The Lawn tries to revolutionise the way you view green salads. Instead of the usual raw leafy greens with the standard generic variety of toppings that every other salad place offers, The Lawn sets itself apart by pairing mesclun greens with good ol' American-backyard-barbecue-styled grilled proteins. To be honest, the Asian in me prefers my vegetables cooked. But, having barbecued beef and chicken and fish and prawns topped off a big bowl of greens is quite the mind changer. It's not so much a salad as it is a barbecue with greens served alongside.
As per S.O.P, I revisited them a couple of weeks later, and am delighted to report that their day-to-day fare for walk-in customers is as good as the stuff I had at the invited tasting. I've taken pictures of both the fare at the invited tasting and the revisit so you can see for yourself. Plus, a huge salad bowl, a plate of olive rice and 4 different grilled meats only came up to a very reasonable $25 for the Hubs and I. Its very competitive pricing is, I suppose, the reason why I saw a whole bunch of teens eating here on a Friday night.
A minor grouse would be the limited indoor space, less-than-stellar indoors ventilation, and the outdoor seating, replete with astroturf, being a bit of a bug fest. Adds to the backyard BBQ concept, I guess! Both the indoors and outdoors seating have their pros and cons so it's really up to you which one is the lesser evil of the two. Indoors: air-conditioning but your hair and clothes will smell of the BBQ. Outdoors: your hair will stay fresh smelling but you'll probably end up swatting away some kind of tiny flying insect.
In addition to revisiting them on my own, I also got their stuff delivered
So anyways, you start off with a Salad bowl of mesclun greens. Choose 5 salad toppings (I got olives, cheddar, egg and double helpings of the cashews), dressing, a grilled protein and you've got a surprisingly full meal at just under $10 ($9.90 to be exact). If you eat all of the greens, that is. It may not look it but the bowl's ginormous. For reference, it's the same size as the standard bowl at Fresh+. Please bear in mind that the focus is on the salad, and not the meat, so the proteins are portioned as a topping, and not a main. For carnivores with voracious appetites, you will probably need at least 4 portions of the grills (add $2 for each additional portion of the meats, or up to $4 for the premium proteins).
For the revisit, I kept the egg, olives, and sweet corn, but opted for the chestnuts and tomatoes instead, and dressed the Salad with my favourite, the Honeyball. My taste tends towards the classics, you see. I've been told I've got really predictable boring taste, but who cares! My timeless preferences will prevail forever!
If you're one of those that needs carbs, you start off with a plate of Olive Rice, and a side salad, with a choice of your preferred grill for a total of ten cents under ten bucks (i.e. $9.90). I love love LOVE the olive rice here. It's not the typical Thai olive rice that I was expecting, but the traditional Teochew style that brings me right back to the yesteryears. Moist and straightforward and unpretentious fare that reminds me of my gram's cooking. It's about the only traditional Asian stuff here, quite atypical of the American style fare but the owner apparently loves it so much he added this onto the menu, and for that, I'm grateful. It's awesomesauce. For those who love carbs but inevitably suffer that post-carb guilt, take heart, because olives purportedly have a slimming effect.
The revisit, with the same portion of Olive Rice.
Close-up of the Olive Rice at the revisit. Just as good as my gram's version.
Close-up of the Side Salad at the revisit. Standard mesclun greens, corn, shredded carrots, tomatoes and cucumbers topped off with your choice of dressing. The Hubs chose the maple peanut just coz he loves peanut butter.
They have like a gazillion Dressings here, each one a unique proprietory blend. They have really funky playful names which, quite frankly, aren't very informative, but at least the ingredients are listed on the blackboard at the cafe. Anyways, here goes the list of ingredients that go into each. Clockwise from top left: Honeyball: the traditional honey and dijon mustard pairing; Red Island: sun-dried tomato puree, grated garlic and basil for a peppery, piquant and sweet match; Maple Peanut: maple syrup infused peanut butter and red wine vinaigrette, like eating Canadian-styled Skippy peanut butter straight out of the jar; Perky Sesame Ginger: sesame seed, coriander leaves and grated ginger, inspired by our local chicken rice; Wasahonie (+$1 extra): honey and wasabi boro, a watery version of the cze char wasabi prawns marinade; Beachy Peachy (+$1 extra): peach and white wine vinegar; Manly Mango (+$1 extra): mango, red wine vinegar and white wine vinegar, a tropical fruity dessert-like dressing; Me So Spicy: sambal belachan, fresh chilli and mint, tom yum soup compressed into a dressing; and in the center: Citrus: lemon, orange, lime and thyme, for the ultimate dieter because it's just so clear and pure
The signature here is the Ben's Beef Rub (+$2 extra as it's considered a premium meat). Apparently, the owner attended a friend's barbecue, and loved this marinade so much that he cajoled his host to give him his family's heirloom recipe. A good thing he did too, because this is awesome. The marinade was complex, but balanced, and thoroughly infused into the tender, moist, full-bodied meat, making for a lipsmackingly delicious bite-sized morsel of meat. Like Pringles, you can't stop at one!
The total 1-person portion Ben's Beef Rub at the revisit. Just as good as at the tasting. I love how juicy, meaty and robustly flavoured it is.
Close-up of the beef at the revisit.
The Butter Dory, fleshy and moist and brushed with a tasty marinade redolent of parsley, salt and butter.
The Butter Dory at the revisit. The Hubs ranks this at the top, together with the prawns. And for good reason. This may look a bit too charred, to the point of being "chao tar", but the crispy charred bits are delicious. Flavourful to the max. Carcinogens be damned, right?
Close-up of the Butter Dory at the revisit. You can tell how moist and flaky this is just by looking at it, and it tasted as such.
The Portobello (+$1 extra), arguably the king of mushrooms, was brushed with a garlicky herb butter glaze to bring out its earthy juiciness. This is so popular that it sold out by dinner-time when we returned for the revisit. Trust me though, that you'll do well to order this. We had this at the food delivery and it was also the first thing to be grabbed up.
The Garlic Herb Prawns, small but sweet and fresh, bouncy but not artificially so. This, together with the dory, also ranks at the top for the Hubs.
The Garlic Herb Prawns at the revisit, succulent and aromatic and dripping with juices.
Close-up of the prawns at the revisit.
The Maple Chicken, tinged with a smoky sweetness, was moist, fragrant and tasty. Because breast meat is used, this will not keep well and inevitably dry out for deliveries. Until thigh meat is used instead, this is best enjoyed on site at the cafe.
The Maple Chicken at the revisit. This was juicier than at the tasting. Probably due to the copious amounts of oil, but we didn't care because it tasted so good. We did notice that the grills at the revisit were more oily, but really, barbecues were never meant to be healthy in the first place, so who cares!
Close-up of the chicken at the revisit.
I'll let you in on another secret: the coffees here are awesome and super cheap! The Latte ($3.30), brewed by an in-house barista with respectable coffee art skills, is comforting, creamy and rich.
The Latte at the revisit. A wonderful end to a cheap and good meal in pretty chilled surroundings.
Major thanks to Jonathan of The Lawn for inviting and introducing me to the American backyard barbecued world of grilled fare with salads.
P.S. I heard they're opening a second outlet right smack in the CBD, at 8 Shenton Way, on 24 July 2013. You can bet I'll be there for lunches!
Grill & Salad Cafe
31 Biopolis Way
Tel: 6478 9739
Open Mondays to Fridays from 11.15am to 9pm (last order at 8.15pm)
Saturdays and Sundays from 10am to 4pm (last order at 3.15pm)