Review: The Kongsee’s new mod-Sin lunch menu is a great deal for CBD warriors

By Gary Lim August 18, 2023
Review: The Kongsee’s new mod-Sin lunch menu is a great deal for CBD warriors
Photo: Gary Lim/HungryGoWhere
  • After more than a year of operation, The Kongsee at Gemmill Lane finally launched its first lunch menu with new dishes
  • Familiar hawker hits are given a modern elevation, offering quite a gastronomic adventure
  • Dishes we recommend include the Roxy crab laksa, ayam penyet, and Iberico satay

It’s 11.45am on a Saturday morning and Taylor Swift’s Karma is playing in the background of a restaurant on the side lane next to Amoy Street. It’s quiet in the restaurant and the vicinity — not many people come to the CBD for lunch on weekends after all. 

It’s a whole different story during the work week, with throngs of formal-clad office workers searching for a bite during the hectic lunch hour. 

Which is probably why after a year of solely dinner services focusing on communal-style dining, The Kongsee has decided to open for lunch three days a week from Thursdays to Saturdays.

On offer is a new curation of dishes and a set menu where selected mains, starters, and a dessert goes for S$29.90.

The backstory

The Kongsee Singapore
The Kongsee is outfitted with everything from paper planes hanging from the ceiling and safari wall prints to neon signs and rattan furniture. Photo: Gary Lim/HungryGoWhere

Interestingly, the name Kongsee comes from an amalgamation of the Hokkien word for “company” and the Malay word for “sharing”. 

The restaurant is conceptualised by the veritable ‘godfather of modern Singapore cuisine’, chef Willin Low. It specialises in mod-Sin small plates based on popular hawker eats.

Our verdict

The Kongsee Singapore
Get selected mains, starters, and a dessert for S$29.90. Photo: Gary Lim/HungryGoWhere

The dishes on the menu — laksa, lor mee, ayam penyet, Iberico satay — may sound quite ordinary, but the modern spin that the team puts on them elevates them to an extraordinary level. 

It’s even more value-for-money when you go for the lunch set. Throw in some very good service, a comfortable ambience, and the entire discography of Taylor Swift (there’s clearly a Swiftie among the staff here) and you’ve got yourself a fantastic deal.

What it’s good for

The Kongsee Singapore
Inspired by the original Katong-style laksa. Photo: Gary Lim/HungryGoWhere

Ever tried the iconic Janggut Laksa (also known as the ‘original Katong laksa’) on the first floor of Roxy Square? 

The Kongsee pays homage to the dish with the Roxy crab laksa (S$20 for a la carte), with an uncanny likeness down to the scissor-cut noodles that you can enjoy with simply a spoon. 

The broth is as fragrant and creamy with coconut milk as the original, but the version here is appreciably less spicy. It’s instead sweetened and notably rich with the flavour of succulent wild-caught crabs. 

The accompanying sliced fish cakes and fried tofu puffs are top notch stuff, soaking up the broth for an exceedingly indulgent dish that I slurped up in minutes.

The Kongsee Singapore
The quintessential lunch time staple: Ayam penyet. Photo: Gary Lim/HungryGoWhere

Ayam penyet isn’t an easy dish to get right. The accompanying ingredients must be done well: Soaked jasmine rice perfectly cooked till they become little pearls of fluffy goodness; tofu puffs with its skin fried to a crisp while still retaining a soft, bouncy inside; and a spicy and flavourful sambal — usually unique depending on the restaurant. 

Then there’s the chicken, deep-fried to a golden crisp and smashed with the flat side of a knife just before it’s served to break up the batter and separate the meat from the bone. 

The Kongsee ayam penyet (S$20 for a la carte) does it all and more, with a bar of tempeh — fermented soybeans — and a tangy sambal ketchup that really brings the dish together.

The Kongsee Singapore
The mouthwatering kou shui ji salad. Photo: Gary Lim/HungryGoWhere

Get the drool-worthy kou shui ji salad (S$18 for a la carte), a colourful appetiser dish served cold and vibrant with sliced chicken breast, roasted sesame seeds, garlic, ginger, peanuts, pressed tofu strips, and umami from super aromatic chilli oil. 

The compressed cucumber adds freshness and crunch to the dish, while Sichuan peppers create an ever-so-slight numbness on the tongue. The Chinese name of this dish literally translates to ‘saliva chicken’ for a reason.

The Kongsee Singapore
The iberico satay is a tad pricey, but tastes glorious. Photo: Gary Lim/HungryGoWhere

One of the best dishes we tried was the Iberico satay (S$16), which uses the very tender ‘secreto’ cut found between the shoulder and loin of prized Iberian pigs. 

The juicy chunks have just the right amount of fat, beautifully caramelised and charred to go with a chunky Javanese peanut sauce and pineapple salsa, so you get zest, sweetness, heat, nuttiness, and smokiness all in one bite.

The Kongsee Singapore
A low ABV drink such as the Cocchi Storico soda won’t stop you from getting work done. Photo: Gary Lim/HungryGoWhere

There are the usual beverages here, such as soft drinks, coffees and wines. More interestingly, there’s also a collection of four simple cocktails for an afternoon reprieve: Gin and tonic, Aperol spritz, whisky highball, and the vermouth with soda or tonic, which came to my table within minutes. 

The Cocchi Storico soda (S$14) is made with Cocchi Vermouth di Torino ‘Storico’, a vibrant, spicy vermouth with notes of cocoa, citrus, ginger, and rhubarb. It’s a fantastic drink to complement the rich and salty dishes at The Kongsee.

What it could improve on

The Kongsee Singapore
The kaya ice cream comes a tad stiff and icy. Photo: Gary Lim/HungryGoWhere

The only dessert you can get for lunch is the housemade kaya ice cream, a medium-sized scoop of pale green ice cream flavoured with coconut and pandan. 

The idea is there (I’ve had dreamy kaya ice cream at several other establishments), but the execution here fell short. Rather than a smooth creamy ball of ice cream, The Kongsee’s housemade variety has bits of ice crystals inside — a sign of possible over-churning. 

The taste itself is fine — slightly sweet, fragrant, and earthy — but the stiffness and ice on the tongue makes it difficult to taste properly.

That was a pity, especially since the ice cream is the only dessert available. 

Having said that, my experience at The Kongsee was generally pretty good. As We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together started playing through the speakers, I thought to myself: “Actually, I would probably come back here again.”

Our quick takes

Is it conducive to conversation? Weekend lunch was quiet, but I reckon the place gets crowded during weekday lunch.

Is a reservation necessary? Good to have.

How to get there? The Kongsee is a two-minute walk from Telok Ayer MRT station Exit A.

HungryGoWhere paid for its meal at this restaurant for this review. Still hungry? Check out our reviews of Sen Sen Sushi or Espoir

Book a ride to The Kongsee.

The Kongsee

10 Gemmill Lane
Open: Monday to Wednesday (5.30pm to 10.30pm), Thursday (11.30am to 3pm, 5pm to 10.30pm), Friday and Saturday (10.30am to 3pm, 5pm to 12am)

10 Gemmill Lane
Open: Monday to Wednesday (5.30pm to 10.30pm), Thursday (11.30am to 3pm, 5pm to 10.30pm), Friday and Saturday (10.30am to 3pm, 5pm to 12am)

Gary Lim-HungryGoWhere

Gary Lim


Gary eats and knows things, which he attributes to over 30 years of eating and drinking — surely that must count for something, he surmises. He was previously the deputy editor at City Nomads and content lead at Burpple.

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