Chinese Delights

Chinese Delights

Featuring Sichuan Alley 川巷 (China Square), Yin Ji, Feng Food 丰富 (Northpoint City), Mister Wu (Pickering), The Chinese Kitchen, Lou Sang, Dough Magic (People's Park Complex), Mr. Sheng Jian, Guan Dynasty, 800 Bowls
Xing Wei Chua
Xing Wei Chua

Perhaps one of the dining establishments that opened to much hype in the local cafehopping scene recently would be Moonchild. Moonchild is one of the latest F&B additions to the Jalan Besar neighbourhood, being an establishment that is brought to us by the same folks whom have opened Atlas Coffeehouse, Colombus Coffee Co., Apollo Coffee Bar, Neptune and Supernova — all names that those whom are familiar with the local cafe scene should have heard of by now. While it has been a while that these folks had brought us an entirely new concept — the last one being the renovated Colombus Coffee Co. up at Upper Thomson Road, it does seem that Moonchild is yet another new brand that would push the boundaries further for them. On first look, Moonchild is an establishment that follows the look and feel of all their other concepts pretty closely — one that uses more earthier colours with a touch of nature that is modern, chic, and industrial without being too raw; still warm and inviting without being cliche. That being said, Moonchild certainly is distinctively different where the space looks brighter than their other more recent new concepts (i.e. Neptune and Supernova) even in the evenings, while there is also an sheltered outdoor dining zone that sort of reminds us of what Five Oars Coffee Roasters used to have at their original location along Tanjong Pagar Road. Much like most of their other concepts, Moonchild has two different menu served between different time belts — the section “The Morning Situation” comprises of more brunch-y dishes, and is served from 9am to 3pm, while the “Midday to Close” menu is served from 11am all the way to last order timing; the latter comprises of items spread across categories like Unsorted, Pastas, Rice Bowls and Burgers. Being an establishment by the folks behind Atlas Coffeehouse, Colombus Coffee Co., Apollo Coffee Bar, Neptune and Supernova, this also means that there would be specialty coffee brewed using their own roasts available here, as well as a wide variety of natural wines that has been a mainstay since the opening of Supernova at Tanjong Katong Road some time back.

Not all of the items at Moonchild are new; that being said, in true fashion to establishments run by these folks, the menu at Moonchild does comprise of quite a big proportion of new items to try — seemingly a commitment by the team to always offer something new to their patrons to keep things fresh even for returning customers. Items which have been brought over from other affiliated establishments would include dishes like the Cereal Prawn Pasta — a favourite of ours since it was first introduced in Atlas Coffeehouse a number of years ago. One of the new items that have caught our eyes (or at least, an item which we had never noticed during our past visits to Atlas Coffeehouse, Colombus Coffee Co., Apollo Coffee Bar, Neptune and Supernova) when we were skimming through the menu at Moonchild was the Pork Dan-Dan Scallion Noodles. The Pork Dan-Dan Scallion Noodles is an item from the “Midday to Close” menu that is served from 11am onwards, and is described on the menu to include elements such as Mala Crisp Pork, Braised Shiitake, Grilled Mushrooms, Long Beans, Cucumbers, Onsen Egg, Scallion Green Sauce, and Knife-Cut Noodles. Arriving the table, the dish definitely looked more likened to a Japanese Mazemen dish on first impression — all the elements plated aboce the Knife-Cut Noodles with the Onsen Egg being placed in the middle. Giving everything a good mix, it was clear that Moonchild is really pushing the boundaries with this dish — we were really impressed with how this one went despite it being a Chinese noodle dish churned out from a cafe.

For one, the Knife-Cut Noodles did carry the bite that we were looking for; given how we have mixed in all the elements together, the egg yolk did provide some flavour to the scallion green sauce while also providing a silky smooth texture that gels all of the elements together. Each element included the dish seems to have a purpose here — the Mala Crisp Pork was more like chunks of roasted pork; carried a distinct saltishness from the spice rub but also had a crisp skin that adds texture to the dish itself. The balance of the Mala flavour is especially delicate here; one could definitely get a hint of the Sichuan peppers used but there wasn’t a point of time that it attempts to overshadow the other elements in the bowl — in fact, the hint of Mala did further bring out the flavours of the other elements instead, and did make the entire dish a lot easier to finish considering the generous portion size of the Pork Dan-Dan Scallion Noodles. Meanwhile, other elements like the grilled mushrooms provide a bouncy bite and an earthy note to the dish to further bring a balance of flavours, while the long beans provide a crunch factor to the dish. Sliced cucumbers also provided the same crunch factor, but added a refreshing note that further provides a balance to the item. During the visit, we had also tried the Sausage Mushroom Mafaldine — a pasta featuring handmade pork sausage chunks that is especially comforting, as well as the Coconut Water & Matcha Foam and Coconut Water & Espresso; it is interesting to see how the flavours of coconut water is slightly different between the two with the latter being a little sweet to match against the coffee foam, while it was a little saltish with the former that made it an interesting drink to have. Prices of the food at Moonchild do seem to be in a slightly lower price point than their other concepts in general — mains in the “Midday to Close” section of the menu are priced between $17.20++ to $23.90++; a nice change for the brand. Atlas Coffeehouse, Colombus Coffee Co., Apollo Coffee Bar, Neptune and Supernova are names that are pretty renowned in the local coffee scene by now, and it seems that Moonchild does seem to continue so and push things further for the collective of brands even despite the heights that the establishments before it has achieved — another one spot that we would expect to get buzzy as more gets to know about them in time to come!

Dough Magic might be one brand that some might find especially familiar — the brand is perhaps best known for their operations as a takeaway kiosk, offering patrons with a wide variety of mainland Chinese-style buns; their location at People’s Park Complex perhaps being the most prominent one of their various locations around since they are situated in one of those outdoor kiosks that are just right outside Chinatown MRT Station. Perhaps best known for their adorable buns that are shaped just like animals, Dough Magic actually does retail dumplings as well. With that being said, their newest location is a slight departure from what we know them as for all these while; while the kiosk at People’s Park Complex still remains, Dough Magic had opened a new dine-in concept that is situated in the ground floor of People’s Park Complex itself — they had taken over the former premises of 二师兄猪脚饭+肥肠想你, which had since moved into a new food court within People’s Park Complex which is named Mong Kok Food Court. Much of the furniture and fittings left behind by the previous tenant remains; even the layout of the space does seem pretty much the same as per what it had been before. Since this is the very first time Dough Magic has ventured into being a full-service, dine-in concept, it seems that they had also ventured into serving up oteher dishes apart from their bun and dumpling offerings — patrons can also find a variety of Chinese noodles such as the Signature Beef Brisket Noodles and Lanzhou Beef Noodles available as well. They also do serve up starters like the Spicy Sichuan Chicken, as well as Lady Fingers with Spic Sauce that can be shared around the table. Desserts like the Oriental Lotus Seeds Soup can also be found at this location of Dough Magic, while beverages available here include a variety of hot brewed teas, as well as bottled / canned drinks.

There were a few items that have caught our interest when we first went by this location of Dough Magic by chance whilst going around People’s Park Complex — these also ended up being the dishes that we eventually went for; while the selection of the noodles seem particularly attractive since they were main courses and pretty much newly-introduced, we were admittedly more drawn to their bun offerings that comprises of items like the Pan Fried Pork Buns and the Black Gold Salted Egg Yolk Buns that we had also ordered. Amongst the three dishes that we had decided to go for, it was surprising that the Banana Bao with Banana Mousse filling was that item that left the strongest impression. One cannot deny that the aesthetic of the Banana Bao with Banana Mousse filling is actually pretty joyful; brightly coloured yellow that no doubt captures one’s attention — but we really liked how they had paid some attention to detail with the addition of the brown “marks” that replicates that of bruised bananas somehow. Giving it a go, this wasn’t the best Bao we had ever had even when it comes to the flavour, though it could be said as one of the more inventive ones that we had seen — the bun comes with a banana mousse-filling within. The Bao itself was actually worth commending; probably one of then lightest and fluffiest we have had, though the banana mousse that largely seems to comprise of a weak note of banana essence actually meant that the flavours are rather bland — could definitely do with a bit more sweetness even though they seem to be controlling it a fair bit here perhaps to strike a balance for those whom are not too much into sweet stuff.

The other dishes like the Pan Fried Pork Buns and the Black Gold Salted Egg Yolk Buns weren’t much to comment on; no doubt they are comparatively bigger-sized than most other similar offerings elsewhere, though they are also a little pricey as well — one would also have to commit to a serving size of three pieces per order as though in a dim sum restaurant. Both the Pan Fried Pork Buns and the Black Gold Salted Egg Yolk Buns were a little dry; the former lacking a steaming hot broth for flavour, while the latter is missing out on the molten lava action and gets a little jelat too quickly. Not sure if the other Pao items are worth checking out, but I guess we are still likely to give their noodle dishes a go some other time if we really do get curious about those that they have to offer. Wouldn’t really recommend this to a dim sum connoisseur per se, though those stylised Bao offerings are certainly items that would capture the attention of children and hipsters alike; and item which also inevitably sparks some joy for its patrons and brighten their day while at it.

An opening that we had been looking forward to recently would be Suo Fen 嗦粉; a spot that we had been passing by regularly having seen it from its initial stage of renovations at the basement of Marina One. Taking up a shop space right beside the outlet of Kopifellas in the iconic building, Suo Fen is a food stall that is operating as a takeaway kiosk. The physical shop space of Suo Fen is actually pretty eye-catching; decked with a rather contemporary decor theme, the use of splashes of orange with a white background makes for a contrast of colours that passers-by would inadvertently notice. Considering the small shop space that it occupies Suo Fen does not cater for any dine-in facilities within its space; that being said, those whom intend to dine-in to have their food items from Suo Fen or any other F&B establishment in Marina One can find multiple areas where communal seating has been placed within the same level to consume their food on the spot. An establishment that serves up Chinese rice noodle dishes hailing from Guilin, China, Suo Fen’s offerings in its soft launch menu during the day that we had made our visit includes that of various forms of soup rice noodles; they also did carry one dry noodle dish which would be the Guilin Dry Rice Noodles for patrons to choose from also. Suo Fen also serves up a variety of side dishes which includes items from Soy Egg and Tofu all the way to items like Pig Trotter, Chicken Mid Wings and Whole Duck Wings. For beverages, Suo Fen does carry quite a line-up of trendy-looking drinks served in clear plastic cans that are prepared and sealed upon order — some of the drinks listed on the soft launch menu includes the Green Grape Jasmine Jelly, Red Date Tremella, Yuzu Tea and Red Bean Matcha Snow Mountain.

Skimming through the menu, it didn’t take us too much time to decide to go for the Guilin Dry Rice Noodles — it is our preference generally to go with dry noodles, and it was pretty straightforward for us considering how there is only one dry noodle dish being listed in the menu here; the Guilin Dry Rice Noodles is also a signature item here at Suo Fen as well. All noodle items at Suo Fen comes served in a branded paper bowl; the paper bowl having been sealed with a metal lid with a metal ring much akin to that of canned soft drinks — patrons would need to pull open the metal lid with the metal ring to reveal the contents within the bowl. Cutlery is also provided in a pre-packed utensil kit much akin to that of what some salad bars would serve up; packed within would be chopsticks, a plastic spoon and serviette. It is not being mentioned on what elements come with the Guilin Dry Rice Noodles; that being said, we were informed by the counter staff that it comes with pork slices. Apart from slices of pork, we did find half a braised egg, black fungus, cilantro, pickles and fried chickpeas that were laid above the rice noodles that are tossed in a spicy sauce. Giving everything a good mix, the rice noodles were surprisingly slurpy with a slight chew — the chewiness was something which we did not quite expect since we initially thought that it would come with less bite and with a softer texture; the flavours of the spicy sauce gave this fragrant, savoury, slightly tangy and light spiciness to the noodles — rather typical of mainland Chinese cuisine though without the grease. The pork slices included did not require much effort to chew; gave a meaty note and savouriness to the dish — the inclusion of cilantro cutting through all of the meats and carbs perfectly along with the tangy pickles that carried a crunch. The other elements are included more for the texture; the black fungus providing a soft and bouncy bite, while the fried chickpeas gave a crisp crunch though we would think that it might come across as a little too hard for some. Overall, a rather decent eat at $7.80; glad to always have more worthy dining options around the work place to pick from!

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Yet another change of tenants at Basement 1 of Capitol Singapore — taking over the former premises of the now-defunct Xiang Guo Li La, 八百碗 (i.e. 800 Bowls; the establishment does not have an English name based on the signboard — we will refer it as such in this post for convenience) is a new F&B establishment that has it focus on Shanghai cuisine. Much of the space still carries the same look as it had before when Xiang Guo Li La was still operating within the same space; not much has been done to the interior decor by 800 Bowls. Featuring a menu that mostly comprises of noodle dishes, patrons do have a good variety of soup and dry noodles to choose from — those looking to share an item across the table can also opt to go for their dumpling dishes (i.e. the section named Handmade Dim Sum on the menu), as well as a limited variety of appetisers. Choices of beverages are limited to canned drinks, though a house-made Soya Bean Drink is also available.

Was actually rather spoilt for choice when choosing the noodle dish to go for here — was initially intending to opt for the Ramen with Minced Meat & Crab Meat, though we did find ourselves going for the Ramen with Shanghai Prawn Wanton instead. The food did not take too long to arrive here; the Ramen with Shanghai Prawn Wanton is a pretty simple soup noodle dish that comes with four (4) pieces of their handmade prawn dumplings. Wasn’t carrying much expectations on the food here, but was actually pretty much blown away by how comforting this came to be — the soup is especially flavourful yet clean; carried a distinct sweetness, all that while the noodles provided quite a good, firm bite on its own. The Shanghai Prawn Wanton were equally outstanding — these were generously packed with prawns within and were especially plump; chewing through the silken skin of the dumpling, the prawn provides a good bite, and carried a natural sweetness that really showcased the freshness of the produce used in their dishes over here. Overall, a pretty satisfying bowl of noodles that is simple, yet comforting.

One wouldn’t be wrong to call 800 Bowls a hidden find — being situated in one of the areas with lesser footfall in the mall, the shopfront of 800 Bowls is also a little non-descript; one that seems to be not quite as attention-grabbing as that of other F&B establishments located within the same area of the mall. That being said, 800 Bowls does seem like a hidden gem for Shanghainese cuisine — the emphasis on handmade elements is a show on their passion to serve their patrons the very best, all that whilst using what seems to be quality ingredients and produce as well. Prices are also seemingly wallet-friendly here — the noodles being priced between $6 to $10.80; the most expensive item that falls out of this price range at $16.80 is the 800 Bowls Supreme Ramen that seems to be the full works here. A spot that we are most certainly willing to return again to check out the other items that they have to offer; also one that is worth making the trip all the way out for !

From Thye Guan Fragrance Hot Pot at Viva Food Court at Vista Point in Woodlands. Thought that they were an independent stall but it seems like they have quite a number of outlets across the island (there’s also another one in Woodlands along Woodlands Avenue 6). While I am not much of a Mala Hotpot lover, I do love some good Spicy Diced Chicken (辣子鸡) whenever I crave for something spicy and numbing.

The Spicy Diced Chicken here is spot-on for that craving; especially love how the chicken is fried all crispy with a golden brown batter on the exterior, while being reasonably tender and not being particularly greasy as well. It comes all saltish and savoury with a good kick of spiciness from the Sichuan peppers that they have used — the numbness does kick in after a few morsels, but I absolutely love how there is a good balance of all those flavours that keeps building up with every bite. I wouldn’t really attempt having the entire portion on my own considering I always end up giving up somewhere at the 3/4 mark from the spiciness and numbness even when I am sharing, but it’s certainly a torture that I would go through again and again simply because of how addictive this is!

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Hadn't returned for the hot food selection for a while but it seems that the menu had since expanded quite a bit since then. A pretty comforting option on the menu, I liked how the rice comes glistening with just enough oil; helps to enhance the textures without feeling overly greasy. The fried rice was also carried just enough saltishness and a slight wok hei; thought they could be more even with salt distribution but its not too bothersome overall; also comes with bits of ham for a bite. Pork Chop was decent, does not require too much effort to chew whilst also not carrying a porky stench; pretty savoury as well. Liked how they served a portion of cabbage by the side that helps carry a crunch, and cut through the heaviness of the carbs and meat. Not the best rendition of this around, but its decent value at $7 for its portion; all in air-conditioned comfort in a specialty coffee joint.

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From Chuan Hung, opened by the same folks behind 51Soho next door which also brought us Halcyon & Crane and Birds of a Feather.

Opted for the mixed broth; a mix of the red and clear soup bases and also went for the noodles for this order. The noodles came with a good bite, while the mixed broth came pretty fragrant; a faint Mala broth that carries ample flavour despite giving that slight numbing sensation and a little heat to tingle the tastebuds — a level which should work fine for those who are tolerable to moderate levels of spiciness. Whilst not being a fan of innards, the Braised Pig Intestines were absolutely clean; void of any undesirable stench whilst being chewy and juicy — very delicious even for one who is not that all open to innards in his dishes. A very good place to bring someone for their very first try on authentic Chinese cuisine; would certainly consider this as a dining spot if I were to be in the area craving for a comforting bowl of Chinese noodles.

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Tried this new Heng Hwa eatery at Heartland Mall that serves up mostly communal dishes that’s good to share. Really liked how this one was; the springy bee hoon having absorbed the flavours of the broth that it was reduced with, whilst coming with other goodies such as mini scallop, clams, prawn and pork that gives it so much flavour. Very simple and hearty; comfortable food for soul.

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From Mister Wu, which replaces Jimoto-Ya at Pickering Street, Nankin Row. Really loved the old-meets-new Chinese vibes here; they ran out of the pork chop on the day of my visit, but this was also pretty delicious. Essentially just being truffle mushroom noodles, the noodles come laced in a sweet-savoury sauce that comes with a whiff of truffle aroma; the texture of the noodles are just soft enough without being mushy — just about right for the dish it was meant for. Enoki Mushroom and Shimeiji Mushroom gives a nice chew; the earthiness complimenting the notes of truffle well. Comes with few stalks of greens on the side, while the onsen egg comes with a molten yolk in the middle.

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While we have had many variants of the XO Sauce Fried Carrot Cake at other Chinese casual dining restaurants, Guan Dynasty’s rendition is probably one that we found to be less greasy and slightly lighter in flavour than most that we had tried. The chunks of carrot cake come all springy and bouncy, void from any undesirable stench of overused oil. it also came with a slight hint of savouriness and smokiness from the stir-frying; one could also detect the fibrous texture of the radish used for the carrot cake in each morsel. Stir-fried with other ingredients such as egg and bean sprouts, the other elements provided a flavour contrast as well as a bit of crunch to the XO Sauce Fried Carrot Cake.

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An item that we find ourselves ordering usually at any Chinese restaurant serving up dim sum, we also went for the Steamed Rice Roll with Shrimp. While the steamed rice roll was slippery and smooth, the shrimp were a little bit on the smaller side. We also felt that the dish could do with a little bit more soy sauce for better flavour.

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The Traditional Glutinous Rice was a dish that replicates the Teochew glutinous rice dish closely. A dish that sees glutinous rice with peanuts within wrapped with steamed bun dough, think of it as a Pau that is filled with glutinous rice; the bun being fluffy and fragrant, being subtly sweet while the glutinous rice is decently moist and chewy with a slight nuttiness running through its typical savouriness.

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Up, down and everywhere around for food.

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