One of my biggest foodie complaints towards the end of 2019, was that there doesn't seem to be a dedicated, or even good, place for moules-frites in Singapore. Back when I travelled around Europe for abit, one of my fondest memories were of running on Bruges' cobblestone roads, utterly drenched from the crazy rain and cussing at my useless overturned umbrella — all for the sake of some fabulous, piping hot bowl of mussels and fries.
Well lo and behold, it was barely a month into 2020 when I found out BTM Mussels and Bar was operating right out of Duxton Hill since November 2019.
Image credit: @btmmusselsandbar
Playfully named Back To Mussels, BTM is serial restauranteur Olivier Bendel's latest venture in Singapore revolving around (no shit) mussels. What people may not know is that Bendel boasts tons of experience with this, having popularised Belgium's moules-frites concept throughout France. With an extensive repertoire of 270 original mussel recipes under his belt, BTM's a result of his love for mussels and creative aspirations of developing new flavours that nods to our local ingredients and tastes.
What you can expect is a menu of European bar snacks, some sharing boards of charcuterie and cheese, and 7 different sauces to enjoy your moules-frites with. In true CEB tl;dr style, here's the lowdown: ordering the mussels are an absolute must, but feel free to skip out on the starters.
Le Croq-Truffle (S$18++) — Black truffle, comté, serrano ham
We started off with BTM's take on the croque monsieur, which really is a bikini sandwich if you think about it, that sees comté, black truffle, and serrano ham snuggled between slices of generously buttered and well-toasted white bread. It's simple but immaculately prepared. From scoring an A+ in Toasting Your Bread 101, to ensuring there's just enough of each ingredient to create that punch in flavour while keeping it all in balance — BTM's nailed this one. It may be small but their Le Croq-Truffle is a sheer force of flavour.
Bitterballen (S$8++) — Crisp fried beef balls
The Bitterballen, however, left much to be desired. A popular Dutch snack, bitterballen are bite-sized beef and gravy croquettes that, done well, are crazy addictive. Trust me I know, L's half-Dutch and he never shuts up about bitterballen. BTM's sadly fell extremely short, tasting more like little balls of fried mashed potatoes with almost zero meat. That means you're practically eating fried roux — ie. flour and butter. If reviews of their croquettes and this bitterballen is anything to go by, I'd say give them a miss and just keep your tummy for the mussels. You'll need it.
Au Curry (S$36++ for 500g) — Red curry, cream, white wine, butter, parsley and onion
I wasn't expecting a large portion of mussels to be honest — we all know how expensive fresh seafood can get here — so I was rather surprised to see a big pot being brought out. If you're having drinks or anything else other than mussels, a 500g order can easily feed 2-3 pax.
And if the portion isn't enough to make you feel you've got your money's worth, the quality of the mussels would. BTM uses Bouchot mussels known for their natural sweetness, creamy, soft flesh, and melt-in-the-mouth texture, and flies them in straight outta France. The mussels are smaller than the usual Australian ones, but in exchange for size what we get are these beautiful orangey-yellow ones that are bursting with flavour.
With the Au Curry I was thinking we may get a Thai red curry or Indian-inspired kinda sauce, but this turned out with a flavour profile more similar to tomyum. You definitely get a slight kick of the chilli and spices at the end, though I'd prefer a more complex play of spices and a richer sauce with more body. I also found the sauce to be way too salty, which made the whole "let's toss our fries in there and sop it all up" less desirable.
Thailandaises (S$36++ for 500g) — Chilli, kaffir lime leaf, lemongrass, white wine and coconut milk
Of the 2 flavours, the Thailandaises won our unanimous vote. The coconut milk wasn't overpowering and added a lovely touch of creaminess, which made it exceptionally good for dunking the fries in. I would've liked them to be more aggressive with the spices for that whole Thai spin to come through, perhaps with the addition of galangal and a squeeze of lime as well, but as it is it was really tasty and easy to eat— we practically mopped the pan clean.
On the whole I'm exceedingly pleased with how BTM Mussels & Bar plugged the moules-frites hole in the market and how generous their portions were, but there's definitely still room for improvement. For one, I'd really have appreciated better fries. The supplier-standard shoestring fries they offered were way too hard and dry, barely had any potato filling, and couldn't really soak up any juices in the pan. And when that happens, it'd help if they had the basic sauces like ketchup to go with the fries so I could at least do it Macca's style — I mean, who doesn't have ketchup or chilli sauce?! Either that, or tone down on the salt used in their sauces so we won't ever need any dips for the fries.
BTM Mussels and Bar
5 Duxton Hill
Monday & Tuesday: 5PM-11PM
Wednesday & Thursday: 12PM-11PM
Friday & Saturday: 12PM-12AM