One of my good friends had raved about this fish steamboat place so we decided to try the fish steamboat to see how it'll compare to Nan Hua Chang and Nan Hwa Chong. We've also heard about the horrendous wait and queues come dinner time so we decided to have dinner only around 9.30pm. We figured the dinner crowd would have left by then. It was half full when we stepped into the air-conditioned restaurant.
I've noticed this phenomenon in a few restaurants / coffeeshops. Whampoa Keng has a wall of fame. There are pictures aplenty of celebrities patronising this restaurant. I've always thought that such walls of fame are extremely extremely misleading. I've never given any weightage to such celebrity endorsements. What do these skinny celebrities know about food anyway?!? Seriously. If one has been starving himself or herself for a while, isn't one going to think everything one eats is yummy? If one has been throwing up everything one eats, doesn't one's tastebuds get dulled? Really, have you ever seen a celebrity on TV give a bad review about the food that they are invited to eat for free? I mean, there's a picture of toothy Ronaldinho on the wall of fame as well, but having been born and raised in Brazil, he wouldn't know any better if one had fed him snake soup!
We ordered a few cze char dishes to accompany the steamboat. The Pork Belly with Salted Fish in Claypot ($12) caught my eye. I've never seen this dish available in Singapore. The only time I indulge in this is when I'm in Kuala Lumpur at Restoran Oversea. This dish really isn't for the faint or weak hearted. And I meant that literally. Fatty pork belly is sliced thinly and cooked in a claypot with salted fish, dried red chilis, capsicums and onions in a kung pao sauce. The dish is so incredibly decadent (read: fattening, salty and artery-clogging), but I absolutely love it. I can eat this alone with a bowl of rice. I've never been too concerned with health anyway.
We got the Sambal Sweet Potato Leaves ($8), a pretty fail-safe choice.The sambal was suitably spicy and vegetables were blanched just right. Not too soggy.
We got the Red Grouper Steamboat ($35). There were only 2 other choices, pomfret and batang, and we weren't fans of either fish.
Friends will know that I'm not a fan of fish steamboat or fish soup, but there are a few shops that have captured a place in my heart with their delicious soup bases. I love the clean, pure and natural flavours of a really full and deep soup stock. I hate it when artificial enhancers are added to sweeten the soup, it just shows (to me, at least) how lazy and slipshod the soup-maker is.
This is the reason why I don't like milk in my fish soup bases, as with this steamboat place. The sweetness of the milk completely overpowered the soup base and obliterated the delicate sweetness of the fish stock. All I tasted was milk. I couldn't tell if the soup base was good or not at all. I understand some people prefer this creamy, milky fish soup base, but I'm not one of those people.
I liked the grouper though, it seemed fresh and flaked off easily. I used the word "seemed" because milk masks any fishy taste or smell of stale fish, so I'm none the wiser.
Apart from that claypot dish which was incredibly yummy, and the decent cze char, I didn't think much of this fish steamboat. If I eat at this restaurant in the future, I'll probably stick to the cze char and give the steamboat a miss.
Whampoa Food Street (Keng) Fish Head Steamboat Restauarant
No. 556 Balestier Road
Tel: 9769 4451 / 9023 2854
Open on weekdays from to 11pm and weekends from 11am to 11pm