Is it just me and my unrefined childhood tastebuds, or did the food in my canteen taste awesome? It may be a selective/tampered memory, but in my mind, the 50 cents fried chicken wings, 50 cents fried bee hoon and 50 cents mee rebus were the most awesomely delicious stuff ever. A quick check with my friends reveal that they all thought their canteen food was awesomesauce as well.
In a bid to relive those very fond memories of tucking into simple homestyled fare, we dined at Old School Delights. This new-ish casual diner attempts to lead you down the hallways of nostalgia with their hawker heritage dishes and 70's and 80's memorabilia. While they certainly succeed in the knick-knacks department, what with their five-stones, flag erasures, marbles and Donkey card games, the food here was quite the letdown. Most of the stuff seemed to be served up by a novice home cook. It's not terrible, but a lot of their dishes were not even on par with those in the hawker centre, and taking into consideration the higher-than-hawker-centre prices here (which are admittedly cheap by most restaurant standards), I didn't think my money travelled the distance here. If I'm going to eat hawker-styled food in nice digs at higher prices, I'd like the food to be at least on par with those at the hawker centre. I don't mind paying more for a nicer ambience, but I do mind forking out more for sub-par food.
I couldn't understand how the place was packed to the brim on a Saturday night when we visited for dinner. There was even a short queue outside when we left as well! Maybe it's our love for all things nostalgic, and a yearning for the carefree days of yore? As such, do be sure to make reservations if you really still want a dash of the past.
The Chicken Macaroni Soup ($5.90) with shredded chicken breast meat, a couple of quail's eggs, sliced fish cakes, carrots and lettuce in a plain-ish chicken broth was alright, but I've had better. I loved the idea of quail's eggs in this (to heck with soaring cholesterol levels right??) but the soup base was sorely lacking in depth. This would make really good "sick food" because it's just so dull.
The Hainanese Chicken Cutlet ($8.90) was better, even if the garlic fried rice was barely passable. Judged on its own without the rice, the chicken cutlet was juicy and flavourful: decent and relatively value-for-money considering the portion.
The saving grace of the Nasi Lemak Besar ($6.90) was the tongue-numbingly spicy sambal chilli. This was equal parts hot and sweet, with a roasted nutty element blended into it. That said, the coconut-accented rice had the requisite scent but didn't quite translate to a rich coconutty taste, the fried chicken wing hadn't been marinated long enough, the otak was a little puny, the omelette was flat and thin, and we could have liked a bigger portion of the fried peanuts and ikan bilis. You can definitely get a much better hawker rendition at cheaper prices.
The gravy of the Home-style Curry Chicken ($8.90) was indeed homey. Creamy, well-rounded and robust. But that was it. The potatoes were significantly undercooked, so biting into it required a Gaston-like strong jaw. The chicken, while large, was also lacking in flavour. They needed to be stewed/marinated for a longer period of time.
The Mee Rebus ($5.50) was semi-decent, and you can definitely get the same stuff at much cheaper prices at the hawker centres. I liked the smooth, nutty, mildly spicy gravy, but the beancurd was a little off, evidenced by its sour tinge and waterlogged texture.
The Big Basket o'Wings ($5.80 for 3), with just 3 little wings, turned out not to be that big afterall. They smelled a lot better than they tasted. I liked the marinade, and it really was reminiscent of the wings from my primary school canteen, but the marinade hadn't had time to set in. So, while the skin was adequately flavoured by the marinade, the flesh was left tasteless. Ikea's are waaaay better. More value-for-money too.
It was glaringly obvious the price differential and lack of value as regards the Nyonya Otak ($2.40). This would have been $1 at most laksa stalls. That said, this was at least, as nice as the hawker centre versions.
Old School Delights
215M Upper Thomson Road
Open Tuesdays to Fridays from 11.30am to 10.30pm
Saturdays and Sundays from 11am to 10.30pm
Closed on Mondays
Tel: 6458 4518