10 years ago in Singapore, hawker “western food” is known as fish, chicken, pork or cheap overcooked sirloin steak served with fries, coleslaw and the compulsory canned baked beans. If you’re lucky, they may serve mashed potatoes as an option. This is what I call Singaporean western food. Even my primary school canteen stall does it this way. This is not any specific western country’s cuisine, but simply just Singaporean style western food, tweaked to the general Singaporean’s taste. However in recent years, the Singaporean “western food” scene has improved greatly. Baked beans are no longer customarily served and the usual now is that you get to choose 2 sides among a choice of about 10.
Other than just a simple coffeeshop or hawker centre stall, it has been increasingly popular to sell such western food in coffeeshop western food restaurants. The difference between these and the former is that they have extensive menus and serve restaurant worthy food, sometimes even better than certain mass market chain western food restaurants. The ones that most Singaporeans are familiar with starts with the letter A and B, but today I’m going to introduce another one which is a worthy contender, if not better. I used to dine at A and B quite often in the past, but A’s standards have greatly declined even in their very first outlet (can’t be a franchise problem), and B’s has always been too generous with the fats for my liking and generally doesn’t taste very unique to remember well. I know delicious food is often the unhealthy food, but generally I do not like my “western food” to be too Americanized in terms of the portion and the oiliness. I like to strike a balance between delicious and healthy.
Anyway, what distinguishes LavaRock from A and B is that I find it has a more personal and sincere approach in their cooking. Each dish is carefully marinated with a specific marinade which is best for it. For example, not all pork dishes are marinated the same way and likewise for chicken and others. This is rare as some restaurants/stalls may choose the easy way by having just 1 type of marinade for everything and only vary the sauce in the final product. Each and every recipe is created by the owner who has a passion for cooking, and they often improve their recipes and menus so you can be assured that the food served wouldn’t have declining standards or ubiquitous taste. In fact, nothing here tastes bland. I can see how much effort is being put in to make sure every taste is perfected to the most flavourful.
Starting from a single stall in Hougang, they now have 6 outlets. Initially I was wondering whether there would be inconsistency among the different outlets since it is a common thing for restaurants’ standards to slip when it expands rapidly, but actually all marinating and preparation is done at a central kitchen before reaching the various outlets, so if you had the same consideration as me, rest assured that the same great taste is available at any of the 6 outlets.
If you look at the menu, many items have the “Must Try” symbol next to them. This is simply because there are many good items. As seen from the menu, the prices are slightly higher than traditional “western stalls” at coffeeshops, but still significantly lower than what a restaurant would charge. The only difference between a restaurant and LavaRock is that there is no air con and personalized service. The quality of ingredients, cooking technique and presentation of the dishes definitely surpasses the old fashioned “western stall” standards. They insist on putting the sides into individual bowls so that sauces do not intermix. The plating and presentation of the food is restaurant comparable too. You also get to bring your own wine and glasses are provided. Corkage is not chargeable.
For each main course, you get to choose 2 sides from the list, as well as either fries or rice. For those who order hot plate main course, you can choose from fries, baked potato, rice or spaghetti, on top of the 2 sides. That’s a total of 3 sides for every main course, more than what most other places offer.
For those who prefer to have a low carbo meal at a coffeeshop, it is always a good idea to head to the “western stall” because they serve more meat than local food, since local food is always focusing on rice, noodles or maybe prata. However the plan may backfire if the only options of sides given where potato based. I like how LavaRock’s options are quite diversified. For non-refined carbohydrates options you have honey glazed carrots, pineapple salsa, garden salad, buttered corn and coleslaw. For those who wish to have more protein, adding an egg is an option for only a supplement of $0.60.
Garden Salad – this is not the type of salad I usually eat as it’s lettuce dressed in salad cream. I do hope they’ll have more types of salads with vinaigrette based dressings.
Pineapple Salsa – The pineapple salsa is extremely spicy, even the pineapples are. It is similar to Indonesia achar. Those looking for a lighter side may choose this.
Mash Potato Salad – The potato salad was good in my opinion as the mayonnaise taste isn’t too strong. It was pretty much like mashed potato in texture.
Butter Potato – The butter potato was flavourful with slight spice and herbs. It was adequately soft inside too, which is what I seek in potatoes. I abhor hard potatoes.
Glazed Carrot – The carrots were steamed first and later glazed with honey. I really liked these carrots as they were quite soft and the flavor of the glaze went well with the carrots.
BBQ Baked Beans – The baked beans are not just canned beans, but with extra ingredients like BBQ sauce and Worcestershire sauce added to enhance the flavor.
Butter Corn – The butter corn was pretty sweet and lightly buttered. I like how it’s plucked for us as eating from the cob is not that easy without using hands.
Creamy Potato – if creamy and sinful is your definition of side dishes you may opt for this
Creamy Pasta – Same as the above
Creamy Coleslaw – Same as the above, except with less carbohydrates for this. I generally do not like coleslaw so no comments about this.
Pasta Salad – Pasta salad was never my thing so no comments about this either. I prefer salads without carbohydrates but that’s just me.
Mashed Potato – Quite ordinary perhaps.
TexMex Fries – I like the fries the most among all sides. It wasn’t too oily, and it was adequately crispy (not hard) on the outside, soft inside. This is exactly how I like my fries to be. Chili powder, garlic powder and salt is sprinkled on and the flavours is exactly what I like on my fries. It is good to eat without garlic chili sauce.
Buttered Rice – The butter Thai rice kind of resembled chicken rice, since it was slightly oiled. For fans of flavoured rice this might be for you.
Baked Potato – It was soft inside and has butter and bacon bits. It’s better eaten with skin on.
Spaghetti – the spaghetti was simply plain with tomato sauce over it. It was al dente.
Mushroom Soup – $2.50 ($2.00 with every main course)
This soup is prepared from scratch using white button mushrooms. The soup was bursting with mushroom flavor, and wasn’t overly creamy to steal the limelight from the mushrooms. For $2.50 it is one pretty good bowl of mushroom soup! The only issue is that it has to be drunk warm, because when cooled the texture somehow becomes more watery. The portion is very large, so small eaters may like to share this.
Golden Fried Button Mushrooms
The white button mushroom is deep fried in breaded and becomes tender and cooked inside. Fans of mushrooms may like this.
Most of the appetizers are fried, with exception of escargot. Those looking for a non fried appetizer and would like to be slightly more adventurous can choose this.
Black Angus Ribeye (250g) – $20.90
Baked potatoes, creamy coleslaw and sautéed pasta
For those wondering, the Black Angus Ribeye is from Australia and is grain fed, while the ‘normal’ ribeye is from New Zealand and is Grass Fed. For $4 more you get grain fed Angus beef.
For all steaks, 3 types of sauces are available – black pepper, special brown sauce and mushroom sauce. I normally eat steaks without sauces because I like to enjoy the natural flavours of beef. I only use sauces if the beef is of bad quality and tastes bad, which in this case, didn’t happen. Anyway, I still sampled the sauces and among the sauces the special brown sauce was the best for me.
I am a fan of Angus beef because it makes a good choice of meat for everyday steak (not literally every day, but just steak without an occasion to splurge) as wagyu is too indulgent, but for LavaRock I’d say top up a few more dollars and get the Australia Marble Beef instead.
Australia Marble Beef – $28.90
Baked potatoes, potato salad, baked beans
This beef is like an Australian wagyu with marbling score of 6. The cut is sirloin, but since it has a marbling score of 6, it is very soft and tender, hence it doesn’t have the typical chewiness of normal sirloins. Grade 6 is a considered to be a good grade. The entire piece of meat is distinctively oily with beef fats (I mean this in a good way) and the seasoning they smeared on the surface resembles the one I had at Fat Cow. Of course, this is not comparable to Fat Cow’s wagyu which is insanely marbled, but is good enough and the difference in meat texture from the Angus steak and regular grass fed beef is very obvious.
Golden Crispy Fish – $7.90
Fries, pineapple salsa, buttered corn
The fish used for this is Grade A Cream Dory, and it is moist and juicy inside. The panko batter was crispy and did come across as too oily. It maintained its crispiness even after time. I would say that this fish & chips is above average, but probably not the most unforgettable in the world. Nevertheless, this will definitely suit the typical Singaporean’s taste buds and coming from a fish & chips lover (aka me) I approve of this.
Herbed Norwegian Salmon – $13.90
The salmon was cooked medium. It is very hard to come by non-overcooked salmon in Singapore. In fact, I sort of gave up on salmon in Singapore. When I was told that this was one of the signature dishes, I was kind of skeptical because I am very particular about salmon and overcooking salmon is unacceptable to me. I raised my concerns about overcooking, but was assured that they do cook salmon to medium rare or medium upon requests and that their Norwegian salmon is fresh enough to be cooked this way. I went ahead with this item and it was very impressive! The salmon was grilled on the edges and skin slightly crispy, but the interior was still moist and juicy. This item was the hot favourite among my 5 dining companions.
Honey Mustard Chicken Chop – $6.90
Butter rice, butter potatoes, pasta salad
Chicken thigh is used for this chicken chop and it is very tender. It is well marinated that the chicken is well flavoured and isn’t bland at all. The chicken was grilled to perfection, with some edges slightly charred. I had experiences of tasteless chicken chops and I am glad that it doesn’t happen here. The honey mustard sauce is on sweet side. For fans of salty food there are other flavours to choose from. In terms of Singaporean chicken chop standards this falls under the “good” category.
Sizzling Hot Plate Black Pepper Pork Chop – $9.90
The pork itself was well marinated to get rid of any odour, and the meat was tender but the black pepper sauce didn’t match well. It’s better without the sauce in my opinion because I actually liked the meat itself. Many of us found this to be quite salty, so salt phobic people should opt for other pork chops instead. Not all pork chops here are marinated the same way, so each variation will have a unique taste.
TexMex Pork Chop – $7.90
Glazed Carrots, creamy pasta, garden salad
Rosemary Lamb Chops – $9.90
Glazed carrots, creamy pasta, buttered rice
The cut of lamb used here is lamb shoulder, which has less odor as compared to the loin. The meat itself was tender and the marinating worked well for this to give the meat good flavor.
Vongole Aglio Olio with Abalone Clams – $6.90
This is not the traditional spaghetti alle vongole, but simply aglio olio with clams as the ingredients. There is no white wine in the sauce. The usage of chili padi was quite generous and it was spicy. The addition of abalone clams makes this dish unique, but also gives it a different character from authentic Italian pasta. Those looking for Italian pasta may think twice about this, but those looking for unique pastas can give it a try.
I do like how Barilla pasta is used here as it is a brand of pasta I trust. Even for home cooking, if I had to choose from leading supermarket brands, I would choose that brand even if it costs more than others. One of the most important factors about pasta for me is it being al dente. I can gladly say that this is quite al dente! Many Singaporean “western stalls” often overcook their spaghetti and I can’t help but feel offended.
Prawn Aglio Olio – $7.90
For those looking for traditional aglio olio, again, this pasta is not for you. The twist in this dish is that it uses butter along with olive oil. The sauce has a strong butter taste, which sort of overpowers the olive oil completely. It is nowhere as spicy as the vongole version above too. If you are used to traditional aglio olio, it may be quite hard to accept this as the butter and lack of spiciness essentially gives it a new character. The prawns however, were fresh and crunchy.
I would like to thank LavaRock for the invitation and warm hospitality. The food has generally surpassed my expectations and I do think I will return soon!
Overall: comparing to their counterparts, LavaRock Grill house is one of the best coffeeshop western food I’ve tried! I like their extensive menu, personalize marination and flavouring for every dish, thoughtful plating, low prices and delicious food.
LavaRock Grill House
Blk 681 Hougang Ave8 #01-853 Singapore 530681
Blk 153 Serangoon North Ave1 #01-512 Singapore 550153
Blk 449 Clementi Ave3 #01-211 Singapore 120449
Blk 713 Ang Mo Kio Ave6 #01-4032 Singapore 560713
Blk 147 Potong Pasir Ave1 #01-93 Singapore 350147
Blk 530 Ang Mo Kio Ave10 #01-2379 Singapore 560530
11am – 10pm (11:30am – 10pm at certain outlets)