Grain Traders needs no introduction. This lunchtime eatery has taken Instagram by storm for its beautiful bowls of colourful, nutritious allsorts. The concept is the same as you’d get from a conventional salad bar but this is no ordinary mix of limp greens. Brought to life by the lads that kicked off Kilo and Kilo at Pact, the industrial-chic space will entice you to dine-in rather than opt for a takeaway, preventing yet another sad desk lunch. And while the ‘lunch bowl’ concept isn’t exactly a new idea, we love Grain Traders for the quality of the ingredients they put into each and every bowl. It’s no wonder then that the lunchtime rush has people queuing literally out the door, as a hard and fast-working team of staff function like a well-greased conveyor belt, assembling each dish with precision, generosity and haste! (Secret tip: while waiting in line, keep an eye out for free tables and don’t be afraid to ‘chope’/reserve your seat, as competition can get pretty fierce!)
For a fixed price, you can either build your own bowl or pick from the killer combinations on the menu. Think wholegrain superfoods like quinoa, bulgur wheat, soba noodles and sushi rice sitting beneath generous slivers of sous-vide salmon, roasted chicken, grilled steak, tataki tuna, slow-roasted pork or lentil patties. Instead of your run-of-the-mill salad fillers like plain beans and blanched veg, Grain Traders goes ‘full gourmet’ with a mix of cold and hot veggies like roasted butternut squash and sweet potato, charred furikake corn, mixed bean pico de gallo and apple kimchi. Then, your bowl is drizzled with imaginative dressings that would put the classic ‘balsamic and olive oil’ to shame. If you like things tangy, sweet and spicy all at once, then opt for the tamarind chipotle vinaigrette. Need to clear your sinuses? Wasabi sauce has got you covered. To up the ante on your superfood quota, the beetroot feta yoghurt is as violently pink as it is nutritious. Though, we’re suckers for the salty-sweetness of the miso caramel.
Once your combo is complete, simply #mixeatlove.
01-01/02/03 CapitaGreen Building, 138 Market Street, grain-traders.com
Wandering around Chinatown, perhaps one of the last places you’d really expect to stumble upon is a Hawaiian joint, unless you’re on Amoy Street, that is. The first of its kind in Singapore, this Hawaiian ‘tiki bar’ establishment is a godsend for those watching their waistlines but can’t bear the sacrifice of giving up yummy food. ‘Poké’ is a traditional Hawaiian dish comprising cubed, raw and lightly marinated fish (typically yellowfin tuna) on a mound of fresh ingredients. If you think it bears resemblance to a Japanese chirashi, you wouldn’t be far off (fun fact: 30% of the population of Hawaii has Japanese heritage)!
At Aloha, you get a choice of ahi tuna or salmon (or ‘nutty sesame’ tofu for vegetarians), all of which is marinated with their secret sauce composed of definite hints of shoyu and sesame, before being mixed with fresh scallions, pineapple and zesty lime. You can also opt for alternative dressings like Wasabi Mayo that has enough tang to clear your sinuses, or the “Spicy Sauce,” which has a solid kick of its own and will definitely have some reaching for the coconut water!
If you’re the type that goes with the flow, choose between their menu signatures but otherwise feel free to craft and customise your own poké bowl. Whether you’re opting for a nibble with the Lil’ Swell (75 grams of protein), a well-portioned meal with the Standard Nalu (two proteins, totalling 150 grams) or bulking up with the Big Kahuna (three proteins, equal to 225 grams), every order comes with a choice of brown/white/mixed rice or salad leaves, and the optional addition of kale.
Then, mix it up with two complimentary add-ons like flying fish roe, almonds, walnuts, edamame and jalapenos, cherry tomatoes and one complimentary superfood (think: pomegranate, avocado or chia seeds), before you take your first bite! Can’t handle the lunch rush? Log on to their website, fill out an order chit and e-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org by 3pm the day before and it’ll be ready by 11.30am sharp the following morning (minimum order of three bowls).
When evening rolls around, hula on over to their recently launched Tiki Bar. With craft beer and Hawaiian-inspired cocktails galore, it is definitely one of Singapore’s quirkier nightlife spots for a post-work tipple.
Aloha Poké, 92 Amoy Street, tel: 6221 6565, alohapoke.com.sg
Koji Sushi Bar serves donburi (which literally translates to ‘bowl’) rather than a contemporary ‘lunch bowl’; nevertheless, this place deserves a special mention. Its spot on Nankin Row isn’t the easiest to find but a dead giveaway is the line of knackered office workers that wilfully prolong their hunger pangs in order to satisfy their Koji-cravings. Inside, bar stools line the sushi counter as chefs slice, dice and prep every item to order. A remarkable feat for such a tight, little space, especially given the high demand. For such modest quarters, the quality of the food produced gets two thumbs and a toe up from us.
While the menu offers up premium nigiri sushi and sashimi sets (and omakase at dinner), we’re in love with the Sashimi Rice Bowl. It may look deceptively small, but the thick cubes of seasoned, mixed sashimi (salmon, swordfish, tuna and ikura), crunchy tempura flakes and rice will definitely fill you up, especially with the miso soup and a side salad that comes with every order. For a little extra moolah, make lunch a decadent affair with a portion of rich and creamy uni (sea urchin) for $8 more. The Salmon Avocado Tartare, Salmon and Roe and Tuna Tartare rice bowls are hard to fault too but if you’re aching for heartier fare, the Pork Cheek, Eel or Wagyu Sukiyaki and Gohan (raw egg on rice) are sure to hit the spot.
Koji Sushi Bar, 01-42 Nankin Row, 3 Pickering Street, tel: 6225 6125, kojisushi.com
Hidden in an elegant, colourful little shophouse on Tanjong Pagar’s Tras Street, May May is a respite from the overshadowing, grey skyscrapers overhead. Inside, the space is delightfully bright and airy, with a living green wall and sunrays flooding in through the skylight. More a full-fledged restaurant than a ‘lunch bowl’ eatery, it makes for a lovely dinner venue too, with rich bowls of Lobster Noodles in coconut broth, Oven Roasted Chilean Sea Bass with celeriac and Spiced Lamb with quinoa, pickled papaya and okra. However, in the daytime, May May serves up five unique bowls that range from healthy to straight up sinful, with well-prepared proteins championing each dish. Choose between slow-cooked Beef Rendang, Red Chilli Chicken or Braised Pork Belly if you’re really looking for a treat. Though if you need to power through the afternoon sans siesta (without a nap, that is), the lighter choices of Butter Poached Cod with wakame or the Grilled Miso Aubergine with tofu will fill you up without filling you out. As for the remaining bulk of your bowl, there are only slight variations as each is paired with oven-roasted tomatoes, grilled mushrooms, pickled lotus root and soft-cooked egg, with the optional substitution of quinoa instead of rice.
If you’re niggling for some noodles, sidestep the rice bowls and choose between May May’s Spicy Noodles section, which offers Cold Somen (with grilled prawns, garlic chilli sauce, tobiko and crispy seaweed) or Warm Somen (minced pork and their signature chilli sauce). Before heading back to the office or exploring the neighbouring shophouses, take a cheeky glance at the sweets menu, as dessert here can’t go amiss. May May is famous islandwide for its Liu Sha Custard Doughnuts – a crispy-on-the-outside-but-fluffy-inside doughnut ball bursting at the crumb with its salted egg yolk custard filling! You have to be swift though, as only a limited amount is prepared everyday and demand is very high!
May May, 65 Tras Street, tel: 6221 4698, maymay.com.sg
Full disclosure: we love DSTLLRY for way more than its killer bowl of Bara Chirashi Don at lunch hour. While definitely off the beaten track for some (near Queensway), DSTLLRY is a sleek and sexy space that specialises in bespoke cocktails and a monthly changing Japanese-inspired omakase menu. Resembling a photographer’s studio, the dimly lit bar buzzes with life as drinks are mixed and the chefs behind the counter prep dishes with intense focus.
Typically reserved as an evening hideout, the lunch hour is not to be underestimated, as the ‘chef’s choice’ menu is switched out for a limited selection of delectable donburi. True fans will always stick to a classic and that’s where the Bara Chirashi Don reigns as champion. A dismantled Rubik’s cube of fresh salmon, tuna, hamachi, dotted with vibrant orange spheres of ikura are hard to resist no matter where you are, but by God are they seductive at DSTLLRY. Marinated in a soy-mirin dressing to give it a hefty punch of umami, you will want to savour it slowly.
Being a creative space, DSTLLRY isn’t afraid to bend the rules a little bit… so trust your instincts and try their spin on the typical donburi – ditching the don (rice) and serving their bara chirashi with spicy ramen instead! Flavourful, filling and leaving just a bit of a tingle on your lips, it is a meal you won’t soon forget. After a lunch here, we imagine it won’t be long until you’re back for more. The day menu also offers a melt-in-the-mouth Aburi Salmon Don and a well-marbled Miyazaki A4 Wagyu Don. Though if you really want to see DSTLLRY at its prime, return in the evening and tuck into their 10-course omakase to truly make a journey out west worthwhile.
DSTLLRY, 01-01 Infinite Studios, 21 Media Circle, tel: 6334 4816, dstllryco.com
By Marissa Trew | Photos courtesy of participating outlets
In the 1960s, Singapore gorged the soil from its tiny