Good but Expensive – The Coconut Club

While I do enjoy good food, generally I baulked at paying high prices for what I called hawker food. The few exceptions are when the food in question has got a very good review and the ingredients somehow justify the price. Even then, probably just once to see what the fuss is all about. Which is why it took me a long time to go down to The Coconut Club which is just a stone throw from my office for their famed Nasi Lemak.
One of the reasons is that the few times I pass by , there is always a long queue along the corridor. The other thing was paying $12.80 for a plate of nasi lemak which I can get equally famous and good one from $3.00 at food centre. Still curiosity got me going and I roped in M for a lunch date at The Coconut Club. We reached slightly early and there was no queue! The queue started to form around 12.15 pm. Thank goodness.
We ordered one plate of the $12.80 nasi lemak, 1 otak and 1 spicy dried prawn long beans (haebihaem long beans to share. The waiter didn’t seem to mind that the 2 of us ordered so little. Or maybe he pitied us and thought we were too poor to order more because when the food was delivered, it came with a complimentary bowl of Sayur Lodeh! How about that for great service!

The nasi lemak comes with a chicken leg joint cut into 2 unlike other places that usually just serve the drumstick. There was an sunny side up egg ; peanuts and ikan bilis. That was all but it was a rather big plate. And of course, after tasting the rice, I can understand how it got its fame.
The otak came in the usual banana leaf. It was rather big so I guess they must have made it themselves and the waiter confirmed that later. Although it was freshly made and filled with fish, I think it was overpriced at $10.50.
The haebihaem long beans which incidentally was not on the menu was a tad salty but the serving portion was very big.
I felt that the Sayur Lodeh was a bit too watery but there was a good mix of vegetables in it.

Overall, while a bit expensive, I couldn’t mind coming back for the nasi lemak. I heard the Chendol is good but I didn’t try that so maybe good excuse to go back.

Amoy Food Taste – Salad

When it comes to eating healthy, nothing beat the business district area. Everywhere one goes, there are multiple a salad outlet, Poke stores and now the latest in thing – salad bar masquerading as Health Food. Prices range from $5.00 to a whooping $15.00 for what is essentially some meat (they call them Protein); a little bit of carbohydrates (its always carbs) and a lot of vegetables. For those who don’t mind paying the high prices, there are places like Simply Wrapps, A Poke Therapy; Daily Cut, Grain Traders etc. Interestingly though, the more you have to fork out at the atas place, the smaller portion you get. So for those with smaller pockets and big appetite, there is always the food centre and over at Amoy Food Centre, there are 3 great options. Used to be 4 though but one of them closed down for some unknown reason.


Salad Corner
Arguably the most famous of the 3 with its presence on social media and other outlets at malls. The base set is $4.90 that comes with 5 toppings. Premium toppings range from $1.00 to $2.00. Service is so so. Items are placed in a plastic container be it dine in or take away. Sauces of one choice (and they have at least 13 options) are poured over the final contents and that’s it. Taste wise? Hey, it mainly vegs so what taste?

B Salad Kitchen
A sister stall to the more popular Chef B Pasta (both stalls are next to each other), this stall has been slowly growing in popularity. Each salad is $4.90 and comes with 6 toppings. Different combo are available at very reasonable price. The smallest range of sauces though. Service here is slightly better as the staff here are younger and can banter with customers. Like all the other stalls, the salad are sold in plastic containers and only plastic cutlery are used.

Mr Salad
The stall with a smile. This one got my vote for the most friendly service. Price at $4.90 with 5 toppings like the rest. Guess they do keep an eye out on the competition. Premium topping ranges between $1.00 – $2.00 and the choice of sauces are like the other – overwhelming until you don’t know what to choose. Whatever happened to plain old Thousand Island or French Dressing?

1) Service. The 2 times I went to Mr Salad, I got served by a man. Smiling and very helpful even though I spent what I think is an unreasonably long time agonising over the toppings and the sauces. Because I am a regular customer at Chef B, the only time I went to B Salad Kitchen, the staff there was super friendly. Maybe because the boss is just next door? The service at the Salad Corner was the most basic. Just the pick what you want, pack and go. Efficient so cannot be faulted but no personal touch.

2) Price. All the same. But Chef B has got 6 toppings and the portion is bigger. They also got various options like basic + 5 + 1 main for $5.30. So Chef B gets my vote for value for money.

3) Variety & Quality. Sama sama. All 3 stalls used only lettuce as base although Chef B has some other vegetables as well. The topping including the premium options varies but there is something to satisfy every one craving so no complain either and as long as it not canned, it fresh. And because turnover is pretty good at all 3 stalls with some toppings sold out by the time I eat at around 2 pm, I can only surmised that other customers have no issue with the quality as well.

5) Taste. What taste? Vegetables and greens have no taste at least to me. The only taste comes from the fruits and that is something they can’t control. So we are down to the sauces. Did they prepare it on their own or buy off the shelf? With so many options to try but since I usually only stick to balsamic vinaigrette or honey mustard I really don’t know how different the taste varies from the different stalls.

Final Score: All the 3 stalls are practically identical in terms of prices and variety of options and sauces offered. And since these are salads, there is nothing much to compare taste wise. Portion wise, all are also about the same so at the end of the day, I guess it all boil down to service and which one has the shortest queue so that I don’t have to wait too long. 

Cheap and Good – Sumo Prawn Noodle

Have heard much about this place at Ang Mo Kio and its prawn noodle that comes with lobster. Finally managed to find time to go there and try it out. There was a short queue when we arrived around 8 pm. Fortunately, the service was fast and the queue moved swiftly.

The four of us ordered 2 bowl of prawn noodles that come with 4 big prawns and 2 bowl of noodles that come with 2 crayfish.

This is the $8.00 prawn noodle. Beside the prawn, there is also clams.

This is the crayfish noodle which also comes with clams and cost $13.00 each.

We didn’t order the Lobster noodle as we felt it doesn’t the cost of dinner at such a place. It is however rather reasonably priced at either $18.90 for Asian Lobster or $24.90 for Columbia Lobster depending on the stock availability.

Regardless of prawn, crayfish or lobster, the stock is the same. Not overwhelmingly sweet but just nice that it will not cause one to get jeilat after drinking it all down. While the prices may seem pricey compared to other prawn noodles out there, considering the quality of the ingredients, I will think that it is cheap and good!

 

Cheap and Good – Taste Affair at Amoy

A few months ago, a new stall opened on the 2nd floor of the Amoy Food Centre.It was next to Han Kee Fish Soup and the stall front was permanently blocked by the long queue for the fish soup. It didn’t help that the stall facade was a bit boring and didn’t inspire anyone to patronise the stall. Which was  a pity. I noticed it only because I am a regular at Han Kee.

So one day I had a try. Business was slow and the 2 young men manning the stall came out to have a chat with me and asked about the food. Taste Affair sells “European cuisine” which is actually our usual pasta and grilled chicken but with a twist. I remembered I ordered some angel hair pasta, the chicken and this came with some side of vegetables and a nice poached egg. Unfortunately it also came on a disposable box and they have only plastic cutlery. The food was actually pretty good and when queried about the disposables, the 2 young men explained that the paper box tray was actually made from recycled sugar cane pulp. They have to use disposable as otherwise they will not be able to manage the washing. Which was a great shame as the food was seriously good.

The next round I had the favoured rice which was actually saffron rice. I still prefer the angel hair pasta though.

Every time I queued up for the fish soup, I could see the 2 young men standing around. Not many customers. Poor thing.  And then somewhere in mid March, a string of reviews from food blogger came out and wham, business seems to pick up overnight. Sometime at 1.45 pm, they had already sold out for the day! And if not, there was invariably a short queue.

When I finally got a chance to eat it, I discovered that fame has brought about some changes. For one, they no longer use disposable! Yay! And there seems to be more option now.Business according to one of the young man, had picked out 4 folds since the reviews came out and humble man that they are, they did not unlike other stalls paste them all over the facade. Instead I think they rather let the food speaks for itself.

And at between $5.00 to $8.00, it is a steal. Pity about the heat though… now if only they can change that as well:)

Hill Street Char Kway Teow vs Hill Street Char Kway Teow

Most of us who loves Char Kway Teow will know about Hill Street Char Kway Teow at Bedok South. But how many know that there is another Hill Char Kway Teow in the Smith Street Food Centre in Chinatown?

And unlike my previous piece on copycat stalls cashing in on a famous name, the latter is not a copy cat. In fact, it is as original as the Hill Street Char Kway Teow at Bedok South (HSCKT@BS). Both stalls originated from the old Hill Street Food Centre which is now a vacant plot of land between the Hill Street Fire Station and the MICA building. In those days, there were 2 char kway teow stall there. One facing the road next to the famous Sng Buay drink stall and the other tucked away on the inside. I don’t know which is which now but only that both serves great char kway teow.

HSCKT@BS is now helmed by the son and another lady (presumably the wife) but Hill Street Char Kway Teow at Chinatown (HSCKT@CT) is still helmed by the original stall owner. This is a simple comparison of both.

HSCKT@CT. Short queue even during weekday lunch time. The stall is neat and simple with a display of some giant cockles. Unfortunately they were just for display only and not for adding to the CKT. Each plate cost $3 – $4. CKT is fried individually. This is the drier version but is still full of wok hei.

HSCKT@BS. Perpetually long queue. The lady can be fierce and downright rude at times. Fortunately the son has managed to inherit the father’s cooking skill and the CKT is still as robust and good. It is slightly wet and oily the way I like it.

Hill Street CKT

Question is which is the best? Personally I still like HSCKT@BS. But if in the Chinatown area and hungry for a bit, I will rather have HSCKT@CT rather than join the queue at Hong Lim for the Outram Park Char Kway Teow.

Imitation is the best form of Flattery – Soi 19 Thai Wanton Mee

There is this place in Bangkok where there is a famous wanton mee outlet. The place as I understand it, is jam packed with tourists and locals. It sells Thai style wanton mee and some other side dishes like pork knuckle, fried wanton and vegetables. The stall name is SabX2 Pratunam Wanton Noodles and it is at Soi Petchburi 19 in Pratunam Bangkok.

Over in Ang Mo Kio in a tiny HDB coffeeshop, there is a stall which sells a mean wanton mee. The queue is so long I swear I almost faint from hunger the one time I was there. This stall sells a version of a Thai style wanton mee and some other side dishes like pork knuckle, fried wanton and vegetables. The stall name is SOI 19 Wanton Mee.

So we have 1 stall at Soi Petchburi 19 and one stall named Soi 19 in 2 different countries. Coincidence or a case of passing off? When I first heard about this stall in Ang Mo Kio, I thought maybe the Thai owner had some sort of franchise and opened up outlets in other countries. That was until a friend posted photos on her FB showing these signs all over the place at the Bangkok outlet.

So now we know this is a blatant case of passing off by name association. Just like there is only one famous prata stall in Jalan Kayu but there are many stalls elsewhere in Singapore proclaiming to be “Jalan Kayu” prata. Or Jalan Tua Kong fishball noodles. Or Katong Laksa. Trying to cash in on the reputation of another more famous stall by associating with its locality is something seen very often here. But these wannabes will soon be caught out if the food doesn’t live out to the standard of the more famous counterpart.

So back to Soi 19 in Ang Mo Kio. Because I have not tried the version in Bangkok, I cannot do a comparison. The group of us ordered these:

Thai Wanton Mee

Dumpling

Pork Trotters

Pork Intestines

But perhaps because we had to wait nearly an hour for it, we gulped down everything in double quick time. Was it good? My buddies didn’t really think it was that great. The only one among us who had tried the Bangkok’s stall also didn’t think very highly of this local copy. So perhaps it is more hype than substance and it was smart to cash in on the Thai’s “connection”.

Can someone who has tried both put a comment here and tell me which is better?