Yong Yung Shin

Small Menu, Big Bites

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Hashtag 88 Café N Bar offers a Western fusion menu executed to surprisingly good standards.

Small Menu, Big Bites

The Chilli Crab Pasta, one of the highlights of Hashtag 88.
CN PHOTO: Daniel Poh

Along the very competitive stretch of eateries and drinking holes at Tanjong Pagar Road sits an understated shopfront which opens into a cosy, narrow strip of space marked by over-hanging wooden crates and a bed of corks.

Open since May 2016, Hashtag 88 Café N Bar sees brisk business come sundown when the office crowd turns up to unwind with its Brewerkz’s handcrafted Golden Ale ($8 nett) during happy hour from 4pm to 7pm. But what we came away impressed with is its Western fusion-themed menu, a pragmatic straddle of “safe” dishes with a dash of innovation.

Take its finger food, in particular the Har Jiong Kai Nuggets. While chicken wings are usually used, Hashtag 88 uses tender, boneless meat, as implied in its name. It is served with a homemade honey mayo sauce but honestly we think it’s already great on its own.

The Fish Fries, made from chunks of fish meat and encrusted with a herb-bread batter, is an interesting and delectable alternative to the commonplace French fries, and is best consumed the moment it is served. It comes with the chef’s own homemade tartar sauce, which takes the delicate taste of the fish to another level.

The main dish selection is not extensive. We thoroughly enjoyed the Chilli Crab Pasta. It’s one of those dishes that is perfect for rainy days. Moderately spicy with sweet and tangy undertones, it features al dente spaghetti drenched in a wonderfully piquant chilli sauce with bits of crab meat and—a whole piece of deep-fried soft shell crab perched atop the pasta.

Another star dish is the Chick Chop Thigh, served with a mushroom sauce. The crispy, slightly charred skin conceals a wonderfully juicy, deboned chicken leg and thigh portion which, from its taste, has definitely done its time in a good marinade. Did we mention it was juicy?

From these dishes, two things are apparent: the portions are not stingy and the quality, very respectable—definitely surpassing expectations one might have of a café-bar. Prices range from $13 to $18.90 for main courses.

For its young co-founder Aloyson Tan, whose family is in the F&B business, Hashtag 88 is the realization of a childhood dream. Tan echoes the belief that good food is the outcome of not just skill and ingredients but sincerity and passion, and we daresay his chef possesses oodles of both. Tan also explains that the name derives from the social media-centric form of modern communication which is more visual and keyword-driven. The place has a seating capacity for 35 people. 

It’s not easy to stand out in a location that is replete with so many other F&B options, but Hashtag 88 has its basics down and that should take it far in time to come.

Hashtag 88 Café N Bar

88 Tanjong Pagar Road
Singapore 088509
+65 6222 2214
Closed on Mondays. Open from 4pm on all other days and 2pm on Saturdays.

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