51 Soho

The hype: From the people behind Birds of a Feather and Halcyon & Crane comes a fresh community concept that stands out from the flock thanks to an innovative menu that defies both traditional and modern norms in favour of flavour and fun.

The vibe: Modish, black and warm, 51 Soho is made to be a comfortable hideaway from the bustle of the CBD street outside, and where you and your mates can feel free to make merry. But if the hustle of Singapore’s financial centre is more your jam, al fresco seats will easily accomodate to your speed.

The food: They may serve all meals of the day—coffees and sandwiches for breakfast and grain bowls for lunch—but dinner is when 51 Soho truly shines. It becomes a den for the work-weary to rejuvenate over thoughtful comfort food paired with a cocktail offering (more on that further below) never-before-seen in Singapore.

Like sister concepts Birds of a Feather and Halcyon & Crane, there is an obvious Sichuan influence, but unlike its siblings, there is a greater focus on bar food, making it better for a casual evening dining experience similar to a modern izakaya. That doesn’t mean the food isn’t substantial. While many may first be drawn here for drinks, it’s the food that’ll convert customers into regulars.

Start with salads or skewers. Both are flavour-packed, but hit very different notes. The Green & Nutty ($18) for instance, is an earthy broccolini and romanesco salad mixed in a charred and roasty dressing that will satiate even most carnivores. The skewers, all charcoal grilled and dusted in spice, is then your go-to chow. Try the can’t-go-wrong pork belly ($7.50 for two sticks) for your fill of umami and fat, or get the duck gizzard ($6 for two sticks) for crunchy meats that tastes exponentially better the more you have ‘em.

, 51 Soho
Our Spicy Pasta

For heftier mains, there is but a small selection, though each a star dish that caters to various tastes. The Salmon & Pearl ($28), essentially a pan-seared salmon sitting atop a bed of pearl couscous, is a must. The starchy grains here are soaked in a homemade fish stock that is intense, tart and spicy, making it highly addictive. The Our Spicy Pasta ($24) too, will have you uncontrollably twirling fork after fork of hot and sour spaghetti into your mouth—the plump tiger prawns and generous portions of sauteed crab meat just icing on the cake.

For more bites to go with drinks, there’re chicken wings ($10.90) and shoestring shaker fries ($7.90) too, the latter one served in a brown bag so you can get the satisfaction of tossing in your own spice powder and shaking it till all your woes dissipate.

The drinks: Peruse the full-length open bar and you’ll notice a couple of bottles you may not have seen before. Injecting levity while introducing the world of Chinese liquors to the masses here are five signature drinks made using baijiu, bamboo wine and various other spirits from China.

There is the easy crowd-favourite Bamboo Dream, a refreshing long drink made with baijiu infused with osmanthus tea and shaken with osmanthus rice wine and fermented glutinous rice ice cubes, then served in a custom bamboo cup. And the Prosperity Cup made with fermented rice wine and homemade barley juice will likely show up a lot on Instagram, thanks to a 100 yuan note made using rice paper being served as accompaniment.

, 51 Soho
Prosperity Cup

But for serious drinkers, it’s the spirit-forward Dancing in the Moonlight you’re after. It’s a shot, served in a mini tea cup and meant to mimic a traditional Chinese dessert in looks, yet taste nothing like it. Here, bamboo leaf liquor is mixed with cucumber syrup, kumquat puree, lemon juice, boiled snow fungus and goji berries, and downing one is a mouthful of light, herbal notes giving way to a long finish of robust molasses. Delicious.

And instead of dessert, go for the creamy Dr Panda (earl grey-infused rice wine, banana, cream and oreo crumbs) or the eponymous, fruity and plumy 51 Soho.

Surprisingly, all the signature drinks are not available in single portions. Rather, they come in minimum orders of nine cups for $88 or 12 cups for $100. And in the case of Dancing in the Moonlight, 12 shots go for $88 and 24 cups for $120. There is also an assorted option ($100 for 10 cups) where you get to try all five signatures. It’s a move designed to encourage coming with the crew.

For those less adventurous or simply needing a single drink, there are beers on tap, wines and classic cocktails too, so there’s something for everyone.

Why you’ll be back: Being the first and only venue in Singapore offering baijiu cocktails is all the reason you need to come again and again. Add into the equation comfort food that goes so well with the drinks, and you got a winning formula you won’t find anywhere else.