Last Updated: September 10, 2019
Looking to feast on charcoal-grilled burgers in the East?
You’ll find it in this unassuming HDB coffeeshop at The Social Outcast in Tampines.
It’s not every day you get to see a Muslim-owned business in a coffeeshop—with a charcoal & hickory wood grill oven.
I met up with the spunky owners Mint and Noelle, who left the corporate world in favour of this fiercely independent venture. By doing things their way, they hope to shake up the halal food scene and shift away from the perception that halal burgers “must be like Ramly burgers”.
The Outcast Chef, Mint (with his wicked sense of humour), shared a few amusing customer stories with us.
Many have questioned the absence of a MUIS halal certificate, to which he responds, “Well, we are a 100% Muslim-owned business serving halal food.”
In other words, take it or leave it. Naysayers, trolls, and unsolicited comments won’t be entertained. After all, surviving in the F&B industry is challenging enough.
It was time to let the food do the talking, starting with some Sides and Small Bites.
The Spicy Chicken Drumlets (S$5.90) certainly looked inviting, having been slathered in a glossy BBQ sauce. Spicy, tangy, and moist with a flavour profile similiar to that of buffalo wings, the first thing that came to mind was “bar snack”.
There was one underdone drumlet with reddish meat—a small inconsistency issue.
Balance is key in every meat-heavy menu.
The no-frills, lightly-seasoned Japanese Cherry-Tomato Salad (S$3.90) parades juicy and not-too-sweet tomatoes; they were the perfect palate cleanser.
One Small Bite you MUST order is the Crispy Chicken Skin (S$3.90).
Tossed in an umami Japanese roasted seaweed seasoning, these crunchy morsels of deep-fried goodness were seriously addictive.
I hate to admit it, but I (almost) singlehandedly finished the entire portion. It was just that good.
Craving for carbs? The Spicy Shrimp Aglio Olio (S$8.90), with plump herb marinated shrimp, cherry tomato, basil, and chilli padi, is a classic.
Everyone has their favourite rendition of aglio e olio. This respectable version managed to hold its own, being garlicky, peppery and well-balanced with a manageable spice level.
A non-spicy option is also available.
I actually preferred the surprisingly light Basil Pesto with Grilled Portobello Mushroom (S$8.90).
Pesto is something I used to scorn, but my appreciation for it has grown by leaps and bounds.
My dining partner and I were immediately hit by a burst of fresh herbaceousness.
She couldn’t stop singing praises of the juicy portobello mushroom, which imparted a soft, subtle earthiness to this already aromatic dish.
I’ve had my fair share of bad pesto pasta (both the gluey and excessively oily kind), but this left a favourable impression on me.
Finally, it was time to move on to the big boys.
Mint’s hatred for vegetables gave rise to this irresistible creation: the French Onion & Mushroom Beef (S$10.90).
For real though, every component was outstanding.
I could go on and on about those sauteed mushrooms and gorgeously caramelised French onions with a rich and deep sweetness. That remarkably juicy beef patty and the buttery brioche bun? Both were simply delectable.
In short, this is THE go-to burger, for times when you are need of some instant gratification.
Oh yes, all burgers come with a side of crunchy BBQ Chips with Meze Cod Roe (taramasalata). This creamy yogurt-based, affectionately termed “pink sauce” was tangy and mildly sweet, a refreshing alternative to mentaiko sauce.
We moved on to the rather aesthetically pleasing Smoked Dried Chipotle & Guacamole Beef (S$10.90).
A funky flavour profile for sure, but this didn’t really appeal to me.
I was ready to welcome the tomato, alfalfa, and smoked dried chipotle with open arms, but ended up being struck by fiery, numbing spice. It was slightly overwhelming, leaving me unable to properly appreciate the beef.
Luckily, the layer of creamy guacamole helped to tone down the heat a little.
Next up was the vegetarian-friendly Sesame Mayo Portobello (S$8.90).
Its main attraction demanded all our undivided attention, and rightfully so.
Creamy, juicy and luscious, the grilled portobello mushroom boasted a “fatty” texture akin to well-marbled meat.
Working in sync with the tomato, mozzarella cheese, alfalfa, and sesame mayo, it was successful in establishing itself as a fully-fledged burger patty. In our eyes, at least.
The brioche buns had somehow been amplified by the portobello, clad in a certain smokiness that was strangely close to wok hei.
Last but not least, we dived into the exciting Teriyaki Unagi (S$15.90).
Now, where else have you seen an unagi burger? Are fish burgers even relevant anymore?
Charcoal-grilled till caramelised, these seductively smoky slabs of alfalfa-topped unagi left me reeling. Now I know—unagi wedged in between brioche buns yield sheer, unadulterated bliss.
In fact, it might be a little too decadent for some.
Gone are the days of the archetypal Western food stall. It’s time for budding industry game-changers like The Social Outcast to change the way we think about halal food.
I foresee that the residents of Tampines won’t be the only ones flocking here for some delicious charcoal-grilled burgers.
Oh, and West-siders, it’s totally worth the trek to the East.
Expected Damage: S$20 — S$25 per pax
Our Rating: 4 / 5
The Social Outcast
280 Tampines Street 22, Singapore 520280
280 Tampines Street 22, Singapore 520280