Cheerless Chow

Cheerless Chow

The less-than-decent chow spots that I had the misfortune of eating at while on my gourmet expeditions.
Russell Leong
Russell Leong Pork Rib + Braised Pork Bento Set ($8.80 nett) is a tale of two halves. One half is decent, and the other is considerably less so. On paper, this mashup sounded like a world beater. Lu rou fan enhanced with pork ribs? Oh boy, it’s protein paradise!⠀

In practice, however, this bento which is really just a rice bowl was far from being what it could’ve & should’ve been. The lu rou (braised pork belly) is braised in a soy based stock, fully inheriting the umami from the stock. It’s shredded into small ribbons, and is ladled over the bed of white rice. While it was decently delicious, there wasn’t quite enough lu rou to fully satisfy.⠀

The pork ribs were the lacklustre half. As some of you may have already observed, these little riblets were fried to hell and back. The meat was sufficiently seasoned, so at least the tough overcooked meat has some flavour to it while you attempt to chew through it.⠀

At least this unfulfilling bowl is only $8.80. An L, sure, but at least it’s a small one.

Besides poke bowls, @alteregosg decided to fortify their ricebowl by adding a trio of rice bowls to the menu. Beef ribeye, salmon and lamb chop were the protein options for the rice bowls, and we selected the promising sounding lamb chop ricebowl ($32++).⠀

The lamb chops on the meat platter were pretty decent, so they should be pretty decent here too, right? Well no, it turns out that Alter Ego might have something of a consistency issue. While the lamb chops were seasoned skilfully, it was as tough as Gandhi’s flip flops. Cutting through it was an arm workout on its own, and chewing it was enough to give you a jawline like Gigachad. These boneless lamb chops should’ve been cooked to medium or medium well, but they were so well done they were more like congratulations.⠀

Fortunately, the butter rice buttered us up the right way. Fluffy, moist, spectacularly seasoned and delightfully slick, the nice rice was utterly betrayed by the lacklustre lamb. Additionally, the corn on the cob & salad on the side were served completely undressed. Normally anything undressed elicits excitement, but undressed vegetables just disappoint me. Guys, please, dress your salad. Nobody wants undressed veggies. As much as I don’t wanna admit it, but this flawed lamb chop bowl isn’t remotely worth $32++ until Alter Ego remedy the shortcomings of this rice bowl.⠀

Once again, thank you so much for hosting us, @alteregosg & @burpple. I still love y’all @alteregosg , but I know that your food could be better because I’ve had better from your kitchen.

Shish kebab is definitely the most popular kind of kebab, and certainly prides themselves on that. Their chicken shish kebab ($21++) has marinated lean chicken cubes grilled over the same charcoal grill that produced the Adana kebab, and served with butter rice, some veg and a slice of flatbread.

While the chicken has a superb smokiness to it, I found it a bit under-seasoned. It certainly wasn’t as sumptuous as the lamb, even though the hints of herbs & spices were definitely there. However, the most glaring lapse here is that the chicken is terribly tough & dry. Even though the menu states that the shish kebabs are slowly chargrilled on skewers, it definitely felt like the chicken got put on blast. The dryness is compounded by the fact that a lean cut like breast was used for grilling, which amplified the dry chicken problem.

As such, I found myself having to resort to using the hummus or the excellent tomato sauce from the Güveç to lube this dismally dry meat. The butter rice was nice and superbly seasoned, but didn’t provide enough moisture to ameliorate the dry chicken. Skip the chicken and go straight for the lamb, fellas.

Thank you for inviting us, & @burpple!

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I’ve never actually had gumbo before, so I couldn’t tell you if @original_botak_jones Louisiana Chicken Gumbo is close to being authentic. What I can tell you though, is that it’s an extra two bucks to have it as a side to any main you order, and is probably good for a try.⠀

Gumbo is a spicy stew that’s been thickened up by a roux, and is traditionally loaded with sausage, chicken, shrimp and/or shellfish. Botak Jones’ version of it has chicken & sausage inside, and is loaded with celery & onions. It certainly isn’t spicy, and I was surprised at how mild it was. Overall, the flavours were actually pretty mild, and it wasn’t nearly as thick as youtube cooking videos have led me to believe.⠀

I understand that the chicken is supposed to be stewed together with the gumbo, but the chicken in this was overcooked to mush, and somehow simultaneously managed to lose all its moisture. I don’t know how chicken managed to get dry in broth, but this one did. The sausage was considerably more enjoyable, but that was pretty soft too.⠀

While I’m reserving final judgement on this gumbo until I’ve tried a few more, it would probably be more prudent to spend that extra cash on Botak Jones’ incredible sounding Double Baked Cheese Potato.

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@whatthefishsg is a novel concept, whereby the traditional large party classic of a Sichuan style grilled fish is scaled down to cater to chronically forever alones like me. Normally they have a choice of fish, but on the night I tried their food, they were left with sea bass so that’s what I had.

$12.80 gets you the front half of a fish bubbling away in your choice of broth along with a bowl of rice, and the fish is large enough to feed one starving man. They have add ons for a dollar each, and I decided to fortify my Simply Garlicky broth with some Chinese cabbage and sliced lotus root. The Simply Garlicky broth is simply sapid, slightly spicy and incredibly garlicky. That’s right, there’s more than enough garlic in the broth to annihilate Count Dracula about twenty times over, and it flavours the fish spectacularly.

Now we get to the bad news. Remember when I said that the sea bass served was enough to sate a starving man? Well, I lied. Sort of. While the size of it passed the eye test, it turned out to be more bones than meat. I know sea bass is a bony fish but bloody hell, there were more bones in it than a hardcore adult actress. Additionally, the fish wasn’t scaled properly, so every odd mouthful would contain a fair amount of scales. Add that to the fact that the sea bass was slightly past its prime, and I was ready to drop the bass.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the concept, and the stellar Simply Garlicky broth, but the fish itself…what the fish, man.

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I’ve always regarded @shakeshacksg French Fries as one of the best in the business, so I was quite pumped for the limited edition NY Steakhouse Fries ($6.90). The fantastic fries are drizzled with the same horseradish peppercorn mayo that goes on the burger, and these fries are topped with crispy bacon and scallions.⠀

Maybe the Suntec outlet was having a bad day on the Friday evening I went, but the fries were cold and stodgy. A far cry from the usually hot, crispy outside and fluffy inside fries that I’ve come to expect from Shake Shack. The horseradish mayo was the exact same one applied to the burger; and as such it also lacked punchiness. Also, I thought I was smart in finessing more sauce by ordering the sauce on the side, but I’m dead certain I actually got less sauce and ended up looking like a bozo.⠀

It’s a bit sad that the best element here was the crispy bacon bits. It’s the same applewood smoked bacon that goes into the Shack’s burgers, but it’s extra crisp & coarsely chopped up into pretty sizeable bits here. Sadly, the Steakhouse Fries are only really good for one try and one try only. Stick with the cheese fries instead.

The first of pasta entrées is the Squid Ink Capellini Pasta, Fried Baby Squids and Uni ($36++). Pasta is an Italian thing, but it’s been adopted and tweaked (or massacred depending on your perspective) by every European nation, from the Finnish to the Spanish. As such, it was no surprise that Lumbre has a couple of pastas on their menu, and those pastas contain no surprises either.⠀

Al dente pasta fortified with the umami of squid ink is twisted into an insta-ready twirl, decked out with uni and five deep fried baby squids. The pasta was decently delicious and slick, and the creamy, rich uni added an extra luxurious touch to the carbs. The baby squid was coated in a delightfully thin batter, deep fried to crispy comeliness on the exterior and just satisfyingly chewy on the interior.⠀

Lumbre’s Squid Ink Capellini Pasta, Fried Baby Squids and Uni is a solid dish, but ultimately a very forgettable one. Squid ink pastas are a dime a dozen in the current year, and Lumbre’s rendition didn’t do anything to stand out from the crowd. But to be fair, Lumbre is a Spanish restaurant that focuses on flame grilled dishes, so judging them on a pasta isn’t quite fair.

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And now the last main of the night, @cherki_sg coconut prawn linguine ($23++) was by far the least impressive of them all. The strands of linguine were coated in a lemongrass coconut cream, and served with five or six poached prawns. That’s really all there is to it.⠀

The coconut prawn linguine was far too simple, and desperately required a fourth or even fifth element. The addition of blanched beansprouts would add a nice textural contrast, which this dish was sorely lacking. The stunningly fresh prawns were sweet and incredibly snappy to the bite, but were ultimately pretty soft. The sauce failed to impress, as it was just basically a mouthful of coconut cream with a hint of saltiness. Not entirely sure how to glam it up Peranakan style, but it defo needs a glow up.⠀

The linguine was definitely undercooked. Oddly enough, the laksa linguine we had was cooked just fine, but this serving of linguine was under. Seems like a consistency problem with the kitchen, but I’d like to believe the consistency is a one off thing. Still, pretty hard to get upset over this dish, as we did get it as a 1-for-1 pasta with #burpplebeyond.


Not gonna lie, I wasn’t expecting @pitypartypasta Burnt Carrots with Wolfberry Dressing ($4 a portion excluding delivery charge) to be that burned. I was expecting a nice char on the carrots, not for it to be burnt & blistered. Still, the carrots themselves are edible once you’ve scraped off the inedible burnt bits.⠀

That wolfberry dressing seems to be the only seasoning these charred carrots get, and that dressing is STRONG. You smell it before you eat it, and I must say that it’s quite an attractive aroma. As for the taste, the sweet carrots further amplify the sweetness of the wolfberry dressing, and due to the medicinal qualities of the wolfberries used, it does end up tasting like exceptionally pleasant tasting medicine.⠀

What these Burnt Carrots desperately needed was a good dose of salt to counteract the saccharine dressing and the natural sweetness of the carrots. In its current iteration, the Burnt Carrots aren’t a great side dish, but I do see potential for it to be a splendid side piece.

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Even though I was quite harsh on yesterday, it isn’t an entirely lost cause. Yes, there is a little salvation to be had in the form of this trio of prawn chee cheong fun (rice rolls). At least Gaibang nailed something, so there might just be some hope yet.⠀

The rolled up sheets of rice flour were delicate & ethereal, so much so that it tends to fall apart when you try to pick it up with chopsticks. They were thin, slightly sticky and supple, barely able to contain their individual payloads of fat, felicitously fresh shrimp. As for the gargantuan shrimp, they were subtly briny, delectably sweet and had the bouncy hallmark of an ocean fresh crustacean.⠀

Now, rice flour is bland as all hell, so it falls entirely on the accompanying soya sauce to flavour everything. This time, Gaibang finally brought the seasoning. The soya sauce is an easy shoo in for one of the most fragrant & flavourful chee cheong fun sauces I’ve had thus far. The deep, roasted sapidity of the soya sauce mingled effortlessly with the fragrant sesame oil, producing a heady aroma.⠀

While these piquant prawn rice rolls were undisputedly excellent, the asking price of $4.80 a serving (!!!!!) was extremely extortionate. I’m sorry pal, but my wallet ain’t built to take torture like that. Once and probably never again, I’m afraid.

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Another disappointment was the steamed pork ribs ($3.80 a serving). While the black bean & garlic did provide a bit of flavour & life here, it wasn’t quite enough salinity. The pork was passably tender, but the serving size feels like a sham. There are actual restaurants out there serving double the portion of pork ribs for about seventy cents more.⠀

Yeah, I get a little triggered when dim sum is dissed like this. I wanted to like Gaibang, but if they continue like this they’re going out with a whimper. is a newly opened takeaway only dim sum shop that serves up Cantonese comfort classics like steamed pork ribs, char siew pau, beancurd skin rolls & siew mai. From now till 31 March, they’re running a discount on their purportedly famous Floating Prawn Siew Mai, with each basket of three going for $4 instead of $4.80.⠀

While these siew mais are decently sized, their flavour impact was puny. I’m not sure if the chef is allergic to seasoning, but the siew mai was banally bland. Kind of a shame too, because the texture & mouthfeel of the minced chicken filling was rather outstanding. Sure, the impressively fresh shrimp ‘floating’ on top of the siew mai was a great touch, but it didn’t add any badly needed sapidity to the chicken dumpling.

Alcohol may not be good for my body, but my body is good for alcohol.

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