SINGAPORE — A day before I wrote this review of Thirty Six Brewlab and Smokehouse, the Government announced The Stabilisation Period: Phase 2 (Heightened Alert), which, if anything, shows that when it comes to names, the big G has no chills left to give. The Stabilisation Period comes on the back of rising COVID-19 case numbers, now at its peak of 1,650, even higher than in April 2020 when a Circuit Breaker was enacted to keep infections under control.
Naturally, when something like this happens, something has to give. In this case, as with all instances, the Government capped social interactions from five people to two and reduced dining-in capacity in restaurants from a party of five to a pair—at least until logistical arrangements can be made to support the onslaught of rising cases.
Taking over the space formerly occupied by Little Creatures, Thirty Six is the brainchild of Lion Brewery Co, which makes the expansive brewing space at the back, less of a surprise and more par for the course. Here, head brewer, Greg Brown, commands control of the state-of-the-art on-site 500-litre microbrewery, churning a selection of craft beer in situ via 23 taps (and counting).
The culinary commander-in-chief is Executive Chef Kwek Xiu Rong, tasked with the unenviable task of making bar food great again. He does this to great aplomb, exemplified by a selection of snacks, elevated, dressed, and primped to match the quality and finesse of these craft beers.
There’s the Scotch Egg (S$10++) with Sriracha Mayo that comes with egg in the centre, tightly wound by a mix of minced sausage and impossible meat. One would question the need for Impossible meat in a sausage heavy snack, but if you’ve had as many Impossible meats as me, you’d know that those meats have a certain savouriness to it that you can’t get with real beef.
This is followed by the Beef Empanadas (S$12++) with Jimmy Churi, so named after Jimmy, a friend who graciously gifted this recipe to Thirty Six. Deep-fried delights don't get any more sinful than this. It could be that the dough is mixed with melted pork lard before being stuffed with the most impressively flavourful mix of coarsely minced beef.
There’s also a plate of Crusted Calamari (S$14++) that are delicately and carefully fried then served with a leek ash-mayo infusion. It’s serious bar food—easy, predictable, but appropriately elevated. And we’re only at snacks.
From the starters menu, I particularly enjoyed the Spicy Pork Belly Satay (S$16), which is somewhat unsurprising because of my immense and deep love for smoked and BBQ-ed meats. While the meat is intensely tender with a good hit of spice (thanks to the sambal-kicap mains marinate), it’s that side of Achar that makes its consumption poetically balanced.
It’s the same with the Flat Bread with Smoked Baba Ganoush (S$14++). Sure the smoked baba ganoush is moreish, savoury, and overall deserving of much praise. But that flatbread begs to be enjoyed with anything that has even an iota of gravy. See that shallow pool of sauce from the pork satay? Mop it up with the roti. That Golden sheen of oil from the calamari? Soak it up. Roti deserves better.
Elsewhere, mains come by way of a platter of Fish and Chips (S$25++) that is too immaculately prepared, cooked, and served for its own good. How would other Fish and Chips anywhere measure up to this brilliantly Strait’s Pale Ale Beer-battered fillets which, though not Earth-shatteringly crispy, has a lingering aroma from the beer infusion? It is served with fries that have had much of its starch removed so that when it’s fried and left out, it still retains a slight bite.
Thirty Six is big on marination, as evidenced in the Wood Fired Cauliflower (S$25++) rubbed with turmeric, ginger, and black pepper, steamed and then grilled till a fierce char is formed. The mistake most places make with the caustic cauliflower is not paying more attention to the condiments it comes with—cauliflower can only do much as a main ingredient, much like plain rice. No such rookie mistake here. Here, it’s served with an earthy cashew nut butter and homemade leek miso for a balance of nuttiness and umami, making its consumption incredibly nuanced.
If these two dishes sound a tad too experimental, promptly make your way to the Sticky BBQ Pork Ribs (S$28++ for ½ rack, S$52++ for full rack) marinated with the same potent Kicap Manis potion in the Pork Belly Satay or the Charred Beef Short Rib Minute Steak (S$34++ for 300g). Barbecued meats are a thing here and with good reasons. I struggle to find anything else that goes better with a mug of beer.
To end, a slab of Chocolate Brownie (S$12++), thick and chock full of chocolatey goodness with a salted caramel sauce and gelato that’s beyond reproach. I could hardly find fault in this—and this coming from someone who thinks chocolate desserts are lazy. But the star of sweet treats here is, hands down, the Pandan Burnt Cheesecake (S$13++) that’s not only fabulously fragrant but incredibly balanced—its sweetness in no way detracting from that pandan flavour which permeates through the entire slice. Restaurants that pay this much attention to desserts should be celebrated; what more one that also serves craft beer brewed in situ and on-demand. I’m already planning my next trip since it’s so near where I work, which could be a good thing and a bad thing. The jury’s still out on that one.
36 Club St, S069469
Mon to Fri: 12nn – 10.30pm
Sat to Sun: 10am – 10.30pm