Sadly the Po Restaurant at The Warehouse Hotel isn’t named after one of the greatest kungfu legends of all time, Xiao-po, also known as kungfu panda; it is named after popo 婆婆 which means grandmother.
Not sure about your grandmother, but my grandmother, who was a great cook, certainly didn’t whip up these dishes when she took care of me as I was growing up. [Ok, she did cook kueh pie tee, but not the atas truffle duck pie tee ($19) served here.]
Maybe celebrity chef Willin Low‘s grandmother did. He who owns Wild Rocket and Wild Oats is the consultant chef behind Po Restaurant. And he is of course famous for modern Singapore (mod sin) cuisine, which is just a fancy nomenclature for atas hawker food using premium ingredients and modern culinary techniques.
When we were there incognito, we ran into The Disgruntled Chef Daniel Sia, who informed us that he was helping the Lo & Behold Group which is also behind White Rabbit and Black Swan. Two celebrity chefs at a restaurant?! Will two many chefs spoil the bak kut teh?
Small plates: the char siew ($19) is fantastic. It’s from Kurobuta pork collar that has been sous vide for 24 hours before barbecuing it. The surface has fantastic burnt ends, the way I like my char siew, and the meat is still pinkish and tender. There is a strip of fat running through the middle, which is how good char siew should be.
The Po’s Signature bak kut teh ($24), which uses US prime pork ribs, is very different from our usual pork ribs soup. There are two kinds of bak kut teh, the herbal or the peppery, and Po aims to be in between. The flavor is ok, but the texture is thick like ramen broth; this is something they want. I like it, but my eating companion, who values authenticity, gave a look of disdain.
Daniel Sia, on knowing that we didn’t order the $28 popiah, sent us the dish on the house. There are Peranakan and Hokkien popiahs. The popiahs we usually eat are Peranakan whereas Po serves Hokkien popiahs. The main difference is that Peranakan popiah uses sweet turnips for their filling whereas Hokkien-styled popiah has a variety of ingredients.
Po hand-cuts and stews their filling of pork, shrimp, bamboo shoots, jicama, carrots, and Holland peas over 4 hours. As a result, their filling is umami, sweet, slightly crunchy.
It comes with 4 sheets of fresh wheat popiah skins from Kway Guan Huat, a third-generation family business, and condiments such as lettuce, beansprouts, crispy flatfish, and other sauces. You may request for more popiah skin.
Is it worth $28? It’s super delicious when rolled up. It’s complex, sweet, pungent, and even has a slightly char aroma coming from the flatfish. It’s excellent and I love it very much but the ingredients aren’t expensive, so $28 may be overpriced. If you don’t mind splurging on food, order this for the delicious taste.
For the mains, the spicy tamarind barramundi ($29), which is my favorite breed of fish, comes from a local farm, and it is doused in a tangy curry dressing. This dish reminds me of sambal stingray. Beneath the curry, you can still taste the delicate freshness of the fish, something that is hard to achieve.
Believe it or not, the carabinero prawn and konbu mee ($32), otherwise known as hokkien mee, is not the most expensive I’ve eaten; the one at Sky on 57 costs $48. But it is definitely one of the best in Singapore. Trust me, I ate 47 plates of them.
There are two types of hokkien mee, wet or dry. It doesn’t refer to the stock on the plate; it refers to the texture of the noodles, starchy (wet) or al dente (dry). And Po’s version is the wet type.
On first bite, it’s extremely umami with prawn flavor. It also has wok hei, the slightly burnt scent that adds to the complexity of the dish. You have to suck the heads of the prawns like a true Singaporean, because it is so sweet. My only complaint is why so small portion? Definitely worth paying $32 for this plate.
One major flaw of the restaurant is in its desserts, which are boring and uncreative.
The food at Po isn’t cheap but the dishes represent the best of Singapore’s hawker food, elevated to an acme. I truly enjoyed my experience here, I will return, and I will recommend people, Singaporeans and tourists alike, to come here. It was full house when we were there, so obviously many people agree with me. We paid $100 for two persons. When I draft the Best Restaurants in Singapore 2017, Po will come under consideration.
320 Havelock Road, The Warehouse Hotel, Robertson Quay, Singapore 169628
+65 6828 0007
Overall rating: 3.438/5
You may be interested in…
–Redpan, Marina Square: BESTEST Modern Singapore Fusion Food by GRUB and DP Architects
–Rabbit Stash, Klapsons Hotel: The Mid-Career Switch of Chef Matthew Mok with a Masters in Building Construction Management
–Kite Restaurant, Craig Road: A Difficult Review, Modern Asian Small Plates
–Restaurant Labyrinth, Esplanade: Molecular Mod Sin
Written by A. Nathanael Ho.