Locally Good!

Locally Good!

Singapore's local good food!
Xing Wei Chua
Xing Wei Chua

Came across the new Arcadia Room via social media recently — the establishment, which is located at 10A Trengganu Street, is a little bit of a hidden find considering how it is located at the second level of a shophouse (think the likes of Nirvana Dessert Cafe at Arab Street) just a short distance away from Chinatown MRT Station. Marked by a circular sign stating “Arcadia Room” that is hung on the wall right beside the doorway of the shophouse, patrons will need to climb up the stairs where the steps has a projection of animations leading up to the second level of the shophouse — one will find yet another sign indicating “Arcadia Room” beside the door to enter the establishment. Opening the door, patrons will find the main dining hall of Arcadia Room — the first section has dim lighting and its walls filled with projections of animations playing on its walls with soft music in the background; the other dining area is separated with a curtain with star-shaped cutouts that features brighter lighting with tables that are able to accommodate bigger groups. With an emphasis on serving up Swatow and Teochew cuisine, Arcadia Room’s all-day menu features rice rolls and beef ball soup, though also consists of other items such as stir-fried kway teow — they also do offer a beef hot pot promotion set during our visit that is priced at $68++; comes with selected cuts of beef, beef balls, assorted vegetables and kway teow. Choices of beverages include canned drinks, as well as other options such as flower teas and AR Signature Cold Brews — the latter essentially being their line-up of bottled cold brew coffee options.

The highlight at Arcadia Room as it seems from their menu would be their rice rolls and beef balls soup — they do allow patrons to try both items at one go through their Rice Roll Sets. Patrons will be able to pick their choice of Rice Rolls (Pork, Beef or Vegetable), whilst also accompanied with a serving of Beef Balls Soup on the side. Whilst the menu does not list it as an option, they do also offer patrons a choice between Beef Balls Soup or Pork Balls Soup — a good consideration that seems to have been made for non-beef eaters. Opting for the Pork Rice Roll + Beef Ball Soup, we were also served with a saucer that comes with chili and Shacha sauce on the side — the former is to be had with the rice roll while the latter is to be enjoyed with the beef balls in the beef balls soup. Going straight for the rice roll first, the rice roll does remind us of the ones that are served at YinJi 银记肠粉店 at Far East Square it terms of aesthetic. Despite it being a Pork Rice Roll, it also comes with egg, beansprouts and prawns apart from the sliced pork that can be found rolled within. Tearing off a morsel of the rice roll, it is noted that the rice roll isn’t only smooth and silky, but it is sufficiently thin yet carries a texture almost akin to Mochi being quite stretchy especially when it is warm — the sliced pork being tender without carrying any undesirable porky stench; all that while the omelette-like egg comes with bits of prawn for a good bite and a bit of sweetness. The rice roll comes doused with the same soy sauce one would usually be served with Hong Kong-style Chee Cheong Fun — the rice roll here absorbing those sweet-savoury notes that creates a medley of flavours with the elements it comes with. While the beef balls soup does come with a soup that is pretty clean-tasting, what we really enjoyed with the Beef Balls Soup were the beef balls itself — they were incredibly fibrous and had a good firm bite whilst being savoury, yet didn’t taste particularly gamey; the texture being so on-point that we found ourselves devouring the beef balls in no time.

Those who have been following me for a while now may probably know I am not a fan of gimmicky setups with the likes of using projections of animations — a little unnecessary and cliche but who are we to judge; it is after all the look that they are trying to go for. That being said Arcadia Room does seem to do well where their food is of concern; probably somewhat of a rarity for an establishment of its type, though we have probably only tried a small selection of what they serve up. Still, we were pretty impressed with the items we had, including that of the Traditional Kopi Cold Brew which had all the traits of what Nanyang-style coffee should have. Arcadia Room does have a pretty promising start — a hidden location with some sort of attraction to it considering the use of projections; not sure how authentic their Swatow and Teochew cuisine are, but definitely something which we would like to have again.

Made a revisit to the newly-opened Nan Yang Dao after making the first visit some time back — the F&B establishment, which is located pretty conveniently at Blk 262 Serangoon Central within walking distance from NEX, Serangoon MRT Station and Serangoon Bus Interchange had been recently making waves across social media ever since after our first visit there. Decked in a green coloured facade, Nan Yang Dao isn’t difficult to miss especially given how it seems to stand out from its neighbours within the same block, while it’s interior features zinc plate, neon lighting and wooden furnishings that brings a bright and welcoming vibe despite being a playful attempt on an industrial vibe that some cafes had done in the past with albeit of a darker setting. As opposed to our very first visit here, it is noted that Nan Yang Dao has streamlined its menu since its opening — many of the items listed on the menu are now labeled “not available”. That being said Nan Yang Dao’s menu still comprises of a pretty decent selection of Malaysian cuisine — this ranges from appetisers and small bites, to main courses featuring noodles and rice dishes, as well as dessert and non-alcoholic beverages. Whilst we had made our visit once before the relaxation of safe management measures and once after, it is noted that the main dining area within the shop does feel especially congested with the recent relaxation of safe management measures.

Having tried some of their other dishes during our very first visit, we found ourselves returning to try the dishes that we really wanted to order from our previous visit. One of the items include the KL Fried Hor Fun with Raw Egg, which is listed under the “Mains” section of the menu. Available only in a single size, the KL Fried Hor Fun with Raw Egg is an item that can either feed one hungry individual, or can also be shared around the table with two or three diners. Here, the KL Fried Hor Fun with Raw Egg looks pretty similar to the Moonlight Hor Fun that some may be familiar with that is also sold at other tzechar establishments. Coming with the usual suspects such as Kuey Teow, beansprouts, some greens, prawns and a raw egg, one is supposed to mix the raw egg into the entire dish so that it creates this silky smooth texture that somewhat gels all the elements together. Of particular note with this rendition being served at Nan Yang Dao will be how they aren’t too heavy with the dark sauce — one can argue that the flavours do replicate that of the Singapore-style Hor Fun, though without the gravy; all of that with a slight hint of wok-hei so all the noodles do come with a slight smoky note. The other elements, such as the greens and beansprouts do create a refreshing crunch that provided a textural contrast with the slurpy Kuey Teow, while the prawns can be said as pretty fresh and carried a good bite whilst also carrying a natural sweetness.

Apart from the KL Fried Hor Fun with Raw Egg, other dishes worth commending stars Nan Yang Dao do include the Chendol — despite the generic-looking pandan “noodle” that they have used here, there is sufficient coconut milk and Gula Melaka that provides the Chendol with a rich flavour and earthy sweetness that makes it pretty satisfying. Also worth mentioning would be the Iced Coffee — coming in true-blue Malaysian-style with all that froth (though a little too thick in our opinion) and that overspill that is contained within the bowl which the glass sits atop of. The Selayang Big Bowl Curry Mee is also an item often featured on social media — one that features quite a generous load of condiments, and the overspill of curry gravy contained in another bowl containing the bowl of curry noodles similar to their Iced Coffee. Sure, the borders may be opening up for us Singaporeans to visit Malaysia for their scrumptious hawker fare — that being said, Nan Yang Dao does seem like a promising joint to get those cravings resolved without having to bring the passport. Nan Yang Dao does attract quite a good crowd during meal hours from what we had noticed during our two visits there; something that those who are intending to make a visit should make a mental note on.

Speak about fancy Prata and Springleaf Prata Place is probably one of the few names that would come to mind. There are, however, quite a number of places that actually do serve Prata with their own twist — sure; that are probably quite a number of mamak stalls which do not have an online presence which serve pretty quirky Prata creations which are all unaccounted for, but there is also Tenderbest Makcik Market at Bedok Point which has a slightly different approach to the local classic. Whilst there are quite a number of Tenderbest Makcik Tuckshop outlets around (there are outlets in Woodlands, Jalan Kayu, and a new one in Punggol East), their “Artisanal Prata” series is only available at Tenderbest Makcik Market in Bedok Point, which also carries tzechar items in collaboration with Asyura Paste (a manufacturer of Halal ready-to-cook sauces and pastes) as well as the Nasi Coco Supreme that was previously served at the now-defunct Nasi Coco at NeWest; an establishment that had an emphasis on Nasi Lemak served alongside tempura items.

Being a concept that sees an eclectic mix in its menu, Tenderbest Makcik Market’s Prata offerings are pretty much based on the Roti Prata from Mr Teh Tarik — another F&B establishment that has quite a presence running halal-certified coffeeshops in Singapore. The “Artisanal Prata” menu at Tenderbest Makcik Market pretty much features their Plain Prata with different toppings; flavours available include the Philadelphia Cheese Steak Prata, Mala Chicken Prata and the Okomoniyaki Bacon Prata; all of which featuring a fusion approach. We opted for the Blossom Truffle Salmon Prata, which came with elements such as truffle, smoked salmon and red onions as mentioned in the menu, though is missing of other elements such as yogurt and fresh dill as described in the menu. It does however feature shredded mozzarella, cherry tomatoes and “caviar” as well. No curry is being served here as the Blosson Truffle Salmon Prata probably does not need it anyway. As with the usual Prata offerings of Mr Teh Tarik, the base Prata can be said as pretty average though decent — it is not the crispiest of Pratas out there; there is just a bit crispness to it while it is hot, but the Prata can be said as a little dense for how there is somewhat of a thickness to it. It is fairly easy to pull apart, though one does have to be mindful of the toppings above. There is a slight drizzle of truffle oil on the Prata to let it carry that light hint of truffle that it promises — it is not particularly overwhelming, but sure is evident enough to detect. Otherwise, the other elements adds on to the Prata — the savoury flavour of cured meat from the smoked salmon, the stretchy texture of the semi-melted mozzarella cheese (because the Prata just isn’t hot enough to melt them), the popping sensation of the “caviar” and the slight zing and crunch from the red onions; overall a pretty safe combination of flavours that isn’t particularly out-of-the-world, but definitely familiar nonetheless. Think of the Plain Prata as a vehicle for the toppings atop; albeit like a pizza — pretty much what it is here.

Pairing the Blossom Truffle Salmon Prata with the Almond Kopi here is a pretty decent choice; the Blosson Truffle Salmon Prata is like a spruced up version of a standard Prata and the Almond Kopi is also a zhng-ed up rendition of the standard Kopi where one could argue is an Almond Tea fused with the standard Kopi. It is a nice balance of Almond Paste-esque notes with a Nanyang Kopi finish — matches us the Blossom Truffle Salmon Prata as the “not-your-typical Mamak meal” when had together. One thing for sure about Tenderbest/Tenderfresh concepts is their creativity — the ability to do fusion cuisine with a sense of familiarity, yet achieving the desired flavour profile to suit the masses; something which I guess probably draws me to their concepts from time-to-time again.

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Far East Plaza is one spot on Orchard that is best known for some pretty great and affordable local fare in a neighbourhood that is better known for fancier eats — Maddie’s Kitchen is a name that one may have chanced upon whilst going through recommendations on what to eat at Far East Plaza. Started out as a small eatery located at Level 5 of the same mall, Maddie’s Kitchen’s original spot has since been taken over by Chuan Grill & Noodle Bar whilst they have relocated themselves to a larger space at Level 2 of the mall near Isle Eating House. Still being much of an establishment dedicated to serving up local fare, Maddie’s Kitchen’s menu features dishes such as fish soup and seafood soup, Hainanese Curry Rice, wok-fried mains (think items like fried rice and wok-fried bee hoon amongst others), sides and even tzechar offerings. The selection of beverages here include local drinks such as Nanyang-style kopi, tea, homemade beverages such as lemon tea, barley, and canned drinks — just to name a few, though also include alcoholic beverages like beer, white wine and red wine as well.

Truth to be told, we probably wouldn’t call some of Maddie’s Kitchen affordable given the pricing of the items on the menu — whilst certain items are priced more reasonably such as their Hainanese Curry Rice which costs around $6.80 to $8.80, there are other items such as the Red Garoupa Fish Soup that is priced at a premium than most counterparts. One thing is for sure though — the quality of the food here is pretty much undisputed; take the Oyster Omelette as an example. Priced at $11.80, Maddie’s Kitchen’s Oyster Omelette is a slightly different take compared to those that one would usually find it the hawker centre. Here, the Oyster Omelette is more than just a starchy, pan-fried omelette with oyster flesh hidden in different corners of the omelette. Instead, the omelette does seem to come in its own crispy batter; light without being particularly crispy, while one can actually see the egg whites encased within the thin batter that is also held together with the starchy bits. Whilst most oyster omelettes have the oysters within the omelette, the one served at Maddie’s Kitchen sees the oysters being found atop the omelette; the oysters being pretty plump and fresh — guess that is pretty much the reason behind the high price tag of the oyster omelette here. The way to really enjoy the oyster omelette here is to break off a bit of that omelette, then top it off with the oyster, pick up some of that coriander, and then dip it in to that zippy chili that provides for a light hint of spiciness that tingles the taste buds.

If one is looking for an affordable eat at Far East Plaza, we would reckon that there are other eateries such as that of Isle Eating House, Greenview Cafe, and Hainanese Delicacy are more wallet-friendly options to go for in general. That being said, Maddie’s Kitchen does deliver where quality and the use of more premium produce — something which is pretty evident through their food. With that, it is little wonder how Maddie’s Kitchen is that sort of hidden gem within the mall that is a favourite of some foodies — somewhere that is meant for those who don’t mind shelling out a little more for a slightly different take on local fare.

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There are pretty much some things we eat for the sake of nostalgia — Chong Pang Nasi Lemak is just that sort of thing for me. Stopped visiting them after one visit where we made a visit with a friend and came to a conclusion where it just didn’t taste the same as what it used to in our army days when we still regularly had it. Was actually fairly reluctant to make a visit, but they were pretty much one of the few options left in the area where it comes to late dinner so that’s how we found ourselves back here again.

The effects of the pandemic had made things seem rather different these days over here — gone were the snaking queues at around 8pm with a mix of dine-in patrons and takeaway customers; so is the usual scene of big groups of friends and family sitting around the circular tables right beside the fence line of Chong Pang Camp. These days, there is always a constant stream of people ordering; but it is always just a handful of people in the line with the coffeeshop being barely half-full. Recalled the rice being executed really poorly the previous time when we visited (pre-pandemic) but I guess they did tweak it a little since then and the flavours are somewhat back; it is certainly more flavourful and was easier to finish as compared to then. Opting for the usual which I would go for back in those days, the Chicken Wing does bring back most of the memories for me — it has been pretty consistent over the years; still hot when served on our plate, there is this distinct hint of flavour that may not be significant to some, but it does scream of Chong Pang Nasi Lemak to me. The chicken wing is also crisp, yet with juicy and tender meat within; not too greasy as well. Sunny side up has never been the best here — theirs usually sporting a fully-cooked yolk and being pretty much what some will call a “plastic egg”. The hashbrown isn’t quite as to what I have expected of their standards from the past either — a little limp and lacks crispness on the outside; probably so from how it may have been sitting in the display rack for some time. Otah is pretty decent; those who aren’t fans of the dried out, bright red renditions would be satisfied with this one. The chili is yet another element that has stayed constant over the years — whilst the chili usually served with Nasi Lemak usually goes towards the sweeter side, Chong Pang Nasi Lemak’s version had always been interestingly more spicy than sweet; one that would send those with lower tolerance of spiciness sweating and sipping on loads of water just to get the spice off their taste buds.

Comparing our most recent visit here with our previous visit, Chong Pang Nasi Lemak does seem to have done slightly better to bring back a bit of that familiar taste back to their Nasi Lemak — something closer to what we used to affectionately call “CPNL”. It is interesting to see how they have since made some changes to the space — the former drinks stall is now occupied by a tenant named Jing & Bell Gelato, which seems to offer some very generic gelato to in some way offer a dessert option in-house. The same stall also does retail some snacks similar to those one can purchase during Chinese New Year packaged in a plastic container, as well as some Cartoon Mini Muffins — not something one will come across everyday. Still, one can only wish for them to be back to their glory days — that crowded scene may not make for a pleasant dining experience, but it is something to miss for patrons who used to remember those days.

There seems to be quite a number of establishments with a focus on Malaysian cuisine that has opened around the island fairly recently — this includes the new Nan Yang Dao 南洋岛 at Serangoon Central, as well as Qi Li Xiang 七里香 which has been operating for quite a while at Royal Square at Novena; the latter being a short walk away from Novena MRT Station and linked to [email protected] Square and Square2. Occupying a small corner unit that is located just beside the walkway leading to [email protected] Square, Qi Li Xiang serves up quite a good range of Malaysian fare — this includes Hainanese Toasts (i.e. Hainan Kaya Butter Toast), Nasi Lemak sets, soup noodles (i.e. Luncheon Egg Soup Noodles), and even a Herbal Chicken Whole Leg with Rice. Beverages here includes Ipoh White Coffee, Nanyang-style Teh, as well as Milo, Ginger Tea and the other usual suspects that one would expect of such establishments. The decor can be said to replicate the charm of an old-school Nanyang-style coffeehouse; pretty decently decorated for a cafe that is more tuned towards fuss-free dining despite its size.

The Signature Nasi Lemak was an obvious choice to us — opted for the Chicken Wing variant since it is a must for us to have Nasi Lemak with chicken wing, but there are also variants offering a fried fish fillet, as well as one that offers luncheon meat for those who prefer other types of meat options for their Nasi Lemak. Available in both ala-carte and set options, going for the set adds a drink to the main dish opted for — patrons can pick between the hot Kopi or Teh options (a large size of the choice of drink will be served alongside), or iced Kopi or Teh options as listed on the menu (a small size of the choice of drink will be served alongside). By large, this was a Nasi Lemak that surpassed our expectations for a spot that seemed like an indie version of Ya Kun/Toast Box/Heavenly Wang/Fun Toast/Kate & Toast — the rice here comes light and fluffy, distinguishable to the grain. It is lightly fragrant — there is a lingering hint of coconut-y aroma that lies towards the more ginger-y side; all that whilst being sufficiently moist. While pairing it up with the sambal on the side does overwhelm the coconut-y fragrance a little, we did like how the sambal comes slightly tuned towards the sweet side; wasn’t something too spicy so this would also work for those whom have a lower tolerance to spiciness in general — also comes with bits of Ikan Bilis for a good bite in between. The chicken wings are probably the only qualm we would have with the Signature Nasi Lemak (Chicken Wing) here — feeling like it was prepared way beforehand, the chicken wing is served at room temperature and while the batter is sufficiently savoury, it felt like it lost quite a bit of crisp in the process; could feel how good it would be if it was actually served piping hot. That being said, we were glad that the Ikan Bilis served on the side were actually still pretty crisp, while the sunny-side-up was a detail that they didn’t miss out on — that flowy egg yolk that bursts upon a touch with the fork being a crowd pleaser no doubt.

A visit to Qi Li Xiang is also not complete without having their Iced Kopi — serving Ipoh Chang Jiang White Coffee for their Kopi beverages here; they actually froth their coffee up using a machine during the preparation process so one does get that frothy cuppa that isn’t too sweet and carries the roasty aroma of Nanyang-style coffee. Those feeling a little luxurious can even switch things up and go for the Iced Kopi Ice-Cream for an elevated experience.

Given the sort of establishment that Qi Li Xiang is, it is east to really assume that they would serve up pretty basic fare that is more tuned towards the mass market than one that actually satisfies the taste buds. Bearing those sort of expectations, it is easy to see how Qi Li Xiang was able to leave a stronger impression — yes, there are details such as the chicken wing in the Signature Nasi Lemak (Chicken Wing) that could have been more better taken care of, but everything comes together as a package where there were also considerations made in terms of the flavour and texture of the items being put out. Wouldn’t really say that this warrants a visit if one is really out of the way, but I do feel that it makes for a great spot to visit for some Ipoh White Coffee that I do not mind making a small detour for!

If there is one thing that sets Springleaf Prata Place apart from your usual neighbourhood Roti Prata establishments around, it is probably on how creative they are with their creations. Perhaps best known for their Plaster Blaster — a spinoff on the Plaster Prata where a poached egg is being served with ham and hollandaise sauce above a plain Prata (or some may call, Egg Benedict in Roti Prata form), Springleaf Prata Place also do serve up quite a number of interesting Prata creations as listed in their “Ultimate Series” section on the menu.

Being one of the more pricier items on the Ultimate Series section on the menu, the Däs Prätwürst is Springleaf Prata Place’s answer to the Roti Prata with a German fusion (who would have though that this is possible?). The item is described to come with elements such as home-made chicken sausage, seasoned sauteed onions, currywurst
sauce, sauerkraut and a pinch of curry powder — all of them being presented in a form that one would say is fairly similar to that of a murtabak, though slightly thicker considering the round nature of the chicken sausage. The Roti Prata is pretty much consistent as the standard plain rendition here — it’s crisp whilst being a little dense for some, though does have a little tension when pulled apart. Pulling the Prata apart reveals all of the listed elements in the menu; all that as well as the melted mozzarella that actually binds everything here altogether; oozy, gooey and stretchy — a crowd pleaser no doubt. I was actually pretty impressed with how the home-made chicken sausage went; not sure if these are made in-house by Springleaf Prata Place but these do carry a firm meaty bite with bits of meat to chew that I would usually associate with pork or beef sausages — the choice of chicken here as opposed to the standard pork-based sausage for bratwursts is due to Springleaf Prata Place being a halal-certified establishment. The bits of seasoned sauteed onions provides for a soft crunch; similar to that found in Onion Prata. Drizzled with currywurst sauce, the currywurst sauce felt like a tomato-based sauce spiked with curry powder; the curry powder sprinkled over the top adds on to that touch. As though there isn’t enough curry to go around with this, they also do serve their usual fish curry on the side — works well for those who may think that the currywurst sauce isn’t something quite for them, though it does overwhelm the currywurst sauce if had together. Also liked how the folks at Springleaf Prata Place hadn’t forgotten about the sauerkraut here; the sauerkraut providing a crunchy tang that resets the taste buds if all gets too heavy in the Däs Prätwürst.

Something I especially love in Springleaf Prata Place is not only how innovative they are with the classic Roti Prata and Murtabak to be able to come up with so many inventive variations of the local favourite dish, but also how consistent they are where quality is concerned. The queues at the Springleaf outlet had since subsided on weekday evenings now that the neighbouring Springleaf MRT Station had been in operation for a while — probably just about right to head there to give the other crazy Prata creations a go considering our proximity to the outlet!

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Heard all about Dickson Nasi Lemak — a new concept which had sprouted up along Joo Chiat Road by the folks behind Champion Bolo Bun at Tanjong Pagar Road. Being of a takeaway establishment, we were pretty apprehensive on giving Dickson Nasi Lemak a visit considering the lack of dine-in; however, we couldn’t give it a miss after hearing the raving reviews of it via social media — after all, we are pretty much fans of the Malaysian-style Nasi Lemak that replicates that of the famous Village Park Restaurant in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, which had since inspired the opening of establishments such as The Coconut Club, Uptown Nasi Lemak, Wild Coco, and Spice & Rice; just to name a few. Apart from the Ayam Goreng Berempah, they also do offer a Biasa which comes only with coconut rice, egg, cucumber, anchovies and sambal, as well as the Kid’s Set which is similar to the Biasa but does away with the sambal. Sets are available, but only for the Ayam Goreng Berempah — patrons can opt between the set that adds on Teh/Kopi Peng or Iced Green Tea.

Wanted to try it as fresh as it is possible so I headed down to the nearest food centre to consume it. The Ayam Goreng Berempah consists of elements such as spiced fried chicken leg, coconut rice, egg, cucumber, anchovies and sambal. Being of a takeaway nature, the folks of Dickson Nasi Lemak will also include a utensil pack comprising of disposal cutlery and serviettes for the convenience of their patrons as well. Digging into the rice, the rice is absolutely on point — it perfumes of an evident hint of coconut-y fragrance; all that whilst being light and fluffy which makes it an especially easy and a delight to finish. Moving to the spiced chicken leg, while it is noted that the chicken leg used here does seem a little smaller in size as compared to other similar establishments such as that of the recently-opened Wild Coco and The Coconut Club, it is still marinated with turmeric. The result is a rather tasty chicken leg that is tender inside, but yet comes with a crisp skin on the exterior — topped with even more crispy bites above to enhance the textures even further. While the half of a boiled egg provided on the side was nothing much to shout about (similar establishments typically serve a sunny-side-up, but we reckon a compromise is needed given the takeaway nature of Dickson Nasi Lemak), the Ikan Bilis were fresh and crisp like it should have been. The sambal chili on the side here veers towards being more savoury than sweet; pretty much to the tune of that same sambal in sambal egg at Nasi Padang stalls that also packs a fiery punch that would work fine for folks with moderate tolerance of spiciness.

Overall, Dickson Nasi Lemak works out pretty decently as an establishment that specialises in Malaysian-style Nasi Lemak — the elements are all well-executed, and does remind us of the variant served up at The Coconut Club where the general flavour profile of the various elements are of concern. That being said, the lack of dine-in for Dickson Nasi Lemak is probably the main factor that would make them lesser a choice for us to visit — especially given how we are folks who are constantly paranoid on the changes of food quality when carrying it around for extended periods of time. Still, Dickson Nasi Lemak is a great option for Malaysian-style Nasi Lemak for folks residing in the east; queues aren’t too mad on weekday lunch service, but do head down early just in case!

Had heard about Don Godzilla at Blk 1 Tanjong Pagar Plaza for a while — wanted to make a visit here but hadn’t manage to do so until fairly recently. Taking over the former premises of House of Chicken Rice, Don Godzilla is a concept by the same folks behind Chirashi King Kong, which also occupies the neighbouring unit here. Decked in the usual quirky decor theme that King Kong Chirashi is adorned with, the interior design theme of Don Godzilla can be said as largely functional whilst being a little bit eclectic — the space does feature some military camo-style wallpapers with wood-esquire walls; all that with Godzilla making an appearance in the form of a bust and statue throughout the space. Chirashi King Kong is best known for their truffle rice, and Don Godzilla stays true to that theme — whilst Chirashi King Kong focuses more on Japanese Donburi that features sashimi/seafood components, Don Godzilla’s offerings features Donburi and Bento Set featuring cooked elements; think items such as Gyu Beef Don, Salmon Teriyaki Don and Curry Ebi Don all featuring their signature truffle rice. Their signature items here seems to be the various forms of chicken rice (i.e. Godzilla Truffle Chicken Rice, Godzilla Truffle Chicken Bento Set and the Signature Chicken Rice) offered; all of which also featuring their truffle rice, and seems to be paying homage to the space being formerly occupied by a chicken rice store.

Going for the Godzilla Truffle Chicken Bento Set, the bento set features elements such as chicken, tofu and lava egg all served with truffle rice. On first look, the truffle rice here does bear some resemblance to the ones served at Chirashi King Kong — topped off with some Japanese pickles, the rice does comes with speckles of Furikake mixed into it. That being said, instead of the usual short-grain pearl rice that often comes with the Donburi served at Chirashi King Kong, the Godzilla Truffle Chicken Bento Set comes with regular rice grains that are typically served with the usual renditions of Hainanese chicken rice. As a result, the first few spoonfuls of rice does come with a pretty strong whiff of truffle aroma just as per one would have expected with the truffle rice from Chirashi King Kong, though the slightly ginger-ly taste of Hainanese chicken rice does become slightly more prominent after a while. Steamed chicken is the only choice of chicken that comes with all the chicken rice options available at Don Godzilla — served with a light soy sauce, the chicken has also been deboned here for the convenience of the patrons; we liked how tender the meat here is, while it is also savoury especially since the meat absorbed the flavours of the soy sauce beneath. The steamed chicken also does come topped with bonito flakes — perhaps to include a slight Japanese touch for a modern take since this is coming out of a Donburi specialty store. The lava egg also did not disappoint here — essentially a marinated egg, the egg whites are soft, while the yolk remains molten; quite a crowd pleaser. That being said, the real stand out to us here is the slab of tofu — done in the style of an Agedashi Tofu, the tofu was silken and smooth on the inside, yet crisp with that thin golden brown batter on the outside; the consistency being so well-done that it surpasses that of some zichar establishments serving the same dish. The sauce served atop the tofu provides for a savoury flavour that also made the tofu pretty appetising as well. The chili that accompanies the bento set is the usual sort that would usually come with Hainanese chicken rice; theirs being a rendition that is especially fiery and would tickle the taste buds even for those who are tolerable to moderate levels of spiciness. That being said, this was one rendition of chicken rice that we thought that has to be enjoyed with all of the elements separate from each other — the truffle rice being much of the culprit here as the other elements would easily run into the aroma of truffle when had together with the truffle rice, while having a little of everything by its own before having the truffle rice again does also reset the flavours for the truffle rice considering how the truffle-y notes tend to turn less prominent with the rice tasting more ginger-ly over a few spoonfuls.

Some may see Don Godzilla as being pretentious by including truffle as an element to Hainanese chicken rice for the sake of being trendy, but it does seem to be more than just that. Whilst Don Godzilla is a concept where the folks of Chirashi King Kong explores further into Donburi featuring cooked elements, it does look like the offering of the various chicken rice dishes is to pay homage to the former tenants of its space — a move that is to provide office workers in the area the same food option with their own unique twist despite the tenant change. If that is truly the case, it is indeed a pretty thoughtful approach — not to mention how there is always some level of quality to be expected with Chirashi King Kong’s offerings that Don Godzilla does seem to play well to. Chirashi King Kong is pretty much a personal favourite, and Don Godzilla pretty much delivers in the same respect — a spot that one should check out especially for those who are truffle lovers, or if they are already fans of Chirashi King Kong’s truffle rice!

Been wanting to head down to Ah Pui Tiong Bahru Satay for a while — turns out that while the plans were simply pushed backwards for all these while, we found ourselves winding up here on a day where we were supposed to head to somewhere else in the area, but was informed that they were not opened for the day when we made our visit. At this juncture, Ah Pui Tiong Bahru Satay doesn’t need too much of an introduction — starting off as a pushcart stall in 1970s within the Tiong Bahru neighbourhood, Ah Pui had previously settled at the now-defunct 195 Pearl Hill Cafe at Pearl’s Hill Terrace for a two-year stint after stopping operations as a pushcart stall (since it was illegal) — during its operation at 195 Pearl Hill Cafe, it is said that reservations had to be made several months in advance for the satay as well (there is currently no waiting list for the satay at Ah Pui Tiong Bahru Satay at Smith Street). The opening of Ah Pui Tiong Bahru Satay at Smith Street in 2021 marks the first time that it is being run as a standalone restaurant; they have also expanded their menu to include starters and appetisers such as crabmeat salad, main courses including western fare (i.e. Fish & Chips, Creamy Carbonara etc.), rice dishes (i.e. Thai Special Wings Rice, amongst others), an AP Orh Luak AKA Orh Jian (i.e. Oyster Omelette) and an AP Orh Neng (i.e. Oyster Egg), as well as a section dedicated to snack and bites with items that seem to work well with beer (think items such as Porky Balls and DiDi Har Cheong Gai). The list of beverages include alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks which ranges from Vietnamese Coffee, Thai Iced Milk Teas and canned beverages to beer and Somersby ciders — just to name a few.

Visiting Ah Pui Tiong Bahru Satay, it is a must to order the AhPui's Famous Satay 10 Sticks Special Peanut Sauce With Pineapple Purée — this is also the only satay option listed on the menu, which consists of pork. Costing $11.80 for a 10 sticks portion, one can argue that the satay at Ah Pui Tiong Bahru Satay is slightly on the pricey side — that being said, the meat portion per skewer is more generous than that of most hawker stalls elsewhere. Perhaps it is the size of the meats at play here, but the satay here does feel more juicy whilst carrying a substantial bite — the meat is still tender and easy to chew through, and extra points to them for that chunk of fatty meat in the middle of each stick that gives that extra burst of melt-in-the-mouth juiciness that makes it so good. Personally I would find the satay from City Satay at Satay by the Bay to be smokier than the ones here, but I would say that the ones here are beautifully marinated in spices and carries a distinct note of turmeric whilst also being on the sweeter side. While I am unable to try the peanut sauce, I did notice that the Special Peanut Sauce With Pineapple Purée does seem especially thick in consistency and is also heavily laden with chopped peanuts that honestly looked quite good.

Ah Pui had pretty much garnered its own following from its days as a push cart stall, and that was brought back during the days when he had settled down at the now-defunct 195 Pearl Hill Cafe previously — it is a little surprising how Ah Pui Tiong Bahru Satay does seem a little quiet these days operating at Smith Street, though it could be also due to the lack of tourists in the neighbourhood, the demise of the neighbouring Chinatown Food Street and the effects of COVID-19 safe management measures imposed on F&B establishments serving alcohol all at play here. Nonetheless, while Ah Pui Tiong Bahru Satay does seem a little of a pricey choice for local food in the area, the satay can be said as worth a try — would see how some will fall in love with this. It is no doubt that their satay would well satisfy any craving for a good satay at a convenient location.

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Taking over the former premises of the now-defunct Sweetelicious at Bukit Timah Shopping Centre is TASTE by Chef Pung; if that name rings a bell, that is because the establishment is opened by the very same Celebrity Chef Pung Lu Tin who makes frequent appearances on television — other concepts by Chef Pung includes Tasty Loong by Chef Pung, Pung Pung Kitchen and Tasty Court by Chef Pung, which are establishments that feature Chinese cuisine as well tze-char fare (in the case of Pung Pung Kitchen). TASTE by Chef Pung is more of a casual, self-service eatery — there are only three items to choose from here in terms of mains; the Wanton Noodles, Braised Phoenix Claw Noodles, and the Salt Baked Spring Chicken (Half). Set menus featuring the Wanton Noodles and the Salt Baked Spring Chicken (Half) are also available here; named Set A and Set B respectively, patrons have the flexibility to opt for either dry or soup wantons for both sets, and the set does include a maximum of two drinks at an additional top-up of $1.50/drink.

Opting for the Wanton Noodles (Dry) since the half portion of the salt baked spring chicken sounded a little bit huge for us, we felt that the Wanton Noodles (Dry) was pretty decent especially for its price at $5.80 for the ala-carte portion — each serving comes with noodles, blanched vegetables, Char Siew and a bowl of soup that also includes three boiled wantons. On first look, one will be able to notice how the noodles look a little different here as opposed to that of usual noodles that other establishments serve with their wanton noodles; other patrons have previously remarked that the noodles here seem to similar to that of the Malaysian Sibu Kampua Mee and we found that to be true as well — the noodles being softer despite carrying a bite though not as springy. That being said, giving the noodles a toss and it does cost up the savoury sauce base here pretty well; we would recommend adding the chili sauce that is available at the self-service counter which really brings up the flavours of the sauce — the chili sauce here is fairly similar to that usually served with the Eng’s style of wanton noodles that emphasises on the fragrance of the chili pepper, though at a very manageable level of spiciness as compared to the rendition at Eng’s that could work even for those who are not too tolerable to spiciness overall. The Char Siew here was actually fairly commendable — no doubt nothing like the Malaysia-style roast meats that are absolutely fatty and beautifully glazed (i.e. our favourite), the Char Siew does come more savoury and meaty here; also can be said to be fairly tender without being totally lean. Quite surprising was the inclusion of pork lard here — something that is usually missing in Wanton Mee but the ones here were well-fried carrying a golden-brown hue and were absolutely crispy; the blanched greens meanwhile provided a refreshing crunch amidst all the other elements here. While we were not expecting much from the soup, we were actually impressed with how clean it tasted; there doesn’t seem to be MSG included, nor did it feel particularly watered down. The boiled wantons were also actually pretty good; well-packed with meat, the skin of the wantons were silky smooth and the meat filling provided a substantial bite — we also noticed a hint of ginger within the wantons here that made them seem to replicate those flavours of Xiao Long Bao somewhat. Overall, a pretty commendable bowl of Wanton Noodles that is largely familiar, yet with a dash of creativity to create its own character unique to TASTE by Chef Pung.

Having tried other sides that they have to offer such as the Fried Prawn Roll and Shrimp Paste Chicken, we found that TASTE by Chef Pung does serve up some hearty and satisfying dishes overall — we found the fried prawn roll being particularly old-school being all crisp and pretty free from grease whilst featuring a meat filling infused with prawns and chestnut, while the marination of the Shrimp Paste Chicken was on point and served with a house-made chili that felt like their very own rendition on the favourite McDonald’s garlic chili sauce. While Wanton Noodles is a dish that we would personally find it difficult to make a special trip all the way out for, we would say that TASTE by Chef Pung is a spot that residents would likely appreciate having in their neighbourhood — I would certainly not mind making this an affordable meal option if I am in the ‘hood.

Was pretty exciting when I had first chanced upon Wild Coco’s social media accounts — while I am pretty much a Nasi Lemak junkie of my own, Wild Coco’s Nasi Lemak did catch my attention for how aesthetically similar their rendition is to the one served at The Coconut Club; difficult for one to not draw comparisons with especially given the slightly lower price point at $8.80 for the Ayam Berempah Nasi Lemak (Leg) here. The differences in operations at Wild Coco is quite stark however; for one, Wild Coco is just one of three brand offerings which are made available at this new coffeeshop-esque establishment at 7 Days Coffee (formerly the premises of Skinny Chef Plus) at Blk 122 McNair Road — shares the same premises and the counter as Hei Kee Wanton Mee and Bugis Xin Yuan Ji Fish Soup. Apart from serving up Nasi Lemak sets with different varieties of meat options (think also Ayam Rendang, Sambal Fried Fish etc.), Wild Coco also serves up wok-fried dishes such as Nyonya Assam Eggplant and more, as well as side dishes such as Fried Sotong. The coffeeshop largely comprises of seating good for two pax, though does offer some tables of five as well.

We were pretty much decided on ordering the Ayam Berempah Nasi Lemak when we first skimmed through the menu and came across the photos on social media — each plate of Nasi Lemak will come with the preferred choice of meat, coupled with coconut rice, egg, Ikan Bilis, peanut, sambal and cucumber. First taste of the rice and it is noted that there is a light coconut fragrance perfuming the rice; whilst being very appetising on first taste, the flavour of the rice does seem less prominent when had together with the other condiments — personally would have preferred something more distinct. That being said, we did like how the rice was fluffy without being particularly mushy or heavy; pretty easy to finish on its own. The sunny side-up was pretty decent; liked how the egg didn’t reek of overused oil, though the yolk could have been a wee bit runnier for a better visual appeal — still a decent attempt overall. We did enjoy all the remaining elements however; the Ikan Bilis was particularly impressive considering how they were still crisp without being in anyway soggy when we had made our trip down in the evening, while the sambal though being mildly sweet, packs a punch being all fiery and tickles the tastebuds for those who are tolerable to moderate levels of spiciness — definitely packed a punch. The star of the show here is definitely the Ayam Berempah; that crisp, brown exterior that comes with crunchy crumbs for that extra textural component — all that coupled with the juicy and tender flesh within that is nothing short of being fresh and bouncy. We especially liked how the chicken leg wasn’t particularly greasy, yet carried a slightly gingery note that cuts through all that meatiness — personally actually preferred this rendition over the one served at The Coconut Club; and something which I could definitely have alone as-is.

Whilst we have yet to try the other offerings that Wild Coco has to offer, we must say that we were especially impressed by the Ayam Berempah which we found to be absolutely on-point. There are other pros that they have done right here — the spicy kick of the sambal and crisp Ikan Bilis being the highlights, though we would have preferred the rice to be a little more fragrant to pull off against the other condiments that shares a space on the same plate. Despite having some room for improvement, Wild Coco is pretty much off a good start — no doubt the location is slightly off the beaten path situated at a rather odd and rarely-mentioned neighbourhood that requires some walking from Boon Keng MRT Station, though we do find that they are definitely worth a try for those looking for a somewhat more wallet-friendly rendition of artisanal Nasi Lemak.

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