the retrospective, chinatown

decent european-american-westernish food in the hipster part of chinatown. I say western in the colloquial way it’s used in singapore to refer to any sort of food belonging to those regions – fusion just doesn’t nearly have the same ring –  the menu is rather typical of a modern bistro. I was drawn to this restaurant by their rather lovely graphic logo – and the way the place was done up, all retroesque (obviously) and bistro-like.

it’s pretty decent food, and I’ll give it a lukewarm recommendation if you’re in the area – but given the other offerings there, and the fact that chinatown is a veritable treasure box of food findings, I don’t think I’ll return anytime soon.

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it’s a long, narrow space, with very graphic-designer-type illustrations on the wall, which I liked; some of these are offered on (very exorbitantly expensive) t-shirts that they’re also selling. the tables are placed together very close – and it’s almost a little claustrophohic – you could very much participate (not that we aren’t already doing it in a voyeuristic-we-all-know-we’re-listening-to-each-other-speak sort of way) in the next table’s conversations if you were so inclined.

we started off with a scotch egg, very english. it looked rather fascinating – fried up to a mottled coating with crevices streaking across the surface, and lots of minuscule little dots pockmarking the top – it reminded me rather of an alien egg. the sort you see in movies and which crack open to – actually, I’m sure you can imagine. the taste itself was rather as lukewarm as it was served – I fancy the sausage coating on the outside had far too much breadcrumb/binder as it tasted a little doughy and stodgy, which was a pity. the pickles on the side rather helped lift the slightly-underseasoned flavours of the dish, but I also had lots of help from the the ketchup bottle.

the mains faired better – I had a niçoise salad which was topped with a seared slab of raw tuna. there was great char on the fish, but it was served really rather cold, and the greens doused in a fair bit of olive oil (which was taste-y, at least). I think my greatest annoyance was that the salad was of such a paltry portion – it was certainly priced as a main – and the scant handful of beans were barely acceptable.

my sister truly enjoyed her burger though. it came very, very red – so be aware of this if you do order it – but also very juicy, so much that it started spilling over the wooden board when cut. it’s a standard soft sesame-topped bun and melty american cheese concoction with a large side of well-cooked fries – but this was a generous portion and she couldn’t finish.

I think I sound a bit grumpy – but it really wasn’t a very inspiring meal. I don’t often have the chance to bring my sister out for a meal (modern schedules are terribly conflicting) and so I was hoping that this would be something special, but it was standardly-average fare at inflated-hipster-prices (though likely only about competitive with the other options in the area), and I think the best thing to get might be the burger – though the next table did have a rather intriguing mac-n’-cheese that looked worth trying too.

the next time I’m in the area, I’ll probably head to soori, keong saik snacks or that taratata – have you guys been? – or maybe back to always-reliable ember. incidentally, we were here on a sunday evening and the entire street was very much empty, and many places closed – keep in mind!

The Retrospective
21 Keong Saik Road
Singapore 089128
tel +65 6223 1334

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9 thoughts on “the retrospective, chinatown

    • ah. is it a sort of dainty restaurant – like the sort where your cutlery clinks ring across the place? I’ve always thought it looked a little hoity-toity, but the reviews have been generally rather kind!

      • hmm, i didn’t think it was dainty at all. it’s like one of those noisy, casual restaurants. but then again, i was completely engrossed in conversation with my gf, so i didn’t quite pay attn to the rest of the diners. soori reminds me of ember actually. similar cuisine and ambience.

  1. I’d say perhaps-do-not-expect-too-much to taratata. went there for restaurant week, lovely escargot tart for starters (i love pastry crust!) but the steak and the salmon were all-right-only. maybe the real deal (without restaurant week) is better.

    • I’ve completely ensconced restaurant week! I had a rather mediocre experience at oso last – and I’ve figured I’d rather pay a bit more to try the real standard instead of feeling like I might be missing out.

      but also, isn’t it annoying that we wouldn’t get the real thing during restaurant week? it ought to be when the restaurant works its hardest (to promote returning customers), and just because we pay a little less shouldn’t mean we ought to receive lower quality! this might just be me being miserly, of course.

  2. Keong Saik Snacks was terribly disappointing! Small portions, expensive, poorly cooked.. I wouldn’t recommend trying at all haha.

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