I quickly told the receptionist, “We are here first.”
The receptionist replied brusquely, “He already has a table” and quickly led the fat old man to the table before returning to us. We also already had a table–she had no excuse for letting the old man go first. She should have told the man to wait because we were there first. It made me think that she was impressed by the title of Dr.
The service remained bad throughout. One friend–he’s so funny–was so frightened of the grumpy waitress he asked me not to call her to help us anymore. I said, “But it’s her job!” He complained and complained about the horrible service, like we owe them money, but when the waitress came, he would thank her so sweetly like a little boy who just received candy.
The old skool decor, however, was pretty nostalgic, like in the 80s, with red walls, chinese paintings, wooden lazy Susan. The atmosphere was very convivial and noisy. And there were an amazingly high number of hot men. Yums!
There were five of us and we over-ordered: hokkien noodles ($12); spring roll ($8); fish maw soup ($28); oyster egg ($12); steamed garoupa ($56) and for desserts, yam paste ($15). I can understand why people withstand the horrible service to eat. The Hokkien-cuisine food was quite astonishingly good.
The fish maw soup, or shark fin soup without the shark fin, was thick and lipsmacking, so you know the cartilage had dissolved into the soup, giving you collagen. There are two types of spring roll, one is with prawn (hia zhou), the other with minced pork. They were quite simply the best I’ve ever eaten. I didn’t know spring roll can taste so savory. The oyster egg was different from the hawker centres; this one is completely deep-fried and packed a punch. I never like hokkien mee because they tend to have a plasticky pungent taste but this one–“crackling with lard,” my friend said–didn’t have that ammonia scent and I could tolerate it. My friends loved it.
The only two bad dishes were the steamed garoupa and yam paste. Woah, $56 for a fish?!?! The broth wasn’t sweet enough and the fish, fresh but not super fresh to justify that kind of price at this kind of restaurant. The yam paste was downright rotten, not smooth, with huge bits of yam in them, and was quite tasteless. Waste of calories.
From the outside of the restaurant, the street was so quiet you’d never imagine how bustling it was inside. Reservations are a must. We spent $150 for 5 people (GST but no service charge). Although you don’t need to be a doctor to eat here, it’s best when you make reservations, say that you’re a doctor. They wouldn’t know anyway and you’d receive better treatment. You can cut queue. Doctors’ $5 is worth more than non-doctors’ $5, you know.
Beng Hiang 茗香菜馆
112-116 Amoy St
T: 6221 6695
Rating: 4.000/5 stars (on ambience & food)
Overall: 3.125 / 5 stars (inclusive of service, pity)