Bakalaki: Greek Food or Great Food?
They say when you take on a language you take on a culture. This may be true for many people but for me, to take on a culture or a discovery means to start with gastronomy. I believe culture resides in flavour (or tastebuds), and in how those flavours make you feel through their smell and taste. It is extremely important to find the right restaurants that help convey the best version of their culture.
Singapore is a global hub where cultural exchanges are largely experienced through food. Not just any food, but through the most delicious and mouth-watering dishes! Here is a review of one such restaurant – Bakalaki Greek Taverna. This eatery has successfully managed to bring the art of Greek cuisine and its 4000 year old history, thousands of miles away from home and straight to the heart of Singapore’s eating capital, Tiong Bahru.
Bakalaki Ambience and Service: 4.5/5*
Bakalaki confirms the richness of the Greek culture as soon as you enter the place. Greeted by a generous space with an olive tree (Yes! A real olive tree), a wine wall that resembles the Greek flag, an open kitchen, and alfresco dining on the patio, Bakalaki teleports you to Greece instantly. Though the name is completely fictional, Bakalo actually means a convenience store in Greek. Keeping somewhat true to its name, Bakalaki has a section dedicated to selling Greek-imported goods like olive oil, haloumi, saffron and bread, amongst other things.
The authenticity of Bakalaki is intriguing and inviting all at once. The staff are very well-versed in their product knowledge and show a real pride in imparting it. During an exchange with one of them, I discovered that 70% of the ingredients used at the restaurant are directly imported from Greece. These include the extra virgin olive oil (house-brand) which is the pride of the store alongside the fresh and piquant feta cheese and haloumi.
Bakalaki Food: 4/5*
Bakalaki has an extensive menu. Every dish on the menu is inviting and sounds appetizing. However, I only managed to eat a few and here is a breakdown of them.
In the true Greek spirit of hospitality: dips, olives and breads mark the starting point of the Bakalaki experience.
Tirokafteri ($15.90) was a winner for me
A combination of feta cheese, hot peppers, roasted red capsicum, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, yogurt and oregano with seasoned Pita Bread ($2.90) was a delight on the taste buds. The spicy, salted taste with mellow undertones of olive oil a la Bakalaki style really set the mood for what was to come.
Melitzanosalata Agioritiki ($14.90) left me slightly underwhelmed
This Greek roasted eggplant dip is a popular staple Grecian dip. However, the lemon juice hit was a tad too strong, and in the end, it was a bit too sensitive on my teeth. However, for the love of Greek culture, do try it.
The Greek Salad ($20.90) was incredible!
The freshness of every single ingredient used was evident in the way they looked and tasted. The feta cheese, the olives, the tomatoes, and the olive oil confirmed the pride and confidence of the staff in their products. Small wonder that they make a point of telling every customer that the products are air-flown straight from Greece to Bakalaki. The portion size of the salad was extremely generous – you will find this with all the dishes in Bakalaki. At the very least, three people can comfortably share this salad, and at $20.90, it is definitely worth the price.
The Haloumi ($16.90) is perhaps the best Haloumi in town
The Haloumi was grilled and served alongside pesto and cherry tomatoes, it was something I eagerly anticipated and it did not disappoint! Though a little on the salty side, the chewy cheese tasted incredible. It was served as a set of three individual blocks. For a party of 2, I would recommend ordering just the one dish to share.
Click below to take a video tour of the restaurant
The Moussaka ($25.90), was filling and relaxing
This was a traditional vegetarian dish made in a tomato-based sauce. It was richly layered with sweet eggplants and creamy béchamel sauce – a personal highlight. Baked until perfectly golden, this hearty dish was very filling and relaxing. In hot, humid Singapore it still held its charm of being a comfort eat. By the time I was done with it, I was ready for a siesta. Again, the portion size is generous and this can be shared amongst two people or more.
Kalamaki Merida ($25.90), was remarkable
This was the main dish. Grilled beef skewers served with tomato, onion, tzatziki – a yogurt mix with cucumbers, garlic, salt, lemon juice and olive oil – and pita bread, really paid homage to the fine art of Grecian food. The beef was tender, succulent and grilled at the right note of char. Each mouthful was a reminder of the grand food culture in Greece. The fries were regular fries and complimented the tzatziki dip very well. Again, just one dish will suffice for two people.
The traditional dessert of Baklava ($14.90) is nothing to write home about
FUCHSIA Recommends the Giarouti ($12.90)
Whatever you order (or don’t), just don’t leave the place without trying Giarouti. This greek yogurt with fruits, honey and walnuts was surprisingly light and incredibly delightful after a heavily flavourful meal. The natural yogurt had the right level of thickness to make you a lifetime fan. Definitely worth it.
And with so much care, effort and pride in bringing the finer culture of Greece through food and ambience, Bakalaki does not disappoint. Though a a little on the expensive side, the place really has you believing that you are paying for an expensive art. The art of preparing and serving rich, delicate and appetizing food with excellent customer service. Make that a reservation asap!
Avg. Dinner Bill: $70-80 pp
Heena holds an MA from the UCL, London. She is an educator and writer. She loves learning and plans to have her own learning center one day. Her love of reading and the written word, which she calls an obsession, prompts her to read 2 books a week! Her favourite all-time read is The Autobiography of Malcolm X! This talented writer is not only involved in writing a book, but also participated at the Iranian Film Festival with her first film direction, Azan – A Call to Prayer. ‘Spiders are a nightmare for me’, confesses Heena. She loves avocados and can have them for breakfast, lunch or dinner! She secretly wishes she were a Super woman like her mom! Heena lives by these lines from Arundhati Roy: To Love. To be loved. To never forget your own insignificance.