For the Best Chicken Rice in Singapore, I ate 47 plates from all over Singapore. But if I am to rank it again, I will rank Express by Chatterbox at Downtown Gallery Number 1. Mr Fitness, who was eating with me, concurred, “You should re-do your Chicken Rice List, and crown this Number 1.”
I didn’t include the famous Chatterbox at Mandarin Orchard in my list because their chicken rice costs $27++ a plate. It would be unfair to judge a $4 hawker plate against it; it’s comparing pineapples and watermelons. But now, Chatterbox has opened an affordable outlet. The chicken rice here is $8.
Mr Fitness asked, “Why is Chatterbox’s chicken rice priced at $27 but Express at $8?” Hm… I dunno.
It’s been 20 years since I have been to Chatterbox so I cannot really compare whether Chatterbox and Express are of the same standards. But the taste of the chicken at Express is superb and supreme. Mr Fitness said in awe, “How can the chicken be so tender and so silky smooth? Even the chicken breast, which is normally tough, is so soft here.”
The skin is a gelatinous unami, sliding down the throat. The chilli is also good; tangy, spicy. Absorbing the broth fully, the rice is fragrant and buttery, but not greasy.
Besides chicken rice, Chatterbox has another signature, the lobster laksa costs $38++. At Express, the laksa is priced at $8 (traditional or chicken) and $10 (prawns).
Although not as good as the chicken rice, the laksa is very good too. The laksa is thick, slightly grainy, exactly how I like it. It’s moderately spicy, a good balance. It’s not very oily, so I could drink almost all of it.
You can add $3 to the main to get a drink and a vegetable, or add $5 to get a drink and a dessert. We had the almond pudding, which is also excellent. (We suspect it may be catered but we are not sure.) The pudding is not as sweet as elsewhere’s, but it’s gao gao with the flavor of almond.
On weekdays, you order, take a queue number, and wait for your number to be flashed on the screen. But we were there on a quiet Saturday. And the server was nice enough to deliver our food.
Besides the good service, the wooden decor, almost like the 1960s coffeeshops in Singapore, is classy and comfortable.
Mandarin Orchard’s two expensive restaurants, Shisen Hanten and Chatterbox, have opened more affordable outlets at Downtown Gallery: Chen’s Mapo Tofu and Express by Chatterbox respectively. Although these outposts are much more affordable, Mandarin Orchard does not compromise on the service, decor, and quality of the food. I welcome this change to make food more accessible to everyone and I wish all fine-dining restaurants can follow suit.
We paid $24 for two persons at Express.
Express by Chatterbox
6A Shenton Way Singapore 068815
tel: +65 6220 0758 / +65 6220 0579
Weekdays 11am-10pm, Sat 11am-3pm, Closed Sun
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Written by A. Nathanael Ho.