“Go easy brah, in between all the racket and the rushing around,” Don Ho croons in his song Papa’s Mementos. The lyrics may be simple, but its message probably resonates among many of us who are often caught up in our busy daily lives. Our search for some breathing space led us to DON HO Social Kitchen & Bar.
So who exactly is Don Ho and why is there a restaurant named after him in Keong Saik Road? As it turns out, the late Don Ho was a famous Hawaiian musician and also the inspiration behind this new establishment that opened last month. Picture this – laid-back tropical vibes and a lively communal dining experience amidst luscious tropical plants.
Although we were expecting Hawaiian cuisine with Pacific ingredients, we eventually learnt that DON HO actually focuses on Mod Australian cuisine. In its first iteration for Spring 2017, the shared dining concept revolves around the Earth, Land and Sea. Currently only open in the evenings for dinner and cocktails, there are more than 30 dishes are on the menu, including “Big Sharing” dishes for larger groups and fairly interestingly composed desserts (“Happy End”).
Note: Many of the dishes are also gluten-free.
We were hosted by the delightfully affable assistant outlet manager Jolin, who recommended us to order three dishes each. To complement the meal, we also ordered two cocktails – we were spoilt for choice but decided on the Yuzu Mule ($20) and Gin Garden ($18).
From the Earth: We were intrigued by the sight of the wood-fired oven in the centre of the open kitchen and decided to try the Zaatar Flat Bread ($12), which was served with a generous amount of labneh (greek yogurt) on the side. While the zaatar herb and spice mixture was a little overwhelming, the flat bread itself was crisp around the edges and soft on the inside.
Being fans of the wonderfully versatile eggplant, we tried the Home-made Ricotta ($12) which came with roasted eggplants sprinkled with toasted sesame, garlic chips and almonds. Although the ricotta was fairly plain on its own, the chili oil created an interesting contrast.
From the Land: Perhaps one of the highlights of our meal, the Roasted Iberico Pork Jowl ($16) was pleasing to both our taste buds and eyes. The rich, fatty cuts were so delicious that they will melt in your mouth! The slow-cooked egg and miso were also a nice touch.
On the other hand, we were not so enamoured with the Smoked Ox Tongue Sliders ($20 per pair), served with cabbage slaw and pickled cucumber. While the smoked ox tongue was finely sliced and fairly tender, the chipotle mayo could have been added more sparingly so as not to overpower the star of the dish.
From the Sea: The Red Snapper ($18) was another highlight of the meal, served on a bed of cauliflower puree. The pan-fried fish fillet was delightfully juicy underneath its crispy skin. Although the puree may have felt a tad too salty to pass-off as a healthy dish, the topping of hazelnuts and puffed wild rice added a nice crunch to the dish. Perhaps a touch of lemon or citrus would have helped to elevate the dish.
We had space for one dessert and decided to go for the Passion Fruit Marshmallow ($10). Overall, it was a refreshing dessert served with citrus segments and lemon curd on the side. The taste of passion fruit was authentic but it was partially masked by the intensity of the lemon curd.
All in all, we had an enjoyable dining experience at DON HO Social Kitchen & Bar. While the cocktails could have been stronger, the extensive selection of shared plates make for an interesting gastronomic journey through a fusion of Australian, Mediterranean and Pacific flavours that is bound to pacify diverse taste buds. Some dishes could be improved, but we would definitely be back to try the other dishes, as well as the upcoming brunch menu!
– The entrance to DON HO is via the back alley, facing Duxton Plain Park.
– If you prefer a quieter and more intimate ambience, visit during the 1st seating. Otherwise, opt for lively tropical party vibes complete with a disco ball during the 2nd seating!
– All prices on the menu include GST. There is no service charge but tipping is encouraged.
What’s worth ordering:
Roasted Iberico Pork Jowl
Photos and words by Leon Jared.
Address: 1 Keong Saik Road #01-05, The Working Capitol Building, Singapore 089109
Contact: 6223 5001 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Opening Hours: 6pm – 12am (Tue – Sat); 1st Seating: 6.30pm – 8.30pm; 2nd Seating: 8.30pm till late
Website | Facebook | Instagram