Hawker stall Review: By The Fire
At the belt of trendy eateries along East Coast Road, just across the street from I12 Katong shopping mall, stands the gentrified Alibabar hawker bar – a popular coffee shop in the ‘hood which transforms into a bar at night. And within that hawker bar is By The Fire, a stall selling various charcoal-grilled fare.
With its stylish string lights, crate counters and wooden furnishing, a quick glance at Alibabar the hawker bar does suffice to conclude that it’s not your conventional kopitiam [a traditional coffee shop with various stalls that offer Singaporean cuisine]. While the ambience may not be the most cosy or chic, its clean and casual setting is good enough in our books. Its latest tenant is the month-old By The Fire.
It is started by Alexander Chong, 29, who has 7 years of experience, and Immanuel Tee, 29. Immanuel is also the owner of Immanuel French Kitchen and was previously the head chef at mod European restaurant Keystone, where the two were colleagues. The pair also worked together back in 2011, in haute French restaurant Guy Savoy.
As most of the charcoal-grilled eateries in Singapore consists mostly of Japanese, Korean, or Thai restaurants, By The Fire was kindled to fill the gap. The establishment uses binchōtan, a smokeless Japanese charcoal that burns longer than regular charcoal, and offers more even grilling to retain the flavors of the meat.
Cushioned in a bed of red cabbage slaw, the Scotch Eggs ($6.90), a common picnic snack of breaded sausage-wrapped egg, taste just as good as they look. By the Fire’s version calls for soft-boiled eggs instead of the usual hard-boiled – probably for the sheer delight of molten, runny yolks. From the perfectly cooked eggs to the slight crunch of the breading, the Scotch Eggs are, simply put, delicious.
The BBQ Pork Ribs, priced at 14.90, are a definite bargain. Although the sweet and slightly tart secret BBQ sauce was a tad lack-lustre, it complements the ribs, allowing the flavour of the meat to stand out. The ribs also boast a pleasant smoky flavor and are nicely charred. That said, the meat doesn’t quite fall off the bone, as we had hoped. The accompanying Mac and Cheese fares better. With its creamy sauce, crunchy bacon bits, subtle sweetness and usage of cheddar, it sets itself apart from the usual artificial tasting sides served at Astons and other more affordable establishments.
The Grilled Pork Jowl ($15.40) is first cooked confit style in duck fat, giving it great texture with melt-in-your-mouth fat for a deliciously moist and tender bite. Flavored subtly with Japanese curry before it’s grilled, this dish is delectable, albeit a tad too salty.
Again, the side dish of potato and pumpkin salad almost outshines the main. The addition of pumpkin lends the ‘usual’ potato salad a welcome sweetness and complexity, while the rich dressing has just the right amount of spice.
Although we’re already stuffed, the Keystone’s seaweed pasta ($8.90) still manages to win our hearts (or rather, our stomachs). Angel hair pasta is tossed in olive oil, garlic, sakura ebi [a type of small shrimp popular in Japan] and shio kombu [kombu seaweed cooked in soy sauce]. The dish is reminiscent of Saveur’s pasta (coincidentally, Saveur used to occupy a stall at Alibabar), but in a more generous portion.
With the opening of this stall, being able to enjoy gourmet food in T-shirt and shorts can now be an everyday experience, and just for that alone, dining at By The Fire scores points with us. With reasonable prices (the most expensive dish served here is $19), laid-back setting and good food, this stall is definitely one to pop by.
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Address: 125 East Coast Rd, Singapore 428808
Contact Details: (+65) 9185 4824
Opening Hours: Weekdays – Lunch 12 – 3pm, Dinner, 6pm – late
Weekends 12pm – late
Photos courtesy of Bryan Chua Chia Chwin