Sunday, August 18, 2013

Singapore Food Blog - Mad for Garlic @ Clarke Quay

Location: Clarke Quay, Central Business District (CBD), Singapore

Updated 29-Nov-2015: This outlet in Clarke Quay is permanently closed. Outlets of Mad for Garlic can still be located in other locations through here: outlet locations.

The name itself is warning enough for the vampiric and alliumphobic (that's fear of garlic) alike. If you fall into either category, you should not venture into this restaurant. Consider yourself warned. Or that is what the restaurant is supposed to be about.

Packed into a corner of the outlandish exotic restaurant area in Clarke Quay, Mad for Garlic is in itself an exotic. The wreaths of garlic hanging on the wall outside as well as randomly in the restaurant are testaments to that. The mainly Italian dishes incorporated garlic as its ingredient, be it a dipping sauce or being ground unto the main course. The establishment identified itself as a bistro and restaurant (its website claimed itself to be an 'Italian Wine Bistro' as well as 'The Original Wine and Garlic Restaurant') - with a long bar and dark environment, it seemed more former than latter.

This is the Dracula Killer. Want to know more? Read on!

Do not expect a waft of garlic fragrance upon entering the restaurant though - not everyone could take in the strong smell, even if they claim themselves a garlic lover. And it definitely would not help for non-enthusiasts to be driven away just by the smell alone.

Whether you are a garlic lover or not, one should not miss the opportunity to try what Mad For Garlic has to offer. Not many could rise up to the claim that they could prepare a dish with garlic yet still retain the taste of the dish without being overwhelmed by the dominating smell and taste. After all, the dark environment where you eat invited your imagination of dining in Dracula's castle, only to boldly challenge his claims to your blood by eating an appetizer aptly named Dracula's Killer in this imagined territory of his. How could one miss the chance to such an experience?

As dusk approaches, one shall quickly enter Mad For Garlic to fill himself with garlic breath to fend off vampiric fiends!

Are you mad for garlic yet?

I personally appreciate the artwork presentation and beverage name of the drinks menu.

We are daring when we decided to try the food, but not so much when it comes to the drinks. We just stick to some old fashioned Orangeade (SGD5.90) and Ice Lemon Tea (SGD5.50). 

The food on the menu is creatively named with references to vampires and garlic, invoking your appetites and imaginations as to what the dish could offer before you smell them. Being an Italian restaurant, the dishes require an artistic touch to it, from the fragrance to the layout to the taste of it melting in your mouth - all this Mad For Garlic achieved rather well. I give a few garlic thumbs up!

For the fact that they cherished the use of garlic in their dishes, it presents a rather ironic dilemma to them. Lovers like me preferred the dishes to be strong with garlic, tasting it in the air before digging in. This would in turn drives their friends, which most probably includes far relatives of Dracula, who would strongly suggest against entering the shop. So do not be alarmed if you do not smell the fragrance in the air; it is present in the dish so as to fool those vampiric friends of yours into entering the restaurant before all is lost. Just kidding...

Being a bistro, wines and cocktails of a wide variety is available in Mad For Garlic. Not being an alcoholic myself, I have no comment to offer, but the cocktail menu did draw my attention to it. A color penciled sketch of a variety of cocktails as well as creative names assigned to them adds a rather artistic touch to it.

Dracula Killer (SGD15.80) - an impressive and intriguing name, and was even promoted as one of the must-haves. Nevertheless I have to say, from the point of a garlic lover, that I was sorely disappointed. This starter is a dish of 6 soft breads with dipping sauce that is garlic cooked in olive oil and anchovies. The web of cheese was sliced into the hot oil right in front of us when it was served, and the fragrance that wafted towards us was positively inviting. With the garlic cooked to a soft mushy state, clamping it within the fluffy bread should have filled the mouth with strong garlic odor much like a garlic bread did. Alas that was not the case. Maybe the garlic was overcooked and the taste was lost in the olive oil. Or maybe I just was expecting too much of a garlic bread kind of taste. Nevertheless one should not expect too much of the dish to contain deep garlic taste. Just take it as the beginning of a list of tasty dishes.

The available choices of main dishes were quite varied, especially with those aforementioned creative names. From pizza to pasta, from calzone to risotto, everything were served with garlic and the daring is recommended to get a taste of those Italian dishes least encountered in Singapore. After all, you did enter an Italian restaurant.

It was rather considerate of Mad For Garlic to understand that in making a choice, the name meant naught if the diner knew not what it represents. Certain attention seeking dishes were illustrated on a separate 'must-try' menu, narrowing the focus of first-time diners to those recommended by the house.

We made 3 choices, respectively from starters, combo and pizza. And we unanimously concluded that the best was the most Italian of them: Garlic Cream Calzone. The dish was admittedly on the sweet side, but it was the one with the most garlic-y taste. The combo of teriyaki chicken and pasta was rather unassuming in terms of sight and taste, and should be reserved for the less daring. After all, we made that choice because we were initially worried that we ordered something we may not like, a thought which in hindsight proven to be unnecessary.

Teriyaki Chicken and Pasta Combo (SGD21.40) was a rather huge serving. Fortunately there were 3 of us to share the dish. A tender piece of chicken grilled with sliced garlic and teriyaki sauce is not something special from Mad For Garlic, merely another dish offered by another western restaurant. The pasta is only so-so for us, but this dish could be a choice for those non-enthusiasts following you into the restaurant. Ten points for size of serving, less so for the taste.

Garlic Cream Calzone (SGD20.90) was really a new experience for me. Calzone is almost a street lunch, and is related to its famous Italian dish - pizza. A folded pizza in the shape of a half-moon, calzone is stuffed with tasty fillings much just as pizza has toppings. The waiter flattened the calzone and carved up the dish with a pizza slicer. Wrapped within the crispy wrappings was cheesy sweet golden liquid, and to top it with a bowl of thick sweet garlic sauce was nothing less than heaven sent. A must try!

The interior was rather dark, making this establishment more of a bistro than a restaurant. One need not worry about lurking vampires though, since wreaths of garlic were positioned randomly in the restaurant to ward off those ghoulish creatures.

Would I recommend diners to visit this establishment? Of course I would (if not I wouldn't be writing this article...) Despite the name, Mad For Garlic does not hold much garlic smell within, so do not anticipate much in that direction. The choice of dish may be a lot, but the Italian ones are still the more recommended. Other unusual dishes like Dracula Killer should be tried although one would be prudent not to keep his hopes too high.

Note: This piece was written base on the dining experience in Clarke Quay branch. Experience may differ from those in another branch.

Suitable for:            for family or friends, and especially celebration friendly
Cost:                             Not cheap. It has 'bistro' and 'restaurant' in its name, so be prepared to spend.

Website:                    Official homepage
Contact:                     +65 - 6333 1507 (phone)/+65 - 6333 0507 (fax) (Clarke Quay branch)
Address:                     Block 3B River Valley Road #01-16, The Foundry, Singapore 179021.

Operating hours:   Sun - Thu (12.00 p.m. - 11.00 p.m.)
                                           Fri - Sat (12.00 p.m. - 1.00 a.m.)
Directions:                Disembark at Clarke Quay MRT station, and exit The Central in the direction of Singapore River. Walk along the river towards Riverwalk and Swissotel Merchant Court, then cross the river by bridge. Walk straight in the alley and past a central fountain area. The restaurant should be in sigh once you reach the near end of the alley.

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