You know how you have different sets of friends? Friends from kindergarden days, friends to go shopping for new shoes with, friends from work, uh huh. Well, you may or may not be surprised to find that I have a group of food-loving friends. In fact some of these foodie-friends are quite hardcore, they have made food their business, whether it is in maintaining a forum for like foodies, or running their own food enterprises. And one of the things we love to do is to gather for meals, at least once a month. And tonight, all 31 of us made our way to this remote part of Singapore called Seletar to eat at this place called, uh, Seletar Hill Restaurant. It has a big red signboard. Decor is the standard white walls, fluorescent lighting and requisite Chinese prints of flowers and birds. Their specialty is Szechuan food.
As usual, dinner was a noisy affair, conducted with much loud conversation, jokes, gossips and general catching-up. As is not usual, the food was sadly below expectation. We had many dishes, but most were memorable for the poor quality ingredients and badly executed cooking. Here are the more palatable dishes. The first is kong-bak pau, i.e. braised belly pork eaten with a bun (the pau); the pork was meltingly tender and fatty. The crispy duck was crispy but a little dry, it really needed to be dipped into the reddish-brown sauce.
Thereafter, it was downhill, all the way. The Hot and Sour soup was a caricature of Chinese restaurant soups- we had expected that it will be thick with cornstarch and were not disappointed, to add insult to injury there was only mushrooms and some unidentifiable vegetable matter in it, although they were more than generous with the pepper seasoning. After the undrinkable soup, cubes of tofu in a bland ma-po sauce was served, later I realised that the white tofu may have been the cook's witty idea of a counterpoint to a series of what I came to know as Black food. First, mandarin peel beef, which is supposed to be beef lightly coated in flour and cooked in a mandarin-peel infused sauce, appeared as a jumbled heap that resembled chocolate popcorn. I could not taste or bite into any meat, it was probably beef-flavoured batter we got. There was another version that was meant to be chicken, again, if I were blindfolded I could have sworn I was eating a new flavour of popcorn. A less than fresh steamed soon-hock (fish) in a deceptively fiery-looking gravy broke the tedium of Black on Black, but only for a while, next in line was black prawns. OK prawns in kung-bo sauce, actually damn frozen prawns and chau-tar (burnt) dried chillies. Finally the vegetables arrive, followed by four season bean, then an eggplant dish, both oversalted and sadly lacking crucial wok-hei (fragrance). My friend with the most discerning palate suspected that even the cooking oil used here may not be fresh.
Finally, it was all over. We had some more mediocre generic desserts like mango pudding and sea coconut with almond jelly. One of our new friends brought a lovely souvenir from USA, everlasting lollypops from See's Candies, it will take a good few hours to get through one of these. Thanks Kat!! Not forgetting also, an incredibly rich expresso cheesecake from talented baker JeremyK, just fabuloso.
The food may have been blah, but the company was not, so the evening was hardly spoiled. There's always the next time to get it right. Here are the details to remind you not to bother visiting:
Seletar Hill Restaurant
16 Jalan Selaseh
Seletar Hills Estate. S 808440