It’s been said, somewhere by someone, that there’s the family you’re born into and the family you choose.
While Hakim Abdullah is not biologically related, per se, to his business partners Shaun, Zulhilmi and Azhar, they’ve built enough kinship over the years that opening a gruelling F&B business seemed to be a good fit.
That business is none other than Overrice, an eatery that specialises in a New York City staple meal: meat over rice platters.
Shopfront. Photo: The Halal Eater
For the common love of NYC (and food)
The colleagues-turned-co-owners launched Overrice during circuit breaker this year when jobs were unpredictable for all four of them.
Inspired by their travels to New York City, the business zeroed in on a meat-over-rice dish that is made popular by New York institution, The Halal Guys.
“We travel a lot, and experience a variety of cultures and cuisines,” says Hakim. “We’re also foodies. We all love to cook and eat, so it just made sense to start something together.”
Hakim (second from right) with the other 3 co-owners. Photo: The Halal Eater
Initially, the business operated from one of the founders’ home, where they kept orders to 50 bowls per day due to space constraints.
However, that number gradually increased to about 100 bowls a day, thanks in large part to the surge in demand during circuit breaker/Ramadan.
“The number increased to 70…80…100 bowls a day,” Hakim recalls. “It reached a point where the team decided it’s time to open a shopfront.”
Whilst a bigger space would allow them to produce larger quantities, opening a shop was also a deliberate decision in order to establish a name for themselves beyond just a home-based business.
In May, against all odds, Overrice opened its first stall at Epic Haus@Jalan Sultan, a food court situated within Hotel Boss.
No dine-ins for a while
As it was still Phase 1 then, despite having a brick-and-mortar, footfall to the shop was low due to the prohibition on dine-ins.
“When we entered the shop, there were no tables and seats for customers to dine in,” says Hakim.
Fortunately, a couple of weeks after Overrice opened, Phase 2 was announced and the dine-in ban was lifted.
Walk-in customers were very valuable to them, as it allowed the team to gather immediate feedback on their food and service.
According to Hakim, the team made an effort to engage in conversation with the customers as much as possible so that they can make improvements where necessary.
Business was going well for awhile until they were told to cease operations by August 1 as the food court was closing down.
For the next couple of months, Overrice went on radio silence as Hakim and his team searched for a suitable new home.
After months of waiting, Overrice will re-open this Friday (October 30) in Arab Street, taking over the spot that used to be the stomping grounds of Working Title and The Black Hole Group.
New York state of mind
Keeping closely to the New York theme, Overrice’s latest home is a fetching, airy spot with elements paying homage to the Big Apple.
The dining area is flanked by a white brick wall on one side that is punctuated by a neon light fixture (a nod to Times Square and Broadway perhaps) and a mural of the NYC skyline on the opposite wall.
Neon wall fixture at Overrice. Photo: The Halal Eater
On that wall, a drawing of the Statue Liberty rises above iconic landmarks like the Brooklyn bridge and Empire State Building — even if you’ve never been to NYC, you’ll instantly recognise the unmistakable silhouttes.
Touches of NYC are also evident in other parts of the shop. For instance, there is a photo montage of the city interspersed with images of Overrice food.
NYC photo montage. Photo: The Halal Eater
At the back, a door shows a subway sign to Downtown & Brooklyn, providing even more backdrops for the ‘gram.
Overlooking the entire dining area is the bar counter, and on top of that, a large menu board that looks similar to Changi Airport’s iconic flip boards (R.I.P) showcases all that Overrice has to offer.
The large menu board at Overrice. Photo: The Halal Eater
Signature rice bowls
Overrice’s current food roster is more extensive than before — their signature bowls segues to small plates and even desserts.
The signature rice bowls come four ways: filled with chicken (S$9.90), pulled beef (S$10.90), falafel (S$9.90) and combo (S$13.90).
Overrice signature bowls. Source: @overricesg
These are served with a signature yellow basmati rice, fresh pita, shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, secret white sauce and fiery red source.
We’ve had Overrice during Ramadan before, and according to Hakim, the food served then was version one.
Since then, they’ve made minor tweaks here and there based on customer feedback. For instance, the red sauce used to be more fluid and tasted mild to our spice-tolerant tongues.
Fiery red sauce. Source: @overricesg
The current version has a thicker, almost paste-like consistency that is more reminiscent of the Malay sambal.
For us, this version of their red sauce is the thing that sets them apart from The Halal Guys.
Overrice may have taken inspiration from the OG, but they’ve also put their own stamp to the dish by adding familiar local elements like sambal.
Snacks, bites and desserts
Overrice also serves a range of snacks and small bites (1 set for S$7, 2 for S$12) to pair with their mains.
The Buffalo chicken are breaded mini fried chicken drumsticks that are drizzled in their signature white and red sauces. These are ultra flavourful!
Buffalo chicken. Photo: The Halal Eater
The unexpected side dish however, was the Yawn Balls — fried balls of shredded yam and prawns — that reminded us a lot of ngoh hiang.
For dessert, three options named after iconic NYC districts are available: Soho Gelato in 4 flavours (S$12.90/pint, S$3.50/scoop), Brooklyn Brownie (S$7.90) and Broadway Banana Pudding (S$12.50/pint, S$6.80/cup).
The banana pudding is actually by Okieco.sg, a young business that we have featured before.
If you’ve never had banana pudding before, we would highly recommend trying that at Overrice or order directly from the website Okieco.sg.
Otherwise, the Brooklyn Brownie — a slab of moist, dense and fudgy brownie paired with peanut butter jelly ice cream — is just as tasty.
As for drinks, take your pick from a range of mocktails (S$7.90), shooters (S$7.90), sodas (S$3) and ABC juice (S$3.50).
Any one of them would help to assuage the heat from the rice platters, but if we were to recommend one, the Americano (it’s a mocktail, not the usual black coffee) is our favourite with its chai and orange notes.
A great partnership
For Hakim, he is living a completely different life than he was in the beginning of this year.
Then, he had more off days than work days but now, full 12-hour shifts are a norm.
Yet, the humble businessman says he will not have it any other way.
“It’s fun working with friends,” he shares. “We already have a mutual understanding with each other, but through Overrice, we have learnt to appreciate the different sides of each other more.”
“I would say we have gotten even closer in the last few months.”
For this band of four brothers, the shop is a culmination of hard work and commitment to make things work despite the challenging climate that we are all in right now.
But for us, Overrice transports us back to New York for an hour or two with its nostalgia-inducing food and environs.
And for those reasons alone, we will be coming back for more.
Here’s where to find Overrice: 48 Arab St, Singapore 199745
Halal status: Muslim-owned
Opening hours: 11:00pm – 10:30pm daily