March 27, 2023

Not the 50 Best tour day 3: a day of disappointments

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The Man in White T-shirt pinged me last night about breakfast at a hawker stall, and we agreed to get some grub this morning. Unfortunately the skies were a little wet this morning, which made a proper food crawl a little more difficult than usual. Nevertheless, we headed over to Joo Chiat for a few bites.

Mr. Mohgan had sadly passed away since my last visit in late 2019, but I still went to Mr and Mrs Mohgan Super Crispy Roti Prata for my prata fix. But first, a proper start to the morning with a kopi C.

My favorite prata remains the plaster, which has an egg "plastered" into the roti prata. This came with a nice curry to dip into.

Our next stop is within walking distance, and is a place my friend had wanted to try. Da Dong Prawn Noodles (大東蝦麵) comes highly recommended and I managed to try their big prawn noodles on my last visit. Unfortunately this was not available today...

Pork rib prawn noodles (肉骨蝦麵) - I decided to try this combination, since many versions of prawn noodle come with pork ribs or sliced pork anyway. As previously advised by the Gastronaut, I ordered a large bowl for the broth. Gotta say the broth was damn tasty.

Had we more time to digest, I would have walked down to 328 Katong Laksa for a bowl. Unfortunately my lunch was due to start in about an hour, so I needed to save my precious stomach space.

Candlenut is arguably my favorite restaurant in Singapore. Ever since my first visit at the previous location back in 2013, I have tried to make sure I make time (and stomach space) for a meal there on each trip to Singapore. I loooove Malcolm Lee's modern Peranakan cuisine, and I'm happy to go for a lunch just by myself.

I started with a glass of pandan keping, which was nice and refreshing.

When I dine here solo, I order just one savory dish and keep to the tried and true - rendang. Westholme wagyu beef rib rendang today was tender for sure, but one would expect it to be when wagyu rib is the main ingredient. It was just as rich and delicious as I remembered... or was it?

Memory is a tricky thing, and it HAS been 5 years since I last tasted this. But somehow, I got the feeling that the flavors have been diluted a little... maybe just off by, say, 10 to 15% or so. Don't get me wrong, it was still very tasty and I was still pretty happy that I came for this. But one never wants to see one's favorite places drop in terms of quality.

On my first visit to Candlenut in 2013, I fell in love immediately with Malcolm's chendol. He took the coconut milk that is usually poured onto shaved ice and made it into a fluffy custard. It's the only dessert I dream about when I'm away from Singapore, and I always, always order one.

But after being away from 5 yeas, I'm horrified to discover that they've decided to fuck with the formula for success. Someone had the bright idea of adding sago on top, which is normally not part of any chendol. Then they compounded the mistake by putting shaved ice made of young coconut water.

To be fair, shaved ice is part of a traditional chendol, but the problem is that when you put ice next to sago pearls, the sago begins to harden... and before you know it the texture of the whole thing is ruined. WHY OH WHY did Malcolm (or his kitchen staff) have to fuck with what was perfect?!

I mentioned my disappointment to the senior waiter, and he promptly took this off my bill. Unnecessary, but I appreciate the gesture.

The eating continued when I met up with L and her non-durian-eating husband at Combat Durian, which coincidentally is located in the shop next to the original Ng Ah Sio Pork Rib Soup Eating House (黃阿細肉骨茶餐室) on Rangoon Road. It's not peak season for durian but at least they are available.

Jin Feng (金鳳) - this is supposed to be more bitter, but I didn't find the bitterness to be strong. In fact this was more elegant with a lighter palate, and the sweetness was still dominant.

Mao Shan Wang (貓山王) - there's a reason why this is "the king", and that richness, that power, the intensity just slaps you in the face. It's easy to see why this is beloved by so many. Funnily enough, the bitterness here is actually more prominent.

After giving my digestive system a brief break, it was dinner time. I'm meeting up with Mikacina and one of her chefs and decided to take them to Keng Eng Kee Seafood (瓊榮記海鮮). I had, strangely, never heard of this zi char (煮炒) place until a couple of years ago, and suddenly a bunch of people in the foodie circle started going there and posting about the place.

I asked my local friends about this place, and they all told me to go elsewhere. I persisted and argued that I just gotta see for myself what the big deal was all about. On my way to the restaurant, my taxi driver asked me whether KEK was a famous place. He had never been there himself or heard much about it, but apparently he had been driving a number of customers there recently.

We were only three tonight and none of us were particularly hungry, so we kept the ordering to a minimum. Our Korean chef friend had spent time working in Singapore, so he seemed familiar with local dishes. At the start of dinner, Mikacina got a message telling her that the entire Korean contingent was coming here for after-dinner supper and drinks...

Dough fritter with seafood paste (苏东油条) - this was... so disappointing. I still remember eating this for the first time in the 80s at Palm Beach and it quickly became my favorite dish at seafood zi char restaurants. This was nothing like the dish I love. The youtiao (油條) was dry and hard, beyond crunchy. There was barely any squid paste. I felt bad about ordering so I tried to eat more pieces...

Sambal kang kong (叁岜蕹菜) - this was, sadly, the best dish of the whole meal. All three of us were in agreement. That's pretty fucking sad.

Signature chilli crab (辣椒螃蟹) - this was OK la... about as expected, although my friend complained that the sauce was too sweet. I do understand why that is the case, but this wasn't any better than what 10 other places could deliver.

Butter cereal prawns (奶油麦片虾) - this, on the other hand, also underperformed. Even the chef who ordered it was disappointed. The prawns weren't anything special, and there was no hint of the richness that the buttered cereal should have delivered.

The Koreans needed to kill time while waiting for their friends to arrive, but we weren't about to keep sitting at our table, so we chose to take a little stroll over to Alexandra Central Mall. Not much was open at this hour, but Mikacina's eyes lit up when she saw Master Prata. She wanted to nibble on a prata, even though she had protested minutes earlier about being unable to eat more food.

This was a plain prata, I believe. It was reasonably crispy, but otherwise wasn't anything special.

There were some highlights but all in all, a fairly disappointing day. Definitely a bunch of wasted calories...

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