As its name suggests, Hutong – a northern Chinese specialty cuisine restaurant at Clarke Quay – is inspired by the alleys of old Beijing. Step into the 110-seater restaurant and you will find antique fixtures and red lanterns that create a charming vibe reminiscent of older quarters in the Chinese capital.
While the restaurant’s menu started off with a focus on northern Chinese cuisine, Hutong has since expanded its repertoire after Singapore’s lockdown measures to cater to the rapidly growing appetite for spicy southern Chinese cuisine in Singapore. The new, refreshed menu now comprises over 40 varieties of Sichuan appetisers and BBQ skewers, which start from a very affordable S$1+.
The new menu wasn’t the only thing I discovered during my visit on this evening. What raised my eyebrows is the fact that one can order from any Katrina Group restaurant in the Clarke Quay neighbourhood—and there are several, including Japanese bar Tomo Izakaya, Thai restaurant RENNThai, Mexican bar Muchos and Balinese-themed Bayang. I sampled a platter of flavourful grilled seafood, the Supreme Platter with Boston Lobster and Sate Madura (satay), which perfectly complemented the Hutong Sichuan skewers and bold flavours. Prices of the Sate also begin from just S$1+.
That said, I was at Hutong to take a deep dive into the revamped Sichuan side of the Hutong menu. (The northern fare is still available but that’s a story for another day). I love Sichuan-style skewers. At Hutong, the skewers are marinated overnight and seasoned with an in-house spice blend that features cumin, cooking wine, pepper and salt, together with dark soya sauce for certain meat items. They are then sprinkled with a blend of sugar, garlic, chicken stock, more cumin and chilli flakes (for the spicy ones), and served over a griller instead of plates to keep them warm throughout your meal.
There is a wide range of meat, vegetables, seafood and mushroom but my favourite was the large intestines, which were crispy on the outside and soft on the other. I enjoyed every bit of the smoky sticks that range from just $1+ for vegetables and offal (delicious if you don’t mind them!) to S$7 for two grilled oysters and S$8.80 for two premium half shell scallops.
There are those who have an entire meal of skewers alone, though it’s always possible at Hutong to top up the meal with sides like Hot and Sour Rice Noodles (S$7.80) and Beijing Dumplings (S$10 for twelve or S$6 for six) for those who need their carbs. The Fresh Oysters (S$7 for two), together with Premium Half Shell Scallops (S$8.80 for two), are grilled together with the restaurant’s house-made chilli paste.
The next dish is a rising trend in Chinatowns worldwide. Served to us with theatrical flair was the Mala Xiao Long Xia with Moutai, the premium Chinese liquor from the world’s most valuable alcoholic drinks firm. Several baby crawfish are stir-fired with a blend of aromatic mala spices including clusters of Sichuan peppercorns and served over a flame to keep them warm. When the dish arrived at the table, the waitress poured a shot of Moutai on it and set it alight. Crawfish is hard work but it’s really dipping them in the spiced (now Moutai-ed) oil and roast garlic and getting your fingers dirty that really makes the whole experience. This was finger-licking goodness for me and not numbing if you avoid chewing on the peppercorns.
Spicy food and water go together, but spicy food, skewers and alcohol go together even better, especially when the renowned Moutai already makes a splash in the crawfish. Hutong offers two unique Moutai cocktails. The Moutai Colada is made of rum, pineapple juice and coconut milk, while the Moutai Punch is made with yuzu syrup, tonic water, lime juice and soda.
Personally I’m not much of a drinker, so I found the Moutai Colada’s smoothness was better at tempering the strength of the baijiu. What I liked most though – and because I’m a fan of creamy drinks – was the Balinese Spa, a delightful avocado and Bailey’s cream concoction that comes from Bayang’s menu.
The Katrina Group’s strategic spread of eateries in a single location means that dining at their restaurants allows for catering to different tastes among diners in a single group. Satay, grilled oysters, sushi, tacos and Thai mango salad—these are among the exciting diversions from other cuisines that can amuse your palate without you having to move from your table at Hutong. And with quality food at the affordable prices in a pleasant setting, that’s a value proposition that’s hard to beat for a group’s night out at Clarke Quay.
3D River Valley Road