Ash & Char: pushing the blackened boundaries

2016 has seen an extremely warm reception to cauliflower in my culinary dictionary. I can't even begin to describe the reverberating excitement that floods my soul when the thought of Renaa Matbaren's Gratinated Cauliflower crosses my mind. Nicely blackened on it's edges and bathed in a luxurious cheese gratin sauce, this fat-ladened indulgence coupled with frigid -10 degree temperatures on the outside certainly made for a revolutionary experience.

Fast forward to the brink of 2017, where friendly bistro Ash & Char sets the stage for what could potentially make or break my most pivotal first year encounter with the Brassicaceae species. Their Fried Cauliflower with gochujang and lemon dressing with gremolata ($9) sets some high expectations with bonus mark scored on aesthetics. The end result is safe. Taking bites of the browned and slightly crisp florets, the lemon dressing uplifts the equation and gochujang lends a feisty profile. As a staunch believer in the importance of doing the humble bouquet justice, I found Ash and Char's efforts to be admirable. Sugar, we're headed somewhere.

Just a bit of background information about the casual diner located right smack in the Tanjong Pagar, or rather the raciest spot on McCallum street, to be exact. A lovechild of the same people behind Rise and Grind, this concept differs slightly, in that at nightfall, something mysterious happens. The usual cafe-suspects are laid to rest and the kitchen gets into high gear, pushing out plates with a subtle Asian influence marred by traces of charred and smoked elements to tie in with the gastro-bar's theme. 

The Char Siew ($14) wound up in front of me and boy was I a happy camper. Homemade pork belly veers slightly away from the regular artificial red roast meat varietal with a secret sauce that's both sticky sweet and ultra savoury. This is one to leave you with heart palpitations. You've been warned.

Beer cradlers can also look forward to the Tamarind Wings ($12) - the spicy soy honey glaze egging these regular half joints into stardom category. Sesame seeds and crispy basil provide a healthy crunch in fierce contrast.

Back to the lunch situation, the menu is fairly predictable for a cafe bistro but that can't be held against the place. There's the Korean Chicken Burger ($17) -  with spiced blackened crust, in-house fermented kimchi and apple slaw between soft brioche buns. Yes, these are a major improvement from their previously dense and overly sweet bread, they made the perfect canvas for the sweet and fiery slaw.

There's also the fashionable rice bowls, we got to dig into the Hanger Steak Rice bowl ($18) and Grilled Salmon Rice bowl ($17) provide a different option for office warriors. The latter, I deeply favor. the salty burst of ikura juxtaposed against crunchy fried kale. But if you really want the truth, make a beeline for the Char Siew Rice Bowl ($16) which touts 150g of melt-in-your-mouth fatty pork belly doused in ginger scallion sauce. The bomb diggity.

Desserts aren't it's strong suit here at Ash and Char. So don't expect to be bowled over. The Dark chocolate Smore's Pie ($8) does its best to placate the dessert monsters in me but its efforts are in vain with a less than intense chocolate filling complete with wispy meringue that could have used a little more sugar for luscious effect. Those looking for a tangy conclusion to your meal should head in the direction of the Yuzu Tofu Cheesecake ($8) - glass-bound, it's a tad difficult to reach the graham and ginger base at the bottom but you'll figure out a way to enjoy every dimension in a single bite.

Set your sights on the dinner menu here at Ash and Char, that's where the money is.

Ash and Char
1 McCallum St
t: 9132 8880

Operating Hours:
Mon - Thurs: 11am - 11pm
Fri: 11am - 12am
Sat: 11am - 10pm
Sun: Closed

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