There’s a new place to get food and drink in the Central Business District: Ash & Char. Once a café, it has recently been relaunched as a gastrobar — where you expect not just good alcohol, but also inventive accompanying nosh. To that end, Ash & Char fulfils that promise by presenting a wide menu of treats to go along with your cocktail or beer.
Ash & Char’s signature offering is their blue wine: the Santa Cruz de Alpera Blue Frizzante. Blue is not a colour commonly found in nature or food, so to see it illuminate the wine like this should be a nice novelty for first-time guests to Ash & Char. Its bouquet was lightly intoxicating, and the taste sharply sweet.
What I would go for is the Mixed Berry Bramble! A refreshing, icy, and fruity cocktail with a light gin finish. Iif you’re after something more alcoholic, a good choice would be the Whisky Sour.
Fried and savoury bar staples are also available at Ash & Char. The Crispy Kalemari, which as its name suggests, were lightly breaded calamari rings; gently fried and, to my relief, not rubbery at all.
Another bar staple is the Classic Fish And Chips – crispy thin batter encasing the chunky fish meat served with a creamy tartar dip by the side, and of course, french fries portioned warm and crisp. Basically, a good ol’ fish and chips dish.
No bar would be complete if it did not serve fried chicken wings. Ash & Char has six flavours, although I only got to try three of them: Buffalo, Teriyaki, and Har Cheong Kai. The buffalo wings are a great choice for those who want some spice, while the teriyaki wings will appeal to diners who want their wings coated with a sticky sweet and salty sauce and bonito flakes to top. The har cheong kai version is as well-executed as those you’ll find at other zhi char restaurants, with a generous but not-overwhelming shrimp flavour in the crispy skin.
You can also get really great-tasting (and great-looking) burgers here. We got to try the AC Char-Grilled Wagyu. The aioli carried a strong truffle aroma, and the wagyu patty was done just right, juicy to the bite. The colour of the bun was more of a novelty; it’s still a well-toasted bun with a thin-crisp surface coupled with wholesomeness in each bite.
If you need more meat in your meal, Ash & Char has you covered with their Signature Char Siu and Mayura Choco Wagyu. The char siu comes glazed with a sweet sauce accented with soy and honey over each piece of meat that is layered with a generous sliver of fat.
Comparatively, the wagyu, wasn’t as thrilling. The cubes were mildly sweet but still lacking in taste. I also expected each portion of wagyu to be smoother and more marbled, but each bite was chewy. That said, there was just the slightest hint of chocolate to make the beef a bit more interesting.
Now, for the more unconventional tapas on the menu. The Crispy Cauliflower is a creative choice for a vegetable dish. The name is a bit of a misnomer as the cauliflower itself is roasted, and hence not crispy; any crispiness comes from the addition of breadcrumbs, which is still texturally appealing. But the roasting the cauliflower does add a lot of umami along with the garlic and soy sauce, and so it is a very pleasing dish.
The Chijeu-Buldak, or as it is known in English, ‘fire chicken with cheese’ is another tapas item to look out for. Think cheese and chicken cooked together with Korean culinary spices, forming a savoury morsel that hints just ever so slightly of kimchi.
If you looking for more filling dishes, you can choose between pasta and rice bowls. For noodles, the Tom Yum Seafood has linguine soaking up a laksa-inspired broth with an intense coconut milk flavour amidst the sour and salty notes. The prawns and mussels are succulent.
I have to be honest about the Mentaiko Salmon Aburi bowl though: the taste of the rice and salmon did not match the quality of most of the other dishes here. The mentaiko is a reliably delicious topping for the salmon. However, perhaps due the provenance of the meat, the salmon itself did not taste as good as I’d hoped. Maybe it would have tasted better if the ‘aburi’ in the name did not simply mean that the mentaiko was torched, but also the salmon itself.
Creamy Smoked Duck Pasta
In general, Ash & Char has fantastic, well-presented dishes. In addition to the ones I’ve already mentioned, I got to see the yummy-looking Messy Rocker burger and the Creamy Smoked Duck Pasta. Unfortunately, they weren’t available for tasting that evening, so I could only take pictures.
All in all, with very few exceptions, you can’t go wrong with most of the food at Ash & Char. However, there are some issues with the acoustics; I had difficulty hearing the conversation I was having with my plus one over the din of the crowd. I hope they resolve it eventually, because as a space for hosting clients, enjoying the company of friends, or going on a date over tasty food and blue wine, it’s a pretty good spot.
Thank you Ash & Char for the invitation.