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

Due to the astronomical standards set by both noodle dishes, the Olive Fried Rice came up short. Each grain of rice was fluffy and well separated, and the entire plate of fried rice was excitingly eggy with accents of wok hei, but it just did not thrill us the same way the noodles did. Tuck Kee Son could definitely start by adding a lot more olives into the rice, and perhaps turning up the charm more. It certainly has promise, so I won’t rule it out just yet.⠀

Thank you for having us @tuckkeeson, and thank you for organising this tasting @shiokafoodie!

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As for the Mini Yaki Soba ($9++), I had high hopes for it, but it was so shockingly salty I had to abandon it halfway. ‘Twas a shame too, as the yakisoba was loaded with lots of crunchy cabbage & slices of fatty pork, and swaddled in a delicate omelette blanket. Well, hopefully Sakaba Igokichi will have tweaked the recipe the next time I drop by for another boozy night of fabulous food & stellar sake.

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As for @flakyhaus butter croissant, it was a bit of a letdown. While the croissant was well layered, the flakiness was completely absent. It was kinda dense and stodgy, and for almost three bucks a croissant, I expected it to live up to the marketing hype. Oh well, maybe next time.

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They had my curiosity when it was announced that @misstamchiak was opening @tamchiakkopitiam in partnership with @chewchormeng, but they got my attention when they announced that Ru Ji Kitchen was opening their first (?) outpost outside of Holland Drive Market. Ru Ji Kitchen has been a firm favourite for fishball noodles for both my dad and I, but we did notice that they seemed to be falling off in terms of the quality of their fishballs.⠀

Ru Ji Kitchen are one of the few remaining hawkers who still make their own fishballs, and my dad has sworn by them for decades now. Unfortunately, as I mentioned before, their fishballs seemed to have declined in quality, and that decline doesn’t seem to have been arrested since I last had their fishballs. Sure, Ru Ji’s fishballs are tastier than the average, but the texture has been changed for the worse. It’s probably a change in ingredients or recipe, bur we’ll never know.⠀

The easiest way to tell a handmade fishball from a mass produced one from a factory has always been the texture. Good handmade ones tend to give after an initial resistance, and retain a bounciness akin to a pudding. Ru Ji’s fishballs used to be that way, but they’ve been constantly been getting more rubbery. Unfortunately, in 2023 at Tamchiak Kopitiam, Ru Ji’s fishballs were a bit on the rubbery side.

It ain’t all doom and gloom for Ru Ji though, as they still remember how to cook noodles perfectly, and their chili is as sweat provokingly violent as I remember it being. To be fair, at just $4.50 flat a bowl for fishballs, fish cake slices and noodles, I can’t pipe up all that much.

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Fried Hokkien Mee is a hawker food classic that seems to be slowly going the way of dinosaurs. Sure, there are a lot of hokkien mee hawkers, but finding a really delicious plate is rather rare. So I was rather surprised when a fast casual restaurant like @tunxianghokkiendelights stepped up and made Hokkien mee their signature dish, and I finally tried their version one evening.⠀

At $8.90++ a plate, it isn’t that much more expensive than the standard hawker version. The portion of noodles and fried lard on the plate are quite charitable, but the amount of chopped squid, pork slices and the three shrimp in the dish could be described as…slightly strict. It’s pretty laden with egg however, so you get a lot of fluffy scrambled egg bits here and there.⠀

Unfortunately, the Hokkien mee was annoyingly bland. The gravy was devoid of most of the umami I was expecting from a prawn broth, and only showed glimpses of salinity here and there. This plate desperately required the intervention of a heaping helping of chili, and luckily enough Tun Xiang managed to bail themselves out on their self made sambal chili. The spicy, salty chili paste added everything that was sorely lacking from the base plate of Hokkien Mee.⠀

When you make a dish your pride & your signature, you best make sure it’s one of the best around town. Otherwise you’re gonna end up with egg on your face.

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The Crayfish Mentaiko Aglio Olio (also $34++ U.P.) sees a whole crayfish halved and blanketed in gently torched mentaiko mayo. It’s the crown of a bountiful bed of mushroom aglio olio pasta, and it does look quite promising. Even though the chef was a little heavy handed with the olive oil that day, the oil, mushrooms & garlic seasoned the soft spaghetti splendidly. The satisfyingly salty, garlicky & slick spag was a delight to slurp on between chews of mushroom. Unfortunately, the crayfish mentaiko fell embarrassingly flat. The crayfish seemed to be the runt of its school, and the mentaiko mayo was lacking in the umami of mentaiko and tasted a lot more like saltier mayo.⠀

Despite the shortcomings of the Crayfish Mentaiko Aglio Olio, the Chili Crab Pasta is supremely scrumptious. And thanks to Burpple Beyond, you get two plates for the price of one! Thanks for having us, @yummochowsg & @burpple!

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The penultimate dish in @newubinseafood Italian wine x zi char pairing was the Lime Leaf Chicken Rice, complemented by a Brigaldara Amarone della Valpolicella Case Vecie of the 2016 vintage. The rice of the chicken rice was quite addictive, as it had the richness & flavour of nasi lemak, but the added sourness from the lime kept the fluffy rice grains from tasting & feeling too rich. Unfortunately, the chicken was the least satisfying element of the entire experience, as it was dry to the point where I was eating shards of chicken.⠀

Fortunately, the Case Vecie was there to wash away the sad taste of disappointment. It clocks in at a mammoth 17.5% alcohol by volume, and has equally mammoth flavours to match. The body of the wine is heavier than that of a Syrah, and it’s sensually smooth & silky. The deeply ruby red body carried alluring aromas of ripe cherries, dark chocolate, plums, oak and cinnamon. Despite what its whopping ABV might suggest, it’s actually pleasantly sweet with a dry and long, lingering finish that warms your throat.⠀

Even though the chicken was a hard pass, I’m glad I got to savour the sensation that is Brigaldara’s Case Vecie. Thank you for the warm hospitality, @newubinseafood!

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At the Geylang Serai Ramadan pasar malam, it’s a tale of two dogs. Sure, there’s a couple more hotdog hawkers than just @meatmymeat & @kream.sg, but those two are directly staring each other down across the aisle, so they’re getting a faceoff here.⠀

First up is Meat My Meat with their Buffalo Cheesesteak Hotdog ($10.90), which sees the unprecedented combination of a Philly cheesesteak with a hotdog. As you can imagine, this is a meat maelstrom, and the chaotic mishmash of flavours is rather tasty. The beef, despite looking kinda unappetising, was rather savoury, and the nacho cheese was delightfully creamy & salty. The buffalo sauce brought a fair bit of spice in the background, adding spice to an otherwise monotonous affair. Unfortunately, the hotdog wasn’t even seared and it just seemed to be boiled. The bun wasn’t toasted, and it crumbled like FTX & SVB after pressure was applied, and the fries were limp and cold.

All in all, a disappointment of a dog, purely due to lack of trying.

Another one of @saporitasg signatures is their Steak Tagliata ($18 nett). A thick sirloin steak is seared to your preferred doneness and served on a bed of arugula & cherry tomatoes, and that’s all she wrote. When you really deep it, it’s essentially a steak salad. Simple as it may be, it’s suitably savoury. The steak is seasoned well and perfumed with rosemary, giving it ample aroma & ambrosia.⠀

Unfortunately, the steak was quite tough. I certainly wasn’t expecting USDA Prime grade beef for eighteen bucks at a hawker centre, but I certainly didn’t expect the steak to be quite as tough as it was. There are many methods to tenderise a steak, and I wish Saporita had tried at least one of those methods.⠀

However, according to our lengthy chat with one of the stakeholders in the stall, the Steak Tagliata might not be on the menu for much longer. Apparently, it takes a long time to cook & serve the way Saporita does it, so it might get the can. Despite its flaws, the Steak Tagliata is still decent enough to satisfy any red meat cravings.

@threepeacocksliveseafoodmarket has had a wretched run of luck since it opened, from unannounced closures to their kitchen catching fire a couple of weeks back. I don’t mean to dogpile onto the negativity, but when my friends and I decided to try out the newest kid on the block, it was pretty woeful.⠀

We didn’t try the charcoal grilled food or the teppanyaki as there we didn’t realise that we had to select our ingredients, bring it to the station for them to grill with our table number, and then our food would be sent to us. Our mistake aside, the food there was far below par. Only the tempura, fresh oysters, soft shell chili crab and ice cream were somewhat decent, and you know you’re in trouble when those are your only saving graces at a buffet.⠀

The guy serving our table was pestering us for a tip, and I thought he was trying to be humorous. I soon realised he was dead serious, as he kept mentioning a tip every time he cleared dishes off our table, and it was off putting to say the least.⠀

Needless to say, it’s three strikes for Three Peacocks.⠀

Tonight, I tell a tale of two egg sandos from @thestacksg. First is the Spam And Egg And Egg ($12 before additional GST), in which they really spammed the egg. A tremendously T H I C C slab of chicken luncheon meat is sauced up by egg salad, and is further, shall we say…EGGED on with the inclusion of a half boiled egg that retains a free-flowing yolk. Think Japanese 7-11 egg sandos, and you get the rough idea.⠀

The buns were chewy, reminiscent of bagels, and I had to check that they weren’t actually bagels. The moderately saucy egg salad is notably tangy, which aids in restraining the richness of the mayo & the runny yolk from the boiled egg. However, the chicken spam fell flat, as it wasn’t charred enough to develop that coveted crust, and it wasn’t salty enough to unite all the elements. Also, the entire sando was just soft all throughout, resulting in a decent but one dimensional sandwich of monotonous flavours & textures.

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As for the dessert waffle, the Yaks ($12 before GST) is a liberal interpretation of the signature Singaporean staple breakfast of kaya toast & coffee, and the name is a play on a famous local kaya toast chain. While its components of buttermilk waffles, kaya soft serve ice cream, shoyu caramel, coconut granola & coffee cream cheese were great individually, they had little chemistry together. ⠀

The shoyu caramel absolutely blew everything else out of the water, overpowering everything else with its intense salty-sweet flavour. The coffee cream cheese completely failed to make its presence felt, and the coconut granola was entirely invisible. The kaya soft serve was strongly flavoured with pandan and was charmingly creamy, but it eventually got eclipsed by the dominant shoyu caramel.⠀

While the Yaks fell short, it’s nothing that can’t be fixed easily.

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Alcohol may not be good for my body, but my body is good for alcohol. Insta: @okwhotookmyusername

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