While waiting for my dining companion to arrive, I found myself paying close attention to the music. Different from the usual background Muzak or pop songs heard at most eating places, this playlist of funk, soul and hip hop was curated by master and champion of hip-hop in Singapore, DJ KoFlow, also known as Wayne Liu.
This was hardly surprising, as I was at Honcho, Liu’s multi-level lifestyle venue at 12 Ann Siang Road. More than just a bar or a restaurant, it is a destination for good food, cocktails and entertainment.
While enjoying the music, I sipped on Tanglin Spark, an alchemy of Tanglin Singapore Gin, rosemary and lime. This tasty concoction is created by Vijay Mudaliar, famed mixologist and founder of the award-winning Native bar. That woke my appetite.
When my companion arrived, we headed to the restaurant on the ground floor where a feast awaited us — the chef’s omakase menu prepared by head chef Terence Ong, a Japanese cuisine expert. Omakase prices range from $68 to $228. We started with Sakura Tomatofu — home-cured sakura mascarpone tofu, drizzled in a tangy yuzu vinaigrette and topped with Japanese amela tomato. The beautifully plated dish is best eaten with the fresh tomato along with the tofu that has a similar taste and texture to that of burrata.
This was followed by the Truffle Tai Carpaccio of thinly-sliced Japanese sea bream that balances well with the tartness of the sea kelp and salmon roe. The whole dish is brought together with a light drizzle of truffle oil.
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Honcho Wagyu Brioche Toast
The next dish was Honcho Wagyu Brioche Toast — mouth-watering Japanese A4 prime cut wagyu, lightly sautéed in mushroom and garlic, served on lightly toasted brioche with a topping of oscietra caviar. Also available as a starter on the menu, I would definitely order it on my next visit.
The culinary hits kept coming: seared foie gras with Hokkaido scallop; Norwegian salmon with spicy cod roe; fried sea-food roll with avocado, cheese and diced condiments of seafood.
Koji Lamb Rack
The finale was the Koji Lamb Rack that was done to perfection, neither over nor under. Wet aged lamb rack is marinated in koji yeast for 36 hours, then chargrilled and crusted with spicy cod roe. An additional touch was the thinly-sliced crispy deep-fried ginger that really should be packaged and sold as a snack.
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After that satisfying meal, we adjourned to the Jõ bar on the rooftop. Jõ showcases local craft beers that you can savour while admiring the picturesque views of the surrounding shophouses. If you join as a member, you can also retreat to Social@Honho, a private club in the basement.
Just as the food is aesthetically pleas- ing, so is the decor in modern monochrome chic, with hints of gold. This is complemented by the staff’s uniform, which looks like a modern-chic kimono designed by Shõten, a brand under cre- ative production house Massive Outfit.
Honcho is Liu’s collaboration with fintech entrepreneur Amos Poh, who was his ex-bandmate from the local Mandarin rap-rock group Chou Pi Jiang. The word “honcho” comes from the Japanese word for “squad leader”, reflecting its aspiration to be a taste-maker in the modern arts and music culture scene. It will showcase and collaborate with Singaporeans from across the creative indus- tries, including mixologists, street artists, graphic designers and content creators.
It is clearly a labour of love for both, a realisation of a dream forged over music and beers for more than five years. Combining Liu’s expertise in the local creative scene with Poh’s wide business network, the two have corralled an impressive squad comprising talents from the nightlife industry, all of whom have a passion for the arts, food and cocktails.
For Liu, Honcho plugs a long-existing gap in the Singapore scene, as both a social hangout as well as an inclusive networking platform for local creatives. He believes in walking the talk. “A lot of people say they support local, but few actually follow through,” he says. “The local artists are often taken for granted. The relationship isn’t truly collaborative, and they don’t get enough credit or even proper remuneration.”
He adds: “What we want is for people to feel a sense of pride and enjoy what they are doing. And hopefully, for other people to discover them and book them. That would make me happy.”
12 Ann Siang Rd, Singapore 069692
Mondays to Saturdays: 5pm to 10.30pm
WhatsApp: +65 8779 9537
Email: [email protected]