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Finally, the Dish Duel team (Jacob from Restos in TO, Stella Food Junkie Chronicles and Amy from Amy’s Food Adventures) had a chance to meet up for dinner after all the madness. Since Hawker Bar had been on our radar since it opened recently, we decided to give it a try. This new restaurant, joining the never-ending list of restaurants on the Ossington strip, serves up Singapore-style street food. They certainly bring something a little different to the food scene down here.

Being fully aware of how small the restaurant is and coupled with the fact that they don’t take reservations, we tried to arrive shortly after 6 on a Thursday evening to avoid a long wait. As I mentioned, the place is tiny – I don’t think it could fit more than 20 people.

Hawker Bar’s cardboard menu

After being seated, we were provided with hand-written cardboard menus and some complimentary ginger tea. Very gingery tea!

The first dish that arrived was the Son in Law Eggs – soft boiled then fried with chili jam, Prik Nam Pla ($6). Having heard such great things about these Son in Law Eggs, we were all really excited to try this. The serving only comes with 2 eggs, so we had to order two orders.

Son in Law Eggs

Make sure you eat this all in one bite as the yolk has a tendency to squirt out everywhere after biting into it. The combination of the soft yolk, slightly crisp exterior and chili jam was tasty. Good but not a show-stopper in my opinion.

Next up was the Curry Pork Satay – with peanut sauce and pickled cucumber ($6). The order only comes with three skewers, so we added an extra one for the four of us. I wasn’t a fan of this dish at all. I found the meat to be on the tough and dry side. As for the sauce, it was lacking in flavour and a little too watery. I’d recommend skipping this.

Curry Pork Satay

After the pork satay was served, the food started arriving at a ridiculously quick pace. The next thing I tried was the Singapore Chicken Wings – 1lb with chili soy ($9). These wings had a very great flavour which coated the exterior of the wing and had a nice, moist interior. Jacob mentioned that we should have topped it with some extra sauce (which came served on the side).

Singapore Chicken Wings

Onto the next chicken dish, the Hainanese Chicken Rice – poached breast, fragrant rice with chili sauce, ginger puree, dark soy ($12).

Hainanese Chicken Rice (pre-sauce)

I love Hainanese chicken so I was really curious to see how Hawker Bar’s fared. Given that it was all breast meat, the chicken was actually quite moist. But my preference is still dark meat. Flavour-wise, I wasn’t too impressed with the chicken and the rice just didn’t have that oily, tasty flavour it’s supposed to. Overall, a little disappointing.

Hainanese Chicken Rice (post-sauce)

A heartier dish we ordered was the Rendang Curry – braised oxcheek and coconut rice ($12). The braised oxcheek was incredibly tender and I enjoyed the sweet curry.

Rendang Curry

Another dish we were all eager to try was the Laksa – coconut curry soup, rice noodles, tofu puffs, snow peas, red pepper, eggplant ($9 small/$12 large). You have a choice of the chicken, vegetarian or vegan laksa…although I’m not quite sure what the difference between vegetarian and vegan would be. Being meat-eaters, we went for the chicken. Similar to the Hainanese chicken, I was left disappointed. The soup was on the watery side and although I’m not a laksa expert, the flavours just weren’t doing it for me.


One of the specials for the day was the Chili Crab ($24), which turned out to be one of my favourites of the evening. The soft-shell crab was deep-fried and served with a generous portion of red curry. Despite being called “chili crab”, it wasn’t as spicy as advertised. But I don’t have a high spice tolerance so I’m not complaining. A young coconut salad topped the crab which was a nice refreshing addition to the dish.

Chili Crab

Another special we ordered was the Whole Fried Sea Bream – served with a banana blossom salad. When they say a whole fish, they mean the whole fish. It’s served standing up with the fish just staring at you. I enjoyed the crispiness of the skin and the fish tasted nice when paired with the slaw.

Whole Fried Sea Bream

Hawker Bar only has two desserts on their menu so we ordered both of them. The first that arrived was the Ice Kacang ($4), a shaved ice dessert which was topped with condensed milk and red beans. While it wasn’t anything special, it was quite refreshing giving all the deep fried dishes and heavy curries we had eaten.

Ice Kacang

The second dessert was the Banana Fritter ($4). I was surprised when the dish first arrived since the fritters were bright green in colour. Looks aside, I really enjoyed the fritters, which had a light and crisp batter. It also came with a scoop of red bean ice cream which contrasted the hot fritters nicely. Needless to say, we devoured this last dish pretty quickly.

Banana Fritters

One thing I have to mention is the speed of our meal. The dishes practically came out all at once, leaving us feeling incredibly rushed. It’s really difficult to really enjoy the experience when you’re so focused on wolfing down the food to make more room on our tiny table. To get an idea how quick the meal was, we arrived around 6:15 and we were out of the restaurant by 7.

Overall, I was left feeling underwhelmed. When I first heard about Hawker Bar opening up, I was really excited to try it since Toronto is really lacking in restaurants serving up this style of food. While there were a few things I enjoyed, there wasn’t anything particularly memorable.

At a glance:
• Serving up Singapore-style street food
• Tiny – fits no more than 20 people
• No reservations
• Food served at lightning pace

Ratings (out of 5):
• Food: 3 stars
• Service: 2.5 stars
• Atmosphere: 3 stars

Hawker Bar on Urbanspoon

  1. Frank (Reply) on Saturday 2, 2012

    Wow! What a wonderful place to have all these dishes. From the photos, I like the Son in Law eggs and Whole Fried Sea Bream. Which one is your best favourite

    • Jess (Reply) on Saturday 2, 2012

      My favourites were the chili crab and fried sea bream. Overall, the place sounded promising but I was left a little disappointed.

  2. Frank (Reply) on Saturday 2, 2012

    I did go to Hawker Bar this past weekend. I ordered the Fried Sea Bream and Son in Law egg. They are just amazing. Of course, I avoided the Laksa and Hainanese chicken as per comments. I like the restaurant.

    If it can improve the basic dishes like Laksa and Hainanese chicken, then it will be wonderful.

    Is there any more restaurant recommendations around that district?

    • Jess (Reply) on Saturday 2, 2012

      Hmmm…Delux has an amazing brunch (the donuts and duck hash are must-orders!) and I like Libretto’s pizza!

      • Frank (Reply) on Saturday 2, 2012

        Thanks for the referral