Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Forgotten Teochew? Tai Seng: still serves excellent food

with Larry, Prof. Horolographer, SJX

Another interesting joint introduced by Larry, this time acting as the perfect Teochew Ah Hiah, and recommended a Teochew restaurant.

Tai Seng, hidden in a corner of People's Park Centre, this restaurant is a gem of Teochew cuisine. Run by 3 brothers, we met with the eldest sibling - Johnny. Johnny is a veritable encyclopedia of all things Teochew foodie...he was able to wax lyrical of the ingredients of the dishes he served that afternoon.

We started with a superb hae cho.

The dish was very fragrant...whifts of prawns and pork in the very crispy bean curd skin made my mouth water. The pieces were somewhat larger than the regular hae cho at the usual cze char stall. These huge balls were the size of golf balls.

Cutting one open, reveals even more intense fragrance. The insides were made from a mixture of minced pork and prawns. Wrapped in bean curd skin, the balls were deep fried in very hot fat, rendering the bean curd skin very crispy, and the insides very juicy and tasty.

As I mentioned before, the hae cho standard in Singapore is very high...many establishments serve excellent samples. Tai Seng's was a bit special...hints of crab were detected, and the prawns and pork mix were very tasty.

One does not eat Teochew without eating Braised Goose.

Tai Seng's braised goose was excellent. Carefully braised, the meat was soft, tender, and still retains the juices. The skin provided some umami support with a thin layer of fat, but not too much. The entire ensemble was meant to be eaten with a Teochew style chilli...called sng-nee, it is a concoction comprising of garlic, vinegar and chilli.

Soo Chye, a typical Teochew dish was up next:

Johnny was particularly proud of this Soo Chye. He told us that in versions of this, up to seven ingredients are steamed together, including button and Chinese mushrooms, seaweed or fatt choy, kai lan or kar nar in teochew, mustard greens and pek chye or wongbok. The version we had today had some 5 vegetables. And being close to Chinese New Year, the fatt choy was particularly the hopes of raising the prosperity index in what some have forecasted as a tough ox year.

But one taste, and one's spirits are lifted. Perhaps its the mild, tasty sauce that provides this solace. But also the different vegetables are expertly blended into one cohesive whole...each complementing the other. I enjoyed this dish very much.

Then, all broke loose with the Teochew Char Kway Teow with kar nar (kai lan)

Kin and I often reminisce about the superb Teochew CKT served by the now defunct Swatow Garden restaurant at the Golden Shoe Carpark at Market Street. Since the restaurant closed, nowhere could we find a similarly tasty CKT. Fried dry, with kai lan (the Teochews and Hokkiens call kar nar), and using a semi-transparent kway teow...I don't know if it is the case, but I imagine the kway teow to be dry rice sticks like those used in Thai Kway Teow. The dry sticks are soaked in some warm water just before frying, rehydrating in the process, and gaining a springy texture, and a translucent appearance. This kway teow is not as greasy as the wet type used in the hawker CKT, but had a tougher texture.

The kar nar was not bitter, but provided crunchy accompaniment to the CKT. Excellent2.

Larry also recommended a special siew mai...

Made in the premises (in horology speak...inhouse!!) the pork is wrapped by hand in a skin made of rice flour, instead of the more typical Cantonese version which uses wheat flour skin. The skin was softer, and had no flavours of its own. I did not find this better than the Cantonese version, but Larry and SJX loved this dish.

Finally, a piéce de resistance...ohr nee

They were generous with the ingredients - yam, finely ground, and still very fragrant and light...pumpkin, ginko nuts...stirred incessantly whilst being steamed with pork lard. This was smooth...indicating the lard was generous...the lard also provided for superior taste, and provided the anchor for the yam to break free from being absorbent and dry to being smooth and creamy. The pumpkin fortified the creamy mouth feel, and the ginko nuts provided some crunch. Very good ohr nee.

Great Teochew restaurants in Singapore are not many. Hang Kang used to be excellent, but for me, it lost something along the way when they moved a few doors to their own building some years back. Swatow is sadly no more. Huat Kee in Amoy has gone upmarket, and even offers wine pairings. I find the food good, but not excellent. Tai Seng, on the other hand offers a taste of tradition. And keeps on the traditional taste. Larry suggests that the lobster noodles is another killer be tried for another lunch. We didn't order the classical Teochew steam fish as we had wanted space in the stomachs to taste the interesting dishes Larry suggested...I am sure the steamed fish would be good.

101 Upper Cross Street
#03-32 People's Park Centre

Tel: 6220 3830

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Tian Tian Lai: quintessential Singapore Fried Hokkien Mee

with office colleagues

Fried Hokkien Prawn mee is a Singapore dish if there ever was one. Versions of noodles, with a wet gravy of prawns, eggs are found in all parts of Malaysia and Singapore, but they are all different in style and substance. In Penang, what is known as Hokkien Char is a variety, but it is black, though it uses prawns and pork stock as the base ingredients, normally it is not fried with squid. And fried onions are generously sprinkled on top. In Kuala Lumpur, the fragrant, black Hokkien Chau uses fat, thick udon like noodles, fried with a thick black sauce, and plenty of lard, prawns and squid. The Singapore version is fried with egg noodles and thick bee hoon mixed into a gooey, light gravy of pork base, with sliced pork, squid and prawns. A version by Kim's even includes succulent oysters for extra oomph.

Tian Tian Lai (Chinese for Come Everyday) is an old stall in existance before the current two storey Food Center was constructed in Toa Payoh Lorong 1. In the early days, the uncle will oblidge to fry the Hokkien Mee with mee suah, which is a nice treat. But nowadays, business is rather long queues testify, especially at peak lunch times.

The HKM was more gooey than others - viz a viz the very dry version served at Beach Road's
Hainan Hokkien Mee and more gooey than the Beo Crescent no name one.

Strong wok hei was present, as can be seen on the pic below, bits of the noodle is charred to black, while others are perfectly cooked.

Each strand is coated with the gooey stuff...which was bursting with crustacean flavours. The prawns were fairly fresh, and the uncle was very generous with sliced squid and crispy pork lard. Crispy pork lard always perk up a dish, fortifying the taste by anchoring it with porky flavours. Very nice.

I would rate this as second only in my taste experience to Kim's who kind of "cheats" by adding superb oysters, easily beating other standard bearers like the one in Beo Crescent and the unique one in Beach Road.

We also had the famous Teochew Handmade Pau.

Everything is 50cents a piece here...the paus were very small, bite sized.

Handmade, steamed in bamboo baskets, and then transferred to modern glass and steel steamers for display.

The Khong Bak Pau was made with lean meat, quite different from the fat, rich version served at Hokkien Restaurants around Singapore (typified by the gorgeous ones at Westlake Restaurant). But very tasty, and the meat, though lean was not dry nor tough, but flavourful. Excellent.

The char siew pau was very small, though perhaps not quite as small as the Tanjung Rhu char siew paus, and almost as good. The char siew at Tanjung Rhu was a little fatter, and hence had more flavour and mouth feel. This was made of leaner, perhaps less guilty to induldge, but still very tasty.

The siew mai is also superb. A bit less lean than its siblings from the same shop, the siew mai was very tasty, and filled with succulent pork.

The Lotus paste was quintessential.

Hidden inside the soft, fluffy pau exterior, oozes out a beautiful golden brown lotus paste...not quite very sweet, but distinctly so, and full of lotus flavour. One of the best I have eaten, safe for better pau skin at the top Hong Kong establishments.

For me, I think Teochew Handmade Pau is a worthy competitior as pau shop to the well established Tanglin Teik Kee. Teochew's paus bests Tanglin's in all categories except for char siew, which for me remains the gold standard for char siew pau.

Two excellent stores in one Hawker Center...

Tian Tian Lai (Come Daily)
Fried Hokkien Prawn Mee
Blk 127, Toa Payoh Lor 1
Singapore 310127
9.30am to 9pm
Closed on Mondays
Ordering Hotline: 62518542/96717071

Teochew Handmade Pau
Blk 127 Lorong 1 Toa Payoh
Tel: 6254 2053

Monday, January 19, 2009

Gyu-kaku: Japanese BBQ

with Dr. Mycroft

So the terrible twins ride again...Mycroft and self had another great adventure (oops letting the cat out of the bag) in our search for satisfying wagyu.

Tucked in one corner of UE Square, Gyu-kaku looks like a family eatery. By reputation, it is known as one of the top 3 mainstream wagyu places in Singapore - the others being Aribuya and Daidomon. I will blog about the others onto this review.

We ordered the wagyu sampler, comprising of 4 different cuts of wagyu.

The cuts look promising...beautiful wagyu, I believe from Australia's Mayura Station is used, totalling about 180g. Fullblood and Thouroughbread wagyu is available. Full blood means that both the ox and the cow are wagyu, and Thouroughbread means that the steer is wagyu and often crossed with an Angus cow.

The meat was very nicely marbled. Cattle takes on the flavour from the food it eats, and if you are very discerning, you can tell if the last days of the cow ate maize, or grass, or have had beer. The flavours imbue the fat of the cattle.

The meat is lightly marinated, and grilled over hot coal ambers. Special coal is used, as is typical in specialist BBQ shops in Japan and Korea. I was told by a owner of an excellent BBQ shop in downtown Seoul, that the coal makes a big difference because better coals are more even burning, and are hotter. Also smokeless coals are preferred, so this allows the taste of quality beef is allowed to take center stage and not masked by smoke.

We try to make sure the beef is very lightly medium rare, especially the better marbled cuts like karubi. Fat is destroyed by heat, melting and burning, so delicate cuts should be lightly grilled. The very hot coals will allow charring (Maillard reaction) of the outside, while the insides remain relative cool at medium rare. Intercostal muscle - the part of the meat between ribs require somewhat longer grilling. And tougher cuts like rump will need a bit more grilling, up to about medium is fine.

Then a few grains of Himalayan pink salt is sprinkled on the beef, and eaten. Himalayan salt is deposited when the Himalayas are at sea level 250 million years ago during the Jurrasic era.

The salt is a very pretty pink. Taste is intense salty...perhaps more intense than regular sea salt. Supposedly Himalayan pink salt contains some 84 minerals - giving the salt the characteristic colour, and is the purest form of salt.

Eaten with just the pink salt, the beef was tender...melt in your mouth. The different cuts have different texture, but all were very juicy and tender, very succulent. Eaten with steamed rice, it is excellent. Very excellent. Satisfying.

The set also comes with mixed mushrooms...fresh mushrooms - enoki, shitake, and oyster varietals are mixed in a aluminium foil box, with a knob of butter and cooked over the coals.

The mushrooms in butter were fragrant, and very nice. Very tasty.

81 Clemenceau Avenue
#01-18/19 UE Square
Tel: 6733 4001

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Oversea Restaurant, KL.

with Prof Massi and Prof Francesca in KL

Oversea Restaurant has been a KL institution since its founding in 1977...I barely remember when was the first time I ate here, but it was a long time ago. Memories sometimes have a way of fading...and what remains are the great times we have had, and the feelings. Overseas left an imprint in me, with many pleasant memories about the wonderful food.

I returned many times, each time to re-affirm that this was a great restaurant, worthy of being an institution. In December 08, I took both my Italian friends to a taste of Malaysia.

When we arrived, the signature dish of char siew was high on my list...and even thinking of it makes me salivate. Amongst Overseas, Meng Kee and Soo Kee (by reputation as I have yet to try) are the holy trinity for char KL, and by extension Malaysia and possibly the world. The simple char siew is elevated to an art in these establishments. Kay Lee and Fatty Cheong's come close in Singapore, but my cigars go to the vaunted KL establishments. As I have blogged rather extensively in my Meng Kee post, the sticky, sweet, fragrant, tender roasted meat is supreme.

But as early as 2pm on a Sunday afternoon...they had already run out of char siew...rats! Disappointed, but still there were treats galore from their a la carte menu.

We started with an Assam Prawn Curry.

Served in a claypot, this was a piquant, fragrant, sour, pungent and spicy dish. The prawns were fairly large...curled up in their cooked state about 3cm in diameter. And they were very test of freshness - crunchy to the bite, hinting on the fragrance of the sea, sweet was passed with flying colours.

Next by special request of Francesca, we had the Braised Eggplant.

The eggplant was rendered very tender, soft. And the various spices and braising sauce made this dish very pleasing and delicious. Francesca thought it was rather delicious...special. I agree.

The Home made tofu was also delicious.

The tofu was very fragrant...but this standard of tofu is common amongst top restaurants where the chefs make their own tofu. It was also very soft, tender...almost spilling out, but encased in a rather more robust skin. A braising sauce similar to that of the eggplant was used, and made for a great dish. Very nice dish, but not special.

In lieu of char siew, and to somewhat calm our disappointment, we had the roast pork and roast duck combo.

Typical of roasteries that specialize in roasting meats...they have perfected the techniques of brining, drying, slow cooking and charring. And most meats done by these specialists are of a standard too high to aspire to for more ordinary restaurants. The gold standard set by Oversea for their char siew made expectations for their roast duck and roast pork soar.

They delivered with the siew yoke (roast pork in Cantonese...spoken widely in the Klang Valley). The skin was super crispy. A thin layer of fat lay below to provide umami support as one bites into the meat. And tender meat below that providing the body and substance. This was very good roast pork. A more robust version of the very elegant roast pork served at Lei Garden in Hong Kong...a restaurant recognized by the cognicenti by a Michelin Star; but the Overseas version was equal in all aspects of taste, fragrance, mouthfeel, and shiokness.

The roasted duck was slightly disappointing. Don't get me wrong, this is very delicious roast duck. But with the competition as stiff as that provided by Kay Lee in Singapore, and Yung Kee in Hong Kong (albeit roast goose), this one fails to make the very top grade, and as a result fails to impress in a comparison test. The meat was a tad, mind you only a tiny tad, tough. The skin could have been crispier, and the fat layer below the skin could have been drained by more thorough control of the fire. Only with a comparison can one appreciate the fine differences. This is by most standards, very very good roast duck. If this was a French restaurant, say in Lyon, and coupled with the fanfare and pomp typical of the French restaurant - excellent service, beautiful ambience, I can imagine the restaurant to be at least a Good Eats award.

The accompanying sauce was top drawer. Spicy, very fragrant, piquant, it balances out the oily mouth feel of the roasted meats extremely well. I will highly recommend it as a dip for the roast duck, and possibly also the roast pork. Though, had the char siew been available, no dip or sauce should be prescribed, as this would mask the taste of the pork and thick smouldering sauce already covering the char siew...but I digress.

Overall, this restaurant has earned its laurels as a mainstay in KL restaurant scene. Were my fond memories of great food at Overseas well founded?...yes, they are safe...I will return to this restaurant again and again. The food is well cooked, and tastes excellent. And for Singaporeans travelling to Malaysia, very good value given the current exchange rates.

Oversea Restaurant
84 - 88 , Jalan Imbi
Kuala Lumpur
Tel No: 03 - 2148 7567

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Singapura Restaurant, Singapore

with Larry, Prof Horolographer, Dr. Mycroft and SJX

My friend Larry is a foodie with few parallels. In the years that I have shared a meal with him...each has been always a wonder, an entertainment of the highest order, with great food as the standard bearer. When he suggested Singapura Restaurant, I thought it was going to be possibly local malay cuisine. A quick google and up came KF Seetoh's pronouncement that the restaurant was very good, and their cold crabs was die die must try. Housed in a somewhat hidden enclave behind Sim Lim Square, the ground floor of the restaurant is merely a lobby...with a display table set in one corner, and a staircase leading upstairs. As I ascended the stairs, my eye caught on a portrait of Anthony Bordain and the owners occupying a place of pride amongst other celebrity guests. Interesting, methot.

We were warmly greeted by the owner: Valerie Tang. The restaurant was one of two started by her father - the late Mr. Tang Eng Seng, who claimed to have invented the method of preparing the cold crabs. Mr. Tang's original restaurant - Li Do, is still in operation. As he had two children, he started Singapura which was willed to Valerie, and Li Do which was handed to his son.

The crab looked beautiful indeed. The colour was resplendent. Glowing even. Each shell was full of roe, to the delight of Mycroft...

And came with huge pincers, much to the delight of moi...ahem. The shell was cold to the touch. I imagined it to have been either steamed or boiled...probably steamed, possibly with some herbs, then chilled before being served. But somewhere in there must be one or two secret steps.

At first touch, the cold crabs felt a bit strange. But once in the mouth, all strangeness disappeared. The roe was heavenly - aromatic, rich. Wonderful. The meat was tender...not flakey, it still retained some of the elasticity which suggested its freshness. Very nice. The oily mouthfeel that one gets with cooked crabs like chilli crabs or pepper crabs was mostly absent. In its place, a sweet and savoury, somewhat astringent meat.

I picked a huge pincer...the thick, hard shell easily gave way to yield a beautiful piece of pincer meat. The meat was succulent, sweet. Dipped into the special chilli sauce - piquant, spicy, pungent. The chilli sauce is something special and provided added firepower to enhance the crab meat.

We also ordered some har cheong kai.

The prawn paste encrusted pieces of juicy chicken was also very good. but excellent har cheong kai is de rigeur in a Cze Char stall or restaurant in Singapore these days. This was not particularly special, just well executed. I still prefer the har cheong kai in Loy Sum Juan, which to me, provided extra oomph in all departments - more aromatic, more crunchy, more crispy, more juicy meat within.

The prawn roll also the next dish.

This dish is also special. Fresh, succulent, juicy prawns were wrapped in pig's caul, and deep fried till crisp. Regular prawn rolls are just prawns wrapped in bean curd skin and deep fried. While this tasted good, the bean curd skin imparted a flavour of its own, not totally discordant with the prawns. Valerie chosed to use an animal covering...much like sausages made with pig's intestines are more intense in flavour, as the pork within is ably complemented in taste...Here, a pig's caul (as I understand it, this is a membrane that covers an embryo at birth) serves the same purpose. I am tempted to use the word micro-taste as in micro-dynamics in music...small, tiny variations in taste that is sublime and yet at the same time affirmative.

To ensure that the skin is crisp, crunchy, light, pig's caul is cleansed with chinese rice wine to rid it of the smell.I would imagine the astringent quality of the wine would also dry out the caul enabling it to deep fry to a higher level of crisp. This dish was delightful. Everything came together. The fresh, succulent, sweet, "breath of the sea" prawns inside the cocoon of light, crisp cual were a delight.

Next we had braised spare ribs.

Lovingly marinated with honey, cloves, five spice powder, each spare rib was first steamed, then deep fried. The meat was fall off the bone, melt in your mouth kind. The mouth feel and umami was good. Beautiful texture and very tasty indeed.

We also had some Hokkien Mee.

This was fried with thick yellow noodles, into a thick, brown gravy with seafood. Not quite the famous black hokkien mee in KL, but the fragrant gravy, and the fresh seafood was exquisite.

Each strand of noodle was coated with the rich gravy.

But being the gluttons we were, we just have to have the crab bee hoon soup. Larry described it as a piece de resistance. He has always been partial to bee hoon crab, so I expected it to be good. We had interesting experiences with horological genius and guru Philippe Dufour some years ago at Sin Huat in Geylang...chef Danny Lee's crab bee hoon, dry fried instead of soupy...was outstanding and blew our minds - not only because it was caustically expensive (S$700 for 8 diners for a 7 course dinner in a Cze Char stall in Geylang!! we can eat a similar menu at the Ritz Carlton!!), but the taste experience was stupendous.

With this background, we approached Singapura's crab bee hoon soup gingerly. Larry was in all confidence that we would love it.

The dish came in a large claypot, with visible prawns and crab swimming in a yellow, curry like soup. Valerie spent some moments fussing over the presentation.

And first whiff...the fragrance hit the nose. Wonderful. First taste, indeed this was soup what hits the spot! Extraordinary...a very complex taste. Thick, fragrant, rich. Flavourful. Powerful. Coupled with fresh, fresh seafood, and coarse bee hoon. The prawns were crunchy, and still smelled of the sea. Two Thumbs up for Valerie and Larry for the recommendation. What a wonderful way to round up a meal.

But wait, we still had bean pancake is a house speciality.

Rich, smooth red bean paste inside a crisp pancake. Very nice, and rivals some of the better ones in town, but not extraordinarily so.

Overall an excellent restaurant. Service was excellent...Valerie was buzzing around, checking that guests were being served by the waitresses.

We also had Christmas Fruit cake made my Mrs. Horolographer...she is a gifted baker if I ever met one, and this was a great fruit cake.

Blk 9 Selegie Road
#01-31 Selegie House
Tel: 6336 3255

Monday, January 5, 2009

Cafe de Hong Kong, Singapore

Christmas Day dinner with family

Christmas Isn’t Christmas
'till it happens in your heart,
Somewhere deep inside you
Is where Christmas really starts;

So give your heart to Jesus,
you'll discover when you do
That it’s Christmas
Really Christmas for you.

We performed this Christmas story when both Kin and I were in University...and hold the musical by Jimmy & Carol Owns - The Glory of Christmas dear to our hearts. Christmas is a special time, and should not only be celebrated at the end of the year, but everyday. But each year, the extended family comprising of my sister, her husband, children and their significant others gather for a Christmas dinner with us.

This year, we decided to hold it in Cafe de Hong Kong...a small cafe hidden in Balestier Road, which came highly recommended by Champagne and Ijeff.

The owner - Francis was on hand to recommend dishes, and on his recommendation, we started with the Kurobuta pork chops.

As the first dish, this turned out to be tasty, but we found the pork chops - kurobuta no less, to be a bit tough, and chewy. I had expected the pork to be tender, butter like, but not so. Perhaps it is the origin of the pork, though kurobuta is Taiwanese in origin. At least they did not over-use the tenderiser. I have eaten Kurobuta from Japan (in Japan) and from the US (Snake River Farm) and Australia, bu this is the first time I have sampled Taiwanese Kurobuta.

The marinate was very nice, though, and the way it was pan fried was done excellently. Bits were lightly charred as can be seen in the picture. The toughness still bothered me, though.

We had the exotic crocodile palm.

This was an interesting dish. I cannot imagine how much time and gentle simmering it must have taken to make what I would imagine to be a tough, scaly crocodile palm to be tender, soft, jelly like consistency served before us. The palm was complete with claws...I looked up croc anatomy, and found that only 3 of the 4 digits feature horny claws. Francis told me the palm was about 500g, but did not know how large the crocodile was. I imagine it to be quite large to yield a palm weighing half a kilo.

The scally bits you can see in the picture above turned out to be jelly like, soft, and tender. The collagen, sticky parts tasted quite like the collagen in a turtle as found in braised turtle, and the meaty bits reminded me of braised pork, though the taste of the meat was still consistent with braised turtle.

The claw and um...finger, I guess that's what you'd call it....looked a bit scary...reminding one of a dragon's claw. I had expected it to have a strong gamey taste, but it tasted like chicken feet. Chock full of collagen, jelly like, super tender, but with a sticky, consistency, it had surprising little taste of its own, and absorbed the flavours of the gravy. I liked it quite a lot. Quite sublime.

The home made tofu with spinach and scallops was next.

This was a great dish. The tofu was very fragrant, very soft inside and had a somewhat more springy, almost crispy exterior. But the exterior was so tender, it almost spontaneously disintegrate and spill forth the wonderful tofu contents...Topped with a thin layer of spinach, the tofu was excellent. The scallops provided good support in complementing the taste. It was served in a thick gravy made from thickened superior stock, and just rightly blanched brocolli which were still crunchy and full of brocolli flavour (which I love!!).

Francis also recommended the back of the crocodile...this was the part where horn like protrusions appear making the crocodile look menacing.

This too, was rendered by the cooking method into a mass of collagen. Interestingly this collagen also took on the character of the thick, rich sauce, and had the consistency and texture of sea cucumber. Indeed the taste was also similar to sea cucumber.

A closer look at the horn like protrusion. Observe the jelly like, almost pure collagen texture.

The crispy chicken was highly recommended.

A one full day advanced booking is required. And this chicken was worthy of the wait. The skin was crisp. Very crispy. As an aside, interestingly an study done by Heston Blumenthal, the chef and owner of the 3 Star Michelin restaurant in UK - The Fat Duck, concludes that crispiness of food can be measured, and the measurement is the sound the food makes as one bites into it. The surface breaking, the thousands of micro breaks - the number, frequency, and intensity of the surface breaking is transmitted directly through the jaw to the ear tells us the piece of food is crispy. Fascinating.

Anyway, this chicken skin remained super crispy, while the meat was juicy, soft and tender. I suspect the usual method of brining, soaking, blanching, drying, slow cooking of the meat at low temperatures (possibly using a sous vide method), and deep frying the final product produced chicken that was soft, tender, juicy on the inside and crisp on the outside. Certainly one of the best roast chickens I have eaten, and reminded me of a place in PJ which was owned by a friend of my father in law, who made these on demand each time we visited.

I tasted a hint of taujoo which was possibly used in the seasoning. This was first class crispy chicken. Superb!

Fortune rolls were next.

This was another winner. Prawns and seafood were wrapped in what I think is a kind of vermicelli - made from tapioca so I was told, and deep fried. A dash of flying fish roe added some richness and colour to this magnificent dish. Very tasty. The seafood were very fresh, crunchy.

We also had French Beans...stir fried with minced meat.

Powerful wok hei. Observe parts of the french beans are charred...but the entire dish was expertly cooked...very well done. Tasty, sufficient salt, not overpowering.

This was a great meal, worthy of a good Christmas celebration. We promised ourselves that we will return to sample the baked pork rice, the black bean hor fun and other dishes as recommended by ijeff. See also ieat's account of the restaurant here.

Cafe De HongKong 新天地小厨/茶餐厅
586 Balestier Road
#01-01 Eastpac Building
Tel: 62553865
Contact: Francis Mak

We went back for a re-visit on Sat 3rd Jan. We tried the individual dishes highly recommended by the ieaters.

Seafood fried rice was the first:

This is excellent fried rice. Only egg whites are used. Ingredients like seafood are diced, and the entire mixture fried in a super hot wok. I can discern the wok hei, and parts of the rice and ingredients slightly charred...adding to the character. Very good and a huge thumbs up from the whole family.

Next was brocolli with scallops.

I love brocolli. Especially lightly blanched, just dente...and with some rich seafood stock poured over. This is enough for me. But Francis had the dish elaborated with fresh, succulent, sweet scallops. Superior!

We also ordered the beef hor fun.

Is this a rival to my gold standard - Prince's superior beef hor fun? Will it give it a run for its money? Well, firstly the gravy is different. While Prince's was beefy, savoury. Cafe de Hong Kong's version was based on black bean. It was lighter, but complements well the hor fun. While Prince's hor fun was fried till golden brown, with smoky flavours and huge wok hei, Francis rendered the hor fun more light, less wok hei, but still present in spades. The beef was where they depart...Prince uses airflown USDA Prime beef...and it showed. The beef was supremely tender, rich tasting. I don't know what beef Cafe de Hong Kong uses, but it was rather less tender, more chewy. But not necessarily in a bad was tasty in its own right. Given a choice, and limited calories to imbibe, I would rather eat Prince's. But Cafe de Hong Kong is also very good, and far above the normal standards achieved by Cze Char stores the island over.

Oh, we also had the baked pork chop rice.

This was cooked rice, possibly first fried, toped with a rather large slice of deep fried, breaded pork chop then baked in a jacket of cheese and tomato. A typical Macau dish...indeed I had a quite special baked rice in Macau Restaurant in Hong Kong recently.

The tomato was rather strong in this version. And the cheese a bit mild. The pork chop was very tender. Compared to Macau, the rice in Hong Kong was more dry, and flavourful. The pork chop was neck to neck. I think the HK version was also dryer and crispier, but the SG version was more juicy. Different styles. Different strokes for different folks. For me, I am undecided which is better...I guess some days I would prefer Macau and some days I would prefer Francis'.

So final conclusions? Cafe de Hong Kong is an excellent little restaurant. Lovely, family run, great service. And food which is home cooked (except for the crocodile bit), honest, homely. Very good cooking. I will definitely make many returns with family and friends.