Chinese Communal Plates

Chinese Communal Plates

Or locally known as Tze Char. Always a great option for large groups for a satisfying meal!
Xing Wei Chua
Xing Wei Chua

Checking out new Chinese restaurants is a rarity for me, but By Xuan, housed within Gay World Hotel at Geylang Road, is one of those places which seemed interesting when I had chanced upon it on social media — the restaurant seemingly had this direction of not just being clean and minimalist, but also exudes a rather modern and contemporary feel not just in terms of its decor, but also in its branding and overall image.

Some may argue that there are more interesting items on the menu that are more worthy of a mention here, but the Fried Tofu is one dish that I particularly love to order and utterly enjoy when it is well-executed. Being an item listed on the “appetiser” section of the menu, this starts of the meal proper and light — cubes of tofu that comes with a crisp, fried golden-brown batter on the outside. Despite being a dish that is simple on flavours, this dish is a showcase of the detailed execution and skills of the chef — I especially love how the tofu here is absolutely soft, smooth and silken despite being a fried item; the tofu cubes does not come as firm or “old”, whilst also not carrying too much water content. Though some places may use a lighter batter for such a dish, we do suspect the use of crushed soda biscuit for the batter here in By Xuan’s rendition — carries a crisp and firm bite, and stays so without being all greasy even after being left for a slightly extended period of time, and gives a light fragrance amidst the slight beani-ness detected from the tofu. Though coming with mayonnaise as a dip on the side, these were good to have on its own, and are absolutely sublime.

By Xuan is a rather interesting establishment that sets itself from the various other Chinese establishments at Geylang — whilst most other Chinese restaurants in this area are bigger on flavour and more casual in its setting, By Xuan seems to place an emphasis of being a chic and modern hangout with a touch of casual, but also more pristine and minimal. The food offered here are generally on the lighter side of the palate — easy to eat and does not get overwhelming; a direction and image that seemingly differs from other similar establishments in the same neighbourhood. Still, By Xuan is a name worth looking out for as time passes — with its sincerity in serving up hearty and healthy Chinese fare, as well as impeccable service from their staff that makes their patrons feel particularly at ease and at home, By Xuan is likely a spot that would appeal to a different audience to that who frequents Geylang for their supper rounds for some sinful zichar.

Came across this new Taiwanese F&B establishment named Isshin Machi fairly recently on social media; turns out that they are just located at East Coast Road taking over the former premises of now-defunct Tall Girl Cuisine just a few doors away from Brawn & Brains Coffee, right beside Forty Hands Coffee — pretty much a location that I am pretty familiar with.

If anything is to be said about the menu here, the variety of dishes offered here seems to be pretty wide as compared to most Taiwanese-themed eateries around the island, serving up appetisers, snacks, fried dishes, vegetables, rice, soup and noodles. It was difficult to take our eyes off from the Fried Rice with Specially Marinated Pork Chop — some may affectionately call it as the Din Tai Fung fried rice, being the Taiwanese-style egg fried rice that is served with pork chop on the side. Digging into the dish, this item was a clear winner — the fried rice using short-grain rice which was pearly and distinguishable by-the-grain; nicely lacquered with just enough oil without being ever greasy; carries a slight hint of egginess but largely savoury, being a variant that would do well for those who prefer slightly heavier flavours. The Specially Marinated Pork Chop was the true stunner — slight crisp on the outside, the slab of pork has been tenderised for a good texture; juicy and easy to chew, each piece was something to be savoured slowly and carries sufficient meatiness in its flavour without a porky stench. A very well-executed plate of Taiwanese-style fried rice that we found exceptionally easy to finish; so much that it was wiped off clean in no-time.

Must say that Isshin Machi is a spot that serves up pretty good Taiwanese fare — liked how seem to be also very generous with their meats especially for the rice dishes. Given how the dishes here are being served here though, we would suggest coming here with a small group of 3 to 4 if one is looking to try more items on the menu. Still, it’s pretty much of a hidden gem in Katong for now — known to residents, but certainly somewhere I would make my way down to settle my cravings; a spot worth looking out for!

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From Xinghua Delights at Jalan Legundi; a new establishment serving Heng Hua cuisine just opposite Sembawang Shopping Centre that had replaced a Chinese eatery. The head chef at helm here was previously from The Rice Table at Sim Lim Square (aka Cereal Chicken Rice — that one I had been posting in my Instagram Stories so often); so no surprises seeing the Mini Wok dishes that they are offering here alongside a mix of Sichuan cuisine, Zi Char dishes and Heng Hua cuisine served here.

Thought the Oyster Omelette here was a little different from the usual (be it the local variant or the Heng Hua variant). Whilst this is not the starchy local variant of the Oyster Omelette, the Oyster Omelette here is fluffy and eggy, coming with a decent amount of oysters that are reasonably fresh to give a slight briny flavour. The difference here is how the variant here comes with long beans; it gives a familiar crunch reminiscent to that of pickled radish, though provides a slightly more cleaner, yet refreshing note in between all that egg and oyster — a rather unique take to a dish often found elsewhere.

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Thought we would take a break from the usual roasted meat options and go for something lighter with the fried rice; ended up with the Salted Fish Steamed Meatloaf which seems pretty generous for $9.

Not a fan of Chinese meatloaves for how dense and overcooked they can get (especially those from Chinese economical rice stalls); the one here is actually pretty palatable for how tender it was without carrying a prominent porky stench; well-balanced with the light soy sauce especially when it is still steaming hot. Diced water chestnuts had been included for a bit of crunch while chopped mushrooms added a bit of bite; the only thing that could be improved was probably how they could have deboned the salted fish and separating the salted fish further away from the centre — not that I mind salted fish especially when it is this soft, but the way it was scattered in the middle just provided an overwhelmingly saltiness especially after the edges have been cleared. Still, a dish that was seemingly pretty homely and comforting overall.

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Being one of the newer items on the menu at 私房菜 by MJS Food Culture, the Hae Bee Hiam Fried Rice is not being mentioned on the menu though one could politely ask the nice folks here about it.

I really liked how the fried rice tasted; sure, it lacks of the immense wok hei that some tzechar places are able to deliver. That being said, the Hae Bee Hiam makes up for all of that; it's not spicy, but it gives a sweetness and savouriness similar to waxed meat that goes so well with that glistening rice whilst delivering a good bite with every spoonful. The dish was also pretty light in spiciness despite being the sort where it builds up over time; pretty manageable I would say. Easily the dish that I really liked here for how umami the entire dish came up to be.

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I knew that I was going to be quite fond of this dish given how much I like duck, but this was completely on another scale of its own. The Masala is more of a spiced curry that is still rather similar to the Chinese curry for the most part; it only carries a hint of Masala spices in between which helps to ante up the flavours of the curry rather than being the main subject of the dish itself. While the chunks of pumpkin do carry a hint of sweetness and were pretty soft, the true stars had to be the thickly sliced smoked duck that were incredibly tender, savoury and umami with loads of bite (none of that packaged nonsense here easily obtainable from supermarkets) — absolutely something to die for (we even left the last pieces of duck till we finished everything else on the table; we just couldn't bear to finish it!). Also noticed a few chunks of Straw Mushrooms included for some bite and a I think of earthiness for some balance — do remember to get a bowl of white rice ready on the side to pair up with the Masala!

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From The Chinese Kitchen, a new Chinese restaurant that had taken over the former premises of now-defunct The Twenty Cavan — most of the furnishings and renovations are being retained less the feature wall with light bulbs and a couple of photos of food and newspaper clippings on the wall.

Simple as it sounds, this dish was nothing but a pleasure to have — the Tofu was so smooth inside, whilst coated with umami Sakura Ebi dust over the crisp, fried Crust on the exterior that gave it all that flavour. It comes with a tartare dip on the side, but it simply so good on its own that we just left the tartare dip aside. A very simple dish, but the execution is at its finest here from the texture to the flavours involved — utterly delicious!

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From Kowloon Bay Hong Kong Cafe at Hillion Mall; both the mall and restaurant officially opens today to much fanfare of Bukit Panjang residents — it is situated at Bukit Panjang MRT/LRT Station with the bus interchange moving in at a later date.

Snuck a piece from my friend's order (didn't order much considering I was intending to have dinner at home anyway) and these were pretty good although I wasn't carrying any expectations. The meat was pretty much on the lean side, but the crackling skin was a sure hit that's bound to impress, though some may find it carrying an unpleasant porky stench (though I am very fine with it). Each portion comes at $12.90++, and one can opt for white rice or sesame rice at an extra charge. They also do serve the meat with noodles though it falls under a different section on the menu from the meats itself.

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I would always prefer dry variants of noodles, but dad prefers soupy kinds; since I have yet to try the usual Hor Fun at KEK Seafood Alexandra, we decided to give it a go. The gravy for the Hor Fun here is slightly on the lighter side, while the Hor Fun was clumpy on certain areas. Personally, I would have preferred a heavier tasting gravy that carries more wok hei though I must say they have done well on the part of the Hor Fun where the noodles carried the wok hei and savoury flavours instead — think their signature Moonlight Hor Fun thrown in a light-tasting Hor Fun gravy instead. Not sure if I am the only one who thinks this way, but I would prefer having the dry items for they seemed to be executed way better than their wet counterparts at KEK Seafood Alexandra.

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So I have managed to find out that if you like prawns but hate to deshell prawns, KEK Seafood Alexandra actually offers deshelled variants at no extra cost. If you are a salted egg fan, then perhaps you should try any of the salted egg dishes especially if you love 'me saucey. It gets a little jelak after a while, but fans will probably enjoy that thick yet balanced salted egg flavour coated on the crisply fried and plump prawns. Today's curry leaves weren't as crisp as I would have expected it to be, but they were still immensely flavourful and hit the taste buds well enough.

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Believe it or not, it's my second time ordering this at KEK Seafood Alexandra but I have never ever been able to come out with a conclusion which is the better of the lot — these Prawn Balls or the Coffee Pork Ribs. It's been such a nasty scenario choosing one out of the two so again we ordered both. These are great; the chunkiness, the crunchiness within and crispness of the exterior but it gets better when you dip them into the sweet, malty dip at the side. Another must-try at KEK Seafood Alexandra!

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Some things are to die for, and after heading to Timbre+ for Open Stoves where I had try the Garçons x KEK Seafood collaboration I knew I needed to make my way down to KEK Seafood Alexandra just for their coffee pork ribs. The first time I have had this was at the STREAT event in 2015 at Collyer Quay and I am just amazed at their level of consistency for it was all I remembered it for; tender, juicy pork ribs coated in a aromatic, sticky and subtly sweet coffee sauce — it gets so addictive that whenever this dish appears at the table, everyone simply forgets the existence of the other dishes around. I think I probably have said it once, but it's definitely a must-order if one ever visits KEK Seafood.

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Up, down and everywhere around for food.

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