Singapore’s urban jungle is so dense, its buildings so high and its people packed so tightly, that sometimes you miss things just a short walk from you. For a long time I’ve been whining (inwardly) about the lack of rosti in Singapore. It’s shredded potatoes for heaven’s sake. Why do I have to go to Marche and pay enormous amounts for that?
Or at least that’s my excuse for this glaring oversight – not only did I not know about Ivan’s Carbina, mere minutes away from my place; I didn’t even know there was a coffee shop there at all. It was only when I saw a video on Facebook that I knew. Rosti was there all the time; indeed, it’s been there for years.
We were concerned that the publicity might have led great crowds to the Carbina, but a spell of stormy weather seems to have put paid to that. Still, almost everyone at the coffee shop is waiting for them, and smoke is perpetually rising from behind the counter – from the grill, but also a massive deep fryer farther back.
The fried things on this plate serve as a useful demonstration of sorts. Chicken cutlet, generous in portion, is beautifully and freshly fried, the breading well-bronzed and krokky while the meat is just on the firm side without getting dry. But the fries beside it look and feel like they’ve not seen the hot oil in hours – lifeless, flaccid, room temperature. Why they didn’t bother to give them, at least, a brief second dunk in the fryer mystifies me.
The real star of this show, though, is the homemade coleslaw. The dressing is rich but without the cloying sweetness that comes with factory made stuff, while the vegetables are properly coated and crisp.
Pepper chicken chop is a lot more consistent in quality, the chicken nicely charred but still springy and moist. I’m glad I got the rosti, meanwhile. Generously portioned, it would be a bit bland by itself, but it’s not meant to be by itself – the pepper gravy, a little over-salted as is, is kept in check by all that potato.
Some restaurants are so great, their prestige and quality so high, that people will move across the island seeking a taste. (That is, in fact, how the Michelin Guide explains its rating system.) Ivan’s Carbina is honestly not one of those places, but it’s not meant to be. The prices and portions are cheerful; the staff are efficient but friendly, happy to recommend items. This is the sort of place you go to if you’re in the neighbourhood. And thankfully Singapore’s neighbourhoods are dense enough to make this viable.
354A Woodlands Ave 1, Singapore 731354
Contact no.: 9048 0333
Tues – Sun, 11am – 9pm