chili’s, clarke quay

as-you’d-expect – which is to say, good for simple, filling meals – at this american tex-mex chain outlet at the central in clarke quay. let’s cut to the chase: this isn’t gourmet, and it’s not trying to be. it’s full-on american diner-steakhouse type food served in large portions, and it (almost singlehandedly, actually) fills a niche gap in the singapore dining scene that I think many of us didn’t know existed.

it’s casual dining in a large space with very-american-style diner booth seats, incredibly enthusiastic staff, and a boisterous atmosphere that lends best to loud gatherings (impression fostered also by their myriad alcohol promotions) – but all that aside, this place has a killer bread pudding: one of the best, most satisfying non-chocolate puddings I’ve had in a while.


in a food scene dominated by open kitchens manned by skinny tight-trousered intensely-styled chefs, this establishment feels a little out of place. at best, it’s esoteric; at most-impolite, it’s probably best described as crass. but.. that’s not necessarily as bad as it sounds, and not a bad thing neither. it’s (lack of supposed) pedigree is visible in the cheese-encrusted steaks and cheese-surrounded most-things-else – but it’s fun, you know.

I wouldn’t dress up to come here (and you don’t need to, either), but if your friends appreciate a loud place to indulge in margharitas and too-much food – this would be my best recommendation.

we started off with nachos and a salsa – the nachos had the slight grease and warmth of a fresh dip in the fryer, and came with a delicious salsa. slightly spicy, fresh-tasting with a good chunky tomato puree, I was eating this with a fork (the nachos were acceptable, but not nearly as good as the salsa).

followed by small breaded quesadilla triangles: cheese and chicken fried to a crispy golden. this was tasty and quite rich – and the chipotle sour cream it came with made it too cloying. best with that spicy salsa.

it was just about then that a bevy of very-smiley waitresses came out with their margharita mixers, shaking up some excitement with their new platinum president margharita. I’m no drinker – but this sweet concoction was pretty mild, and likely a good choice for wimps/newbies. you can even get the shaker for a cool fourteen dollars, if you’re into that sort of thing.

n.b. it strikes me that the very act of promoting merchandise in the midst of a meal tells you more about this establishment than I could.

we had the chance of trying out their new limited-period offerings that day – parmesan-and-monteroyjack-encrusted chicken or steak, and a bacon-and-cheddar-encrusted steak. (do you see what I mean with the cheese?) these were all pretty standard going – and really, it’s a slab of meat with stuff on top. it’s tough to go wrong with cheese – and it helped that the chicken was tender and juicy, and the steak came with a good pink middle.

as with most diners, you get a good choice of sides. it’s a long list to go on – but the fries were good, the loaded mash a comforting mound of spud topped with cheese, sour cream and bacon bits. for slightly healthier options, the broccoli was cooked al dente, and corn-on-the-cob was especially sweet and fresh (and especially delicious when someone slices it off the cob for you – thanks zeek!).

the most disappointing side was the smoked sweet potato – I was hoping for a sweet heft of carb, but it barely tasted of sweet potato. essentially an orange-colored spud. the long-grain rice here comes as dry, separated grains in two flavours: stick with the cajun over the cilantro (the latter is very mild-tasting and almost a little bland – plus not everyone likes that green flavour).

it’s taken me so many words to get to where I – and you, likely – wanted to go: the dessert. I was initially disappointed by the prospect of getting the bread pudding instead of the chocolate lava cake: most of the outside-home bread puddings I’ve encountered in singapore are part of a buffet spread, where they are either insufficiently soaked or cooked so long in the food warmers that they attain brick-like status – served alongside a mediocre custard that fails to hide any sins.

but this one, good god. it was moist, and wobbly, with a slightly-sweet custard soaked through a heft mound of bread – cut into very neat and more importantly, very large squares, drizzled with caramel and topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and cinnamon. so incredibly delicious – it all sounds like it’d be too sweet, but it was remarkably restrained and very elegantly plated.

this could see its way well into a top-of-the-class restaurant, but those establishments will likely give you a tiny tasty portion – rather than the greed-satisfying gargantuan serving here. the cinnamon was a nice touch too – it provided just that extra something, and the only way this could have been better if the caramel was salted. but that’s major quibbling – it was delicious as is, and I give it a great compliment by telling you I didn’t miss the chocolate.

it’s a long post – but at the end of it, you really should come here for as americanesque a meal as you’re likely to get in singapore. the food is decent, and the prices aren’t cheap – but the portion sizes give it huge value (especially if you consider that the same money would bring you tapas-type servings in hippie places), and coming with a large group of friends will mean a good time.

or just come for margharitas and their dessert – I’m not sure if the bread pudding will make it to their regular menu (it really should) – the latter especially.

chilis (Central @ Clarke Quay)
#01-18 The Central
6 Eu Tong Sen Street
Singapore 059817
$$.5: (averagely) mains $20-40, starters $10-15, and the bread pudding for a omg-how-reasonable $13

p.s. run, don’t walk – the new menu lasts till 26 November (which means the banana bread pudding might be gone forever, the horrors!)

p.p.s. ordering two new items means 20% discount – always love a bargain!

17 thoughts on “chili’s, clarke quay

    • you’re so right! I can’t believe I didn’t notice that myself.. come to think of it, their foods tend to spend the white-yellow-brown spectrum for that reason, unless it’s crazy-coloured like their red velvet cakes!

  1. there was a point in time we tookaway from chili’s at tanglin mall A LOT. like once or twice a week. their stuff is exactly what u said…hearty and unabashedly “rustic”. no where else does good ol’ fashioned american grub as well as they do.

    • bern, you live such a different life. who takes away from chilis in singapore! but I might be having a case of sour grapes – none of their outlets are near me (which is probably also good for my health).

      speaking of ol’ fashioned american, I am still dreaming and praying for IHOP to set up here. first, I would like good proper risen american pancakes in singapore, and second, there are nights I dream of their pancakes-with-steak combo. proper breakfast food in large portions and low prices – when they get here, I will know that our food scene has made it.

  2. We moseyed past this place in July and I told my boyfriend “we NEED to eat here”, but then we didn’t. And now I’m back in Australia and you’ve just written about it and THE REGRET is running through my veins! D:

  3. the first thing I thought – was yes true American style – there is so MUCH food on the plates – bread and butter pudding looks lovely – although I prefer my portions small – somehow more visually appealing – I then just have seconds of course :)

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