New Station Snack Bar, Far East Plaza

There's a slight lull in the crowds that throng the Orchard Road malls between the Christmas and New Years' long weekends, and so, I took the opportunity to squeeze in a haircut. I figured I better get a haircut before salon prices get inflated during the period leading up to the Chinese New Year, which arrives early next year in January.

As usual, we had a no-fuss dinner at our favourite cze char eatery in Far East Plaza after the haircut. Really, Far East Plaza is one of the few places left in Orchard Road that you can get decent cze char at a no-frills but air-conditioned eatery for cheap. If you look carefully, this old-school mall is not just teeming with angst-ridden teenagers, hair, nail and beauty salons, alteration seamstresses or Korean-pop wannabe fashion shops. There's a gamut of hole-in-the-wall eateries here, from Turkish cuisine to Japanese food and of course, local fare. Mind you, not all serve good food. They are, afterall, catered to the student dollar. Most do alright fare, with some establishments serving downright nasty food, but if you want a recommendation for above-average but cheap and value-for-money local food that's also tinged with MSG, this is it. 

The well-fried Sambal Kangkong ($6) while soft, retained just that little bit of crunch. Loads of garlic and spicy potent sambal lent flavour and fragrance.

The Hotplate Beancurd ($10) arrived sizzling and bubbling with homestyle goodness. The thick gravy was accented by a whole bunch of ingredients, Chinese black mushrooms, sugar snap peas, cauliflower, fishcake, carrots, baby corn, squid and prawns.

The Spring Onion & Ginger with Chicken ($9) was also very commendable, with huge chunky boneless chicken pieces sauteed in an oyster sauce gravy. Heaty ginger, and fresh spring onions and crunchy onions provided a bit of lift to the otherwise one-dimensional oyster sauce.

While the beef had obviously been given the artificial tenderiser treatment, we still felt the Hotplate Pepper Beef ($12) was well done. This was flavoursome and aromatic, but a little oily. A word of caution if you're on a date though, the coarse pepper grains tend to get stuck in-between your teeth, so avoid this if you are still at the I-want-to-impress-my-date stage.Ignore the foregoing if you're married.

I loved that this place's version of the Sliced Fish Hor Fan ($4.50) contains more than the usual amount of gravy. I love the delicate luscious gravy that accompanies this type of hor fan, and am impressed that this place loads this noodle dish up with a lot of gravy. Fish was fresh but was in short supply here, and I wished they'd removed the heads and tails of the beansprouts. I spent a good ten minutes removing all of the beansprouts. (Yes yes, I'm THAT fussy. I actually spent a considerable amount of time during my wedding dinner removing parsley from some of my dishes.)

New Station Snack Bar
14 Scotts Road
#05-95 Far East Plaza
Tel: 6734 2862


Tien Court Restaurant

We make it a point to avoid the Orchard Road vicinity during the year-end festivities. Traffic is horrendous (and don't even get me started on the horror of parking in the central shopping belt), masses of sweaty jostling crowds abound, and the repetitive loops of cheery Christmas songs over the intercom can get quite nauseating. It seems as if our little island has suddenly shrunk to a third of its size and the population has exploded by several times.

And so, hidden dining gems with a quiet, peaceful ambience are very much our go-to spots during this time of the year. I've mentioned before that Tien Court is one of those hidden gems, always tranquil and always a great dining experience. And although we were there for a late dim sum weekend lunch without reservations, we managed to snag a table without any fuss. While most of the dishes impressed, as usual, we were surprised that a couple of dishes were terrible and below par.

We started off great with a portion of the Crispy Roast Pork ($12), which was brilliantly done. The golden skin crackled when bit, the meat-to-fat ratio was just perfect, and the decadent roast was tasty without being overtly salty.

The generously portioned Crispy Fried Cod ($18) was brushed with honey for sweetness, and spiked with curry leaves and cut chillis for a little heat. This was addictively delicious.

We also loved the Deep Fried Mango and Tempura Prawn ($5.80) wrapped in filo pastry. The vermicelli wrapped around the mango and prawn filling was light-as-air and the sweet, juicy mangoes complemented the sweet succulent prawns.

The Steamed Prawn and Chive Rice Roll ($4.80) was one of the few dishes that disappointed terribly. The prawns were rubbery, tasteless and reeking a little of alkaline, and waaaay overcooked. Too bad, because the rice rolls were very well done, soft, thin and chewy.

The other dish that disappointed hugely was the Sweet Corn and Chicken Soup ($7), which is surprising really, because I usually love the soups here. Something just tasted off with the soup. The corn tasted like it was kept in the can past its expiry date and the soup should have been sweet, but it was just tasteless.

Purely on an unrelated note, we saw an elderly couple at the next table. The littlest of gestures from the wife, tenderly asking her husband to eat more of the scallops, was just the sweetest thing ever. Also, the diminutive figure of the wife pushing her husband's wheelchair while carrying a whole bunch of humongous bags just tugged at our heartstrings. It just reminded us how love like that, which transcends the passage and ravages of time, is so real and everlasting. We want to be just like that.

Tien Court Restaurant
Copthorne King's Hotel
Level 2
403 Havelock Road
Tel: 6318 3193
Opening hours:
Lunch from 12noon to 2.30pm
Dinner from 6.30pm to 10.30pm


Imperial Treasure Super Peking Duck, Asia Square

The great thing about the CBD being expanded into the Marina Bay area is that the food choices around my office area at Shenton Way has increased exponentially. The newest office building sprouted up in the area that's quickly becoming the next prime hub of the CBD is Asia Square Tower, which houses the Super Peking Duck branch of the Imperial Treasure group of restaurants. Finally, an award-winning Cantonese restaurant that's within convenient walking distance from the office! It really was a no-brainer then, that I decided to host our December L.A. Lunch here.

As usual, Imperial Treasure Super Peking Duck didn't disappoint. Service was attentive and courteous, food was close to perfection, and the ambience was, as with most Cantonese restaurants, rambunctious and loud (and so, it was conducive for us to yak away).

We started off with the restaurant's namesake, a whole Peking Duck ($68). This was, of course, brought to our table whole, and carved by the chef right in front of us.

This is the best part of the skin, also called the "jing hua", a mere 8 pieces of the crisp glistening skin. Apparently, according to my colleague Jay, the best way to savour this is to add a dash of sugar before biting into this. He's right, it's delicious this way. Somehow, the sweet elements of the refined sugar balance out the savoury tones of the skin.

Toasted flour wrappers are used by Imperial Treasure to wrap a bunch of the duck, fresh cucumber stalks and some chives. These were delicious.

We opted to have the remainder of 1 duck cut up into pieces, which looks a little gross but is really good. The meat was tender, fresh and tasty.

We had the other duck fried into Ee Fu Noodles ($15 for medium portion of noodles), flavoursome and cut with fresh yellow chives and beansprouts.

I thought the char siew fared better than the roasted pork in the 2 Meat Combination ($36 for large). While the BBQ pork was delectably soft, sweet and yet savoury, the roasted pork had a tough chewy layer of fat that I had a hard time getting through.

At my recommendation, my colleagues had the Crabmeat with Conpoy and Diced Melon Soup ($8 per person portion), which turned out a hit. The clear chicken and seafood based broth had depth of flavour, which earthy white button mushrooms, bamboo pith and diced winter melon helped ground the soup. Dried scallops and crabmeat lent sweetness and flavour.

The Baked Prawn with Salted Egg Yolk ($78 for large portion) is a perennial favourite, large juicy prawns coated in a salted egg yolk batter were flash-fried to retain the prawns natural juices.

The Steamed Egg White with Mushroom ($28 for large), a yummy treat for most kids, was a wobbly egg white custard that was richly accented with diced assorted mushrooms, oyster sauce and coriander. I'd asked that the kitchen hold off the coriander but they obviously forgot those instructions. Nvm, the rest still liked this anyway...although, some of my colleagues (who aren't as averse to coriander as I am) did say that they would have preferred this dish without the coriander accents. Somehow, the heady herb overwhelmed the delicate nature of this dish.

What's lunch at a Cantonese establishment without dim sum? We started off with platters of Crispy Silver Fish with Salt and Pepper ($8), lightly seasoned with a little salt and pepper, spring onions and miniscule fried garlic.

The Steamed Pork Dumpling "Siew Mai" ($4.40) were succulent morsels of bouncy fresh minced pork and diced sweet prawns.

The Steamed Prawn Dumpling "Ha Kau" ($4.80) had a thin, mildly chewy skin which complemented the fresh juicy prawns inside.

Although The Professor preferred Lei Garden's version of the Steamed Rice Roll with Scallops ($5.50), I liked this just the same. The rolls were thin but not filmsy, with a little bite, and scallops were succulent and sweet, while the soy was delicate enough to impart just the right amount of flavour but not overwhelm the mild scallops.

The Steamed Glutinous Rice in Lotus Leaf ($3.80) was oversteamed, so this didn't have its usual moistness. Still, I thought it was yummy.

The Pan Fried Carrot Cake ($3.50 for 3 pieces) was moist and soft, with just enough charring on the sides for just a little crunch. Diced Chinese sausage provided flavour to the julienned strips of radish.

The Fried Hongkong Kailan Stems ($21) is a seasonal delicacy. While I'm not a fan of vegetable stems (I prefer leafy greens), this was addictively crunchy, with a slight hint of sweetness. Copious amounts of garlic lent aroma and flavour.

The chilled Mango Sago ($5) was a lightly sweet and refreshing way to round off the very satisfying lunch.

Imperial Treasure Super Peking Duck
8 Marina View
Asia Square Tower 1
Asia Square Food Garden #02-08
Tel: 6636 1868
Open daily from 11.30am to 10pm


Crystal Jade Palace Restaurant

Crystal Jade recently celebrated its 20th anniversary by introducing additional dishes into its already well-loved menu. We had dinner there to sample one of their 2 set dinner menus, launched as part of their rebranding efforts. The set dinner menu B ($68.80 per person) comprised 6 courses, with 2 choices in each course for you to pick from. This was incredibly value-for-money, and even though each course was a tasting portion, we were stuffed by the end of the meal.

We started off with a duo of roasted meats, the first being the Roasted Duck, tender, fresh, non-gamey and tasty.

And then there was the BBQ Pork, soft and moist, with a sticky sweet char siew marinade brushed over the meaty chunks.

There was a shark's fin soup, which we slurped up in a flash so there's no picture. We followed that up with a Steamed Seabass Fillet with Cordyceps Flowers, the mild flaky fish was paired with a herbal-infused soy sauce, while pickled ginger provided a spicy lift to the savoury sauce.

We opted for the Braised Beef Ribs with Assorted Mushrooms in Black Pepper Sauce as our meat course, beef was tender and juicy while the accompanying pepper sauce balanced out the robust elements of the beef.

We couldn't decide between the 2 carb options so we got both, the first was the Wanton Noodle in Superior Stock, large silky wantons stuffed generously with fresh minced pork and diced prawns were set atop springy egg noodles in a light prawn-based broth.

The other carb option was the Fried Rice with Assorted Grains, which I thought was a very tasty way to introduce fibre-rich brown rice into your diet. You'd hardly know there was brown rice in the mix! Plentiful corn kernals, diced melon, bamboo shoots, pine nuts, mushrooms, eggs and prawns helped liven up the healthy fried rice.

We rounded off the very lovely meal with a refreshing Double Boiled Snow Pear with Ginseng and Honey. This hit a bullseye with the sweet spot, it was light, it was nuanced and it was fruity, a perfect end to the very good meal.

The appetizers ($3), while a tad costly, was quite delicious. Served chilled, the mildly spiced beancurd cubes were coated in a sticky tomato-and-oyster based marinade.

Crystal Jade Palace Restaurant
391 Orchard Road
Ngee Ann City #04-19
Tel: 6735 2388
Opening hours
Lunches Mondays to Fridays 11.30am to 3pm; Saturdays from 11am to 3pm; Sundays from 10.30am to 3pm
Dinners daily from 6pm to 11pm
Website: www.crystaljade.com


SICC Bukit Cafe

We've started allowing ourselves the luxury of eating carbs again. We haven't quite let up on the regular exercise (because we don't believe in letting ourselves go just because we're married), but we have eased up on the rigorous diet. We had dinner at the club after hitting the gym. On hindsight, this was perhaps not the most ideal place to expend our calories on carbs.

The Cantonese Beef Hor Fun ($7.20) while passable, wasn't all that great. The gravy was too starchy and the beef tasted a little artificially tenderised, but the flat rice noodles were smooth slippery and well-fried.

The Hubs had the Spicy Stewed Beef La Mian ($7.50) and the fall-off-the-bone beef brisket fared much better than the sliced beef in the hor fun, it was soft, flavoursome and robust. Noodles were soft and springy.

While the Hokkien Mee ($7.20) was generously portioned, it was a tad dry and lacking in the distinctive prawn stock flavour.

Bukit Cafe
Singapore Island Country Club, Bukit location
240 Sime Road
Singapore 578774
Tel: 6461 7439
Open on Mondays to Fridays from 11am to 10pm, Saturdays and Sundays from 8am to 10pm


Pizza Hut, Funan DigitaLife Mall

I met up with Jal here for our monthly lunch meet-ups. Pizza Hut, like Pastamania, is one of those places I'd never eat at if not for Jal. But, Pizza Hut, like Pastamania, is halal certified, which means that it makes for a viable lunch option for Jal.

Compared to the rest of the bustling eateries in Funan, Pizza Hut is like a peaceful oasis. This is one place you can be sure of a quiet chat with your lunch companion. While service can be a bit choppy and hesitant, the food wasn't too bad. Well, it could be that I had the lowest of expectations walking in. That said, their set lunches are quite a steal, with a main, soup and a drink costing barely 13 bucks making for a decently substantive meal. And you get to choose between 2 different mains for the sets.

The Cheez Shroomies Wrap Thursday Set Lunch ($12.90), a tortilla wrap filled with button mushrooms, onions, garlic and dressed with grilled cheese sauce and mozzarella cheese was nicely toasted and generously stuffed. Sides of crisp waffle fries and a mesclun salad completed the really quite decent meal.

While the Chicken Vegetable Soup of The Day ($3.50) was a tad MSG-influenced, it was still tasty and the chicken chunks were relatively succulent and tasty.

Pizza Hut
103 North Bridge Road
#03-05 Funan DigitaLife Mall
Tel: 6339 8487
Open daily from 11am to 10pm
Website: www.pizzahut.com.sg


Soup Restaurant, Seah Street

We'd originally wanted to go to Seah Street Deli for dinner but it was closed. I find it weird that an in-house restaurant at one of Singapore's most distinguished hotels is only open 5 days in a week (it's closed Sundays and Mondays). I would have thought that a 5-star hotel like Raffles would make it a policy that all their restaurants are open every day of the week.

Never mind that, we went across the street to Soup Restaurant for a healthy, light meal instead.

I always try to make it a point to order Soup Restaurant's Traditional Boiled Soup of the Day. It's light, delicate and always has a wholesome appeal to it. Today's soup was the lotus root and pork ribs soup ($12.90 for medium), refreshingly devoid of any MSG-taste, and very light, to the point it was almost plain. Still, this made for a a very homestyle comforting bowl of broth.

The San Yu Fish Slices Fried with Ginger and Spring Onion ($10.90) was equally light in flavour, thick slices of fresh fish were coated slightly with sprigs of spring onions and roasted ginger. Simple and tasty.

The Poached Baby Spinach with Conpoy in Century & Salted Egg Stock ($12.90) had a uniquely thickened stock base, with salted egg yolk stirred into the soup stock mix for a slightly grainy texture and eggy flavour.

The Samsui Ginger Chicken ($15.90 for small), a must-try here, was served, as usual, refreshingly chilled. Lightly poached but not stinging on flavour, the chicken was smooth, succulent and tasty.

Soup Restaurant's signature appetizers of braised peanuts ($2), soft, mushy and flavoursome.

Soup Restaurant
39 Seah Street
Tel: 6333 9388
Open daily from 12pm to 2.30pm for lunch and 5.30pm to 10pm for dinner
Website: www.souprestaurant.com.sg


Por Kee Eating House

Many apologies for the long hiatus, The Hungry Bunny was busy becoming a missus. This was one of our last meals as an unmarried couple. The Hubs (yes, the Fiance has been "upgraded" to the Hubs) was clearing leave so he picked me up to go out of the CBD for an extended lunch break. We'd originally planned on some lor mee at the Tiong Bahru Market, but the entire hawker centre was closed for its monthly cleaning, so we headed to Por Kee for some good 'ol cze char.

Por Kee on a weekday afternoon is really quite different from Por Kee in the night. There are very few diners during lunchtime so you're almost guaranteed a seat in the teeny tiny air-conditioned restaurant, a welcome respite from the stifling heat of the afternoon sun.

We started off with a Seafood and Salted Vegetable Soup ($10), which was surprisingly good. I usually don't take much stock in soups from cze char places they're usually loaded with MSG, but this was pleasantly light. It still had a fair amount of MSG, but it was also chock full of fresh seafood, plentiful sweet plump prawns, generous slices of fish, soft squid and beancurd. Juicy tomatoes and salted veggies lent flavour to the clear broth.

The Foo Yong Omelette ($10), with plentiful sliced woodsy Chinese black mushrooms, julienned carrots, black fungus and chillis, was flavoursome and fluffy in texture.

The Chicken with Dried Chilli and Cashews ($12) was rich, potent and tasty, with sweetish dark oyster sauce and dried chillis that provided a smoky heat.

Por Kee Eating House
69 Seng Poh Lane #01-02
Tel: 6221 0582
Open daily from 11.30am to 2.30pm, 5.30pm to 12.30am


Sushi Tei, Ngee Ann City

It's been a while since we last went to Sushi Tei, and we were craving for some Japanese food today. I usually avoid Orchard Road like the plague come Christmas period but I had to run a couple of errands in the area so we popped by the Sushi Tei branch at Ngee Ann City.

I must admit I've never been a fan of this Sushi Tei branch because it's right smack in the middle of nowhere. The almost glass enclosure is separated from the main shopping mall, between the super busy taxi stand and the always jammed packed Orchard Turn, so all you see are cars, cars and more cars. I much prefer the gleaming Paragon outlet. But, we were in the area and wanted a quick Japanese fix. Get in and out of Orchard area with as little to do with the Christmas crowd as possible.

The Fiance is a lot more disciplined when it comes to his pre-wedding diet of cutting out carbs. He relies on a staple of meat, fruits and vegetables, so beef is his best friend right now. The Gyu Yanagawa ($12) beef with burdock root and egg on a hotplate was sweet and savoury at the same time. Egg was nicely done, still a teensy weensy runny, and the beef was soft and tender.

The Saba Shio ($10) grilled mackerel with salt was fresh, moist and soft, with nary a hint of fishiness as most freshwater fish usually do.

The Jumbo Yakitori ($6.50) grilled chicken skewers brushed with teriyaki saucewas juicy and succulent. Leeks help balance out the sweetish marinade with a refreshing element.

The Yasai Itame ($6) pan-fried assorted vegetables went a little overboard with the shoyu. Even the generous helping of fragrant garlic in this couldn't mask the saltiness of the dish.

The Agedashi Tofu ($5) deep fried beancurd was crisp on the outside with a thick chewy batter, and smooth, soft and wobbly on the inside.

I couldn't resist ordering the Cha Soba ($8) my favourite cold green tea soba noodles. At least this is choc-a-bloc with antioxidants and nutrients. I couldn't quite finish this on my own though.

I was left to fend for myself with the Ebi Tempura ($10) as well. No fried foods for the Fiance who's gunning for his 6-pack. This, to me, was well worth the caloric grease. Succulent prawns coated in a golden crisp light-as-air batter, delicious.

Update 15 April 2012: This Sushi Tei institution has since been closed down and will make way for another Japanese eatery chain, Ichiban Boshi.

Update 28 May 2012: Sushi Tei has re-opened on the 5th floor (where most restaurants are located) of Ngee Ann City. 

Sushi Tei
391 Orchard Road
Ngee Ann City
Tel: 6737 8878
Open daily from 11.30am to 10pm
Website: www.sushitei.com
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