Thursday, March 3, 2011

Oversea Restaurant in Singapore: perfect char siew at last?

Oversea Restaurant in KL is one of the grande dames of roast meats in Malaysia...in particular, the wonderful char siew, and sio bak is amazingly luscious, and seductive.

I wrote about them in 2009 on a food trip with some of my good friends. They were fantastic that day. See the KL Oversea Restaurant review for more info. But suffice to say, one of my top two best experiences with charsiew.

So when I heard they are opening a branch in Singapore...wow! Must try. I did not take any chances, and when we made the reservations, we made sure we had a large serving of char siew and a large serving of sio bak.



We were eight people, and within a minute, the gorgeous char siew was inhaled by us.



But also, the large serving was not particularly large...and at S$50, I think a tad pricey...though, if you served the best in town, you pretty much have the right to charge high prices. As evidenced by the crowded dining hall on a Tuesday lunch.

The char siew, characteristic of the Oversea style came with a layer of thick fat between two layers of succulent meat. Marinated in a sweet, sticky sauce, and barbecued in a charcoal oven to perfection. The meat was just as tender and nice. Though if I had to make a comparison, I felt the KL version was a tad better. For one KL char siew was more charred, most of the char siew's exterior was coated in a crisp char. The Singapore version is slightly less charred in comparison. I also felt the meat in Malaysia is more tasty, perhaps the texture of the meat was more resistant, providing a bit more bite but still very very tender.

I speculate this is due to the fact that the pig, whose meat was char siew for lunch was slaugheterd that morning in KL. While in Singapore, the pork is either imported as chilled meat from Australia and Brasil, or even if freshly slaughtered, AVA requires post-mortem inspection, and as I understand it fresh chilled pork from Singapore abattoirs are at least a day old.

But even comparing amongst Singapore offerings, where the same handicap of the freshness of pork is applicable, Oversea's char siew is certainly the best I have eaten in Singapore. So apparently technique of roasting the meat also plays a large part.

The sio bak is equally good...



The skin is super crispy, very crunchy. The meat very tender. A layer of fat lies below the crispy skin, a bit sinful, but oh, so good.

The waitress recommended the braised beancurd with petola.



Petola is a gourd...also known as loofa...the gourd is soft when ripe and cooked well, as is the case here. The tofu is also quite specatacular. Very fragrant. Deep fried to create a crispy, tough exterior, the tofu is then braised in a very tasty, savoury braising liquid. The crisp skin itself melts into a springy skin, and protects the super soft tofu within. Very tasty.

For greens, we had kailan fried with garlic:



This dish didn't really do it for me. The vegetable was a bit tough and chewy. Though the chef probably just stir fried it very quickly on a hot wok, there was no apparent wok hei. I would also have preferred if the garlic was fried till golden brown before the kailan was added to the wok. In this case, the garlic was still a bit undercooked, and did not reach the stage of perfumed fragrance yet.

We also ordered the stir fried sotong:



This dish also didn't quite make it for me. The squid was sliced up, stir fried, and served in a hot plate lined with aluminium foil. When the dish arrived, it hinted of bad body odour...we thought it was the waitress who had brought this fragrance, but when the dish was set on the table, it was clear it came from the sotong. However, on closer examination and smelling, the stronger fumes coming directly out of the piping hot dish was not more intense in the foul odour, but instead was masked by the fragrance of the shallots and onions. The dish tasted ok. The squid was a little too tough.

The next dish was a winner.



Beef short ribs, cut with some bone, marinated and seared in charcoal before being cooked on the hot cast iron plate. Reminds me of kalbe in Seoul. The marinade was very strong. But meat tender, and sweet. The onions and garlic, left to toast was also marvellous.

And finally, we had the Beggar's Chicken:



Not quite I had in mind when I ordered it...I had imagined chicken, stuffed, and marinated. Wrapped in a cellophane, and covered with clay, and baked. But what arrived was a whole chicken, in a thick sauce in a claypot. The chicken was cooked till it disintegrated at the prodding of the chopsticks. The meat was very soft, and carried the fragrance of the marinade. The thick sauce was wonderful...a bit sticky from the collagen, it was very tasty.

Overall for me, this restaurant delivers the goods for the char siew and sio bak. Both best in class in Singapore. The other dishes, particularly the beef ribs, chicken and tofu were very good. But these were cze char standards. The other dishes we sampled were sub-par. With this combination, and the high prices, I think only justified for the char siew and sio bak. Service was a bit slow when we were there during peak lunch time...12 to 2, with the dishes being served one after another banquet style, but with minutes of pause between courses.


Oversea Restaurant
100 Beach Road, #01-27-37
Shaw Leisure Gallery, Shaw Tower
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