Review: The new Two Men Rice Bar at Tanjong Pagar is (mostly) worth standing for

By Gary Lim November 3, 2023
Review: The new Two Men Rice Bar at Tanjong Pagar is (mostly) worth standing for
Photo: Gary Lim/HungryGoWhere
  • This standing-only rice joint just opened in October, taking up a cosy unit in Guoco Tower’s open-air atrium
  • Look forward to seven rice bowl combinations and several tasty sides
  • Dishes we recommend include the beef bowl and chicken pops

Two Men Rice Bar review

Wholesome and healthy grain bowls remain as popular as ever since their introduction to the CBD about a decade ago, but rice bowls that’s not chap chai png from the economical rice stall and at three times the price? 

It’s a risky venture — is it what the CBD crowd wants? — and whether Two Men Rice Bar is putting everything onto a winning or losing ticket remains to be seen.

The backstory

Two Men Rice Bar
There’s a bold new rice bar in the Tanjong Pagar block. Photo: Gary Lim/HungryGoWhere

Name sound familiar? This is the latest concept by Two Men Bagel House, which has been dishing up some hefty bagelwiches from its Tanjong Pagar — and later Novena, Holland Village and Joo Chiat — outlets since 2014. 

As you’ll surely guess from the name, it specialises in rice bowls, though you’ll find some other delicious grub here as well.

Two Men Rice Bar
The standing table layout is designed for efficiency and quick turnover. Photo: Gary Lim/HungryGoWhere

Like its big brother, the restaurant design and Two Men Rice Bar‘s menu adopt a cheeky maximalist style that’s full of street cred.

There’s plenty of strong colours, fun neon lighting, and a layout that takes a cue from Japanese standing noodle bars — that’s right, there are no seats here, only tall (and some shorter) red tables for customers to grab a quick bite before heading back to their desk.

Two Men Rice Bar
Place your order at the entrance, then pick any table and wait to collect your food at the counter. Photo: Gary Lim/HungryGoWhere

Our verdict

Two Men Rice Bar’s concept is interesting with great design and a fun menu. There are seven rice bowls with prices starting at S$12 for a half portion or S$15 for a full tank, which are acceptable prices for its very central location. 

The wholesome bowls filled with fluffy carbs, well-cooked proteins, and yummy greens make for a good alternative to the all-too-common salad bowls, particularly with their various rice options. Japanese short grain is typical, but you can also pick turmeric rice and a mixed 16-grain rice.

Having said that, part of me feels the food still lacks a bit in terms of execution and finesse, especially when compared to Two Men Bagel House. 

There’s the variety too: Each rice bowl comes with more or less the same six accompaniments — sous vide egg, tenkasu (tempura crumbs), pickled cucumber, cherry tomatoes, salad slaw, and a glass noodle salad. Everything is tasty, but can get repetitive. Each bowl has the potential to be much better.

What it’s good for

Two Men Rice Bar
Should there be five seafood picks instead of just four? Photo: Gary Lim/HungryGoWhere

“Ladies and gentlemen, this is Gumbo No. 5”, or so goes the chart-topping mambo track. At S$18 for half or S$20 for a full tank, this is the priciest dish offered here, as seafood dishes usually go. 

The mussels, squid rings, shrimp, and seabass are relatively fresh and firm, slathered in a creamy coconut turmeric sauce that’s fragrant and sweet, yet doesn’t overpower the natural seafood flavour. The butternut squash is tender, sweet, and nutty, and the sous vide egg adds even more creaminess to the dish. 

I wish there was a bit more sauce to make it a seafood stew of sorts, but it’s good this way as well. A half portion is enough to fill most people up.

My choice of 16-grain rice (with additional grains such as pearl barley, beans and millet) goes pretty well with the Gumbo No. 5 because of its harder and more distinct texture, easily soaking up the sauce without becoming mush.

Two Men Rice Bar
This is not your average beef bowl. Photo: Gary Lim/HungryGoWhere

I prefer the black rock (S$17/S$20), a meaty bowl of roast chuck roll with a black-garlic demi glace sauce. For a cut that usually requires a lot of braising or stewing to tenderise, the beef is mostly soft, with a nice beefy taste and good char on the outside. 

Traditional demi-glace is already rich and meaty, but using black garlic adds a slightly sweet, umami tang to the mix — it’s an immediate win when stirred in with the sous vide egg, crunchy veggies, and earthy and spice-rich turmeric rice. 

Again, a half portion is plenty, but otherwise, each bowl here also comes with  housemade soup in a metal cup. Inside is plenty of soft radish cubes in a really tasty chicken soup with a light hint of coconut. It’s nicely seasoned and pleasant to drink.

And feel free to help yourself to the various condiments at the counter. There’s a citrus chilli there’s not unlike those you’d find at chicken rice stalls, but less garlicky and a tad tangier; a coarser Cantonese-style scallion-ginger-garlic dip fragrant with aromatic oil, and a stronger hoisin-type sauce with sesame oil, soya sauce, and peanut butter, like a chee cheong fun or yong tau foo sauce.

Two Men Rice Bar
Some of the crispiest fried chicken we’ve had in a while. Photo: Gary Lim/HungryGoWhere

On to the sides. I’ll say it first, rice-battered chicken is genius. I’m so used to eating batter that’s made using regular wheat flour that I forgot that many Eastern recipes use rice flour in their deep fry dishes, which results in a weightless but very crunchy batter that stays crispy for a longer time. Its thinness means it’s easier to get wrong and burn, which could be why we don’t see it everywhere.

Back to the dish – Two Men’s rice pops (S$12) takes chicken lollipops (the drumette) and fries them to a glorious brown. Combined with honey butter sauce, it’s slightly sticky and absolutely crunchy outside, tender and well-marinated inside.

Two Men Rice Bar
Great thirst-quencher, but what’s the stick for? Photo: Gary Lim/HungryGoWhere

One of just three drinks available here, the plum lemonade fizz (S$6) doubles as a palate cleanser and one heck of a refresher, with a tart sour plum flavour that’s balanced out by a little bit of syrup without being overpowered by sugar. 

Lemon juice adds that extra zing, while a splash of soda water means you get a gentle fizziness that’s not so carbonated so you don’t burp too much. The accompanying wooden stick is a bit perplexing as there’s nothing inside besides ice, so it’s no more than decoration.

What it could improve on

Two Men Rice Bar
A good idea, but could be better refined. Photo: Gary Lim/HungryGoWhere

Ironically, the least likable dish here is the one that most resembles the Two Men group’s signature bagels. The rice side (S$8) is a steamed rice flour bagel (complete with a hole in the middle) stuffed with kong bak, or braised pork belly. I love myself a good kong bak pau, but this one disappoints on several levels.

Kong bak pao usually features a thick slab of pork belly, but the version here comes with a few thinner slices of fatty pork, which isn’t too much of an issue. The steamed bagel is dense but soft, and the slightly creamy leek slaw at the bottom tastes okay. 

However, the deal breakers are the relatively dry meat (perhaps the braise time was a little short) and a sauce so salty I had to add some citrus chilli to cut away from the brackishness.

Still, it’s worth noting that the eatery only opened weeks ago and is probably ironing out the kinks in its offerings. If all goes well, Two Men Rice Bar could be a gamechanger for the CBD food scene.

Our quick takes

Is it conducive to conversation? You’ll likely be standing right alongside strangers during peak hours, so probably not.

Is a reservation necessary? First come first served!

How to get there? Two Men Rice Bar is just a minute away from Tanjong Pagar MRT station Exit A. Look for the row of standalone eateries outside Guoco Tower.

HungryGoWhere paid for its meal at this restaurant for this review. Still hungry? Check out our reviews of Magg by Royz Et Vous and Sodeng Korean Restaurant.

You can book a ride to Two Men Rice Bar at Tanjong Pagar. 

Do explore the new GrabFood Dine-in service for awesome deals.

Two Men Rice Bar

Guoco Tower, 01-12, 5 Wallich Street
Open: Monday to Saturday (11am to 7.30pm)

Guoco Tower, 01-12, 5 Wallich Street
Open: Monday to Saturday (11am to 7.30pm)

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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