Mariko’s, located on Jiak Chuan Road, was among the first cocktail bars to open up in the Chinatown nightlife district back in 2013 along with the likes of The Cufflink Club and The Library, before a slew of other drinking holes followed suit and colonised neighbouring Keong Saik and Bukit Pasoh roads. Its fortunes has waned since then, and recently Mariko’s’ owners WWW Concepts reinvented and reconceived it as Phat Cat Laundry.
Phat Cat Laundry cheekily hides behind the front of a Chinese owned laundry shop, the likes of which you can find in any Chinatown across much of the United States. The cocktail and food menu is likewise Asian-inspired, borrowing influences across all of Asia and interprets – mangles – them as any proper modern gastrobar would.
That’s why you’ll see much of its drinks menu revolves around infused tea alcoholic cocktails such as the Rosehip + Hibsicus ($22) – made with rosehip infused tequila, hibiscus infused vermouth and smoked Aperol – or the Black Tea + Spices ($22), concocted using tequila infused with masala chai and house-made ginger soda.
But more unique Asian-influenced cocktails are also available. Borrowing ideas from Japan is Dirty Laundry ($26, above left), made with cachaca that’s been flavoured with Japanese nori seaweed, and accentuated with shichimi togarashi syrup. Or the more Chinese Teh Botol ($26) – despite its more Indonesian name – made from rum infused with red tea, and jasmine.
The Forget-Love Water ($26), though, is a little more confused. Named like an Andy Lau song – 忘情水 – it puts together G’Vine gin with sea salt, and coloured a blue-purple from butterfly pea flower, more commonly used in Southeast Asian cuisine such as the making of Nonya kueh. Or the Foam Party ($26), which combines lemongrass rum, orange Curaçao, burnt lime, smoked pineapple, coconut cream and Tiki bitters for a very tropical tipple.
But the most impressive is the Mango Sticky Rice ($26, above), inspired as it is by the Thai dessert. Rice vodka, coconut rum, mango puree, coconut cream and shredded coconut provide all the flavours you’d expect from khao neow mamuang, and more.
The food, too, takes liberties with Asian ingredients and cuisines. The Chicken Adobo ($16), for example, takes a familiar Filipino favourite but serves it up in the style of Hainanese chicken rice, while the Mushroom And Bone Marrow Fried Rice ($16) is a mashup of Japanese fried rice – with soy and furikake – with unctuous bone marrow.
One problem though with Phat Cat Laundry is that the laundry concept pretty much stops at the door; while there are a few posters reminding you that you’re in an establishment inspired by a Chinese laundry shop there’s really nothing else that helps push the concept along. One was expecting laundry lines to crisscross the ceiling, for example, or takes on actual American-Chinese dishes like General Tso’s chicken or chopsuey that would help to complete the concept. Thankfully, what food offerings they have is actually pretty affordable and tasty to boot.
The biggest challenge for Phat Cat Laundry is with its cocktails – they are conceptually great but suffers from lacklustre execution. Aside from the fantastic Mango Sticky Rice the other tipples tends towards being insipid, diluted or just plain unbalanced – either too spirit-forward, or with flavours that do not generally mash together well.
But it’s early days yet for Phat Cat Laundry, and with some tweaks to its cocktails it won’t be left out to dry.