The Grumpy Bear Bistro, Macpherson Mall – A Comforting Fine-dining-esque Experience

Pan Seared Chilean Salmon

Fave deal at The Grumpy Bear, Macpherson Mall was worth every cent and is possibly the best thing I bought on Fave. Fave is a mobile app that I use to find dining deals, especially since it has a location feature that I can use to find nearby food. If this is your first time hearing of it, then do use this link to sign up to get S$2 off your first purchase as well (and I also get S$2 fave credits, if you care).

In total, about S$40 (S$35.80 and about S$4 for switching drinks to Coffee) was spent. Long blog post incoming.

Initial Impressions

While most of my reviews jump straight to the food review, I felt compelled to write the memorable dining experience brought to me by The Grumpy Bear at Macpherson Mall. And I had to specify at Macpherson Mall, because from my knowledge the branch at Macpherson Mall is pretty unique.

Now, The Grumpy Bear isn’t exactly a great place in terms of having quality food, from what I know and heard. The chain offers your run of the mill “Singaporean Western” food, at perhaps a slightly higher quality than your average Kopitiam Western Food stall (quality might be dependent on chain).

Looking at pictures from Burpple and hungrygowhere, the menu items at least look decent. However, a quick google of Grumpy Bear show pretty average number ratings from the community (between 3 to 4 upon 5). To add to that, their Facebook page and main websites are not available, which is always a red flag, AND the most recent post I’ve seen of the cafe is the following Instagram post.

Grumpy Bear Cafe, bad review by whatisdigesting on Instagram

Needless to say, I did not have a favourable impression when I first saw this deal on Fave. But I noticed that the deal had different menu items from the other branches’ deal. Also the fact that their picture for the deal had a frigging lobster, which was not what I expected at all.

Visit

Upon arriving at the destination, Macpherson Mall, it is obvious why the deal needed to exist. Macpherson Mall is extremely new and there are almost no tenants or even foot traffic. While the place is near residential areas, the place isn’t very conveniently located as well.

I then looked at the menu and was extremely surprised at the items (and the prices…). In fact, the failed carbonara was also nowhere to be found on the menu.

The Grumpy Bear, Macpherson Mall Menu Page 1/2
The Grumpy Bear, Macpherson Mall Menu Page 1/2
The Grumpy Bear, Macpherson Mall Menu 2/2
The Grumpy Bear, Macpherson Mall Menu 2/2

Service

First thing I did was to ask whether I got the Fave deal at the correct place, which I was told that it was. Just like the mall, the cafe was pretty deserted, and there were only 2 employees; a waiter and a chef. Waiter was extremely friendly, but when ordering using Fave it seemed to bring a huge confusion, and ordering took pretty long.

The Fave Deal, for 1 at S$17.90

  • One (1) cream of mushroom soup
  • One (1) main course (choose from):
    • Angel hair aglio olio with lobster
    • Angel hair pasta with prawn
    • Baked king prawn
    • Roasted chicken breast
    • Pan-seared Chilean salmon
  • One (1) iced lemon tea
  • One (1) dessert:
    • Coconut crème brulee
    • Chocolate sponge cake
    • One (1) scoop of artisan ice cream (any flavour, subject to availability)

The confusion was to my benefit, since for some reason instead of Cream of Mushroom, I had the choice of ordering that or French Onion Soup, and somehow had a larger selection of mains other than from the Fave selection. For my order for 2, I decided to order the following:

  • Cream of Mushroom Soup
  • French Onion Soup
  • Baked King Prawn
  • Pan Seared Chilean Salmon
  • Iced Lemon Tea
  • Hot Coffee (+S$4)
  • Coconut creme brulee
  • Chocolate Sponge Cake

Besides the ordering time, food itself was served pretty slow. It was to my dismay when my “main” arrived. Fave had put it as a main, but on the actual menu this is an appetizer.

Baked King Prawn with Mango Sabayon from The Grumpy Bear, Macpherson Mall

Baked King Prawn with Mango Sabayon – Appetizer – S$15.90

Succulent Fresh King Prawn.

Gratinated with Mango sabayon and Parmesan Cheese. Musclun Salad drizzled with apple dressing.

As a main, this is simply not filling at all (compare size to the cherry tomato on the same plate). It looked and sounded pretentious, with an emphasis on presentation rather than the most important part of having a meal, which is being filling in the first place. But of course, all these applies only if I were criticizing this as a main. It is a mistake from Fave to be putting this as a main.

King Prawn itself tasted good, and had a little spice, while being savoury from the custardy and sweet “sabayon”, which looked like cheese. It wasn’t memorable, but I have to admit that the impression of it replacing my main had shocked out my judgement and it may actually be more than what I remember.

The Turnaround

Cream of mushroom soup from The Grumpy Bear, Macpherson Mall

Cream of Mushroom Soup – S$7.90

Cream of trio mushroom soup.

Scented with truffle juice.

My impression of The Grumpy Bear being pretentious and trying to over sell its menu items did not last very long. And the turnaround started with this mushroom soup. Typically, cafes like The Grumpy Bear usually serve mushroom soups that taste exactly the same (I suspect they all use the same supplier for soups), having bits of mushroom, and depending on the restaurant there might even be undissolved lumps.

This particular Mushroom Soup was earthy, and full of mushroom flavour. While it was rather grainy, drinking is still in a smooth texture. You can tell that the soup is made in house (or well, at least by a supplier I have never eaten before, if you want to be cynical).

 

French Onion Soup from The Grumpy Bear, Macpherson Mall

French Onion Soup – S$8.90

Gratinated with gruyere cheese on Melba Toast.

Our Grumpy Bear Bistro Specialty.

Soon after, the French Onion Soup came, with a warning from the waiter that the bowl is hot. For those sensitive to black things on food, those black spots are definitely not burn spots.

French Onion Soup contents, in a spoon

Onions are nicely caramelised and soft, having none of the pungent raw onion taste or smell. The Gruyere cheese brings a light salty element that accentuates the sweetness of the onions, as well as enhancing the savoury profile of the soup. A very enjoyable french onion soup.

Pan Seared Chilean Salmon from The Grumpy Bear, Macpherson Mall

Pan Seared Chilean Salmon – S$24.90

Seared Chilean Salmon

Laced with wasabi mayonnaise, Yuzu sauce, and mirin.

Garnished with savory bonito flakes.

Unlike the baked king prawn that I received earlier, this is actually a main that is filling portion wise.

A very Japanese influenced dish, the dish is surprisingly balanced in flavour. The spicy, nose-tingling burn that wasabi (well, the fake wasabi at least) is known for is hardly felt, adding a subtle spiciness. Bonito flakes worked well with the salmon, with the fish on fish action adding umami to the dish.

The Yuzu sauce by the side is also given in adequate amounts, and eaten alongside the fish in any combination produced a balanced flavour profile. Everything worked well with the salmon, while not overpowering it but instead added something interesting elements to a normal pan fried salmon. Very comforting dish that introduced Japanese elements, yet not straying far off a normal pan fried salmon.

A short conversation with the Chef

It is at this point that the Chef came to ask about the food. Perhaps because there was no other customers, or perhaps this is a typical service I do not know, but Chef Jeremy Choo shared his experiences about working in various restaurants and hotels, going overseas to learn about various cuisines, and through some unfortunate circumstances had landed a job in The Grumpy Bear when he came back. The conversation revealed a lot about why this particular The Grumpy Bear cafe is so much different. Chef Jeremy Choo did not like how the other branches’ The Grumpy Bear operated, and had brought to this outlet his own particular flair. Makansutra had featured his previous restaurant (now closed down), Vis-à-Vis, and you can definitely see influences in this outlet.

But regardless of Chef faces and names or prestige, the fat boi’s mission is just to fill his tummy, and had feed-backed appropriately that the Baked King Prawn, as an appetizer, should not be on the Fave deal. Soon came the dessert.

Desserts

Coconut Creme Brulee with Roasted Pineapple, served with Pina Colada ice cream

Coconut Crème brûlée with Roasted Pineapple – S$7.90

Served with our artisan pinacolada ice cream.

First thought was that the dessert seemed hard to eat on this plate, which turned out to be true. I had trouble eating the ice cream using a single spoon due to the flat and straight contours of the plate, which is unlike a dessert bowl where ice cream can be easily spooned with ease.

That aside, the dessert was delicious. Crème brûlée is rich, custardy with the tropical, lightly sweet and milky taste of coconut meat, contrasting with the caramelized sugar on the top.  Pinacolada ice cream is densely creamy, aromatic with the slight oiliness of coconut milk.

The Grumpy Bear, Macpherson Mall's Bailey's Lava Cake

Bailey’s Lava Cake – S$9.90

Served with our artisan rich chocolate ice cream and baked bananas.

Bailey’s lava cake, is of course a deviation from the standard chocolate lava cake. Instead of a chocolate batter and ganache, an Irish Cream based center and batter is used. The center was not perfectly oozing out, but the dessert was sweet, with a pancake like outer crust giving a nice contrasting mouthfeel. Eaten together with the bananas and chocolate gives very rounded flavours, but individually they are also delicious.

Balance of flavours seem to be a very important theme in Chef Jeremy’s food, as the flavours are not overwhelming even in the desserts, and again, comforting in that sense.

Complementary

The Grumpy Bear, Macpherson Mall's Angel Hair Aglio Olio with Slipper Lobster

Angel Hair Aglio Olio with Slipper Lobster – S$18.90

Bathed in home-crafted garlic butter sauce.

Seemingly automatically, the Chef served up the Lobster pasta as a complementary in response to my comment about the Baked King Prawn. It was at this point that I worry if the restaurant is making any money, but the fact is that a fat boi must eat.

Pieces of lobster meat can be found spreaded adequately in the pasta. Pasta itself is too soft for my liking, lacking a chew and is very tender. I chalk it up to personal preference for the soft noodles. The Aglio Olio had a light garlicky taste, along with light spice brought by the chilli flakes. Lobsters were fresh and perfectly cooked, soft with a bite and not overly buttery.

A Tiramisu cake was added soon after, which I didn’t take a picture of.

Rating for The Grumpy Bear, Macpherson Mall

I rate food based on how far I am willing to travel, as well as whether I think the price I paid for it justifies it. You can read more about why here.

Travel-meter:

 It is a bit hard to judge how far I am willing to travel for this, as the experience was certainly memorable, but I don’t know whether that will change if the branch gets more customers. The restaurant is hospitable, amicable, and comforting, as does its food; it evokes a sense of going home or a place of comfort. I will find myself wanting to come back and seek out from time to time, but it is not something I will go for if I want to be adventurous.

Worth-it-meter:

 At the Fave deal’s price of S$17.90, it is without question fully worth the price. In fact, even at it’s full price it is worth it, with the caveat that service needs to be faster.

And then, of course, a shitty fat satisfied boi icon as a badge of approval.

But I’m just a fat boi… What do other people think?

As of the date of posting, not much reviews are out there.

Eatigo (yet another reservation platform) users gave the place 4/5, with 4 reviews. One complained about fruit flies.

However, there are other reviews of Chef Jeremy Choo’s previous restaurant, Vis-à-Vis, which can translate into the experience you might expect to find in The Grumpy Bear Bistro at Macpherson Mall.

TripAdvisor reviews for Vis-à-Vis are mixed with about half finding it to be average, but the rest finding it to be a hidden gem, homely and good value.

HungryGoWhere users seem to mirror that of TripAdvisor, though there is one review that completely shitted on the restaurant and was kind of entertaining to read.

Expatliving’s Meghann Collard found their experience at Vis-à-Vis to be one of the best meals in their three years in Singapore.

The good reviews for Vis-à-Vis are a bit reminiscent of mine for The Grumpy Bear Bistro’s, but Vis-à-Vis was at a much higher price point. Perhaps the prices for Vis-à-Vis had left diners with high expectations for the food, causing negative reviews when those expectations are not met. Hopefully, the lower prices mean that more diners will be satisfied at The Grumpy Bear Bistro, like this fat boi was.

Location

#03-15 MACPHERSON MALL, 401 MACPHERSON ROAD, 368125

UPDATE: The Grumpy Bear at Macpherson Mall appears to have been branded as a new concept for The Grumpy Bear as a Bistro, to perhaps better utilise Chef Jeremy Choo’s repertoire and experience. Information based on the introductions found here and here.

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