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Do you get deja vu? New restaurant Jiak Kim House debuts a classy concept at Zouk’s former premises

by Benita Lee • 29 Jan 2024

Photography: Jiak Kim House

History and heritage meet living room chic and elevated modern Asian cuisine at Jiak Kim House.

Memory is a funny thing. It can be attached to certain places, scents, songs and emotions. All of that came into play when I stepped out of the car at Jiak Kim Street and gazed at Jiak Kim House, a brand new concept by The Brewerkz Group. Instantly, I was whisked back in time to the days of Zouk, when the iconic nightclub played host to themed raves, coming-of-age revellers, and retro Mambo nights.

A throwback to Zouk when it was at Jiak Kim Street. Photography: Colossal Photos / Zouk Singapore via Facebook

Walking across the road where throngs of spirited merrymakers once descended evoked a sense of nostalgia in me. I contemplated the revamped appearance of the 1920s conservation warehouse and reminisced about parties that once fuelled this place. Perhaps you’ll feel the same sentiments, maybe you won’t. Leaving its own indelible mark on the space, the restaurant debuts a completely different look and feel from its predecessor.

Jiak Kim House review: Past meets present

Photography: Jiak Kim House

It’d be remiss to chuck aside the history of the place, and Jiak Kim House knows that. The restaurant sits within Frasers Property’s shiny new integrated precinct but gives a nod to its heritage in its modern design. Keep an eye out for the scallop-shaped “pediment” at the entrance of the building facade. The 120-seater also retains the original timbre trusses, which means the height of its ceiling is impressively staggering.

Step in and you’ll be greeted by black and white floor tiles, custom-made rattan furnishing, and a wall featuring scenes from the Singapore River. Plush banquette seating, louvered panels and coconut husk walls feature in the main dining room, while the wine vault walkway leads you into a private dining room that offers a peek at the river behind.

Photography: Jiak Kim House

It almost feels like someone, perhaps a Crazy Rich Asian, has invited you into their beautifully adorned home. So take a minute to immerse yourself in those lush, cosy vibes. Oh, and you can’t miss the grand bar or the bloom counter, which is home to the in-house floral atelier that arranges customised florals for those who wish to make their dining experience extra special.

Modern Asian cuisine that’s elevated

Chef TQ is the man behind the magic in the kitchen. Photography: Jiak Kim House

A celebration of East and West, Jiak Kim House isn’t just influenced by the history of its location in its design. Chef-partner Seow Tzi Qin (otherwise known as chef TQ) also takes inspiration from that in his modern Asian menu. The affable chef clearly exudes passion and excitement for the restaurant, whipping up a menu that uplifts the flavours of Southeast Asian cuisine. Imagine those familiar Asian dishes that you adore, except they’re reinvented with a contemporary spin here. P.S. while you dine, enjoy the delightful in-house curated playlist that doles out zingers like jazzy Chinese classics and acoustic versions of Titanium.

I loved that some creations are chef TQ’s personal favourites, too. He divulges his love for bubble tea brand Koi while talking about the mushroom herbal tea “macchiato” ($22), which is a tribute to bak kut teh. The peppery mushroom consommé, swirling with herbs and spices, has a layer of green peppercorn foam at the top. It’s served in a cup, so you can sip it or dip dough fritters into it for all the comfort food feels.

Hot tip: don’t skip the bread starter just because you’re trying to save stomach space. The recipe changes all the time, but ours came with century egg bits in one and a mochi-like cheesy centre in another. Life-changing, I tell ya.

Refined creations and reimagined classics

Photography: Jiak Kim House

One appetiser I’d recommend? The Tingkat of Memories ($36), which is made to be shared between two diners. These bite-sized treats include 7-herb crab cake with assam mayo, lamb goulash croquettes, chilli crab pie tee, and otak otak. Follow that up with the hay-smoked perilla wagyu hamburg ($28) for skewers of minced wagyu chuck, short rib, and pork belly wrapped in a fragrant shiso leaf with a lovely char.

Moving on to the mains, the herbal scallop pao fan ($42) is a dish that’s on the lighter side. This sublime interpretation of pao fan places sweet pan-roasted Hokkaido scallops in an angelica root dashi, topped with rice puffs, cordyceps and ikura. Another great seafood choice is the Kam Heong sambal grouper ($40). Marinated in an excellent blend of black peppercorns and house-made sambal, the fish is paired with cilantro rice (that might just win over cilantro haters) and an addictive salsa with juicy mangosteen chunks.

Photography: Jiak Kim House

Another standout is the opeh leaf laksa fettuccine ($42), a seafood dish made with a laksa shellfish bisque. It’s tossed with ulam mixed herb fettuccine for a solid shoutout to local favourites laksa and Hokkien mee. Other dishes to try include garum quail panggang ($46) with celeriac mash, lotus root chips and cauliflower bhaji; and beef tongue-to-tail ($42), featuring rendang beef short rib, ox tongue, and oxtail.

Don’t skip out on dessert and drinks

Photography: Jiak Kim House

If you’re stuffed and only have room for one dessert, go for the light and refreshing Snow Peak ($22). Never tried kombucha scoby? Now you will. Those tart little cubes will jolt you from your food coma, while the coconut jelly, Moutai and pineapple-infused sorbet, guava, strawberries, and meringue slabs will give you all the zest you need for life.

Meanwhile, Jiak Kim ($22) is a richer sweet treat that serves up a flower-shaped dessert gleaming with gold foil. Each spoonful gives you creamy layers of Earl Grey mousse, roselle hawthorne jelly, berriolette compote, and namelaka chocolate cream. But the winner in our books is the Black Forest ($22). A twist on the familiar favourite, this creation is decadent in all the right ways: from the earthy buah keluak-infused chocolate sauce and the namelaka cream to the kirsch-soaked cherries and the – surprise! – popping candy.

For after-dinner drinks, keep the unique flavours going with Emperor State ($26). This concoction mixes pisco, Chartreuse green liqueur, thyme, lemonade…. and house-made durian liqueur. It’s subtle, but may not be for those who detest the King of Fruits. Alternatively, order The Asian “Banana” ($26), a fruity, tropical drink made with Filipino brandy and banana liqueur, cherry liqueur, and spiced bitters. Your partying years may be behind you (or not), but a classy evening out with good food and great company will never get old.

So, the next time your mood strikes, take a walk down memory lane to Jiak Kim House and treat yourself to a sumptuous meal that’s familiar, flavourful, and fantastic.

Jiak Kim House, #01-16 & 17, 5 Jiak Kim Street, Singapore 169426


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