After a Friday evening tipple at HMS Victory’s Happy Hour, I stumbled on a restaurant concept that is brand new to the Bordeaux foodie scene.
Hutong, at 1 place du Général-Sarrail is a Singapore streetfood café run by an Aussie called Jason. He’s serves quality streetfood at a decent price and I’m going back there as soon as possible to eat some…
|Handmade Wontons with the new spicy Sambal oil, black vinegar and fried garlic sauce|
Our concept is based on the hawker centers in Singapore. In a nutshell, we’re all about good food at an affordable price in a relaxed and casual atmosphere. Streetfood that’s serious on flavor.
|BBQ Pork, Hokkien egg noodles & bok choy|
Basically since arriving in 2012 we’ve been disappointed with the Asian food scene in Bordeaux. Like most expats, my wife (and business partner) Stephanie and I have travelled a lot in Asia and we were craving something authentic but it was hard to find. There isn’t even a Chinatown in Bordeaux. We already had a restaurant project in mind and we finally decided to choose Singaporean for 3 main reasons: I was born in Singapore so I know the cuisine well, Singaporean hawker food is amazingly good and so unique, and no one else is doing it in Bordeaux.
|Hainan Chicken Rice|
Been in Bordeaux for 4 years. Both Stephanie and I have worked a lot in hospitality in Sydney (where I grew up) before coming to France. I ran a couple of Japanese restaurants there that I opened there with my brother. Stephanie has a background in both hotels and restaurants. We’re also both qualified ESL English teachers.
|Otak Otak Nasi Lemak|
What’s your take on the way the city is developing?
From the short time I’ve been here I think it’s a city that’s very well run. There’s a great vibe, and of course the architecture and heritage is well preserved. I think it could be a little more business-friendly however. Far too much red-tape, bureaucracy, not enough tax-breaks for startups…but that might be a national problem I guess.
It’s been a real eye-opener for them because most don’t really know what to expect and a lot of our ingredients like pandan, gula melaka, galangal…are not common. We do almost everything on our menu from scratch: curry pastes, soup stocks, sauces… nothing comes straight out of a bottle and I think our customers notice the difference. We put our hearts and souls into each dish – the Beef Rendang for example needs 4 hours in the oven.
We’re crossing our fingers that there will be more and more chefs pushing the boundaries and trying more original stuff. It all depends on the customers though – the talent is out there, but the locals need to be more demanding with the quality of the food in restaurants and not settle for average. Streetfood is about reproducing signature dishes from your home country or town. Even if it’s a bit risky, you need to trust that the customer will love the dish for the same reasons that you do.
We took a risk with our Laksa Lemak, for example, which is pretty rich and spicy, but we decided not to tone down the chili because we wanted our customers to discover the real thing. Another example is our Hainan Chicken Rice, traditionally the silky smooth skin of the poached chicken is a sign of a good HCR, and though we knew that the French prefer not to eat the skin of poached chicken, we made the decision to leave it on in order to be 100% authentic.
Possibly. I’ll leave the decision up to the boss Stephanie, but everything depends on how this one goes. We’re in restaurants because we love it and we’re super passionate about food. So long as we have ideas that drive us we’ll go for it. If it does happen you’ll be sure that it’ll be something really original too.
|Kaya Toast layer cake|
Lots of expats have come in as well as tourists. We have a British couple who drive up from the Dordogne just to have our Laksa. Lots of fellow Aussies too, including some of the boys playing for UBB. It’s great because being expats they’re usually well-travelled and we don’t need to explain our dishes to them. There’s a big community of Singaporeans down near La Teste and Arcachon as well who support us.