November 21, 2016

Plus 1 trip to Singapore day 4: remembrance of things past

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I didn't have any firm plans for lunch today, as I was expecting to be by myself while Hello Kitty spent her day working.  I was kinda thinking of getting my hae mee tng (蝦麵湯) fix, but the lunch place suggested by Chubby Hubby wasn't open today.  When Hello Kitty decided to join me for lunch, and mentioned Chatterbox in passing, I figured we could get two birds with one stone...

Chatterbox at the Mandarin Orchard Singapore (formerly the Mandarin Singapore and subsequently renamed the Meritus Mandarin) is a Singaporean institution.  The hotel was brand-spanking-new when I first arrived in Singapore as a young child, and the cafe was famous for its Hainanese chicken rice during my early years.  By the time I was back in Singapore during my teenage years, the Mandarin was a place for us to take our dates - both to Chatterbox and also to Top of the M.  I continued to patronize Chatterbox as an adult, even though my palate had developed and newer outlets had popped up serving better versions of Hainanese chicken rice.

It's been more than a decade since my last visit, and I figured I'd walk down that memory lane again.

But things are no longer the same.  The hotel has undergone yet another renovation, and Chatterbox has been relocated from its street level location facing Orchard Link to Level 5 in the Mandarin Gallery.  The surroundings were no longer familiar to me.

The menu also went through changes - and the prawn noodle soup had been taken off.  I was disappointed that I wouldn't get my fix today.  So I dutifully ordered up the cafe's signature dish...

Mandarin chicken rice - I knew that this had ceased to be the best Hainanese chicken rice in town quite some time ago, but hey, when in Rome...

As I suspected, the chicken was tender but on the bland side.  The good thing was that I requested for the drumstick, and the meat at least had a little more bite to it.  The rice was deliciously fragrant, and probably the best thing sitting on my platter.  I wasn't sure why there was a piece of silken tofu in my soup, but whatever.  This was OK, but at SGD 27 per serving, most of this was going towards (internal) rent and staff salaries...

Chatterbox lobster laksa - these guys have obviously decided to make a luxe version of the local laksa so that they could charge you a whopping SGD 36.  This was Hello Kitty's choice.  Yeah, it's nice to have a whole Boston lobster in your bowl, and I have to say that it was pretty good.

Yin Yang - a few weeks ago a drink called "Michael Jackson" popped up on my radar.  This immediately prompted a few WTFs from me, and a quick search on the web showed that for some reason, I had been completely oblivious to its existence in Singapore.  It's actually made by adding grass jelly (chin chow) to soya bean milk, and the Michael Jackson reference becomes self-explanatory once you look at it...  Well, I guess I just had to order one up, but honestly... I don't get why you'd even put these two ingredients together.

This was a pretty filling lunch, but not very satisfying - at least for me.  Having sworn off eating Hainanese chicken rice in town on my last visit, I broke my own rule and went for the most clichéd version.  Talk about the boulevard of broken dreams...

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