Saturday, 30 August, 2014

 
Published March 15, 2014
Dining
Classy dogs
Two upscale hotdog eateries have opened recently offering premium sausages and crafted beers to wash them down with. Debbie Yong takes a bite
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HIP, BROOKLYN BACK ALLEY VIBE
Hopdog's open bar shelves display over 100 labels of craft brews. Its hot dogs (above) are uniformly priced at $12 for a hot dog bun served with a side of nachos. There are two options for sausages - beef or pork - and four flavours of buns: white, red yeast rice, roasted sesame and the pillowy-sweet charcoal

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'(Our) hot dogs are custom-made sausages from a local butchery carefully paired with toppings that are all made from scratch in-house.'
Co-owner Kelly Koh

Hopdog

Block 3C River Valley Road

Tel: 67340205

Hours: 5pm-3am (Sun-Thur), 5pm-4am (Fri-Sat)

THEY'RE known for their trendy nightspots and youthful branding, so when the people behind Lifebrandz say they want to start serving beer and dogs, you know it isn't going to be just a run-of-the-mill hot dog stand.

Launched last week, gourmet dogs and craft beer joint Hopdogs is the latest in the nightlife stalwart's steady fiefdom in Clarke Quay. The 180-seater - it holds 150 indoors with outdoor tables for 30 - takes over the space formerly occupied by the group's hip-hop themed cafe, Rebel Hood, which closed last month.

"Rebel Hood was created as a part of Rebel and Zirca, but with both concepts now closed, it's lost a bit of its identity, hence our decision to refresh and rebrand the space," explains the group's spokesperson Jonathan Shen. Zirca is now members-only club Fenix Room and Rebel has been reconceptualised as nightclub Dream. Both concepts physically sandwich Hopdogs.

But why gourmet dogs?

"Why not gourmet dogs?" he quips. "We believe there's a crowd in Clarke Quay looking for something in between fast food and a full sit-down dinner."

Referring to them as an "affordable luxury," he adds that "even for someone not particularly looking for gourmet dogs, our prices are not prohibitive at all for them to try one."

Hopdogs' hot dogs are uniformly priced at $12 for a hot dog bun served with a side of nachos. The two options for sausages (beef or pork) and four flavours of buns (white, red yeast rice, roasted sesame and the pillowy-sweet charcoal) come in eight preconfigured flavour permutations with chuckle-worthy names such as the Hottu-Doggu and Guten Dog.

Opt for reliable, recognisable tastes such as the saurkraut and grain mustard-laden Guten Dog; the Italian-inflected bolognese and mozzarella-topped Chilli Dog; or the Ariba with guacamole, sour cream and Mexican cheese dressing. Or, take adventurous tastebuds on a globe-trot with the Lunar Dog, which folds in toppings such as char siew, spring onions and plum sauce, and the Teriyaki Dog comprising a teriyaki-drizzled pork sausage encased in a wholesome roast sesame bun and topped with seaweed wafers.

The craft beer element, on the other hand, was added on to satiate the growing local interest in craft beer, as well as party-goers looking to start slow with a civil after-work tipple, says Mr Shen.

Open bar shelves display over 100 labels of craft brews from various countries from the United States to the United Kingdom and Japan - a range that Mr Shen hopes will be doubled in coming months to make Hopdogs a bar with "one of Singapore's largest collection of craft beers at any one time".

Brick wall motifs give the space a hip, Brooklyn back alley vibe while cheery orange and green tables and US-imported classic pinball machines expand the appeal to both the area's teenage party crowd and middle-aged tourists alike.

The Mustard Incident

310 Orchard Road, Tangs Orchard Basement One

Tel: 6836 3647

Hours: 10.30am-9.30pm (Mon-Thu, Sat), 10:30am-11pm (Fri) and 11am-8.30pm (Sun)

2013 may have been the year for new fangled food creations such as the cronut and the ramen burger, but Kelly Koh will have none of that.

"There are new eateries offering new cuisines in Singapore every day, but we'd rather take what is considered a generic food, do it really well and help to raise the bar," explains the co-owner of gourmet hot dog stand, The Mustard Incident.

Opened last November in the food basement of Tangs Orchard, the largely takeaway stall sells hot dog buns that showcase premium sausages custom-made by a local butchery.

The small but constantly changing roster of flavours is capped at six for now, and all variations come encased in a plain white bun made by a local bakery to keep the focus on the sausages. And rightly so. The duck sausage Duck Can Fit ($9) is surprisingly juicy and not too gamey, and pairs wonderfully with its pickled peppers and bacon toppings.

Or, for hot dog purists, go for classic American flavours such as the Coney Dog ($9) comprising a pork sausage with chilli and chopped onions, and the Chicago Dog ($9) with pickles, diced tomatoes and onions on a beef sausage. Add an additional $4.50 to turn the buns into a full meal with a side of bean-less chilli and a drink.

Expect temporary appearances from festive flavours when American holidays such as Thanksgiving or the Fourth of July roll around, says Mr Koh. A turkey and ham-dressed hot dog bun was rolled out last Christmas, followed by a Chilli Cheese Dog for the Superbowl last month and the St Patrick's Day-themed Green Lambton ($8) - an aromatic lamb sausage topped with mint pesto and diced green peppers and onions - was launched earlier this week.

More out-there flavours such as Nutella or foie gras are on the cards, Mr Koh reveals, "but we want to start simple and then slowly level up as we evolve with local tastebuds".

Wash them down with a small and selectively curated range of craft beers such as the Brewdog Dead Pony and Punk IPA, the St Bernadus Witbier or the Green Goblin cider from $8 to $12.

"Hot dogs to me could be as simple as having processed frankfurter at a sports game, or it can be complex as custom-made sausages from a local butchery carefully paired with toppings that are all made from scratch in-house, like what we do here," says Mr Koh.

He should know. He's spent several years in San Francisco and Honolulu with his corporate finance job, and has been battling "hot dog withdrawals" since his return to Singapore a few years ago.

This prompted him to get together with a few former schoolmates and ex-Hard Rock Cafe manager Willie Sng to start The Mustard Incident last November.

They picked the Orchard Road location for its "steady flow of human traffic and the more sophisticated crowd that shops at Tangs", Mr Koh says. Originally meant to be a standing room-only food stand "until a grandma with a walking stick asked me for seats", recalls Mr Koh, The Mustard Incident now has four stools set around two table perches.

The group already has plans to open at least three more outlets in Bangkok - one by the end of the year - and is also considering franchise offers from other countries in the region.

debyong@sph.com.sg