Wednesday, 1 October, 2014

Published June 23, 2014
Hearty helpings of Americana
One of a handful of stylish, independent eateries in Orchard Road, Luke's eatery plates up Stars-and-Stripes staples, writes JAIME EE
BT 20140623 JEDINING23E 1143058

Star-spangled: Feast like an uninhibited American on Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail (above), Lobster Sliders, Jumbo Crab Cakes and Veggie Burger. - PHOTOS: JOSEPH NAIR

  • 1 of 4
BT 20140623 JEDINING23E 1143058
BT 20140623 JEDINING23D 1143057
BT 20140623 JEDINING23F 1143059
BT 20140623 JEDINING23G 1143060

This is an American eatery, with commensurate portions, so you can actually split quite a number of the courses between two people and have a decent portion each.


Luke's Oyster Bar & Chop House

260 Orchard Road

#03-02 The Heeren (Robinsons)

Tel: 6733-4813

Open Tues to Sun: 12pm to 10.30pm. Closed on Mon

THERE are several ways to get to Luke's Oyster Bar, but they're not particularly stylish. If you're used to valet-parking your Lamborghini at the doorstep of any haute hangout du jour, it may feel alien to leave it in a ground floor carpark and pick your way past racks of Great Singapore Sale merchandise to find the hidden polished doors of the popular American eatery's sophomore outpost.

This is if you know your way in the first place. If not, you'll have to ask one of the Robinsons sales staff ("There's no Luke here") or a passing security guard who will lead you, Cub Scout-style - using the FitFlop rack and women's jackets as markers instead of tree stumps - to your destination. Oh, if you're in need of an office cover-up, there are on-trend floral print designs at 50 per cent off.

Just park any hopes for a bargain at the restaurant's doors, because once you enter this coyly lit inner sanctum - dressed in posh slate-grey, chrome and wood, with handsome booths and long counter - you're looking at designer price points. Lobster pot pie at $105; John Dory for $95; half dozen oysters for $45; salads from $27 and sides; 12 bucks for French fries and $20 if you want hash browns with cheese.

But - bear in mind that the prices look high in absolute number, but this is an American eatery, with commensurate portions, so you can actually split quite a number of the courses between two people and have a decent portion each.

Judicious ordering will set you back a minimum of $70 to $80 a person, although if you're disciplined enough to just order a lunch special and dessert, you might be able to squeeze into a size $50 menu before taxes.

Complimentary circles of crumbly sweet cornbread and whipped butter lay the groundwork for starters such as lightly smoked salmon ($18), that flakes into delicate chunks of glistening, barely cooked flesh with just a hint of saltiness. Linseed crackers are hard but helpful edible spoons for you to scoop up every tartare-like mouthful. Lobster sliders ($24) are pricey for what they are - three bite-sized brioche buns filled with even smaller scoops of mayo studded with bits of lobster. While overly creamy, the light airy brioche is the perfect balance of puff and chewiness.

If they take out the clams from Luke's clam chowder ($17), you'd be left with a pot of thick cream the likes of which we haven't seen since they took lard out of char kway teow. This old-school favourite cocks a snook at dieters and challenges you to eat like an uninhibited American, with its motherlode of little neck clams caught in a briny tidal wave of cream and diced potatoes. Spread the guilt and split the portion into two - the helpful staff (when you can catch them) are used to the drill.

Oysters are run-of-the-mill. Fresh, but without the smooth, plump creaminess you'd expect. Out of the Katama Bay, Rip Tide and Wellfleet specimens we sample, Wellfleet comes closest to passing muster.

Also underwhelming are the overpriced crab cakes ($47) - crumbed patties filled with generous but lacklustre crabmeat sitting in a grain mustard sauce. We prefer the juicy giant prawns that live up to the name of Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail ($36) - five whoppers are poised over a glass of homemade cocktail sauce which merely gets in the way of enjoying the succulence of the prawns.

The lunch specials are well worth the money, whether it's the good quality tenderloin with fries ($37) done medium rare and comparable to more expensive cuts elsewhere; a textbook perfect burger ($27) of chopped rib-eye patty sandwiched in a larger version of the brioche bun used for the lobster sliders; an interesting veggie burger made with oats, wild rice and prunes that's sweet, chewy and almost meaty.

Or you could plump for the kurobuta pork chop ($60) - a hunk of meat on the bone that's nicely pink in the middle and juicy despite the overall tough leanness, with braised apple chunks on top. Counter the meat overdose with healthy chopped kale ($15 as a side dish) tossed in a too-sweet peanut dressing or chewy wild rice and blueberry ($15) salad which combines the earthy, chewy al dente rice with a fruity dressing and diced apples for crunch.

Gooey, baked on the spot chocolate chip cookies ($16) are blissfully good - so chocolatey it's like eating hot melted chocolate sandwiched between cookie dough. The accompanying stout milkshake is rich with just a hint of bitter stout to add another level of interest. Key lime pie ($16) comes in a distant second in its deconstructed form of lemoncurd, cookie crumbs and grilled meringue topping in a parfait glass. It tastes exactly as it sounds - okay, but not memorable.

Luke's Oyster Bar is fuss-free, well-made American food that follows the mantra that good ingredients can speak for themselves without any mucking about. Yes, you pay a premium, but unlike its Gemmill Lane flagship, you have an enviable view of Orchard Road and it's one of a handful of stylish independent restaurants in the area that's worth revisiting. But if you really want to save some money, we hear Robinsons' bedlinen is a steal...


Rating: 7


    10: The ultimate dining experience

9-9.5: Sublime

8-8.5: Excellent

7-7.5: Good to very good

6-6.5: Promising

5-5.5: Average