50 BEST CZE CHAR IN SINGAPORE. Just kidding. We only visited 8. In order of preference, from least favorite to best…
#8. Sum Kee
2 Telok Blangah St 31, Yeo’s Building, Singapore 108942
T: +65 6737 3233 / +65 6333 8556
Supposedly famous, but we didn’t like it. The food has very cute names like ultraman chicken ($12), which is really just salted egg yolk popcorn chicken, because ultraman in Chinese is 咸蛋超人. But the standard was quite bad. The food came out cold. Three of us ordered: cereal prawn ($20), potato leaves ($8), prawn-paste chicken ($10), ultraman chicken ($12) , and kungfu ribs ($10). Small portions, didn’t taste good, left dissatisfied. We wondered why it was so crowded. Won’t return.
Pros: Free parking. Affordable.
Cons: Very crowded. Hard to access. Two working class ladies, who looked like they had worked hard all day, wanted to take away 2 packets of fried rice, but the cashier said it was very crowded and they had to wait a long time. After the 2 ladies walked away, dejected, the cashier gave me a conspiratory look. I hated myself for not speaking up for the ladies.
Price: $69 for three persons, $23 per pax
Sambal potato leaves
Har jeong gai
#7. Cafe de Hong Kong 新天地茶餐厅
586 Balestier Rd, Singapore 329898
T: +65 6255 3865
11.30am-3pm, 5.30pm-11pm, closed Mon
So so. The tri-egg spinach ($12) was bland. The salted egg yolk prawns ($24) were ok, but only 6 pieces. The fish head ($20) was good value, spicy enough, but some parts were undercooked.
Pros: Air con.
Cons: Hard to find parking.
Price: $65 for three persons, or about $22 for one.
#6. Lai Huat Sambal Balacan Fish
387 Guillemard Road, Singapore 399787
T: +65 6741 7218
There are at least 4 Lai Huats. Once upon a time, “Lai Huat” owner has 2 sons. The elder son inherited the original outlet at Horne Road, and the other son opened his own business at Guillemard Road. Horne’s son opened an outlet at Rangoon Road, and Guillemard’s son opened at Siglap. Phew. Why don’t they combine everything and run as a big family business?
This was our second full dinner of the night so we didn’t order a lot. And perhaps because this was our second dinner, the food didn’t match our expectations: the sambal of pomfret was super addictive, great with rice, but the fish itself was dry. Black pepper crayfish was also dry. Ngoh hiang so-so.
Cons: Difficult to find parking at the Gullemiard branch we went.
Price: About $26 per pax.
Black pepper crayfish
#5. Tong Ah Eating House
36 Keong Saik Road Singapore 089143
T: +65 6223 5083
They are famous for their toast and kaya, but at night, they have cze char, which was not bad. There weren’t any outstanding dishes among the ones we ordered, Assam fish head, tofu, potato leaves, fried rice, and salted sotong. But they were satisfactory.
Pros: Convenient. Air con. Seats available.
Price: $22 per pax
#4. Beng Tin Hng Restaurant 明珍园
Blk 747 Yishun St 72, Hiap Hoe Eating House #01-108, Singapore 760747
T: +65 9105 5899
This list starts being awesome from here. They recommended an innovative salted egg bittergourd, first coated with the sauce and deep-fried. Not bad but order it only for sake of novelty. They also said their har jeong gai is good—I found it so so. The chilli crab was watery but the salted egg yolk crab was OMG, lathered in a semi-solid sauce, permeated into the skin of crab. Seafood in the seafood tofu 一品锅 was fresh but the main star was the tofu, its skin tasted of umami lard. My favorite had to be the honey pork ribs: meat that fell off the bone, thoroughly marinated, succulent.
Pros: Ample parking. Near MRT. Super affordable.
Cons: very crowded. May not get a table.
Price: $103 for 6 people, $17 per pax! My friend’s mother works here, so she gave us a discount. Thanks, auntie!
#3. Golden Spoon
62 Seng Poh Lane Singapore 160062
T: 6536 2218
Heard that the original chef 龙哥 (such a gangster name! I like!) left the restaurant and set up his own stall 龙记大排档 (Blk 115 Bukit Merah View #01-68, 6.30-10.30pm). And many claim the standard of the restaurant had fallen.
But when we were at Golden Spoon, Huccalyly, a regular, didn’t notice the difference.
We ordered 2 bamboo clams, they have us 4 clams ($52). The nice waitress convinced us to have it, and for fear that the boss docked her salary, we swallowed it.
But the food was tasty. The crab beehoon ($84) so sweet; whitebait ($15) so addictive; and crust of pumpkin tofu ($14) still crispy even with the sauce.
But it was very costly. The seasonal Malaysian Qing Long cai cost a whooping $26. Even organic vegetables don’t cost that much.
Pros: parking around the restaurant. If you are sitting in the al fresco area, don’t need to put coupons. Good service.
Cons: Very expensive.
Price: $220 for 4 persons, $55 per pax.
#2. Nan Hua Chang Seafood Restaurant
Block 462 Crawford Lane #01-69/71 Singapore 190462
T: +65 6296 4533
There are 3 similarly named cze char: Nan Hwa Chong (Ah Chew), Nam Hwa Chiang, and Nan Hua Chang – a story concerning the original owner, a friend, and an ex-wife. Nan Hwa Chong (Ah Chew) is the original, but we didn’t do research, and went into the air-con one at Nan Hua Chang.
And it was awesome. I had about 500 bowls of the fish steamboat, fueled by charcoal. The salted egg yolk pork needed a restraining order from me. Only the yam ring seemed normal, but that might be because we were so full and yet we ordered just one more dish after all the dishes came.
Pros: Air con.
Cons Hard to find parking. Expensive.
Price: $38 a pax (for 4 persons, we over-ordered)
#1. Kok Sen
30B Keong Saik Rd Singapore 089137
T: +65 6223 2005
Gorgeousness. Even on an off-day like this, I could tell how great it was. (Off day because the bittergourd spare ribs wasn’t salty enough, and some dishes, like the omelette had the 臭油 taste.) But, the claypot tofu and the prawn hor fun were mind-blowing! Orgasmic. For sure, a cut above the rest.
Pros: Central location.
Cons: Busy. May not get a table. Inconsistent: we went back a 2nd time and the prawn hor fun wasn’t as nice, but the bittergourd spareribs became fantastic.
Price: $90 for 4 persons. About $22 each.
Written by A. Nathanael Ho.