Warung K – Hidden Indonesian Charcoal Grill in Pioneer!
Nestled in the industrial area of Pioneer, Warung K was not easy to find. However, once you approach this one-month old stall, you will immediately feel the heat emanating from their signature charcoal grill. Before this venture, Warung K’s chef-owner, Ken Zheng, used to work in a number of high-end hotel restaurants. Most notably, he was the ex-Chef de Cuisine at Clifford Pier located in Fullerton Bay Hotel. Despite not being ethnically Indonesian, he always enjoyed travelling to Indonesia and ended up falling in love with their cuisine. Now at 36 years of age, his passion for Indonesian food has led him to leave his corporate-Chef life behind to open his own Indonesian charcoal grill stall!
The stall, which opened just three weeks ago, offers a variety of charcoal grilled meats. I first tried their Ayam Bakar, which is their grilled chicken dish at just $6.00. The dish comes with a serving of yellow turmeric-infused rice topped with a glistening char-grilled chicken drumstick. As the chicken is being grilled, Chef Ken generously brushes the meat with kecap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce) that is infused with chilli and garlic. This forms a sweet caramelised coating on the chicken, which complements its slightly bitter char.
While crispy and dark on the exterior, the meat itself remained juicy and tender. Interestingly, Chef Ken confits the chicken drumsticks before marinating the meat and gently cooking it in a mixture of chicken fat and bumbu (blend of Indonesian spices). Chef Ken explains that by cooking it in its own fat, the chicken remains moist before being finished on the charcoal grill.
I will say, however, that the glaze might be too sweet for some. I personally enjoy lots of sweetness in my savoury dishes so I quite liked it! Also, the sweet flavour of the meat does get balanced out when eaten with the fluffy yellow rice. A squeeze of lime also provides a touch of acidity to cut through the stickiness of the glaze. Other sides include some stir-fried vegetables, a fermented soy bean cake and some prawn crackers. The dish also comes with a side in-house made sambal chilli. Chef Ken shared that he takes inspiration from his Peranakan heritage in the making of the sambal – he considers it to be a fusion of both Indonesian and Peranakan styles. I enjoyed the sour tang of the sambal but it was definitely too spicy for my tastebuds.
The Ikan Bakar (grilled fish) is a unique dish at Warung K – it changes almost every day. Chef Ken heads down to the market every morning to buy whatever fresh fish is available and puts it on the menu as a special. On that day, we had needle fish that originated from Balinese waters! The flesh of the fish slid off the bone easily with the use of a spoon. The fish was moist but not that tender, which I think actually works better in this dish. It had a slightly firmer texture which requires you to chew it for longer – this allows the flavours of the sweet glaze and the smokey char to linger and develop in your mouth.
When I first saw the Mushroom Raja (King Oyster mushroom), I thought that the flavour of the mushrooms would be not hold up against the robust sweetness of the kecap manis. However, I was pleasantly surprised! The mushrooms were plump and almost meat-like in their texture. Not only that, I could still taste the mushroom’s distinct earthy flavour through the sweet glaze. Prior to grilling, Chef Ken actually smokes the mushrooms to intensify their flavour, and also scores the mushrooms to allow the glaze to better adhere to it. Despite not being a meat dish, I think it’s well worth its price point of $6.00!
At just $2.00, the Potato Penyet is a side dish that I’d highly recommend. The potatoes are halved and grilled in identical fashion to all the aforementioned dishes. It is served with a curry powder mayonnaise, hence its slightly orange tint. The potatoes were fluffy yet dense and satisfying. The creamy and slightly tangy mayonnaise added a touch of heat that complemented the potatoes well. You really can’t go wrong with ordering this simple yet delicious dish.
Address: 5 Soon Lee Street, Pioneer Point, Singapore 627607
Opening Hours: 11am to 7pm daily, closed on Sunday.
MissTamChiak.com made an anonymous visit and paid its own meal at the stall featured here.
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