Rebel Rebel Wine Bar, Keong Saik: The pig’s head tagliatelle will have your heart

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There is nothing about Rebel Rebel Wine Bar I don’t like. A bold statement, I know. It all begins with the architecture—the sage-green exterior of Rebel Rebel’s restored shophouse already speaks to my annoying millennial aesthetic and simply demands a photo op.

As you cross the threshold, you can only wonder at all the tales the two miniature lions guarding the entrance could tell if they could speak.

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From a spacious courtyard, we enter a cosy, cave-like main dining room where the walls are adorned with pictures of vineyards, the bar’s enthusiastic owners, sommeliers, and cool cellars with barrels and barrels of wine. After all, Rebel Rebel is a terroir-driven wine bar, meaning where these wines are made are just as important as what kind.

It may seem like another notch in the natural wine movement, but Rebel Rebel’s extensive and accessible 200-bottle wine list allows you to be flexible with your wine selections. Priced from below S$100 to S$2,000 a bottle, it all meant that you are allowed to be as fancy as you like.

While it is the extensive selection of wine that brought me to Rebel Rebel, the food is why I’ll be back. The kitchen is helmed by the impressive Chef Deborah Yeo who used to be part of Burnt Ends kitchen and the head of Dave Pynt’s new restaurant in the Maldives prior. It’s an impressive resume befitting of a menu I’ll admit I still dream about.

What I tried

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As with most meals, a mandatory serving of bread is required to begin. Dark, thick, handsome slices of Sourdough (S$8) are all but a promising sign.

The delightful tang reminds you definitively that sourdough should sometimes be left to the professionals. That way, fewer tears will be shed when your bread comes out of the dutch oven resembling a rock rather than this airy, springy goodness.

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Butter on bread is always a good option, but a too-generous schmear of Pork Fat (S$6) will leave you speechless and never care for butter again. Unless it’s Bordier Butter, maybe then we’ll talk.

Sure, anyone can render pork fat and whip it to cloud-like submission, but Chef Deborah does a little magic with crunchy farro and barley that’s sprinkled atop. Savoury, sweet nuggets alongside the snowy, silky pork fat—a lick of this and Bordier who?

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Oysters are always welcomed and here, crowned with an icy green apple granita, these delicate Fine de Claire Oysters (S$18 for two pieces) were incredibly refreshing.

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Though, the more impressive number has to be the Prawn and Uni Paste (S$14 for two pieces). An elevated version of the prawn toast you find on the dim sum table, this aromatic slice came with a thick layer of prawn and uni paste saddled on crunchy brown butter toast. A little hint of the contentious coriander and a swig of a crisp German Riesling was enough to tie this loaded toastie together.

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Now, salads are usually happy as the side dish or an afterthought to have more greens, but this Hamachi (S$24) boldly demands centre stage. A spread of thinly sliced hamachi (or amberjack) showered with crispy fried shallots comes accompanied with a bright kumquat salad and a bouquet of fragrant coriander.

A mouthful of this salad and the astute diner will be reminded of the now-banned raw freshwater fish salads that Teochew porridge stalls used to have. This banned salad is not like the garish and commercialised yu sheng but rather, a more herbaceous, understated assembly leaning heavily on the natural sweetness of the fish.

In Rebel Rebel’s rendition, the salad is given a much-needed update with kumquats and crunchy beetroot. Fresh, spicy and decidedly Asian, I appreciated the homage and said a silent prayer to remember the dishes we have lost.

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The name Pig’s Head (S$28), as seemingly grotesque as it might sound, was one of the best dishes of the night. Chef Deborah takes an entire pig’s head and cooks it down till all the meat practically falls off the bone.

Then, she fries up some pig’s ears till they’re crispy to a fault and throws in a couple of lard bits for good measure. Each sliver of meat melted in my mouth in between al dente ribbons of tagliatelle while those crunchy pig’s ears served as the crescendo to this symphony of pork.

I can’t help but draw comparisons to the humble bak chor mee to this pasta dish since it also delivers that same spicy kick. Chef Deborah tells me this is closer to the Filipino sisig, which makes use of pig’s head similarly.

Either way, the play on textures and different presentations of pork makes this dish a winner. So, if it’s ever a battle between head or heart, choose your head, especially a pig’s head that has been beautifully slow-roasted like this.

Final thoughts

As a food writer, it seems like I’m poised to instantly suss out the little foibles and faults of any restaurant the moment I enter. While that might seem fun, I’m no hater; I much prefer to tell you how much I love a place and why.

You would think that a wine-bar is a pretentious place with weirdos gargling their wine. But at Rebel Rebel, the sommeliers make it an effortless process, especially with interesting anecdotes about each bottle. Then, there’s the food. A playful and elegant interpretation that doesn’t put on any airs, but leaves a lasting impression long after the night is over—loving is undoubtedly the easiest thing to do at Rebel Rebel.

Expected Damage: S$30 – S$50 per pax

Price: $ $

Our Rating: 4 / 5

Rebel Rebel Wine Bar

14 Bukit Pasoh Road, Singapore 089828

Our Rating 4/5

Rebel Rebel Wine Bar

14 Bukit Pasoh Road, Singapore 089828

Telephone: +65 6224 5466
Operating Hours: 5pm - 11pm (Tues to Sat ), Closed on Mon & Sun
Telephone: +65 6224 5466

Operating Hours: 5pm - 11pm (Tues to Sat ), Closed on Mon & Sun
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