Cheerless Chow

Cheerless Chow

The less-than-decent chow spots that I had the misfortune of eating at while on my gourmet expeditions.
Russell Leong
Russell Leong

I’ve always regarded @shakeshacksg French Fries as one of the best in the business, so I was quite pumped for the limited edition NY Steakhouse Fries ($6.90). The fantastic fries are drizzled with the same horseradish peppercorn mayo that goes on the burger, and these fries are topped with crispy bacon and scallions.⠀

Maybe the Suntec outlet was having a bad day on the Friday evening I went, but the fries were cold and stodgy. A far cry from the usually hot, crispy outside and fluffy inside fries that I’ve come to expect from Shake Shack. The horseradish mayo was the exact same one applied to the burger; and as such it also lacked punchiness. Also, I thought I was smart in finessing more sauce by ordering the sauce on the side, but I’m dead certain I actually got less sauce and ended up looking like a bozo.⠀

It’s a bit sad that the best element here was the crispy bacon bits. It’s the same applewood smoked bacon that goes into the Shack’s burgers, but it’s extra crisp & coarsely chopped up into pretty sizeable bits here. Sadly, the Steakhouse Fries are only really good for one try and one try only. Stick with the cheese fries instead.

The first of @lumbre.sg pasta entrées is the Squid Ink Capellini Pasta, Fried Baby Squids and Uni ($36++). Pasta is an Italian thing, but it’s been adopted and tweaked (or massacred depending on your perspective) by every European nation, from the Finnish to the Spanish. As such, it was no surprise that Lumbre has a couple of pastas on their menu, and those pastas contain no surprises either.⠀

Al dente pasta fortified with the umami of squid ink is twisted into an insta-ready twirl, decked out with uni and five deep fried baby squids. The pasta was decently delicious and slick, and the creamy, rich uni added an extra luxurious touch to the carbs. The baby squid was coated in a delightfully thin batter, deep fried to crispy comeliness on the exterior and just satisfyingly chewy on the interior.⠀

Lumbre’s Squid Ink Capellini Pasta, Fried Baby Squids and Uni is a solid dish, but ultimately a very forgettable one. Squid ink pastas are a dime a dozen in the current year, and Lumbre’s rendition didn’t do anything to stand out from the crowd. But to be fair, Lumbre is a Spanish restaurant that focuses on flame grilled dishes, so judging them on a pasta isn’t quite fair.

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And now the last main of the night, @cherki_sg coconut prawn linguine ($23++) was by far the least impressive of them all. The strands of linguine were coated in a lemongrass coconut cream, and served with five or six poached prawns. That’s really all there is to it.⠀

The coconut prawn linguine was far too simple, and desperately required a fourth or even fifth element. The addition of blanched beansprouts would add a nice textural contrast, which this dish was sorely lacking. The stunningly fresh prawns were sweet and incredibly snappy to the bite, but were ultimately pretty soft. The sauce failed to impress, as it was just basically a mouthful of coconut cream with a hint of saltiness. Not entirely sure how to glam it up Peranakan style, but it defo needs a glow up.⠀

The linguine was definitely undercooked. Oddly enough, the laksa linguine we had was cooked just fine, but this serving of linguine was under. Seems like a consistency problem with the kitchen, but I’d like to believe the consistency is a one off thing. Still, pretty hard to get upset over this dish, as we did get it as a 1-for-1 pasta with #burpplebeyond.

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Not gonna lie, I wasn’t expecting @pitypartypasta Burnt Carrots with Wolfberry Dressing ($4 a portion excluding delivery charge) to be that burned. I was expecting a nice char on the carrots, not for it to be burnt & blistered. Still, the carrots themselves are edible once you’ve scraped off the inedible burnt bits.⠀

That wolfberry dressing seems to be the only seasoning these charred carrots get, and that dressing is STRONG. You smell it before you eat it, and I must say that it’s quite an attractive aroma. As for the taste, the sweet carrots further amplify the sweetness of the wolfberry dressing, and due to the medicinal qualities of the wolfberries used, it does end up tasting like exceptionally pleasant tasting medicine.⠀

What these Burnt Carrots desperately needed was a good dose of salt to counteract the saccharine dressing and the natural sweetness of the carrots. In its current iteration, the Burnt Carrots aren’t a great side dish, but I do see potential for it to be a splendid side piece.

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Even though I was quite harsh on @gaibang.sg yesterday, it isn’t an entirely lost cause. Yes, there is a little salvation to be had in the form of this trio of prawn chee cheong fun (rice rolls). At least Gaibang nailed something, so there might just be some hope yet.⠀

The rolled up sheets of rice flour were delicate & ethereal, so much so that it tends to fall apart when you try to pick it up with chopsticks. They were thin, slightly sticky and supple, barely able to contain their individual payloads of fat, felicitously fresh shrimp. As for the gargantuan shrimp, they were subtly briny, delectably sweet and had the bouncy hallmark of an ocean fresh crustacean.⠀

Now, rice flour is bland as all hell, so it falls entirely on the accompanying soya sauce to flavour everything. This time, Gaibang finally brought the seasoning. The soya sauce is an easy shoo in for one of the most fragrant & flavourful chee cheong fun sauces I’ve had thus far. The deep, roasted sapidity of the soya sauce mingled effortlessly with the fragrant sesame oil, producing a heady aroma.⠀

While these piquant prawn rice rolls were undisputedly excellent, the asking price of $4.80 a serving (!!!!!) was extremely extortionate. I’m sorry pal, but my wallet ain’t built to take torture like that. Once and probably never again, I’m afraid.

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Another disappointment was the steamed pork ribs ($3.80 a serving). While the black bean & garlic did provide a bit of flavour & life here, it wasn’t quite enough salinity. The pork was passably tender, but the serving size feels like a sham. There are actual restaurants out there serving double the portion of pork ribs for about seventy cents more.⠀

Yeah, I get a little triggered when dim sum is dissed like this. I wanted to like Gaibang, but if they continue like this they’re going out with a whimper.

@gaibang.sg is a newly opened takeaway only dim sum shop that serves up Cantonese comfort classics like steamed pork ribs, char siew pau, beancurd skin rolls & siew mai. From now till 31 March, they’re running a discount on their purportedly famous Floating Prawn Siew Mai, with each basket of three going for $4 instead of $4.80.⠀

While these siew mais are decently sized, their flavour impact was puny. I’m not sure if the chef is allergic to seasoning, but the siew mai was banally bland. Kind of a shame too, because the texture & mouthfeel of the minced chicken filling was rather outstanding. Sure, the impressively fresh shrimp ‘floating’ on top of the siew mai was a great touch, but it didn’t add any badly needed sapidity to the chicken dumpling.

The last time I ordered @bbbunsfordays bulgogi burger, it was an excellent experience. This time, however, I decided to order their highly rated smashburgers for my dad & I. The Double Trouble Cheese Bundle ($38, not including delivery fee) stars two double Flame Grilled Cheese Burgers, and is accompanied by fries & sodas.⠀

Compared to the brilliant bulgogi burger, the DBL Flame Grilled Cheese Burger was a letdown. While the bulgogi burger was so incredibly flavourful it was borderline excessive, these smashburgers were markedly flavourless. The smashed beef patties were juicy enough, but they weren’t anywhere near adequately seasoned. Bbburgers apparently forgot to apply their Secret Ssamjang, and this resulted in a bland burger. ⠀

Also, these patties don’t have nearly enough caramelisation on them, and the crust on the patties that should be there are missing. Plus, the texture of the beef patties felt very loose, and they tended to crumble apart instead of holding together. Smashburgers are meant to be thin due to them being smashed (hence the name) flat against the grill, but the pictures on the menu are just outright false advertising man. Both patties are about equally thick as one half of the burger bun, not nearly as thick as advertised.

Speaking of burger buns, I know buns get soggy during delivery, but this one was utterly soaked. It disintegrated the minute I picked it up, and it was frustrating to eat. Also, I took Bbburgers’ suggestion and added kimchi to my burger in anticipation of a non existent flavour bomb, but the amount of kimchi that was added on was insulting. Really guys, just two leaves of kimchi cabbage? What’s that even supposed to achieve?⠀

Look man, I love Bbburgers and their breathtaking bulgogi burger, and was set to become a hardcore fan, but this was nowhere near good enough. Don’t do me like this man, @bbbunsfordays.

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Unlike other red rice wine chicken, Plum Village’s rendition is a broth containing chicken chunks in a claypot as opposed to chicken chunks in sauce. The broth is basically just rice wine boiled with some herbs, and it’s a strangely sweet & mildly herbal concoction.⠀

As we all know, chicken is bland by default, so it assuming the sweet flavour of the broth is rather odd. As expected, the poached breast meat was dry, but you’re supposed to eat it with the broth so it isn’t really an issue.⠀

What really gets my goat here is just how incomplete this dish seems to be. They need to add something else to accompany the chicken, like carrots or radishes, and to give the sweet broth some weightiness. Right now, it feels like you’re eating sweet chicken that’s submerged in sweet and vaguely alcoholic water. Yes, Hakka food tends to be simple, but this one was far, far too simple.

The seafood risotto ($18++) was the #burpplebeyond dish at @fyrjalanbesar that I was hyped up for, but that turned out to be a letdown. While the trio of mussels & triumvirate of shrimp were passably fresh, it wasn’t particularly tasty.⠀

The risotto itself was overcooked, and the rice grains were mush. I tasted none of the promised chorizo in the dish, and it was all banally bland. I don’t know if this is the normal standard for the risotto, but if this is the standard it definitely isn’t good enough.⠀

The risotto is quite an anticlimax here, but the first rate free range chicken definitely softened the blow from this disappointment.⠀

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I don’t remember @mcdsg having a Christmas special in years past, but the Angus Mushroom Supreme Special ($10.50) sounded too good to pass up. I mean, it literally has Su🅱️reme in the name.⠀

Hold your horses folks, it may be bougie, but it’s McDonalds bougie. The standard Angus beef patty that’s deployed on the Angus burger line is also here, but it’s smeared with a smattering of herb aioli, a multiplicity of mushrooms crammed in between the buns, a little dollop of caramelised onions and a couple of leaves of lettuce. Gotta get your daily dose of fibre in somehow, no? ⠀

The soft rolls utilised as burger buns here were rather decent for maccas, and as expected, the Angus beef patty was dry & overdone. That deficit was made measurably worse due to the distressing lack of delicious & lubricious herb aioli. Seriously, it’s not that hard to be a tad more heavy handed with the sauces, people. In the (often memed) words of Joe Biden, c’mon man!⠀

Well, at least the button mushrooms and caramelised onions managed to scrape salvation at the last second for this burger. They were both excellently sautéed, and their earthy, sweet & unctuous qualities really ameliorated the mediocre patty of what is supposed to be Angus beef. I'm not gonna lie folks, if the Mushroom Su🅱️reme came with a more charitable dollop of herb aioli and a less overcooked beef patty, I'd gladly chow down on it again.⠀

Well, on a happier note, Mickey D's brought their potato wedges back! These are surprisingly sumptuous, but the real OGs will know that KFC did it first way back when.

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Rasa Sedap Seafood is a halal zi char stall at @kedaikopisg, and they’ve got quite an extensive menu. However, nothing jumped out at me as much as the Three Flavour Prawn Rice ($6 nett), and that’s what I got for dinner that day.⠀

While I’m glad for the inclusion of a fair amount of veggies into the dish, the rest of it was pretty disappointing. There weren’t many shrimp in the fry-up, and the overbearingly spicy sauce which tasted like a curious mix of assam & tom yum wasn’t salty enough to balance out the sour spiciness. Worse still, it might’ve made my stomach a bit queasy the next day.⠀

Fortunately, it was only six bucks, so I’ll take this as another lesson learned.

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Alcohol may not be good for my body, but my body is good for alcohol.

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