Communal | North Canal Road

This is kind of American.

Communal adopts the small establishment, open kitchen concept model that’s present in every other tapas bar (or inspired). The open concept also has the all exciting bar top dining which offers a front row seat of the workings of the kitchen… which would be exciting if not for the fact that with the exception of the Caucasian head chef, the mostly Asian crew seemed mildly offended by the attention. They occasionally threw annoyed stares toxic enough to send us looking in another direction instead of towards the hive of activity. The head chef however, was mostly agreeable and friendly, taking some time off if only a matter of seconds, to greet us with the usual pleasantries.

More than once, the diner and bar claims to serve authentic American food that it hypes up the diner’s expectations to dizzying heights, only to knock off the diner by serving an interpretation of the dish so far off the authentic track, that you feel disappointed when it’s not served up the way they had built up your expectations to expect. Never call your dish “mac and cheese” if you call yourself an authentic American diner, but serve something that neither looks nor tastes like the American classic. The biggest offender has to be the Lobster Mac and Cheese Gratin which was macaroni with what the menu claims to be Parmesan, mascarpone and white cheddar cheese, and topped with toasted bread crumbs. Had they called this something else besides Lobster “Mac and Cheese Gratin”, I would have been more partial, because it’s a decent cheese based pasta dish. Alas, Communal incurred the wrath of overpromising and delivering something else. I really couldn’t make out whether those cheeses were indeed used because ultimately, the taste was pretty bland – the flavors skewing towards an European cream based pasta as opposed to a rich cheesy yet hearty American delight. Communal was generous with the lobster, and it seemed to subsequently embody the pasta dish with its essence. Also, the seafood didn’t seem very fresh.

Lobster Mac and Cheese Gratin

By this time, it was soon very obvious that the chef was serving complimentary tasting portions of the Cornbread with Honey Butter to every diner as an amuse bouche. I thought it was a very inviting touch, if not for the fact that we ordered the Cornbread with Honey Butter and didn’t receive any of the special treatment that everybody else was receiving. I’d have thought that if the diner was making it so blatant that it was serving everybody (who didn’t order the Cornbread with Honey Butter), it’d have done something, an explanation or a different tasting portion for us, but there was nothing. The cornbread was deliciously warm with an obvious corn fragrance and flavor, but there was certainly no “honey” to the honey butter. Overall, it was a satisfying starter.

Cornbread with Honey Butter

The Fried Chicken was pretty decent with its crushed la ratte potatoes and almost non-existent spinach. The chicken was executed with much perfection – it was crispy on the outside, and tender on the inside – there’s never a millimeter of meat that’s mildly overcooked, which is a testament to the skills exuded by Communal. I loved it, although at a charge of SGD 18, I doubt I’ll ever order this if I come back. I’m glad I had this as my main course, I love how well it’s served and presented, but I loved every moment of it, but I really can’t imagine paying that much for fried chicken, even if it’s good fried chicken. Plus, non-existent spinach? You’ve gotta give me a little more on the plate, literally, to convince me that you’re worth paying for.

Fried Chicken

I’m infinitely aware that Americans are Americans. Although they’re the purveyors of many fine things, there are some things that don’t resonate well, or aren’t as valued as people outside the superpower. Take, an ice cream sundae for example. On all American carriers, it’s not uncommon to see an ice cream sundae being served, and welcomed enthusiastically by First and Business class passengers. The good ole’ ice cream sundae means something to them – it’s quintessentially American, and I can’t take that away from them. For an Asian like me, the thought of being served a very simple ice cream sundae in First and Business class however, is borderline offensive. It just doesn’t mean that much to me. However, that doesn’t mean I cannot try understanding why it means the world to them. For dessert, we share a D.I.Y. Ice Cream Sundae, with vanilla ice cream served with chocolate and caramel sauce, peanuts, rice crispy treats and Chantilly cream. And it wrapped the American adventure perfectly for me. Granted, they didn’t use any European premium vanilla bean ice cream, but it was nevertheless, every bit as comforting.

D.I.Y. Ice Cream Sundae

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