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HAPPY BELLY, HEARTY GRUB
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Happy Belly, Hearty Grub

As F&B businesses strive to revitalise the local dining scene, a dessert cafe that turns into a steakhouse by night has stepped into the spotlight.

If you are a foodie, you’d know that Serene Centre and its neighbourhood are peppered with gems. For starters, facing the main road sits an eatery with a signboard that screams ‘SUGARHAUS’. Don’t brush this off as just another dessert cafe; tarry in this 45-seater and you will discover its true appeal.

At 6pm, the place transforms into a speakeasy-style steakhouse known as Fat Belly. It serves lesser-known cuts of beef, which offer stronger and more robust flavours. This is where you can watch your choice of meat being grilled and even interact with the chef on duty.

A little history

Founded by banker-turned-entrepreneur Stanley Seow, Sugarhaus started as a takeout called Bing Qi Lin (which means ‘ice cream’ in Chinese) at Jalan Selaseh. After moving to Serene Centre, it underwent a revamp and was renamed Sugarhaus in October 2016. A year later, Fat Belly was launched as a sister brand; it shares the same space as Sugarhaus in the evenings, and offers a small but sublime menu.

Beef up

It’s not every day you get a restaurant with only three main dishes on its menu. At Fat Belly, you get to sample alternative cuts of beef - namely USDA 150-day Grain-Fed Angus Flat Iron Steak, USDA Grain-Fed Angus Short Rib Steak and Wagyu Marble Score 7-9 Denver Steak.

The Flat Iron (also known as Oyster Blade or Butlers’ Steak) is a cut from the cow’s shoulder. With a deep, rich piquancy, this well-marbled cut is widely considered second only to the tenderloin in terms of tenderness. As recommended, we had our meat done medium-rare. According to the chef, beef at Fat Belly is not marinated in seasoning before it hits the grilling pan. And although all steaks come with a house salad and chimichurri sauce, the meat packed a punch in terms of flavour even without extra condiments.

Introduced in December last year, the Wagyu Marble Score 7-9 Denver Steak - a cut from under the shoulder blade bone - unleashed a flavour bomb each time we sank our teeth into it. The succulent meat coated the palate with greasy goodness and scrumptious pungency. This cut is extremely rare, making Fat Belly one of few places in Singapore that offers it.

Each portion of steak is just right to satisfy one’s hunger while leaving a little stomach space for a side dish or dessert. For a small fee, customers can add side dishes, such as Creamed Kale, Sautéed Thyme Mushrooms or Truffle Fries. If you would like a tipple, wines and sangria are also available.

Fat Belly only seats 10 people at the bar counter, but you can ask for items from its menu even if you are sitting at other parts of the eatery. Among the array of sweet treats from Sugarhaus, one item is exclusive to Fat Belly — Foie Gras Chocolate Bar, which comprises foie gras ice cream, chocolate, caramel and apple jelly. Flavoursome without being overwhelming, it is a rather unusual creation that isn’t likely to be found elsewhere.

Having a small menu also allows the chef to concentrate on perfecting his craft. Fat Belly may not be a fine dining destination, but its unique setup lends a refreshing experience. The quality of food and presentation, reasonable pricing and warm service will give the big names a run for their money.

Home-made happiness

Sugarhaus prides itself on its selection of home-made, European-inspired ice cream flavours. Even local ones like Gula Melaka are infused with Western elements.

Everything at Sugarhaus - from ice cream to pastries and cakes - is prepared in-house and made from scratch. At any one time, there are 18 flavours of ice cream available on a rotational basis so that customers will always have something new to look forward to.

The premium flavours are richer and creamier than most ice creams in the market, especially the bestselling Dutch Chocolate. Rather than the more common salted caramel, Sugarhaus offers a more robust and buttery rendition with Sea Salt Toffee. Our personal favourites include Sour Cherry (made with luscious amarena cherries from Italy) and Hibiscus Yogurt for an aromatic treat.

Apart from ice cream, there is also an assortment of fresh bakes. Besides the signature Rich Man’s Chocolate Cake, the beautiful Galaxy Tart (a chocolate mousse cake with raspberry jelly on a crumble base and covered with a glossy mirror glaze) and the zesty Lemon Popsicle Tart (filled with lemon sable and lemon parfait, and coated with white chocolate) are sure to enliven your Instagram feed.

For families with children, a bouncy castle at the outdoor patio on weekends and public holidays ensures the little ones have fun while you dig into the gratifying grub.

On a separate note, Sugarhaus also offers some savoury menu options in the day. Even though brunch service ends at 5pm daily, we encountered a regular customer who wanted to order the Crab Linguine for her daughter during our visit. In view of this, the chef made an exception and whipped up a fragrant plate of pasta for the young girl. While we may not have directly benefited from this, witnessing such well-rounded service truly gives good reason to return.

MEET THE CHEF

Following his secondary and tertiary education in Australia, Stanley Seow graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Western Australia and returned to Singapore to work in commercial banking. Even though he picked up important skills such as business management, he realised it was not something he wanted to do in the long run. With a fervent passion for all things sweet and savoury, he decided to take a leap of faith and ventured into the food industry. Today, Sugarhaus and Fat Belly have a team of 18, with expansion on the cards.

Describe your journey from banker to restaurateur.

The journey has been more volatile than the stock market. There are days when things are going perfectly and I feel like I am in absolute control. But there are also days when things don’t go as planned and I second-guess myself. This is part and parcel of running your own business. Getting myself out of a low moment teaches me something new every time.

What inspired you to launch Fat Belly in August 2017?

I love steaks and often cook them for family and friends. The idea of opening my own steakhouse came from my friends’ suggestions. I figured that a steakhouse operating beside a dessert parlour was rather unique and interesting.

How do Fat Belly and Sugarhaus stand out from the many steakhouses and ice cream cafes in Singapore?

Fat Belly is unique because we only offer alternative or lesser-known cuts of beef. With a simple menu of just three cuts, you won’t find the usual sirloins and rib-eyes here. Instead, we shine the spotlight on cuts that some people might not have heard of or tried.

As for Sugarhaus, we put a lot of thought into the recipes, flavours and ingredients of our desserts and ice creams. We make the ice creams ourselves, so the quality and texture of our ice creams are a lot smoother than commercial ice creams.

You are the brains behind the ice cream flavours at Sugarhaus. Where do you get inspiration?

I travel regularly to research on new food trends and constantly experiment with flavour combinations. Experiencing other cultures helps develop my palate for fresh flavours and mixes. Making ice cream is very much like mathematics. You have to really understand the different components of the flavours that you are trying to create. As I love cooking, I’m also quite involved in the kitchen at Fat Belly.

Who curates the menu? Where and how do you get your supplies?

I curate it personally and usually go through several rounds of R&D with my chefs to finalise the dishes on the menu. We source our ingredients from all over the world, such as Italy for ice creams, and Australia, the US and Japan for meat.

What are the crowd favourites?

The Flat Iron and Denver steaks are very popular, along with sides such as Creamed Kale. The most sought-after desserts are Rich Man’s Chocolate Cake and Galaxy Tart, which is very attention-grabbing because of its appearance. Ice cream flavours like Dutch Chocolate and Sea Salt Toffee have also received positive response from customers.

What are your guiding principles in business and in life?

Be honest, curious and humble - only then can you continue to learn and improve yourself.

Where do you see Fat Belly and Sugarhaus in the next few years?

I would love to expand and open more outlets for both Fat Belly and Sugarhaus. We just opened the second Sugarhaus outlet at Tampines 1 in February.

How do you strike a work-life balance?

When I’m not at work, I enjoy fishing or playing golf, and spending time with my wife and our newborn son. I also check out new restaurants in Singapore.

NICE TO MEAT YOU

When it comes to steaks, most people typically pick from a repertoire of well-known varieties such as rib-eye, sirloin, filet mignon and New York strip. While these ubiquitous cuts are delicious in their own right, some of the most mouthwatering steaks often go unrecognised. Here are four underrated cuts of beef you should know:

Flat Iron

The Flat Iron is cut with the grain from the shoulder of the cow and contains a significant amount of marbling. Its name comes from its rectangular shape that resembles an old-fashioned metal flat iron. Uniform in thickness, the steak is perfect for grilling and best seared to medium-rare over high heat.

Denver Steak

Denver Steak, also known as Under Blade Steak, sits right above the centre of the chuck (shoulder and neck of the cow) like a little cap. When cut against the grain, it is remarkably tender and good for grilling in a sauté pan. It has more marbling than other areas of the chuck.

Hanger

Called skirt steak in the UK, it also earned the nickname of ‘butcher’s steak’ as butchers of old often kept this cut for personal use rather than sell it. The Hanger literally ‘hangs’ from the diaphragm of the cow, which gives it an intense beefy flavour and richness due to its proximity to the internal organs. With a Hanger, you have the zest of a ribeye and tenderness of a filet without the hefty price tag!

Sirloin Flap or Bavette

The Bavette sits right under the Flank. This cut of beef is highly versatile and ideal for Mexican-style grilled meats, French bistro steaks and Asian stir-fry. It is gaining popularity, particularly because it takes well to marinades. The Bavette is more chewy when sliced thinly across the grain and best cooked to medium-rare and medium over high heat.

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