April was a month of discoveries. Of interesting new places and places that have been right at my doorstep all these while.
Heng Hwa Hometown Cze Char(2/2) is an example that fits both descriptions. At No 276 Race Course S 218628. T: 62941061 . One day I took a taxi to work and when we passed this place the driver told me that the prawn noodle here is very good. He should know right? Being a taxi driver and therefore in a good position to explore the island and discover the best-est and the cheapest. Nah, turned out the noodles were only passable. But the cze char stall at the same shop was doing brisk business serving Heng Hwa dishes.
Heng Hwa is Hokkien sub-group and the main trade for this dialect group is the motor parts (engines, absorbers, pistons, bearings etc) or as the trade call themselves, spare parts business in Malaysia and Singapore. I know this because my father being a Cantonese man had a hard time getting accepted in this business when he first started it some thirty over years ago, the Chinese especially of his generation being typically very clannish and clique-y. In Singapore, the spare parts "hub" (local business accounts for only 30-40%, the rest gets re-exported to Brunei, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Myanmar, like, uhm, you know, the regional countries, and even Russia. It has been like this long before "hub" became such a mis-/ab-used word, but I guess Spare Parts Hub will never sound as glorious as
Casino IR Hub, Money Chasing Finance Hub or White Elephant Semiconductor Hub) is concentrated in the side lanes off and along the stretch of Serangoon Rd between Rochor Rd and Lavender St, which pretty much decided why we came to this neighbourhood eleven years ago. How time flies. Now I spend about 2.5 days in the family business while the other 3 days of the week I work in a totally unrelated field over at outerspace Boon Lay.
Anyways, I digress. Heng Hwa food is easy to like. Their ancestral village must have been near the sea because seafood features prominently. Rice vermicelli noodles are typically cooked in rich seafood broth and garnished with loads of dried shrimps mussels, la-la clams and the usual pork and vegetables. I tried both the soup and stir-fried versions, both very shiok but I like the stir-fried noodles more as they seem to absorb the flavours of the broth better. Another dish that everyone orders is their mundane-sounding but delicious Deep-Fried Fish. Husband says it was garoupa though I think it is more like mackerel but no matter, point is they fried it very well. A group of aunties, with whom I shared a table one rainy afternoon, grudgingly conceded that they cannot replicate the fine- inside-crispy-outside characteristic at home.
Another surprise find was Lerk Thai at Singapore Expo: Located outside Hall 6 of the Singapore Expo building where the 142nd SKC dog show was held. Not many food options there besides fast food and food court. Lerk Thai is one of what, only three restaurants at that isolated place, therefore they are guaranteed a captive audience anytime a major event is held there. But we were pleasantly surprised that the food was quite tasty and inexpensive. Not at all authentic but adequate renditions of pad thai, pomelo salad, green curry etc. Run by Select caterers.
Iggy's, Regent Hotel (1/1): I had been meaning to try this place because I like the idea of ingredient-driven menus. Husband when phoning for reservations asked if photography was allowed. The lady not only said yes but gave us seats with a direct view of the kitchen. I counted at least 10 different colour-coded chopping board from my vantage viewpoint. Unfortunately I forgot to charge my battery and the camera died after the first course.
Fortunately the set dinner we had was largely enjoyable, my favourite dish being the Wagyu beef cheek with truffled potatoes because the cheek meat was both tenderly meaty and gelatinous. Also very good was husband's pasta carbonara, I mean carbonara with all its cream and cheese and bacon is always going to be good, but once you add truffles like they did here, of course it got even better. For dessert we shared a melted vacherin mont d'or salad first and then cleansed the palate with a pleasantly lip-puckering green apple sorbet. We will return.
What I enjoyed more than the food was the experience of sitting at the wide counter-top. It has the familiarity of a sushi counter without having to jostle with the chilling cabinets for space. Also, kaypoh diners like me can stare at the neighbours plates without craning the neck too much.
Kuriya Dining, Great World City: I used to like eating here when they first opened. Then one day I ran into E, previously sushi chef at Sushi Sagano, after he met with them for an interview. They were very patronizing to him, offering a junior position with monthly pay of $1000. Which I thought was insulting beyond belief as E had been in the business many years, served his apprenticeship with (local) Japanese sushi chefs and basically paid his dues. So I boycotted them but the other day husband out of the blue said we should go back to Kuriya and I got to thinking, well, I am at their more down-market Ichiban all the time anyway so what point was my boycott trying to make.
I'll concede that their food is better than I remembered. Mochi grilled till crispy and brown outside and then poured over with a thick soup enlivened with wolfberries and golden needle mushroom was homely and rich. Sashimi was flawlessly fresh. The mentaiko omelet sounded good but in reality had too much mayonnaise which ruined it for me. Service was on the whole haphazard and uncoordinated. Discovered also that they have their own restrooms, unlike the other restaurant tenants in the building.
Also Por Kee with the makan gang.
Only one bad-egg experience: Central, Holland Village: Cha charn tng or Hong Kong style cafe. Charmless and clueless. Waste of time, money and my blogspace.
Some familiar places:
Epicurious (2/4): After four visits in two months, I am starting to entertain unfaithful thoughts about eating at the next door Japanese book cafe, because I used to like their simple cooked dishes like mapo-tofu and tried my first ever coffee jelly there about five years ago. But not sure how they would handle our dogs, have never seen the tidy Japanese customers bring theirs along.
Spizza (3/3): Because there is a branch nearby. They have a nice timber deck with plants and soft lighting which helps mute the noise from the road junction. The staff are very friendly with dogs. Delicious pizza with thin crispy base. We also discovered that if we asked for the mozarella to be omitted they will pile on extra toppings to compensate.
Crystal Jade Kitchen, GWC (1/8): They have new dishes. The prawns with egg yolk was good, so was the ham and crispy bean curd skin wrapped in mantou.
Some nice eats near my office in
outerspace Boon Lay:
Fin/ Western, Kopitiam, IMM 2nd Level: The fish and chips here is very popular and deservedly so. The batter is crispy and has a piquant seasoning, the chef's secret recipe apparently, which may not be Brit ideal but is fine with me. The chips were unfortunately not the thick sort I was hoping to get. A rare sight for me, especially in a food court, was the bottle of malt vinegar which customers could help themselves to. I don't know why but no matter how much vinegar I pour my chips are never sour enough is it because I like my chips all salty and vinegary? And, for additional 50 cents one could also buy the mushroom soup which was almost 50% mushroom (canned, not fresh, but I am not quibbling for that price). If they continue this way it will be a short time before they move out of the food court environment.
Penang Place, IBP (1/2): Colleague and I treated our department secretary because it was Secretary's Week. The buffet spread gets my approval because almost all the dishes, especially the char kway teow, spicy prawn noodle soup, kuehs and bubur terigu are of very high standards. In fact I feel that their spread is better than the one at Copthorne Kings and the prices more reasonable. Cons: Location in
outerspace Boon Lay.
Another good eatery is the Sergeant Chicken Rice at the Chevron building. The stall owner used to work at the Mandarin Chatterbox cafe so he knows some secrets to the famous chicken rice. Now we know where he moved to after leaving his premises at the Killiney Kopitiam at Novenaville last year.