While the Hokkien restaurant established in 1975 has undergone renovations, the taste of the food, by award-winning Chef Lai Yong Meng with 24 years of experience, was resolutely old school.
An example is the tapioca kueh with spicy shrimp 大茨粉条, a dish rarely found in Singapore. It was extremely chewy “like bubble tea pearls” (SG Food on Foot commented) and the sauce tasted like chilli black fried carrot cake. Everyone at our table loved this traditional dish except me. I can understand why people would like it but my taste tends to the modern, and I prefer soft food, although chewing this much will give you a defined jawline.
Another traditional dish, hae zhou, was outstanding, among my favorite dishes. It didn’t have any minced pork and came in chunks of prawns and fats – a very nice bite and texture.
I like anything fat and tender, and so the pork belly bun or kong bah bao 扣肉包 passed muster. Equally tender was the sea cucumber duck 海参鸭. (Really, someone needs to come up with better translation for the dishes.) The entire dish was braised, and the duck so soft it fell off the bones in shreds. The sea cucumber retained a firm bite.
The flaw of the sea cucumber duck was the sauce. Across the board, any dishes with sauces/broths came across overly gooey and starchy. For instance, the fish maw soup 福建鱼鳔羹 was gelatinous and I didn’t go beyond 2 scoops, although it was flavorful, packed with ingredients.
Another overly starchy sauce was the homemade beancurd with melon 胜瓜自制豆腐. Although I found it heavy and couldn’t finish the palm-sized cube, my eating companions enjoyed this very much. The tofu was smooth, and there was varying tastes of sweetness and savoriness.
The dish of the day might very well be the young coconut pudding 椰子布丁. The coconut pudding was soft and smooth like beancurd, and it was covered with a layer of 杨枝甘露 mango dessert, not too sweet and not too sourish– light and refreshing way to end dinner. But the yam paste or Orh nee was pretty fantastic too, smooth and you can taste the earthliness of the yam. My eating companion said, “I’m Teochew and I approve of this Hokkien Orh Nee.”
Blk 157 Ang Mo Kio Ave 4 #01-546 Singapore 560157
T: 6459 7766 (reservations encouraged)
11.30-2.30pm; 6-10pm (lunch starts 30 minutes earlier on weekends and PH)
Rating: 3.068/5 stars
ps: Thanks, Tania, Joseph, Jenny and Chef Lai, for the hospitality.
Written by A. Nathanael Ho.