab of striploin.
Elsewhere, an 800g portion of Argentina Angus Cowboy Steak (S$108++) made the meat lover in me tremble in excitement. It also conjures up fond memories of my time at Cafe Gavroche earlier in the week with all the meat and cheese indulgences I don’t deserve.
Here, the Cowboy steak is a hulking bone-in ribeye of meaty perfection that should be the highlight of every diner’s visit here. It’s cooked to medium-rare. When sliced, it is systematically divided into the Fat cap, Ribeye, and a Ribeye cap which is all manners of soft, flavourful, tender, and an incredible delight to grace my mouth. It’s served with the barest of salt and pepper seasonings, but after three mouthfuls, I thought it needed some sort of sauce for flavour variance. Ask for a small bowl of black pepper sauce and get ready to swoon.
If Asap & Co is looking to downsize their extensive desserts menu, might I humbly suggest keeping only the Cempedak Creme Brulee? I was not expecting to like this half as much as I did, but what can I say? I'm a Cempedak Brulee convert. Where I expected overcompensating sweetness, there was instead a poetic balance that makes this such a delight from start to end. And with chunks of cempedak at the base, it's a dessert I'll always reference for future dalliances with creme brulee. It is that good.
Asap & Co bears much promise for a restaurant that's barely six months old. But I fear that overt ambition and thinking that diners would prefer a swathe of options over leaner offerings would work against their favour. My advice would be to reduce the entire menu by eighty per cent, only offer what the small kitchen at the back can comfortably manage, and let this be a dependable mecca for smoked meat lovers. Everything else can wait.
Website | 774 North Bridge Rd, Singapore 198742
Tue to Fri: 11am – 10pm
Sat to Sun: 9am – 10am
Balancing the New Normal: