Chinese Communal Plates

Chinese Communal Plates

Or locally known as Tze Char. Always a great option for large groups for a satisfying meal!
Xing Wei Chua
Xing Wei Chua

One place that had been making its rounds across social media of the late is Roasted Story 烧烤物语 — a fairly new addition to the Middle Road / Selegie Road neighbourhood at Elias Building. For those who are unfamiliar with the area, Elias Building is situated right across the road from Wilkie Edge; essentially the same building that used to house Sing Ho Hainanese Chicken Rice and an outlet of L.E. Cafe Confectionery and Pastry before they had moved out due to restoration works of the building. Being one of the first tenants to have moved into the building post-restoration, Roasted Story boasts of a modern interior that is simple yet chic — concrete floors with walls with half-height panels; all that with furniture that features gold and marble accents. Specialising in roast meats, Roasted Story’s menu does somewhat resemble that of yet another roast meat specialty establishment at Killiney Road — not only does Roasted Story serve up a variety of zichar-style offerings in categories such as meat, beancurd, vegetables, seafood, soup, snacks and egg, but they do also offer accompanying carb options to their roasted meats such as Plain Mee Pok, Plain Egg Noodle and Steam Fragrance Rice as well as a selection of congee too. For those looking for more communal plates of carbs, Roasted Story also does offer dishes such as Stir Fry Ee Fu Noodle, Capsicum Shredded Duck Meepok, and Roast Pork Fried Rice, while the selection of desserts include Mango Pomelo Sago, Red Bean Pancake and Fried Ice-Cream — just to name a few. Roasted Story serves up both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages; the former consisting of Chinese Tea, instant coffee, Nescafe, Milo and packaged drinks and cordials, while the latter comprises of various types of beers.

Dining in a group size bigger than our usual meant that we were able to order the Quadruple Roast Meat Platter — the option to go for if one is looking to try all the four (4) types of roasted meat which they serve up at Roasted Story. Other roast meat platters available here includes the Double Roast Meat Platter (featuring patron’s choice of two roasted meats), and the Triple Roast Meat Platter (featuring patron’s choice of three roasted meats). If one is to ask us to narrow our choice to only two out of the four different types of roast meats they have to offer, our pick would be to go for their Bu Jian Tian Char Siew and the Roasted Pork Belly. The former is also available as-is on the menu as the Fire Bu Jian Tian Char Siew — essentially the same item though comes with its own performance where it is flambéed for a theatrical factor at the table. While the version that came with the Quadruple Roast Meat Platter does not come with the “fiery” performance, the Bu Jian Tian Char Siew is still quite a highlight on its own — we liked how the meat is so immensely tender and fatty here, yet carrying a good chunky bite; something that sous-vide variants just simply lack, whilst the exterior comes with an appropriately sweet honey glaze that provides so much flavour. There is just enough chew; all that without carrying any undesirable porky stench — definitely worth making the trip for. The Roasted Pork Belly was equally impressive; again, we liked how the meat were sliced sufficiently chunky to give a good bite — did not feel overly fatty here, and we liked how the fats did not turn particularly gelatinous here as what it could have been if it were to be sous-vide. Again, no undesirable porky stench detected for the meat here — all that with that irresistibly crispy skin over the top that also provides a savoury note to the meat. Absolutely spot-on.

Truth to be told, we felt that the food here at Roasted Story is a little hit-and-miss. There was not an item that left a bad note for us, but we do feel that most of the dishes could have been done with a bit more impact — items like the Soy Chicken was a little less memorable; perhaps so considering how it was pretty much up against the more attractive Bu Jian Tian Char Siew and Roast Pork Belly on the same platter, while we felt the Wasabi Prawn could carry a more evident numbing punch for the wasabi mayonnaise. The Plain Mee Pok was also a little too wet, and does carry a slightly alkaline note — could be done springier with an option to add chili for those who really need some spicy to go along with their noodles. That being said, Roasted Story is a fairly decent option to consider dining at whilst in the area; the Bu Jian Tian Char Siew and Roasted Pork Belly being items which we would most definitely order again if we make a revisit. Reservations are recommended — we were turned down for lunch on a public holiday due to them being at full capacity, whilst a trip made with reservation placed for dinner sees it being slightly less crowded; do also note that there may be limited portions of Bu Jian Tian Char Siew served a day as well, and it does take a while for them to roast the meat should one choose to wait if they are open to preparing a new batch. Just some pointers to note for those who intend to make a visit here!

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Had been having quite a bit of Chinese fare recently — checked out some of the more older establishments along Mosque Street in Chinatown such as Si Chuan Village and Dong Fang Mei Shi; found ourselves winding up at Harmonious Restaurant this time instead which is also one of the newer additions to Mosque Street. Unlike most other restaurants located within the same street, Harmonious Restaurant stands out from the rest being an establishment that focuses on its image — whilst most other Chinese eateries here feels rather functional, Harmonious Restaurant feels beautifully renovated with plush seats in pastel colours with wooden furnishings and fittings; a more welcoming vibe overall. Offering perpetually the same range of Chinese fare as one would usually expect out of establishments serving Sichuan cuisine, expect a menu that spreads across several sections including Grilled Fish, Cold Dish, Meat, Vegetables, Seafood, Charcoal BBQ, Entree, Snacks and Desserts. Non-alcoholic beverages available here includes pretty much the standard range of canned and bottled drinks served in establishments of its type, though they do offer special drinks such as a whole lineup of smoothies and milkshakes, as well as a Cola Bear — probably inspired from the same at Haidilao. Alcoholic options include a small selection of beer, as well as hard liquor as well.

Tried a couple of dishes here but we did find that they seem to have a rather strong hand in their chicken dishes as well as their charcoal BBQ skewers. The Sichuan Style Spicy Chicken left a particularly strong impression despite being a dish that is commonly found across Chinese eateries serving Sichuan-style cuisine — coming with dried red and green chillies as well as a variety of Sichuan peppers, what really stands out about the variant served at Harmonious Restaurant is perhaps the quality of the chicken used. Whilst the chunks of chicken are on the smaller side here, the chunks of chicken here are especially tender on the inside yet crisp on the outside; nothing near being greasy as well. Peanuts are included in this rendition served by Harmonious Restaurant — not an uncommon find though some places do serve the same dish without; thought that they were pretty generous with the peanuts considering its almost a 1:1 ratio with the dried chili. One thing also worthy to note about the rendition of this dish here at Harmonious Restaurant is also how it didn’t taste particularly salty, and seems to have a focus on being more spicy than numbing.

Given it’s slightly more upscale decor and vibes, it is easy to misinterpret Harmonious Restaurant as a more pricey alternative to the other Sichuan cuisine establishments along the same street. Flipping through the menu however, one would find that their prices are pretty competitive; they also seem to place some emphasis in the produce that they are using for the food here that somewhat gives that an edge over similar establishments in general — this is not to mention how the food here seems to also be generally cleaner on the palate without all that usual grease that comes along for some of the dishes. There are some dishes that we still prefer the same from other establishments, though Harmonious Restaurant is likely the place to visit for those who aren’t into the sort of environment and general vibe of typical establishments of its type.

Chanced upon this fairly new Chinese skewers establishment along South Bridge Road some time back — wanted to drop in for a meal during that time but was told that it would be best to make a reservation as they were fully booked back then. Made a mental note to return and managed to visit them on a weekend which they were less busy; whilst I am one who is not often drawn to Chinese cuisine, Ba Ge Chuan Chuan might have actually stood out for me considering how the facade is pretty eye-catching — liked how they have included splashes of orange amidst all the black and grey going on in here, and this rather hip and modern look is being maintained throughout the interior as well. The main focus at Ba Ge Chuan Chuan would be their various skewers served either fried, or in Malatang — they also do serve up bar snacks / appetisers, mains, as well as fresh oysters too; the beverages available here are largely limited to alcoholic options, which includes craft beer from Beijing’s Jing-A Brewing Co. amongst others.

We hadn’t really been to many Chinese food establishments around, so the Tofu with Century Egg does probably stand out to me apart from the various skewers that we went for considering how it does differ from the local rendition that we are used to having. Served chilled, the slab of tofu is sliced into squares; the tofu being silken and smooth whilst it does come with that usual soy sauce that provides the tofu most of its flavour — that same soy sauce is actually spiked with Sichuan peppers that makes it carry a mild level of numbness and that slight hint of spiciness similar to that of having Mala Tang (i.e. 麻辣烫); pretty appetising, but probably also a good life-saver against the more numbing and spicy fried skewers considering how the soy sauce and tofu does help with that. Admittedly the dish is even more delicious when had with the bits of century egg that provides a umami note, as well as the coriander above that cuts through all the savoury flavours considering how it is a little heavy-handed on sodium; probably best paired with alcohol as with all items usually served in such establishments. Still, it is pretty appetising considering the infusion of mala elements into century egg tofu which is rather new to us.

Can’t really comment whether the food is good or not on our own — we were clearly contented with what we have had, but a dining partner who shared the meal with us who had eaten at more Chinese establishments did mention that the food at Ba Ge Chuan Chuan does seem to be above average — prices are a little bit on the higher side for some dishes, though one can argue that the environment is also a little more upscale here. Probably this explains somewhat on their popularity, despite probably also being one of the very few Chinese skewer establishments being situated at this end of South Bridge Road that is closer towards Circular Road and Clarke Quay — the establishment was actually pretty near maximum capacity during our time there on a weekend evening. A spot that those who are interested in Chinese cuisine should probably make a visit to see what they have to offer.

Went past this pretty new Chinese establishment named Shanghai Tan Pan-Fried Bun at Novena located within Goldhill Shopping Centre some time back when it was still undergoing renovation works — thought the decor seemed pretty promising and found ourselves making a visit when we found out that they have since opened for business. For those who are not too familiar with the area, Shanghai Tan Pan-Fried Bun is situated in the building beside United Square, where one would also be able to find an outlet of Udder’s Ice Cream and Craftsmen Specialty Coffee there as well — Shanghai Tan Pan-Fried Bun is located just beside Rocovo Restaurant, which houses Chye Kee Goldhill Chicken Rice Restaurant. While the main focus here based on their namesake is their pan-fried buns, Shanghai Tan Pan-Fried Bun serves up quite a decent spread — the menu being split into several categories such as Shanghai Appetisers, Shanghai Wanton, Shanghai Stir-Fried Rice, Shanghai Soup, Shanghai Dim Sum, Shanghai Noodles, Shanghai Fried Strings and Shanghai Desserts. Variety of beverages can be said to be pretty limited here, which includes Soy Milk, Homemade Barley Water, and fresh juices.

Since the name of the establishment suggests that they specialise in pan-fried buns, we went for the Shanghai Tan Pan-Fried Bun Platter — the platter consisting of four pan-fried buns in total with two pieces of their Signature “Popping Juice” Pan Fried Bun and Prawn Pan Fried Bun each. Between the two, we felt that the Signature “Popping Juice” Pan Fried Bun fared slightly better than the Prawn Pan Fried Bun. The latter has included prawn with the meat filling; no doubt the prawns do seem to be pretty fresh and naturally sweet with a slight savouriness from the meat and the broth within the bun, though we felt that the side of the bun which they had pan-fried was actually pretty dense and difficult to chew through despite being crusty. In retrospect, the Signature “Popping Juice” Pan Fried Bun was slightly better when it came to the broth which was all savoury and flavourful — almost akin to having a good Xiao Long Bao with ample meat filling that was sufficiently moist and bouncy. That being said, one of the pieces we had was overdone on the pan-fried side which saw it being pretty charred and carried a slight bitterness from being burnt.

Always intrigued by establishments that places an emphasis on pan-fried buns such as the likes of Dingtele, No Signboard Sheng Jian and the now-defunct Mr. Shengjian — it always brings a slightly different take of Chinese cuisine to the F&B scene where most would likely have a focus on Mala and Chuan Chuan instead. That being said, we found our experience at Shanghai Tan Pan-Fried Bun a little lacking — some of the service staff isn’t exactly very welcoming when they were serving food on the table, while the food could do with some refining; we wouldn’t exactly recommend the Fried Rice with Pork Chop that we also had for how bland it was. Still, for an eatery that doesn’t have quite a presence on the more mainstream social media platforms, it is pretty impressive to see how they are not only operating at full capacity, but also seeing a waiting list of more than 10 groups during lunch service on a weekend — whether if it is because of it being newly-opened, or if their other items are more impressive; only time will tell …

Wanted to make our visit to QIN Restaurant & Bar previously with my folks; pretty unfortunate how the previous reservation made fell on the very same day that dine-in restrictions was reverted back to two pax which led to the cancellation of the reservation eventually, so we have decided to head there again now that dine-in restrictions are limited to a maximum of five pax now. Being a brand that is part of the TungLok Group, QIN Restaurant & Bar is situated at the 4th level of The Clan Hotel at Cross Street — the restaurant does give a pretty good view of the Telok Ayer neighbourhood, the Central Business District and Chinatown, and serves up fusion cuisine that attempts to “give one a peek into the culinary culture of the past while boasting exemplary cooking methods”.

Case in point, the ‘Sang Mein’ is a very good example of the fusion cuisine that QIN Restaurant & Bar attempts to serve up to their patrons. Also one of the signature dishes here, the dish is essentially Tiger Prawn, Crustacean Oil, and Truffle Scent in Casserole — probably one of the dishes that would strike with fans of crustaceans here. While the usual Sang Mein features fried noodles, the one here comes instead with capellini. The combination of the ingredients for this dish is especially contemporary, considering how prawns, capellini and truffle tend to be a common feature in some menus where angel hair pasta is served (case in point would be the C&C&C&C Pasta at The Masses). Here, the capellini is simmered in crustacean oil — almost that of a bisque; seemingly helps the capellini to absorb all of that flavour as the bisque reduces while it simmers in the claypot; results in an especially umami note that will captivate those who loves crustaceans, while the truffle provides for a slight whiff of that aroma that just tickles the palate. The choice of capellini keeps the dish rather light despite the full-on umami bang that is going on here, while the tiger prawns here are big, fresh and came with a distinct sweetness.

Having tried a couple of dishes from different parts of the menu, we can say that we are pretty impressed with QIN Restaurant & Bar’s dishes for the most part. That being said, the more memorable dishes aren’t the ones from “Booze Bites” section — seemingly more simple fare that caters to the drinking crowd more akin to a twist to some classic tapas dishes. Also, don’t miss out on the Rose Love Letters here for dessert while at it — while they seem simple being love letters stuffed with rose-flavoured cream, we really enjoyed how the inclusion of rose cream (which tasted like Bandung) and the sprinkle of freeze-dried berries for a tartness gave such a textural twist to the love letter like we never had before. QIN Restaurant & Bar is pretty much an eye-opener to the possibilities of fusion cuisine by the TungLok Group, which is better known for their concepts that serve classic Chinese fare — probably a destination for dates, and a step towards more adventurous dining experience for those who are following closely to what the TungLok Group has to offer.

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Checking out new Chinese restaurants is a rarity for me, but By Xuan, housed within Gay World Hotel at Geylang Road, is one of those places which seemed interesting when I had chanced upon it on social media — the restaurant seemingly had this direction of not just being clean and minimalist, but also exudes a rather modern and contemporary feel not just in terms of its decor, but also in its branding and overall image.

Some may argue that there are more interesting items on the menu that are more worthy of a mention here, but the Fried Tofu is one dish that I particularly love to order and utterly enjoy when it is well-executed. Being an item listed on the “appetiser” section of the menu, this starts of the meal proper and light — cubes of tofu that comes with a crisp, fried golden-brown batter on the outside. Despite being a dish that is simple on flavours, this dish is a showcase of the detailed execution and skills of the chef — I especially love how the tofu here is absolutely soft, smooth and silken despite being a fried item; the tofu cubes does not come as firm or “old”, whilst also not carrying too much water content. Though some places may use a lighter batter for such a dish, we do suspect the use of crushed soda biscuit for the batter here in By Xuan’s rendition — carries a crisp and firm bite, and stays so without being all greasy even after being left for a slightly extended period of time, and gives a light fragrance amidst the slight beani-ness detected from the tofu. Though coming with mayonnaise as a dip on the side, these were good to have on its own, and are absolutely sublime.

By Xuan is a rather interesting establishment that sets itself from the various other Chinese establishments at Geylang — whilst most other Chinese restaurants in this area are bigger on flavour and more casual in its setting, By Xuan seems to place an emphasis of being a chic and modern hangout with a touch of casual, but also more pristine and minimal. The food offered here are generally on the lighter side of the palate — easy to eat and does not get overwhelming; a direction and image that seemingly differs from other similar establishments in the same neighbourhood. Still, By Xuan is a name worth looking out for as time passes — with its sincerity in serving up hearty and healthy Chinese fare, as well as impeccable service from their staff that makes their patrons feel particularly at ease and at home, By Xuan is likely a spot that would appeal to a different audience to that who frequents Geylang for their supper rounds for some sinful zichar.

Came across this new Taiwanese F&B establishment named Isshin Machi fairly recently on social media; turns out that they are just located at East Coast Road taking over the former premises of now-defunct Tall Girl Cuisine just a few doors away from Brawn & Brains Coffee, right beside Forty Hands Coffee — pretty much a location that I am pretty familiar with.

If anything is to be said about the menu here, the variety of dishes offered here seems to be pretty wide as compared to most Taiwanese-themed eateries around the island, serving up appetisers, snacks, fried dishes, vegetables, rice, soup and noodles. It was difficult to take our eyes off from the Fried Rice with Specially Marinated Pork Chop — some may affectionately call it as the Din Tai Fung fried rice, being the Taiwanese-style egg fried rice that is served with pork chop on the side. Digging into the dish, this item was a clear winner — the fried rice using short-grain rice which was pearly and distinguishable by-the-grain; nicely lacquered with just enough oil without being ever greasy; carries a slight hint of egginess but largely savoury, being a variant that would do well for those who prefer slightly heavier flavours. The Specially Marinated Pork Chop was the true stunner — slight crisp on the outside, the slab of pork has been tenderised for a good texture; juicy and easy to chew, each piece was something to be savoured slowly and carries sufficient meatiness in its flavour without a porky stench. A very well-executed plate of Taiwanese-style fried rice that we found exceptionally easy to finish; so much that it was wiped off clean in no-time.

Must say that Isshin Machi is a spot that serves up pretty good Taiwanese fare — liked how seem to be also very generous with their meats especially for the rice dishes. Given how the dishes here are being served here though, we would suggest coming here with a small group of 3 to 4 if one is looking to try more items on the menu. Still, it’s pretty much of a hidden gem in Katong for now — known to residents, but certainly somewhere I would make my way down to settle my cravings; a spot worth looking out for!

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From Xinghua Delights at Jalan Legundi; a new establishment serving Heng Hua cuisine just opposite Sembawang Shopping Centre that had replaced a Chinese eatery. The head chef at helm here was previously from The Rice Table at Sim Lim Square (aka Cereal Chicken Rice — that one I had been posting in my Instagram Stories so often); so no surprises seeing the Mini Wok dishes that they are offering here alongside a mix of Sichuan cuisine, Zi Char dishes and Heng Hua cuisine served here.

Thought the Oyster Omelette here was a little different from the usual (be it the local variant or the Heng Hua variant). Whilst this is not the starchy local variant of the Oyster Omelette, the Oyster Omelette here is fluffy and eggy, coming with a decent amount of oysters that are reasonably fresh to give a slight briny flavour. The difference here is how the variant here comes with long beans; it gives a familiar crunch reminiscent to that of pickled radish, though provides a slightly more cleaner, yet refreshing note in between all that egg and oyster — a rather unique take to a dish often found elsewhere.

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Thought we would take a break from the usual roasted meat options and go for something lighter with the fried rice; ended up with the Salted Fish Steamed Meatloaf which seems pretty generous for $9.

Not a fan of Chinese meatloaves for how dense and overcooked they can get (especially those from Chinese economical rice stalls); the one here is actually pretty palatable for how tender it was without carrying a prominent porky stench; well-balanced with the light soy sauce especially when it is still steaming hot. Diced water chestnuts had been included for a bit of crunch while chopped mushrooms added a bit of bite; the only thing that could be improved was probably how they could have deboned the salted fish and separating the salted fish further away from the centre — not that I mind salted fish especially when it is this soft, but the way it was scattered in the middle just provided an overwhelmingly saltiness especially after the edges have been cleared. Still, a dish that was seemingly pretty homely and comforting overall.

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Being one of the newer items on the menu at 私房菜 by MJS Food Culture, the Hae Bee Hiam Fried Rice is not being mentioned on the menu though one could politely ask the nice folks here about it.

I really liked how the fried rice tasted; sure, it lacks of the immense wok hei that some tzechar places are able to deliver. That being said, the Hae Bee Hiam makes up for all of that; it's not spicy, but it gives a sweetness and savouriness similar to waxed meat that goes so well with that glistening rice whilst delivering a good bite with every spoonful. The dish was also pretty light in spiciness despite being the sort where it builds up over time; pretty manageable I would say. Easily the dish that I really liked here for how umami the entire dish came up to be.

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I knew that I was going to be quite fond of this dish given how much I like duck, but this was completely on another scale of its own. The Masala is more of a spiced curry that is still rather similar to the Chinese curry for the most part; it only carries a hint of Masala spices in between which helps to ante up the flavours of the curry rather than being the main subject of the dish itself. While the chunks of pumpkin do carry a hint of sweetness and were pretty soft, the true stars had to be the thickly sliced smoked duck that were incredibly tender, savoury and umami with loads of bite (none of that packaged nonsense here easily obtainable from supermarkets) — absolutely something to die for (we even left the last pieces of duck till we finished everything else on the table; we just couldn't bear to finish it!). Also noticed a few chunks of Straw Mushrooms included for some bite and a I think of earthiness for some balance — do remember to get a bowl of white rice ready on the side to pair up with the Masala!

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From The Chinese Kitchen, a new Chinese restaurant that had taken over the former premises of now-defunct The Twenty Cavan — most of the furnishings and renovations are being retained less the feature wall with light bulbs and a couple of photos of food and newspaper clippings on the wall.

Simple as it sounds, this dish was nothing but a pleasure to have — the Tofu was so smooth inside, whilst coated with umami Sakura Ebi dust over the crisp, fried Crust on the exterior that gave it all that flavour. It comes with a tartare dip on the side, but it simply so good on its own that we just left the tartare dip aside. A very simple dish, but the execution is at its finest here from the texture to the flavours involved — utterly delicious!

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Up, down and everywhere around for food.

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