We were dismayed when the local outpost of Kuala Lumpur landmark Restoran Oversea exited our shores. We loved their char siew, and no one else in SG did it with quite as much aplomb as them...How else to get KL-style char siew now?

Enter Char. The pre-eminent char siew specialist, which moniker is a decent pun on the subject matter, barbecues pork so outstanding it may actually rival Restoran Oversea's version. I've put off visiting the restaurant for some time now, as reviews of its other offerings were lukewarm at best and I wasn't particularly keen on eating just char siew.

But since the installation of a new chef, whose stint in Imperial Treasure is an instant pass in my book, and the roll-out of a slew of Cantonese-styled dishes, I thought it high time to visit the Jalan Besar eatery.

An absolute cannot-miss, the Signature Char Siew ($18 for 300gm) was decadent, sinful, and all kinds of delicious. Sticky, luscious, melty, it was redolent of honeyed nuance and smoky char. While excellent on its own, that sambal chilli was noteworthy too. Its bright piquancy was a refreshing contrast to the sweetness of the meat.

The Cold Chicken ($8), which shredded poached chicken was a smidge dry, was saved by the scrumptious black vinegar-chilli oil emulsion jazzed up with chopped peanuts, sesame seeds, garlic, and szechuan peppercorns.

The Roast Pork Belly with Beancurd Casserole ($14) was entirely forgettable. The mushrooms needed salt, and it was disappointingly less saucy than I'd expected.

The Steamed Beancurd with Prawns ($14.80), drenched in a lurid green spinach-egg drop gravy, was best described by the Hubs as "baby food but yummy".

Char Restaurant
363 Jalan Besar
Tel: 6842 7759
Open Tuesdays to Sundays from 11.30am to 2.30pm for lunch; 6pm to 10pm for dinner;
Closed on Mondays
Website: char-restaurants.com


Red Bean Cold Noodles, Taipei

Liang2 Mian4, or cold noodles, is Taiwan's answer to Korea's naengmyeon. Or western pasta salad. Typically eaten during the sweltering Summer months, the noodles are served chilled and doused in a peanut-sesame sauce with a simple garnish of julienned cucumbers. It's refreshing and spritely, and doesn't ever feel too heavy for a carb-centric dish.

We were recommended Hong2 Dou4 Liang2 Mian4, or Red Bean Cold Noodles, in the foodie district of Xinyi. The shop's proprietors are friendly as heck, and are as congenial as their noodles.

The Cold Noodles (TWD35), springy and wonderfully devoid of that alkali aftertaste of most other fresh egg noodles, was slicked in a creamy nutty sauce redolent of sesame oil and peanut butter. Aromatic and lively, this was refreshingly scrumptious.

While I wasn't a fan of the gigantic pork meatballs, the Egg Drop Miso Soup (TWD35) was velvety and nuanced.

The shop front for reference.

Hong Dou Liang Mian
No. 105, Yongji Road, Taipei, Taiwan
Tel: 8787 0195

Greyhound Cafe

Greyhound Cafe opened to much fanfare in Singapore. Originating from Bangkok, aka the land of smiles, the cafe is a big thing in its homeland and insanely popular with the millennial set. It's now over a year since its launch in Paragon Shopping Centre, the crowds have long dissipated, and I thought it finally time to visit the cafe.

You know, Greyhound Cafe is the perfect example of why I don't think an overseas outpost will ever fare as well as the original mothership. Greyhound Cafe may serve great food back in Thailand, but its sister outlet here in little ol' Singapore, was awfully pedestrian. And the business, or lack thereof, speaks for itself. Even with its one-for-one mains promotion for dinner, the cafe rarely operates at a full capacity.

Because the cafe hires the hearing-impaired, service at Greyhound requires patience and understanding. On the part of the customer. We weren't aware at first that our waiter was hearing impaired, so we rattled off our orders as usual. It took us a minute to notice our waiter's badge, which notified us of his impediment. That hiring policy was a nice touch. And we'd have tipped extra, if not for the waiter's grouchy surly attitude.

The Crispy Sweet Corn ($16), generously dotted with kernels galore, was bursting with a delicate sweetness. A must-try.

The Duck Wanton Soup ($16) was a half-and-half. It looked stodgy and its dull pallor less-than-appetizing, but the broth, rich in depth of duck bones, was delicious. As was the wanton filling. The wanton skins, on the other hand, was too thick and blah.

The Noodle Tom Yum Koong ($19) was so watered down, we requested and dunked in lashings of chilli padi just so this would have some kick.

The Mince Pork Basil Rice ($18) fared much better, punchy and robust but that egg was so rubbery you could bounce a basketball off it. This came in a set with winter melon soup, which made a lovely counter to the heat of the mince.

Greyhound Cafe
290 Orchard Road
Tel: 6235 4078
Open daily from 11am to 10pm


Song Shan Gua Bao, Taipei

Gua4 Bao1 is Taiwan's answer to the burger. A breakfast staple frequently eaten on-the-go, the modestly sized bun is hearty and rustic. Everyone has their favourite, but one of the most popular offerings can be found in the Wufenpu Garment Wholesale Area of the Xinyi district, along Songshan Road where the shop draws its name.

A fluffy steamed bun is stuffed with soy-braised pork belly, fatty and indulgent and all kinds of bad for you, and laced with pickled mustard greens, and overflowing with lashings of peanut powder. It's sweet yet savoury, spicy yet tart, an explosive confluence of contrasting flavours that was at once delightful and wonderful. Each bun is hawked at an affordable (TWD50).

The shop front for reference.

Songshan Guabao
179 Songshan Road, Xinyi District, Taipei
Tel: 02 2756 7426
Open daily from 11.30am to 10pm

Tung Lok Signatures, Orchard Parade Hotel

Apologies for the extended silence. We've been caught up with life. Also, the laptop went on the fritz (again!), and thankfully, all it took was a hard reboot to kick it back into gear this time. On this note, I'm seriously considering replacing it at the year-end Comex Singapore. *hoping that threat scares lappie into submissive performance*

We haven't been to Tung Lok Signatures for some time now, and thought a return was in order. The branch at The Central at Clarke Quay is frequently jam-packed, so we headed over to its outlet at Orchard Parade Hotel for dinner instead.

I can understand why the Orchard Parade Hotel outpost was noticeably less populous. The food was a hit and miss. Service was excellent though, warm, efficient, and speedy.

I don't usually order Sweet & Sour Pork ($22), but we were with Ernie and he eats like a foreigner. Sweet & sour pork is a default order at any Cantonese restaurant. Tung Lok's version, contrasted with the tangy sweet of pineapples and peppery kick of coloured capsicums, was excellent. Thin batter, crisp fried, juicy pork, and a not-too-sweet glaze.

The Deep Fried Prawns with Salted Egg Yolk ($28) was a miss. This was dusted with milk powder that left a sickly aftertaste to the delicate shrimp.

The Tung Lok Signature Curry Prawns ($28), sided by fried buns, was sumptuous. Punchy, heady and robust, we mopped this up.

The Steamed Grouper Fillet ($48), swimming in a broth of chicken stock and Chinese wine, and jazzed up with ginger, shimeiji mushrooms, roasted garlic, and black fungus. This was middling and forgettable, especially in light of VLV's amazing rendition.

The Braised Chicken in Black Bean Sauce ($20), copiously laden with red onions, was comforting, hearty and delicious. A fail-safe dish here.

An oldie but goodie, the Braised Beancurd with Seafood in Claypot ($28) was exceptional. This was simplicity at its finest, a culmination of fresh ingredients and an awesome braising sauce.

Another must-try was the Hot Stone Pot Rice with Wagyu Beef ($28), which was like claypot rice amped up a million.

Ditto for the Crispy Rice with Crabmeat in Superior Stock ($32). It was a wonderful contrast of textures and delicate flavours.

The Braised Fish Maw Bisque ($15), coloured with saffron, is one of my must-orders at any Tung Lok Signatures outlet. Velvety and nuanced and rich in umami, this was absolutely smashing.

Signature Test Tube Juices ($3 each usual price) served with compliments were very handy in refreshing our palates at the end of a gut-busting dinner.

Tung Lok Signatures
#02-18 Orchard Parade Hotel
1 Tanglin Road
Tel: 6834 0660
Open daily from 11.30am to 3pm for lunch; 6pm to 10.30pm for dinner
Website: www.tungloksignatures.com
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