Monday, September 25, 2017

Delectable drinks and bites tempt extra orders

The “shaved octopus” made us giggle. We didn’t know what to expect from this dish, as the menu at Gekko is a little light on description: a hipster mollusk robbed of its beard for our delectation perhaps?

In the upstairs section of the eclectically decorated bar, as polite wait staff placed napkins on our laps in a cute nod to formality, hirsute sea monsters writhed in our imaginations.

When the elegant platter of translucent slices appeared, it was, thankfully, somewhat tamer than we’d envisaged. And what the dish (US$7) lacked in drama, it made up for in delicacy. Badly prepared octopus will leave a diner grinding flesh so chewy the creature might as well be still alive and fighting back. Served in this manner, with piquant seafood sauce, it was anything but tough, one of the favourites of the evening.

Despite billing itself as a “ramen restaurant, bar and barbecue”, Gekko is less focused on noodles and more on a Yakitori-inspired selection of skewered bites. There are chicken, pork, seafood and vegetable “stix” – a description my dining companions felt conjured up a family diner rather than an up-market bar.

In any case, the chilli-garlic squid with lime stix ($7) were grilled to melt-in-the-mouth perfection.

The Hichibachi salmon with risotto ($12) is described on the menu as a “medium dish” and, indeed, came with a fish portion of reasonable size, and well sourced if it’s firm texture and depth of flavour was anything to go by. The risotto serving, however, was stingy and the only disappointment of the evening.

Diners looking for a more substantial meal would be better ordering bibimbap – an all-in-one bowl of rice, meat and egg. It’s one of the best value dishes on the menu, served up in hearty portions ($10).

Abstemious is not a word that would apply to our cocktail sampling that evening. The Japanese-inspired drink menu, created by Singapore mixologists, is long and tempting. Among the highlights – for those who like their drinks with kick – is the Hanami Old Fashioned ($7), made with Japanese whisky, hanami tea syrup and bitters.

Those with a mellower palate might prefer a Yellow Bird ($8) made with barley shochu, umeshu, yuzu and shiso, fresh lime, organic agave nectar and Maldon salt.

When the bill came we got something of a shock. Upon analysis, the issue was not that any individual dish or drink is very expensive. It was the quantity we’d managed to consume. The light portions encourage the ordering of several dishes per person (at least for the hungry) while the quality of the cocktails make them all too alluring. Which is, except for the purse strings, rather a good complaint.

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