Tucked deep within a Boat Quay kopitiam is The Dragon Chamber, a speakeasy restaurant and gastrobar combining good cocktails and Chinese fusion eats.
The Dragon Chamber is hidden in plain sight. Its front is an open-air kopitiam (coffee shop), its noodle stall horrendously busy during lunchtime serving up noodle dishes for office workers working around the area. Swinging open a fridge door however leads you into a dark cavernous space, bedecked by gaudy graffiti and changing neon lights that belong more on your annoying nephew’s favourite Razer keyboard than has any right to illuminate a restaurant.
Welcome to The Dragon Chamber, a partnership between the Chinese restaurant chain giant Tung Lok Group and cutting-edge F&B lifestyle company Ebb and Flow Group. The folks behind it will try to impress upon you that the space is reminiscent of old-school Chinese gambling dens and secret society hangouts of the 50s and 60s (a vibe Eliza at Telok Ayer Street pulls off rather well); we think it’s more akin to a Chinese-influenced underground grungy hideout for disaffected youth. But that’s just us.
At one end of the restaurant is a cocktail bar that looks wholly like the counter of a Chinese medicinal hall. It dispenses the kind of tasty potions we like, so we approve. Despite the setting we’re somewhat grateful that head bartender Isz Valentino didn’t get into the traditional Chinese medicine influences for his cocktail menu.
We think everybody should have some Wisdom (S$22++); a melange of sweet, smoky, tangy, and spicy notes – the latter from fresh ginger – it’s refreshing enough even if you can feel the punch from its mezcal base. Those who prefer fruitier cocktails will need some Compassion (S$24++), this take on the French 75 is composed of gin, lychee liqueur, fresh strawberry puree, and then topped off with prosecco.
Then there’s the Garden Gimlet ($22++), which takes the classic gimlet and amps it up with cucumber and basil; the Mojito Twist ($16++) gives the favourite mojito a spicy, tangy spin with the addition of some passion fruit juice and five-spice syrup.
If you like stronger drinks though, consider the Old Fashion Twist (S$22++); this Rum Old Fashioned combines gold rum that’s been infused with banana, sugar, a nutmeg tincture and served with a seared cinnamon scroll as a swizzle stick. For something similarly punchy and sweet, Crazy for Coconuts (S$22++) puts together Irish whiskey, coconut infused cold brew, pandan tincture and sugar gives you that high. Speaking of which, cocktails here are generally on the sweeter side, but that’s probably to cater to the younger target audience it’s most likely to attract.
If you’re not into cocktails, there’s beer, specially concocted for them by Trouble Brewing. The Dragon Pale Ale (S$12++) and Summer Sesh Ale (S$12++) are also collaborations with local artists Mister Tucks and Sabotage respectively, and feature their artwork on the bottle labels.
Food at The Dragon Chamber is essentially a take on Anglicised Chinese food, that is, Chinese food that’s evolved and taken a form of its own in countries like the United States, Britain and Australia. We’re a little sceptical at first – why harken to essentially bastardised cuisine?
Unconvinced we settle for what we think are bar-friendly options. Such as Cheeseburger Eggrolls (S$14++) – likely borrowed from dude food maestro Dan Hong of Sydney’s Miss G’s – of spring rolls with cheeseburger stuffing. It’s stunningly delicious. The Pattaya Slaw Fish Skin (S$10++) is The Dragon Chamber’s own clever – take Thai som tum and serve it with a liberal amount of crispy fish skin.
The Mala Fries ($8++), though, didn’t fare too well; the spice dressing was too soggy, and more curry-like than the Szechuan peppercorn-fueled fiery burn that the Singaporean palate has come to love.
Based on the egg rolls though, we’ll have to make a return to try the main menu.
The Dragon Chamber
Address 2 Circular Road, Singapore 049358 (Google Maps link)
Opening Hours 12pm to 2.30pm and 5pm to 12am on Mondays to Fridays; 6pm to 12am on Saturdays; closed on Sundays