This is a drinking hole and not really a gourmet destination, but they have a really good beef tartare and yummy burgers.
With the gentrification of the Amoy Street district, many interesting eateries, restaurants and bars have found their place in this backstreet of the financial district of Singapore. From Micheline-stars Lerouy and Nouri, to Israeli restaurant North by Miznon, to Employees Only, they all bring a reason for all of us to be back again and again.
Certain elements of the Employees Only franchise are kept in this Singapore outing, which opened in 2015 and was their first outside of New York where it all started in 2004. First, you can’t find a signboard. This is a speakeasy, they are supposed to be these secretive bars that defied the Prohibition in US during the 20s, usually run by the mafia and underworld. These days, it represent a reminisce of that era, with its art deco designs and great cocktails.
And like all the Employees Only in the other cities (Hong Kong, Sydney, Miami, LA), they feature a tarot card reader at the door for the waiting line t have a go at having their fortune told. Unfortunately in this outing, the psychic was not in the house because of social distancing requirements. One thing I was certain, as the cards on the table told me, you are thirsty and getting sloshed.
And then there’s the art decor style bar. The bar itself is brass and gleaming, the garnishes laid out on it in heavy tumblers. The music is ’80s pop, and the bartenders wear chef’s jackets with the word “Bartender” embroidered where a person’s name might go. Framed artworks underline the ’20s connection with images of zeppelins and flappers.
This is not the place for food, most come for a pre-dinner drink or post-dinner nightcap. But they do have a decent menu for those caught in between without a table.
The Bar Snacks
We started with some bar snacks – a bowl of olives, some zucchini chips and sweet chilli chicken lollipops. I always enjoy olives with my drinks and they have spiced it up with shichimi. Zucchini chips were hot and crispy but I find the aioli a bit watery. (PS: all the sauces tonight seem a bit watery). The chicken lollies were crowd pleasers, and they just flew off the bowl even before I could say, “Let me take a picture of those.”
Hand-Cut Steak Tartare
crostini & mixed greens salad
I had this at their Sydney bar, and it was absolutely delicious. The same steak tartare kit (chopped capers, shallots, sea salt with special EO sauces in secretive black bottles) was put on the table and my anticipation went a notch higher. The waitress started to assemble everything and started mixing the lot.
I was a bit disappoint for two factor, one was the beef was overly minced, not hand cut as written in the menu. The sauce wasn’t as thick as the one I had before, perhaps because the beef was too minced and therefore wetter. Still it was delicious, even though my guests were not big fans of raw beef.
maguro, shallots & sesame aioli
As compared to the tartare, this was a crowd pleaser. Nobody can resist the nice sesame crusted seared tuna with sesame mayo. Came as quickly as it disappeared into our tummies.
Oysters on the Half Shell
mignonette & EO Bloody Mary
Another crowd pleasers, the fresh shucked oysters were plump, briny and properly chilled. Good sized for that mouthful, you can just slurp them down naked, with a dahs of lemon, with the shallot vinaigrette, or with their own Bloody Mary salsa. Either way, the freshness of the oysters came through beautifully and we just had to order another dozen.
Maguro Kueh Pie Tee
seasoned tuna & crispy pastry shell
A local offering, the nyonya pie tee was given a bar snack treatment with chopped tuna bits dressed with olive oil, salt and pepper topped with dollop of tartar sauce. Too much for one mouthful, but still great snacks to go with drinks.
Spicy Smothered Shrimp
sriracha & lemon
When it was put down on the table, either the folks were too hungry or they were attracted by the smell of fried food. Think sweet sour pork made with shrimp, but with the heat turned up by sriracha.
EO Smash Burger
Double Patty, American Cheese & Caramelized Onions
They can cut this large single serve burger into quarters for that sliders effect for sharing. The shoestring fries were ok, but the burger was delicious. I wanted to order the special “Ramly” variation to this classic American cheeseburger, but they said it was too messy to share. Now that left me something to look forward the next time here.
Tom Kha Mussels
blue mussels, coconut cream, lemongrass, chilies, galangal & baguette
Thai curry with mussels, what could go wrong? Nothing except that it was too difficult to share this around the table because of the delicious broth and with Covid still rampant, everyone was practicing caution with dipping into the broth altogether. But taste wise, it was a delicious bowl of mussels, cooked perfectly with a light coconutty lemongrass infused broth.
house-made pasta with pork sausage, tomato & rocket
When I tucked into my fist mouthful, I made a mental note to myself to buy some Italian sausage, any kind, and do this for my weekend pasta meal. Rich and creamy red sauce that had that overdosage of ketchup, but balanced with the intense taste of the sausages, it was mouthful of taste bombs.
Truffled Grilled Cheese
parmesan fries & truffle aioli
Grilled cheese sandwich, the perfect supper after a heavy night of drinking. Thick slices of toast with generous amount of cheddar, grilled until it was crusty on the outside, but still soft and gooey on the inside. Eat them while they are hot.
In 2004, five bar veterans Dushan, Henry, Igor, Jay and Billy set out together to create a local bar in New York with the focus to elevate the craft of the cocktails. They have successfully done so with Employees Only, the cocktails were eclectic and definitely talk worthy.
This was a nice experience for all, especially after two long years of restricted socialising and night-outs. The Singapore government announced the easing of gatherings just a couple of days earlier, and this place was packed out. And many reservations were altered to accommodate the sudden demand. As such we had to settle for a 5-7pm pre-dinner slot. The food came and we were rushed through it without any allowance of timing. Didn’t blame the staff, but it was a blemish to what could a fantastic night out. We had no time to take pictures of the cocktails that we had for the evening, and oh boy did we drink!
Anyway, let me repeat what I said in the beginning, this is a pre-dinner cocktail or post-dinner night-cap place. Don’t expect it to be your dinner destination.
Employees Only Singapore
112 Amoy Street, Singapore 069932
Tel : +65 6221 7357
Visited in Apr 2022