PEr FYI

July 21, 2019

Hakkasan, Shanghai…bill you’re likely to choke on

It’s going to be love or hate for would-be patrons, even those who can get past its many moments of joylessly expensive dining without rolling their eyes.

We eat some good things. This is remarkably pretty food. They were easy on the eyes to look at and quite nice to eat. The quality of the cooking itself is, at the moment, mixed. Regardless of how otherworldly this meal is, here is a bill you’re likely to choke on. I’m sure no one comes here looking for a bargain, but man, this place is expensive even by tourist-trap standards

And the most depressing thing? It’s full. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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July 6, 2019

Lynn, Shanghai…its glory days are long past

In fairness to Lynn, it was a Sunday night, and when I last visited in March it practically was a ghost town. We had nearly the  entire restaurant to ourselves. It can’t be a good sign.

Indeed, it has an air of style with contemporary dark wooden walls with highceilinged room. The menu, like the restaurant itself, has a solid, timeless quality with a mixture of Shanghainese and Cantonese.

It is only fine. And that’s the thing. It could be a place in which to utter the words: “What the hell; hang the expense. It’s good.” Instead, they’re filling it with the words, “Will this do?”

For me, its glory days were a decade ago. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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May 18, 2019

Tsui Wah, Singapore…covers all the bases

This iconic cha chaan teng (tea café) from Hong Kong that had humble beginnings as a bing sutt (ice cafe) at Mongkok in 1967 has landed in Singapore.

The taste combination of the signature sweet condensed milk and the fragrant crispy bun was fantastic, but the weak crispiness was a bit of a let down. King prawns with XO sauce in tossed noodles is the one to go for here. The noodles were springy and the prawns were super-fresh. Wantons with shrimp roe in fish soup is also a favourite. Within the simple delicious broth, the wantons – fat, plump, and bursting with shrimp – are a winner.

What to avoid: Seafood curry with steamed rice & stir-fried instant noodles with pork chop and assorted vegetables on sizzling plate. Unless you really need to satisfy the sudden urge for curry, there are much better places to go that won’t leave you full of regret. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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May 1, 2019

Restoran Kapal Layar, Langkawi…Not satisfying. Only satisfactory.

Restoran Kapal Layar does not set any new paradigms. It is satisfactory instead of satisfying.

The presentation of almost all the dishes was underwhelming and unremarkable. While it is not the epitome of any particular trend, most of the food coming out of its kitchen is quite ok. If I were to recommend one meal that captures some of the energy in the Langkawi dining scene right now, I might come up with reasons not to mention Restoran Kapal Layar. It is an outlier.

This is essentially an IKEA cafetaria. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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April 20, 2019

Dragon-I, Johor Bahru…it’s Chinese food done properly

I could not have been more excited. I have enjoyed everything this group has offered whenever I’ve been to one of its KL outposts, and I was thrilled that I would no longer have to travel so far.

The food at Dragon-i is really nice and really distinctive. We ordered the Auspicious Treasure Pot (Poon Choi b/ pencai). What arrived was a sizable bowl of braised Chilean premium abalone, premium sea cucumber, Japanese dried scallops and oysters, premium mushrooms and fresh sea prawns, roast chicken, braised pork belly, pork balls, dried beancurd skin, yam, black moss, chinese cabbage, broccoli, deep fried beancurd skin, radish and pork bone stock. The seafood was fresh and well-seasoned; the pork juicy and tender; and the vegetables soaked up the richly flavoured broth very nicely. Service is extremely efficient in this large operation, but don’t expect it to be cuddly.

Drawbacks? The kitchen occasionally gets things wrong, but when it’s on song – the food is really nice. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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April 13, 2019

Tsui Wah, Shenzhen…failed to impress me

Tsui Wah is the Shenzhen outpost of a revered restaurant of the same name in Hong Kong. Let’s cut to the chase: this is the place if you want to visit a giant, super-sized neon version of Hong Kong’s humble coffee shop cafes (called a cha chaan teng, literally a tea food hall).

The dishes are pure Hong Kong comfort food, an eclectic and inexpensive assortment of Cantonese, Asian, and Western fare prepared for the Chinese palate. Start your meal with a local favorite—milk tea—followed, perhaps Lamb Chop Curry, King Prawns in XO Sauce with Tossed Noodles and wonton with fish roe in fish soup. And you’ll be missing out if you don’t try the famous crispy bun topped with sweet condensed milk.

Although there wasn’t much wrong, it failed to impress me. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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March 23, 2019

Char Casual Dining, Singapore…moved to speechlessness by their char siew

Char is renowned for its roast meats. The char siew and crispy roast pork belly are pure meaty succulence and flavourful intensity. And what flavours! The meats are as good as anything you’ll get in Guangdong and need to be eaten with just some steamed rice to make you feel that life – and food – really doesn’t get much better than this.

The Signature char siew – melt-in-your-mouth tender, with a sublime sauce that is the ultimate blend of salty, sweet and deliciously sticky. The crispy roast pork belly – the crackling that comes from the meat is the main character of a good roast. The meat has been marinated in a blend of Chinese and Western herbs and roasted on high heat. By all means try some salted egg pork – tender pieces of boneless rib meat deep fried for a crispy outside but a tender inside and stir fried in a creamy sauce of salted egg, chilli and curry leaves and, to balance the simplicity of the meats, add in Char’s homemade charcoal beancurd with spinach and wild fungi – homemade silky charcoal beancurd that’s steamed and then deep fried, laid on a bed of poached spinach and topped with wild fungi and a delicious sauce.

The prices border on a blow-out, so order carefully. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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March 16, 2019

Low Yong Moh Restaurant, Melaka…a reliable choice

In Hong Kong, dim sum is almost like a religion. If you’re already a devotee, you are likely to have burned your tongue on many a pork bun and dumpling.

Hidden near antique and vintage Jonker street, spot, opened since 1947, knows a thing or two about dim sum. It’s a very traditional coffeeshop and unsurprisingly the menu consists of resolutely traditional Dim Sum. The fried turnip cakes were competently done, if not especially exciting – and free of excess oil. The skins of the siu mai were a little fragile and there was precious little prawn, but the chunky whole pieces of meaty pork made up for it. The lo mai gai (Chinese Sticky Rice Wrapped in Lotus Leaf) was far more impressive.

Most of the basics are done well and  – some of which are surprisingly good. But despite this Low Yong Moh is still one of the better places to have morning dim sum in Melaka. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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March 10, 2019

White Restaurant, Singapore…I brave the queue to get in, but I’ll go elsewhere next time

The white beehoon (rice vermicelli) revolution is already well underway. The small, unshowy White Restaurant now has 5 outlets across Singapore.

Service is friendly, fast and informal. As for the food, I don’t have any negatives to speak of. In addition to the white beehoon, I had the sambal lala and the meat and seafood roll which will complement the dish excellently. There was satisfying freshness to all of the food I tried, an evenness of ­flavours, a happy contrast of ­textures and temperatures.

Was it a transcendent experience? Well, the ­answer is no. It was decent, yet not brilliant. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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March 9, 2019

Pao Xiang Bah Kut Teh, Kuala Lumpur…tapas style bak kut teh

Chopsticks at the ready!

The String-Tied Bah Kut Teh is a method of tying up the meat with a cotton string to keep its shape and texture. The string keeps the meat from falling apart during the boiling process, making it firmer and easier to absorb the essence and flavour of the herbs.

Poh Xiang has gone upscale from a 30-seater stall in Klang to a self-consciously stylish restaurant in Pavilion, Kuala Lumpur. Served tapas style – small individual portions of food that allows a magpie approach and diners can zigzag to check out the mouth-watering choices of typical BKT dishes which are wide and varied.

You will be treated to some big and bod flavours with the pai kut, sum chan bah, ka wan, de tor, hun teng, Kim cham kor and braise egg. It’s hardly surprising that everything tastes so good.

Regardless of how otherworldly these dishes are, the bill is something you’re likely to choke on. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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