Don Ho

The buzz: This Australian small plates restaurant checks many of the right boxes: hip, trendy location along Keong Saik Road; a uniquely modern, tropical interior decor; a mix of cushy booth lounges and bar counter seating; and the kind of warm hospitality afforded at similar joints found in cities like Brisbane and Melbourne. The place has no affiliation with the late singer, as eponymously suggested, save for the Hawaiian theme.

The vibe: An open kitchen concept where you can catch the chefs in action at the wood fire oven, coupled with friendly staff (especially the responsive restaurant manager) that made interacting with diners as much a part of their job as serving the food, projects a cozy, amicable vibe that the brightly-lit resto couldn’t have done on its own. Be warned though, this is a place to socialize. If you’re looking for a quiet night out alone or with a significant other, head elsewhere. 

The food: We ordered one item from each of their menu sub-categories of Earth, Land and Sea—which refers to vegetable, meat and seafood dishes respectively—just to get a broad taste of the restaurant’s chops. First up, we ordered the ash cured ocean trout pastrami ($16) on recommendation of the manager, but the amount of salt lathered onto these slices of cured trout must have been the work of a chef overzealously trying to mimic Salt Bae. The next dish, a bowl of steak cut herb chips ($14), came in a generous proportion and in line with the whole sharing plates philosophy of the establishment, but was unfortunately not lightly salted either. For the mains, we had the grass fed black angus striploin ($20) which was bland in comparison to the first two dishes, though the chimichurri sauce used as seasoning made the meat somewhat palatable at least.

The drinks: We only tried the Peaty Monkey ($20; Monkey Shoulder, Ardbeg 10 years, Orgeat syrup, fresh lime and pineapple) as we felt something smoky and refreshing would go well with our choice of dishes, which it did. And if the standards from this concoction is anything to go by, we will be back for the cocktails at least. Other tipples include the citrusy Yuzu Mule ($20) made with Reyka vodka, orange, lime, yuzu honey and ginger beer; and the funky Tropical Espresso ($20), which is essentially a blend of Milagro, lime, espresso and coconut syrup. Red and white wines like Malbec Arido 2014 ($14) and Wild Rock Sauvignon Blanc 2015 ($16) are also available.

Why you’ll be back: While this joint is worth heading to for the drinks, service and vibes, you’re better off having their bar bites rather than a solid meal (there are several alternatives within The Working Capitol building itself, where Don Ho resides).