Even before relocating to the current location where Neon Pigeon used to reside, Heart of Darkness (which hails from Saigon, Vietnam) has been the go-to spot for craft beer lovers thanks to its unique combination of core brews as well as collaborations with local, regional, and global craft breweries.
The watering hole has recently expanded its menu, adding new tasty additions and much more diverse booze offerings to complement its signature craft beer selection that has about 25 options – all of them proudly displayed in a row of taps behind the bar.
AVENUE ONE had the opportunity to sample the revamped food and drinks menu in a recent media tasting session at Heart Of Darkness – keep reading to find out if the new gastronomical offerings are worth a shot!
Blending regional Asian cuisine with American soul food
From tasty new sharing plates to tapas and tacos, there’s no shortage of food in this gastrobar. Sure, there are the usual bar bites that go perfectly with a cold glass of beer but now, you have options to even have a complete meal here if you like.
For starters, ask for the Fruits and Vegetables Platter (S$38), which is a great option for a large group. Instead of the traditional Vietnamese spring roll, Heart of Darkness’ version offers a twist with fruit stuffings such as grapes, blueberries, and strawberries all wrapped in rice paper wrappers and served with a mayo dip.
It was refreshing to see a different take of the classic Vietnamese dish, as the usual combination of prawn, rice vermicelli noodles, and bean sprouts were replaced by fruits and rice instead. The mayo dip also elevated the taste of the fruit-based spring roll, which otherwise had little taste to it save for the tartness from the fruits.
In the mood for something more savoury? Try Bánh Bao Gà (S$14), an unassuming plate of minced chicken dumplings served with Thai sweet chilli sauce. None of us at the table thought much of the dumplings when the plate first got to the table but once we tried them, it was hard to stop at just one.
Each of the dumplings had a juicy and flavorful filling that just enveloped the mouth when we sunk our teeth into it, and it unanimously became our table’s #1 favourite dish of the evening.
So far so good… But, are we really in a bar if we don’t munch on some deep-fried bar snacks? Heart of Darkness certainly thought it wouldn’t be right, which was why the kitchen sent out Fresh Calamari (S$18) for us to sample.
Instead of the usual calamari rings which can be rather tough and rubbery when overcooked, the gastrobar served up a whole squid that was resting on a bed of sriracha mayo. The squid was just lightly battered with flour before deep-frying, so you won’t find any thick flour coating here like you would in other joints. Although deep-fried, it was not overly greasy at all and together with the spicy sriracha mayo, we wasted no time in lapping up the delicious comforting snack.
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You can also consider getting your fingers dirty with Nachos (S$14), which is served with vegetarian chilli, house-made guacamole, sour cream, and jalapenos so it’s perfect even for non-meat eaters. There’s also the option of making it animal-style, which lets you add pulled pork or smoked brisket for a top-up of S$8.
For something heartier, try the Darkness Rendang Wagyu Burger (S$26) that features a 240g Wagyu patty with miso butter, cheese sauce, cabbage slaw, rendang sauce, crispy bacon, and egg on a charcoal bun served with chips on the side.
Or, have the best of both worlds with Char Siew Beef Short Ribs (S$38), which are slow cooked for 14 hours and slathered in Merciless Phantom Reserve Imperial Stout sauce before reaching your table with spicy purple cabbage slaw.
For something that you totally wouldn’t expect to eat at a bar, order the Pan Seared Barramundi (S$26) or Bone Marrow (S$34). The former was cooked just enough to let the freshness of the fish shine, which was further complemented with the tomato confit puree that it was sitting on top of as well as caviar pearls that were made with the house soft porter, Director’s Cacao Nib Porter.
The latter, which was braised with garlic, rosemary, and thyme, was like an ultra-decadent butter that we just couldn’t get enough of, so much so that we even asked for a second serving of bread! Unlike the conventional serving of bone marrow, it was served in smaller spheres with a dash of apple vinegar plus slivers of chilli, fresh shallots, and coriander – head chef Jai Amir Mohamed told us that this chosen format is easier for guests to scoop and spread on the bread that way.
Another new addition to the menu is the IPA Crispy Pork Belly (S$22), which was marinated three days in beer and sous vided overnight before deep-frying until crispy. But while the skin was pure crunchy perfection that was a joy to eat with the homemade chilli, the meat was, unfortunately, a little too dry for the palate.
A variety of sharing plates are also on offer, such as the Taco Platter (S$65), with a mix of eight tacos and nachos, and the Jumbo Family Nachos Platter (S$38) for a group fiesta. If you’re rounding up your carnivorous crew for the evening, indulge in the Meat Platter (S$95), which is a selection of house favourites with three sausages, beef brisket, char siew beef short rib, and IPA-marinated pork belly.
Alternatively, you can also try the Cacao Pork Ribs (S$32), which features melt-in-your-mouth (we can vouch for this!) char-grilled pork ribs covered in smoky cacao BBQ sauce – the meat was so tender, it just fell off the bone without much effort! Top it up with Black Angus Prime Rib (S$18 per 100g) if you still need loads more to fill your appetite.
To round out your meal, be sure to try the unique dessert selection at Heart of Darkness. Choose from Marlow’s Mellow (S$14), a Basque burnt cheesecake with a boozy twist, Eloquent Phantom Imperial Stout Tiramisu (S$18) which uses the namesake craft beer instead of Marsala wine or dark rum for the classic dessert, or the Khoai Môn Dừa (S$12), a special taro coconut panna cotta made with homemade Director’s Cacao Nib Porter soil that’s sure to be a hit among those who prefer not-so-sickly-sweet desserts.
New cocktails plus an even more extensive wine and sake menu
With 20 taps filled with Heart of Darkness’ own creative brews and up to five taps dedicated to local breweries and special collaborations, the gastrobar continues to push the boundaries of craft beer in the region while it strives to nurture the next generation of brewers in Singapore.
We’ve been told that award-winning favourites such as Dream Alone Pale Ale, Futile Purpose Cucumber Pilsner, and Director’s Cacao Nib Porter are paired with an ever-changing limited release menu which is updated every couple of days.
But now, you can find more than just craft beer here as the hideaway offers a drink for every palate with signature cocktails, delicious gin & tonics, natural wines, and sakes on the menu. So whatever your preference is, you will find something to pair seamlessly with the new dining menu.
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For example, we started with Bloody Sunset (S$19), a cocktail inspired by the classic Aperol Spritz that played up the tartness of the grapes and berries in the Fruits and Vegetables Platter. We also sampled the Kato Kichibee “Born” Gold Junmai Daiginjyo, an exceptionally smooth sake that you can easily drink on its own or have with the Fresh Calamari.
Having not tasted natural wines before, we didn’t think much of them until we tried the pairings at Heart of Darkness. Domaine de l’Ecu Taurus (2015) is an elegant, complex Muscadet that heightened the flavours in the Pan Seared Barramundi, and the Pierre Cotton Orange Carbonique (2019) is an orange wine that balanced out the flavourful Black Angus Prime Rib. In case you’re wondering, orange wine is simply white wine with an orange tint (also known as skin-fermented white wine).
Don’t leave without trying the Black Shadows Expresso Martini Stout, a full and creamy stout-coffee that will have you wanting more as it’s so easy to drink – leaving you to wonder if you’re drinking coffee or booze!
For a stirred drink, try the new Year of the Ox, which blends Remy Martin VSOP with beef broth and peaches to bring an earthy, beefy, flavourful twist to your palate. Two other must-try cocktails are Futile Logic with Hendrick’s Orbium Gin, fresh lemon, house-made mint syrup, Futile Purpose Cucumber Pilsner, and salted sesame cucumber, and Conquistador that’s made with Casa Elemental Mezcal, Italian vermouth, Campari, Conquistador’s Mexican Pilsner, and coffee reduction, served with a coffee lollipop. Cocktails are priced upwards of S$19.
If you can’t seem to decide what to drink, just save yourself the headache and go ahead with the Beer Flight – we promise it won’t disappoint.
Where to find Heart of Darkness
Heart of Darkness is located at 1 Keong Saik Road, Singapore 089109. It currently opens daily from 2pm to 10.30pm on Mondays through Wednesdays and from 12pm to 10.30pm on Thursdays through Sundays. Heart of Darkness offers island-wide delivery and takeaway for its food and craft beer too, visit this page to place your order.