decent food at this hidden-away sprawl of a cze char eatery in the newly-hipstered enclave that is tiong bahru. long before the fakely bespectacled, tight-trousered, coiffed hippied teenager took over the now cafe-belaboured estate of tiong bahru, places such as this one must have made the area’s reputation as gastroterritory.
cze char (or zi char or tze char) is home-style food served outside your home – and this place is truly old-school: slightly cantankerous chinese-speaking staff, blue-white plastic dinnerware, and good food unpretentiously plated. the only caveat here is that while admittedly tasty, the food is a little on the rich + oily side – and I’m not one for fatty meats or oily vegetables (but you jolly well could be!)
the restaurant enjoys fantastic business – table spills out from the main airconditioned eating house right out to the corridors of the adjoining building, and the open space next to a carpark; and every table was taken up. particularly surprising since it’s not really along the main thoroughfare, but less curious given the standard of cooking.
we had a teochew-style steamed fish served rather grandiosely on a fish pan, fresh and flaky; a glistening house-specialty of fatty champagne ribs coated in a savory brown sauce; fried signature home-made tofu with mushrooms in a rice-worthy sauce; and two plates of sauteed vegetables.
the tofu was my favourite – it was so soft and silky in the centre, almost spilling out when you cut through the fried exterior. and that sauce with it, serious wok-hei yum with rice. the champagne pork ribs I found a little less enthralling, though quite tasty – much of it was very fatty, and that glisteningness you see in the photo portends to its oiliness.
I think the flavors were good, but the cooks have a terribly heavy hand with the oil. every dish was just a bit too oily, even the vegetables, which left you with a greasy feel on the mouth – rather off-putting to me. I’m a little fastidious about this – so everything ended up getting a dip through a bowl of hot tea.
we’d return more frequently if the dishes were less oil-slippery, the meat less fatty – as it is, there are cze char places out there with a lighter hand in cooking, and similarly expert flavors. so, this place, I’m going to deem as divisive – I certainly can’t begrudge the flavors here, and the cooking style could be right up your alley.
reservations definitely needed, and it’s a good place for family. if you find eating next to the carpark (with parking cars and the sometimes whiff of exhaust) uninteresting – make sure you let them know when you call.
Por Kee Eating House
69 Seng Poh Ln
tel +65 6221 0582
$$.5: four dishes + one fish = one-twenty