This old-school Hokkien establishment is right smack in the heart of the traditional Hokkien settlement area (the Hokkien Huay Kuan is nearby), and on the outskirts of the CBD area, flanking Chinatown. Their main business draws from the office crowds that throng this restaurant for lunches. It's generally more private and peaceful during dinners, resulting in better service and food.
Hokkien cuisine is largely characterised by heavy-handed cooking techniques and robust flavours. This is one of my favourite Hokkien restaurants because of their stellar service, authentic Hokkien cuisine and very reasonable prices. I used to patronise this restaurant at least once a week after work because it was so convenient and cheap. There were times when I've been here with my friends engrossed in our conversations till 10.30pm, and the staff were still refreshing our teacups. Without our asking! Further, they made no obvious attempts to not-so-discreetly remind us of their closing hours at all, despite our rather inconsiderate yakking session. I should also point out that their staff are mostly from China, yet the service is top-notch.
However, I've realised that Bee Heong has had a recent price hike, which coincided with its expansion. The food's still good, but the prices are no longer that competitive.
It was a rainy night when we popped by for dinner one evening after work. We had to get the Fish Maw Broth with Vegetables ($4.50 per individual serving), a traditional Hokkien thick hearty soup generously loaded with chunks of fish maw, julienned carrots, bamboo shoots and black fungus. This is like shark's fin soup without the shark's fin and astronomical pricing. This was comforting, tummy-warming and familiar.
We also got the Fortune Chicken ($10 for small), half a chicken stuffed with preserved vegetables (mei cai) and preserved turnips (chai poh) and whole chestnuts which imparted a nutty flavour, wrapped in foil to retain its juices and steamed for hours. The result is a fragrant and aromatic chicken that is fall-off-the-bone tender. This is one dish not to be missed.
Don't you think this is our version of the Western Stuffed Roasted Turkey? Food really is one common denominator amongst humans whose very nature is to war with one another. A particular dish in the east can have a similar sibling dish in the west. This reminds me of an occasion when I brought a European friend to eat steamboat and she loved it! She called it the clear version of the Swiss cheese fondue, so even though she had never had steamboat before, it was still a familiar way of eating.
We also got the Dou Miao ($8), baby pea shoots lightly sauteed with garlic. This was classic and simple, the dou miao was perfectly al dente.
We also got the Fried Hokkien Tung Hoon ($8), a slight twist on one of the mainstays of Hokkien cuisine, the hokkien mee, usually braised with lily bud, julienned carrots, cabbage and black fungus, sliced Chinese black mushrooms, bean sprouts and chicken cubes. This is a drier version of the fried hokkien mee, and clear vermicelli is used in place of flat egg noodles.
In the past, before the price hike, a meal like that would have cost about $25, but today's bill was about $34.35. The food's still good, and ditto for the service, but the prices no longer distinguish them from their contemporaries.
Bee Heong Palace Restaurant
134 Telok Ayer Street
Tel: 6222 9074
Open Tuesdays to Sundays from 11.30am to 3pm for lunch and 6pm to 10.30pm for dinner, closed on Mondays