SINGAPORE — Restaurants sequels are finicky. At launch, they have the advantage of newness on their side that makes the masses collectively swoon in oohs and aahs, while restaurant critics are quick to forgive on account of first-month jitters. New concepts and outlets birthed from the brand, on the other hand, bear the burden of experience, tried-and-tested recipes, and a well-oiled kitchen staff that, by now, should be seasoned professionals at dotting their i’s and crossing their t’s.
While not scientifically proven, I reckon it’s common sense enough for Fat Belly to not rush headlong into opening a second outlet after their unprecedented success at Serene Centre, Bukit Timah. This, even as the restaurant starts to heave and ho under the weight of hungry diners jostling for precious seats in the 52-seater space, all keen for a bite of their offerings of uncommon meat cuts.
It’s a far cry from their 10-seater speakeasy-esque origins in 2017 where Fat Belly ran as an ice cream parlour, Sugarhaus, in the day and a steakhouse when day turns to night. Five years and a pandemic later, somewhere in the vicinity of Telok Ayer, Fat Belly Social Steakhouse opens with the objective of bringing people together to unwind from the burdens of the day over food, drinks, and convivial company. It’s all very aspirational.
What’s not aspirational and a tad disheartening to see is that the restaurant is not wheelchair-accessible. It’s inevitable, being on the second floor of a shophouse unit with no lift access. So yes, you can socialise, but if you’re unable to climb a flight of stairs, then you’d have to make do with one Michelin-star Cheek Bistro on the first floor—not that it’s a compromise in any way, of course.
The menu here is similar to that of its Serene Centre outlet, at least where uncommon cuts of meats are concerned, so fans of the original iteration need not worry. Where it differs is in the inclusion of sharing plates—entirely in line with the whole spirit of festive socialisation, of course.
There’s a Roasted Bone Marrow (S$24++) with pickled Shimeji and Hazelnuts served with slices of sourdough that, even with the inclusion of pickled ingredients, need seasoning. I’m thoroughly surprised by the blandness of this, which is a damn shame given its potential.
When it’s not desperately craving for salt, it’s begging for personality—not even ironically or comically like in a good rom-com. The Grilled Ox Tongue (S$26++) is tender but entirely basic; shaved fennel, jalapeños, and salsa verde can’t save this textbook-forgettable character. Elsewhere, Grilled Octopus (S$30++) is served in a tripe and chorizo stew, which you think would, at the very least, make the tongue dance in excitement. Instead, it feels like tomatoes have taken over the entire presentation and are poised to bring the entire octopus empire down along with it. It’s just a tad one-note.
From the Large Format section of the menu, Yg Black Opal Wagyu Zabuton MS6-7 (S$210++ for 700g) and the 2GR Full Blood Wagyu Rib Cap MS8/9 (S$148++) comes served with Bordelaise and an overly-umami scampi butter. It was, of course, a delight to savour, though, at parts of the Wagyu Rib Cap, the texture was a tad chewy than I’d have preferred. I wouldn’t be too quick to attribute this meat par excellence to the institution, though, especially when it comes to meat—good produce naturally speaks for itself.
What surprised my dining guests and me was the Crusted Mac & Cheese (S$16++) that, I’m convinced, is where all the salt that’s missing from the starters went. The whole presentation was beautiful and boldly seasoned, though I’m guessing that’s in large part due to the merging of three unnamed but intensely savoury cheeses. Even with this many cheese varieties in one pan, at no point was I met with a cloying, sick feeling in the stomach. Imagine that—Mac & Cheese that’s intensely creamy without making you gag. Now that’s what I call talent.
I wanted to like the Beef Heart Tomato (S$15++) more than I did, but even Pimentón de la Vera can’t save this bowl of tomatoes, bless their red, heavy hearts. There’s also the Grilled Seasonal Mushrooms (S$14++) which owes a considerable debt of thanks to an exceptionally flavorful Green Goddess dressing, commonly made with mayonnaise, sour cream, chervil, chives, anchovy, tarragon, lemon juice, and pepper. Mushrooms can’t even.
Dinner concludes with a slice of Burnt Blue Cheesecake, which is one of the best renditions I’ve had with the love-it-or-hate-it Blue Cheese. Blue cheese-anything is problematic because it demands a delicate balance between the signature stench of a bold Blue and a fair amount of sugar subtly masking the offending bouquet. If you're a Blue Cheese hater, then this cheesecake won't offend you all that much, especially with the bright roasted strawberries and Kirsch and Berry sorbet to take everything down a notch.
The question now is this: is a great cheesecake enough to get everyone clamouring to Fat Belly Social? It's really about expectations and planning. My advice would be to skip the small plates for now and order just the large meats Fat Belly are known for and are adept at, and give them time and space to achieve the same level of success as that of their proverbial Serene Centre outfit. Oh and of course, remember to get that Crusted Mac and Cheese. It truly is life-changing.
Website | 21A Boon Tat St, Singapore 069620
Mon to Wed: 5.30pm – 10.30pm
Thu to Sat: 5.30pm – 11.00pm
Closed on Sundays
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