The Sampan

September 12, 2019 Ivan Teh - RunningMan 0 Comments

The Sampan
63 Boat Quay

https://www.thesampan.sg/

We visited as regular paying customers, and paid the full standard prices for our meal here. However, they discovered who we were, and rolled out the special treatment, even though we insisted they treat us like any other customer. We still received several complimentary dishes and off-menu dishes.


Beef Cheek Rendang (SGD $26)



Innovative Pan-Asian Dishes By The River

(Ratings: On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 = Worst and 10 = Best)
Overall: 8
Ambience & Setting: 7
Food & Beverage: 8
Service: 10 ?*
Value for Money: 7
Spent about SGD $52 per person.


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Established in September 2018, The Sampan restaurant has a simple philosophy - showcase familiar Pan-Asian flavours, made with fresh locally-sourced ingredients, with modern visually-appealing presentations. Dishes wow when served, yet, the taste is soulful and comforting. Coupled with their wallet-friendly prices, The Sampan restaurant stands out among the Boat Quay stretch for being casual and easy-going in spirit.

Ambience at The Sampan seeks to offer a riverside dining experience. With half the interior of the 1st floor taken up by a long bar and a single communal dining table, the majority of seating is in the sheltered exterior, beside the Singapore River. Fans cool the bright naturally lit area on warm days, while warm dim lighting lends a more intimate feel at night. The shopfront is unassuming and doesn't stand out, you could pass by and completely miss it.

Service at The Sampan is friendly and attentive. Staff display good product knowledge on the menu, able to briefly describe dishes and offer recommendations. They proactively offer to clear finished plates throughout the meal, as well as offer a change of cutlery. However, we discovered staff knew who we were; when they starting speaking to us about the history of The Sampan, and introducing the whole kitchen team one-by-one. We had a memorable experience, though we insisted on normal service, and paid the usual just like any other customer.

Food at The Sampan is focused on Pan-Asian cuisine, specifically Malay, Indonesian, South Indian, and Chinese Singaporean dishes. Ingredients are locally sourced and curated in well-executed dishes; the best examples of comfort in taste. Think classic street-food, presented in a modern setting. Portions are large and hearty for individuals, we ended up sharing everything. Prices are more affordable than other restaurants in this area, budget about SGD $52 per person for a meal with drinks.


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The Sampan Facade
The Sampan Facade


The Sampan Exterior
The Sampan Exterior


The Sampan Interior
The Sampan Interior


Menu Bar Snacks
Menu Bar Snacks


Menu Food
Menu Food


Menu Cocktails
Menu Cocktails


Seating Outdoors
Seating Outdoors


Seating Indoors
Seating Indoors


Receipt
Receipt


Us
Us



Named for the iconic Thai rum made in the area of the same name, the Cocktail Chalong Bay (SGD $18) is a bright, refreshing beverage. It features a blend of Chalong Bay rum, chocolate vodka, passionfruit juice, vanilla essence, fresh coconut water, calamansi juice, and Bols Creme De Cacao White chocolate liqueur. Nicely fruity chocolatey sweet sour, with a hint of boozy flavour on the tail.

Cocktail Chalong Bay (SGD $18)


Cocktail Chalong Bay
Cocktail Chalong Bay



The Cocktail Frozen Margarita (SGD $14) has a rough grainy texture from the crushed ice, and a zesty tangy sour sweet boozy flavour. It features a blend of tequila, Triple Sec orange liqueur, lime juice, agave syrup, and crushed ice. A straightforward classic.

Cocktail Frozen Margarita (SGD $14)


Cocktail Frozen Margarita
Cocktail Frozen Margarita



Not for the faint of heart, the Cocktail Mango & Chili Smash (SGD $17) has a sharp zesty sour fruity sweet spicy flavour, with a short lingering burn down the back of the throat. It features a blend of mango juice, mint, white sugar, lime juice, and chili infused tequila. A little like drinking fire.

Cocktail Mango & Chili Smash (SGD $17)


Cocktail Mango & Chili Smash
Cocktail Mango & Chili Smash



They actually took the time to specially cook a batch of their House Sambal (SGD $Complimentary) for us. This was good, nicely spicy in flavour with a short lingering burn, and a light sweet sour contrast.

House Sambal
House Sambal (SGD $Complimentary)



We loved the addictive Emping Belinjo (SGD $5) and couldn't stop reaching for it! What makes this good is they've fried it to order - the result is piping hot, super crisp gnetum gnemon nut crackers, with a light grainy salty flavour that makes you crave more.

Emping Belinjo (SGD $5)


Emping Belinjo
Emping Belinjo



Was disappointed with the Pani Puri (SGD $6), perhaps it's too modern and different from what I'd expected. While they still have those crisp, round, hollow puri shells filled with mashed spiced potato, white onions, and mashed chickpeas, it lacks that sharp sour tamarind juice and chili to complement. Instead, this is more like a potato ball snack, with its savoury potato starchy sweet spice flavour. Furthermore, there is no indication that the mixed nuts it's served on is a decoration, and not meant to be eaten. Could be improved.

Pani Puri (SGD $6)


Pani Puri
Pani Puri


Pani Puri



The Calamari With Wasabi Mayo (SGD $10) is an alright bar snack, with small but bouncy chewy chunks of calamari squid in a softly crisp spiced batter. The salty spice sweet flavour of the calamari squid pairs nicely with the mild wasabi mayonnaise, with its vibrant green colour and delicate tangy spicy herbal flavour. Decorated with wispy soft, vegetal earthy alfalfa sprouts.

Calamari With Wasabi Mayo (SGD $10)


Calamari With Wasabi Mayo
Calamari With Wasabi Mayo



The Vegetable Fritters (SGD $8) here are done Japanese kakiage tempura style. Within the cornflour coated fritters, I detect carrot, white onion, purple cabbage, burdock root, and mitsuba / parsley. These have a beautiful vegetal savoury salty sweet flavour, but the dish is paired with a thick sweet spicy chili dipping sauce instead of the usual tempura gravy.

Vegetable Fritters (SGD $8)


Vegetable Fritters
Vegetable Fritters



The Crispy Thai Beef Salad (SGD $16) is their most popular salad, because of the novel contrasts of textures. The slices of beef are fried till crisp, almost like a cracker when bit, crunching beautifully. These are plated with crunchy vegetables; carrots, white onions, parsley, and mint leaves, then topped with wispy crunchy noodle crackers. Each mouthful is a burst of vegetal sweet sour herbal earthy savoury flavour. Lovely and tasty.

Crispy Thai Beef Salad (SGD $16)


Crispy Thai Beef Salad
Crispy Thai Beef Salad



The Cantonese Barbecued Duck (SGD $18) is an attempt to replicate the Chinese Cantonese char siew gravy, but on duck instead. Plated with chunky tender, vegetal sweet smoky grilled vegetables (cauliflower, carrot, broccoli), the confit of duck is beautifully tender, with the savoury sweet meat coming easily off the bone. The char siew sauce lends a vibrant colour, but the taste is rather muted, plus, it also lacks the smoky aroma I usually associate with it. Overall, an alright dish.

Cantonese Barbecued Duck (SGD $18)


Cantonese Barbecued Duck
Cantonese Barbecued Duck


Cantonese Barbecued Duck



Chef recommended his signature dish, the Beef Cheek Rendang (SGD $26), a showcase of traditional flavours presented in a stylish, modern manner. Plated with chunky tender, vegetal sweet smoky grilled vegetables (cauliflower, carrot, broccoli, cherry tomato), the slow braised beef brisket has absorbed all the lovely rendang spices, resulting in a fork tender juicy texture, with bold savoury spice salty flavour. The soft moist ketupat steamed rice cakes have a good density, being easy to cut, with a light grainy sweet flavour. These were so good! Delicious dish.

Beef Cheek Rendang (SGD $26)


Beef Cheek Rendang
Beef Cheek Rendang


Beef Cheek Rendang



The kitchen surprised us with the Ketupat Steamed Rice Cakes With Rendang Gravy (SGD $Complimentary) because someone asked for more. I find the pairing to be soulful and comforting, very homely in taste.

Ketupat Steamed Rice Cakes With Rendang Gravy
Ketupat Steamed Rice Cakes With Rendang Gravy (SGD $Complimentary)



The other signature dish here, and the one we heard rave reviews about, is the Fresh Local Sea Bass, Grilled (SGD $21). How good can grilled sea bass fish be? Really good, as evident here. Plated with gloopy rough mashed potato puree with bold sweet salty flavour, and a refreshing crunchy juicy salad (cucumber, red radish, white onion, cherry tomato) with bright vegetal sweet flavour on the side. The medium sized fillet of sea bass fish is sourced fresh daily from a kelong off the shores of Pulau Ubin, and grilled till it has a lovely smoky aroma. The fish is glazed with a light soy sauce, has a tender and juicy texture with a slight crisp edge to the skin, and bold sweet savoury salty smoky flavour. Beautiful, would return just for this.

Fresh Local Sea Bass, Grilled (SGD $21)


Fresh Local Sea Bass, Grilled
Fresh Local Sea Bass, Grilled


Fresh Local Sea Bass, Grilled



The Charred Chicken (SGD $19) is served with soft moist ketupat steamed rice cakes with a light grainy sweet flavour, and a refreshing crunchy juicy salad (cucumber, red radish, pineapple, cherry tomato) with bright vegetal sweet flavour on the side. The bone-in half chicken doesn't look charred, seemingly barely grilled for that matter. But the chicken meat is properly tender and moist, peeling easily off the bone, and has decent sweet savoury flavour, though it lacks a smoky edge. The primary flavour comes from the house mango sambal, a burst of bright fruity sweet sour spicy flavour. The fiery heat is sharp, and actually lingers for a while. Great for those who love spicy dishes.

Charred Chicken (SGD $19)


Charred Chicken
Charred Chicken


Charred Chicken



The Kampung Bali Fried Rice (SGD $15) could do with a bit more wok hei / breath of the wok, but at least the texture is decently moist and al-dente, with a slight chewy bite. The long grain white rice is properly tossed with light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, fish sauce, and brown sugar, then stir-fried with eggs, shallots, and chili. Each mouthful has robust sweet savoury salty eggy flavour. Not as addictive as I'd like.

Kampung Bali Fried Rice (SGD $15)


Kampung Bali Fried Rice
Kampung Bali Fried Rice



The Indonesian Seafood Mee Goreng (SGD $15) fared well, with its long flat egg noodles tossed in light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, fish sauce, and brown sugar. Nice chewy bouncy al-dente texture with bold salty savoury sweet flavour. Garnished with fresh deshelled shrimp, squid, red onions, shallots, and chili. The assorted seafood has decent bouncy textures with sweet savoury flavour. The portion is really large though, and best shared between 3 - 4 people.

Indonesian Seafood Mee Goreng (SGD $15)


Indonesian Seafood Mee Goreng
Indonesian Seafood Mee Goreng


Indonesian Seafood Mee Goreng



The Pandan Pancakes (SGD $13) is served with a quenelle of vanilla ice cream on the side, which melted way too quickly on the warm plate. The pandan / screwpine leaf infused pancakes are glazed with a sticky gula melaka / palm sugar syrup, and have a soft moist chew to texture, with delicate floral earthy sweet flavour. The garnish of crushed peanuts lend a lovely contrasting crunch, and a layer of nutty flavour. We enjoyed this, and suggested to the kitchen that it should be served on a cold plate instead.

Pandan Pancakes (SGD $13)


Pandan Pancakes
Pandan Pancakes



Our favourite dessert was the Mochi Stuffed Chocolate Brownie, Banana Ice Cream (SGD $Complimentary), which is currently an off-menu experimental dessert. This dish combines the classic 'chocolate banana' ingredients in a novel, exciting way. Served with a creamy smooth banana ice cream that has good fruity sweet flavour, the dense but soft moist chocolate brownie is infused with espresso coffee, and carries deep chocolatey sweet flavour. Stuffed within, the sticky gelatinous mochi rice cake with grainy sweet flavour, causes amazement with its contrast of textures and flavours. Completed with a sprinkling of blueberries and dried cranberries, which lend a juicy chew with fruity sweet flavour. Hope this goes on the menu soon!

Mochi Stuffed Chocolate Brownie, Banana Ice Cream (SGD $Complimentary)


Mochi Stuffed Chocolate Brownie, Banana Ice Cream
Mochi Stuffed Chocolate Brownie, Banana Ice Cream


Mochi Stuffed Chocolate Brownie, Banana Ice Cream



The Local Coconut Pudding (SGD $13) is described by the kitchen to be a deconstructed Singaporean breakfast toast dessert. It tried, but doesn't really bring across the full range of flavours and textures I associate with the dish. The coconut pudding is spongy soft with a gelatinous feel, but isn't as boldly earthy sweet as it could be. The charred bread ice cream is creamy smooth, but could be more smoky sweet in flavour. At least the crumbed coffee tuile was properly crumby grainy in texture, with decent coffee flavour. This dessert tries, but falls short quite drastically.

Local Coconut Pudding (SGD $13)


Local Coconut Pudding
Local Coconut Pudding



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