Chu Restaurant and Bar
This humble Chinese restaurant hides cool secrets upstairs.
This review took place in August 2019 and is based on a visit to the restaurant without the restaurant's knowledge. For more on BK's review policy, click here.
A harshly lit, bare white space with a simple counter towards the back—stepping foot inside Chu at first feels uninspiring, yet a swooping concrete spiral staircase indicates there might be more. Trust your instincts, because upstairs the spacious salmon pink dining room would look at home in a Wong Kar Wai movie—all warm vintage light fixtures, circular mirrors, big round tables, cozy booths and dark wood flooring.
That sort of entrance riles you up for something out of the ordinary, though a playlist that yoyos between slow covers of Britney Spears and traditional Chinese music marks the first note of dischord. The menu, too, evades the playful vibe with its down the line comfort food from Hong Kong, Singapore, Sichuan and Thailand. That said, almost every dish we ordered hit the mark. Take the supremely comforting bak kut teh (B280), with its tender pork ribs and a side of crispy patongo—just perfect for dipping in the peppery broth—or the very sweet but satisfyingly chewy braised bean curd sheet in soya sauce (B80). These, like the springy yellow Hokkien noodles (B190) topped with plump, juicy prawns, earthy fish, a runny egg and rich soy gravy, are all well executed, if not especially unique.
It is the stir-fried pork stomach with salivation-inducing pickled mustard greens (B140) that hit us round the head with its sour notes and perfectly non-chewy bite—this is a dish that could inspire repeat visits. The light and refreshing century egg salad (B100) was the perfect thing to cut through all the heavy meat dishes, while the fresh and natural-tasting lime jelly (B65) made a great palate cleanser—it’s not something we’d usually go for, but it was a welcome recommendation from the staff, who until that point had been somewhat evasive.
With its adjoining neon-lit bar, Chu is a tale of two parts—though they needn’t be read together, and indeed feel very separate. On our visit, the restaurant was dominated by Thai families, while the bar drew a younger crowd for its unique menu of Chinese-inspired cocktails and its superior playlist of American soul and African funk. Here, the bartender is unafraid to forewarn you of the unusual sweet-savory tastes to be found in concoctions like the Train to 2046 (B360), a unique yet pleasant mix of rum sous vide sweet osmanthus flower, lemon, quince gin, bak kut teh syrup and grapefruit bitters, served in a cute Chinese tea cup.
If the restaurant would only takes its cues from the bar when it comes to music and service, this could shape up to be a very inviting start to a big night out. All-in-all, there’s plenty to be excited about at Chu: tasty food, an awesome bar, stylish decor and pocket-friendly prices. It certainly offers a unique middle ground between the distinctly high- or low-end Chinese restaurants you’ll find across town. Word has it they’re soon to turn downstairs into a dessert cafe, too.