Ever since Wok & Barrel closed down, chef-owner Madam Shen Tan, famed for her mod Sin cuisine, has been a food consultant for Revolution Coffee and Little Prince Cafe. Finally, the roving chef found a home where Empire Cafe (beside Ah Teng’s Bakery) used to be.
Ujong, in Malay, means “island at the end of the peninsula,” and was Singapore’s name in the 3rd century. Similar to Empire Cafe that served expensive hawker fare, Ujong serves local hawker food with a twist. Befitting for the historical Raffles Hotel. I ate at Empire Cafe a few years ago, and if I remember correctly, Ujong only refurnishes the colonial decor, not a major overhaul–a shrewd decision, suitable to the theme of the food. There is no need to incur further cost.
Many of Wok & Barrel’s signatures, such as bak chor mee pasta ($25.90), remain on the menu. The nasi lemak with beef rendang ($19.90) was still delicious, tender and flavorful, but good beef rendang can be found elsewhere at a-third of the price.
I didn’t quite enjoy the new creations: hae bee hiam mentaiko capellini ($25.90, above) was cooked past al-dente, too nuah, and didn’t have the fragrance or taste of fried dried prawns. The prawn-flavoured noodle (har zi meen, $17.90, below), inspired by Indomie, had a smelly oil stench. The 6 chicken wings ($16.90) was tender and well-marinated, but had the smelly oil stench too and was overly oleaginous, like all the dishes. The dishes had so much oil US Army wanted to invade them.
For desserts, we stuck to Wok & Barrel’s classics, puloh hitam pudding with gula melaka butterscotch and coconut ice cream ($15.90), a sticky date pudding that tasted like hawker dessert, puloh hitam (black glutinous rice soup); and shendol delights ($15.90, below), a panna cotta that tasted like chendol. While fun, they tasted so-so and were overpriced for such small portions.
In recent years, there are many outstanding mod sin restaurants, such as Labyrinth and Petite Menu (whose, unfortunately, chef has left), and if Ujong doesn’t up its game, I’m afraid it will be a relic sooner or later. Ujong seems to me another Wok & Barrel without any innovation. We four spent about $33 each.
328 North Bridge Road, Raffles Hotel Arcade #01-10, Singapore 188719
T: 9107 3028
Rating: 2.831/5 stars
Written by A. Nathanael Ho.