I haven’t been attending tastings at The Line because who wants to read about an 8-year establishment? But recently, the most eminent food reviewer in Singapore told me The Line is worth a re-visit – so after 8 years of not going to The Line, I returned.
And I regretted—that I didn’t return earlier! From the start to the end, the food was incredible, we couldn’t believe this was a buffet. All thanks to the new executive sous chef Ryan Dadufalza. Only 32 years old, he has accumulated a wealth of international experience from America, Japan, Thailand and China.
There are 16 “live” cooking stations, so that food is cooked freshly and replenished as when necessary. There are so many dishes, probably about 100 items, that we were overwhelmed. But of course, we had to start from the cold entrees, such as oysters, chilled prawns, crabs, and sashimi. The oysters and sashimi we had were one of the freshest we had, and the quality was far superior to many non-buffet restaurants. The oysters, freshly shucked–the chef at the station was groaning “UGH UGH” as he was shucking them strenuously, quite funny but poor thing too–were thick, firm and had a nice bite, without any sliminess. TIP: Remember to ask for salmon belly sashimi.
Our second stop was the promotional items, which changed frequently. From now till 27 Jun, it is the BBQ items. But even the BBQ items change daily. The day before the tasting was Hawaiian-themed BBQ, our day was Louisiana-themed, and the day after was Korean-themed BBQ. Each day, Chef Dadufalza conceptualized the accompanying items with the theme. For instance, the Korean-themed BBQ would be accompanied with kimchi soup.
Our Louisiana-themed items included a fantastic beef brisket, cooked for 18 hours (above), charred and smokey exterior but medium-rare and tender within; a seared salmon and again, it was nicely cooked outside but raw inside; and ribs with BBQ sauce, cooked for 8 hours. The accompanying dish, jalapenos that was filled with cheese, covered in bread crumbs and deep-fried, was one of the best things I had eaten at buffets. One bite and the cheese spurted out. Too bad Singaporeans aren’t familiar with jalapenos yet and this dish wasn’t as popular as it should be.
We then moved on to the regular items that are usually on the menu. The Chinese food section was not bad, with some dim sum, Cantonese roast, hot cooked dishes. My favorite was a fantastic braised chicken that I pressed it against the roof of my mouth, without chewing, and it dissolved.
But among all the sections, the Indian food section was probably the best but unfortunately, the most under-rated. (Singaporeans don’t like Indian food huh?) Ms Atas said, “OMG, everything in the Indian food section is moist and tender.” There were a few vegetarian items here and among them, the paneer makhanwara (cottage cheese in butter masala) was creamy, buttery, tomatoey with a hint of spiciness. The curry chicken was admirable but my favorite meat was the chicken tikka, still succulent despite baking in a tandoor. The charred and tender satay (pictured left)–I know it’s more Malay, but it was placed in this section–was a huge hit among Japanese tourist-customers.
One last main dish that you must absolutely eat is from the noodle section, the laksa. It came with quail eggs and plump fresh bouncy prawns. The soup was thick, and lemak (coconuty) and spicy – so delicious that the health-conscious Ms Atas slurped it all down. She said, “Don’t judge! I went to yoga in the afternoon to eat this meal.”
I was half expecting the desserts to suck because everything we had so far was superb. Surely something’s got to give? But I was wrong. This must be the best desserts a buffet can ever offer. Every dessert we had was good or fantastic, from the lime cake, strawberry shortcake and American cheesecake to panna cotta, chocolate mousse, and crepe. The desserts were so thoughtful that even the nyonya kuehs were traditional and stained blue with clitoria flower (or bunga telang). When I spotted the blue in the kuehs, I was very excited, jumping up and down. It’s very rare to find such kuehs now. A must-try at the dessert section is the ice cream. The coconut ice cream and lychee sorbet were exceptional.
Ms Atas was impressed by the service. To test them, I placed my empty glass at the side of the table and within the next minute, someone refilled it. I think the good service is because of a positive working environment. For instance, while waiting for my crepe, I also ordered a vanilla ice cream to be mixed with chocolate rice, like how Cold Stone does it. So the teenage boy-chef making the crepe told another teenage boy-chef to mix the ice cream and the ice cream chef replied, “Yes, chef,” like in a Gordon Ramsey’s reality cooking show. And we three laughed.
In every review I write, I always try to balance out the positive and negative aspects of a restaurant. Even if I love the place to bits, there is surely room for improvement. But The Line has benefitted from its 8 years of experience and in those 8 years, it has perfected the art of buffet.
The Line Buffet Price
Tue & Thur – $98++ (Seafood promotion)
All other days – $76++
Rating: 3.923/5 stars
ps: Thanks, Josephine, for the invite.
Written by A. Nathanael Ho.