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What to eat at Clinton St Baking Company

New York’s It place for brunch, Clinton St Baking Company & Restaurant, has recently opened in Singapore

2 Clinton St - web

The interior of Clinton St Baking Company & Restaurant at Purvis Street evokes a simplistic, easy-going vibe.

Good things come to those who wait but, for Clinton St Baking Company & Restaurant, is it worth it?

In New York, Clinton St Baking Company & Restaurant has been proclaimed by various people and lifestyle media as the It place for brunch. It would be surprising to find someone who hasn’t heard of it, especially in the Lower East Side where it is located.

Much Hyped and Highly Acclaimed

For those who may be unfamiliar, Clinton St Baking Company & Restaurant —by the husband and wife team of Chef Neil Kleinberg and Dede Lahman — is renowned for its pancakes, brunch food, fried chicken and buttermilk biscuits. It has been voted the best for its various food items, several times.

Since its opening in 2001, the accolades have flowed, including from the New York Observer and New York Magazine. Lonely Planet declared it “the city’s No. 1 breakfast spot”.

Great Expectations

Armed with the knowledge of all this praise heaped upon Clinton St, I was keen to taste its star-studded wares. Although open for only about a month, the queue at the new outlet at Purvis Street has been gaining notoriety.

Thankfully I didn’t have to queue and soon sampled The Southern Breakfast ($18) comprising two eggs in any style, sugar-cured bacon, cheese grits and fried green tomatoes. The house-cured, double-smoked bacon had a lovely combination of flavours and the cheese grits made with two kinds of cheeses — cheddar and Monterey Jack — was surprisingly tasty. The panko-crusted green tomatoes didn’t suit my Asian palate.

The toasted buttermilk biscuit and maple-cured ham that came with the Eggs Benedict ($20) were also delightful.

1 Pancakes with Warm Maple Butter (Wild Blueberries) - web

The Pancakes with Maple Butter is one of the standout items here, and is much fluffier than usual pancakes.

Clinton St’s signature Pancakes with Warm Maple Butter ($18) is extra fluffy as compared to other pancakes. You can choose from wild blueberries, banana walnut or a chocolate chunk topping to sit pretty atop your three generously-thick pancakes. This is, without question, Instagram-worthy.

Undoubtedly, I found the pancakes pretty good and better than many others, though I’m not too sure I understand why it was voted “Best in the City” twice by New York magazine. I did think that there could be better ones. Still, the delicious homemade maple butter went a long way in convincing me.

Chain Means Pain?

The new Clinton St outlet here is the first in South-east Asia and the third in Asia after the ones in Tokyo (2013) and Dubai (2014). I can’t help but wonder if expanding the chain means stretching the standards.

3 Chicken & Waffles - web

Chicken and Waffles, featuring Clinton St’s Buttermilk Fried Chicken, is one of the most popular dishes.

I was a bit underwhelmed by the Buttermilk Fried Chicken Dinner ($25) with honey-Tabasco sauce, house slaw and a side. The honey-Tabasco was tasty and the chicken flesh was tender but I felt that the chicken was a tad bland without the sauce.

The biggest surprise for me came in the form of the Seafood Po’ Boy — catch of the day on a griddled French roll, with tartar sauce and shredded romaine — with Soft Shell Crab ($23). Honestly, it left my lips soon after it had landed on my tongue. It tasted overdone.

My favourite items of the day were the side orders of House-Cured Salmon ($12.50) — that I feel is very worth it — and Rosemary Pork Sausage ($7).

4 Pies and Cakes - web

Clinton St has a range of pies, cakes, muffins, brownies, etc.

Clinton St’s Peanut Butter Ice Box Pie ($9.50) and Black & White Layer Cake ($9.50) consisting of dark chocolate ganache filling, vanilla frosting and dark chocolate glaze, as well as its shakes — I tried the Salted Caramel — were not bad.

There is also a range of scones, muffins and cookies made from Chef Neil’s original recipes. Brookies, a cross between brownies and cookies, are also available.

On the whole, my opinion is that Clinton St is fairly good but I’m not sure if it’s worth enduring a long wait. I’d say, try it during off-peak hours when there’s a shorter queue.

By Lester J Wan

Clinton St Baking Company & Restaurant, 31 Purvis Street, Singapore 188608