The hype: Robertson Quay welcomes a fresh young upstart that combines the best of Thai, Vietnamese, Indonesian and Laotian cuisines all under one roof. Nothing beats the thrill of having options from all over Southeast Asia; except maybe that they’re whipped up by the man formerly behind IndoChine.
The vibe: Like its menu, the large open-air space is immaculately decorated to reflect the coming together of various Southeast Asian cultures. You’ll feel instantly at home with the decor that’s modern but not imposing. Come nightfall, twinkly lights along the alfresco area make for a cozy dinnertime setup.
The food: Foodies might recognize Executive Chef Kantha Chookiat from his former stint at the IndoChine Group—testament alone to his sensitive hand in Indochinese cuisine. After a star-studded career serving royals (Prince Edward, the Princess of Monaco) and political greats (the late Lee Kuan Yew) River Wok is his first solo venture, where he returns his 30 years of experience in the cuisine.
Dishes here seem commonplace but come with Chef Chookiat’s flavorful spin; that might explain why the food takes a while to come. Unlike run-off-the-mill establishments where starters aren’t a big deal, River Wok takes its appetizer plates seriously. The Nam Khao Hor ($14), a Laotian dish of hand rolls, is addictive for its minced chicken filling and roasted rice crumbles; while the Koi Pa Salmon ($18) reimagines salmon with generous citrus dressing in a kueh pie tee-style treat. Also order the Yam Tuapoo Goong Sod ($16)—a wing bean salad of tiger prawns and boiled eggs, whose secret lies in the creamy dressing made with fish sauce, lime juice, coconut cream and chili paste.
The mains too are elevated, leaving behind their street food origins. A clear focus on soups and curries should point you towards the Indonesian red snapper soup Sop Ikan Batam ($12), or Gaeng Phed Ped Yang ($22), a rich roasted duck red curry from Thailand. If you’d intended to steer clear of Vietnamese pho for its monotony, then you must try River Wok’s Pho Bo ($18)—here it’s served to you deconstructed so you can add the premium wagyu beef slices in at your own pace, to ensure maximum freshness of the meat. And trust us, DIY works.
The drinks: The beverage menu is nothing to shout about, but to go with your food is a range of regional beers (served in glasses, not cans; mind you), soft drinks and coffee.
Why you’ll be back: A casual yet elegant space to savor affordable Indochine eats is just what the doctor ordered for Robertson Quay. Plus, you now have a place to dine with your pickiest friend.