supposedly famed cze char restaurant, with its very own celebrity chef, but with rather just-passable food in sims way. I went expecting a corner-of-the-coffeeshop type of cze char store, but it was instead an open-air casual family-style eatery with a small number of tables.
there must be something compelling about this place for some people – perhaps the chef (since I can’t see that it would necessarily be the food) – for they were entertaining a large group of important guests (not to me, but certainly to the restaurant) that rendered the necessity of bringing the dude out the kitchen. I wasn’t likewise impressed though – I could give them the benefit of the doubt: that they had put in so much effort on that table there was none left – but that’s pretty egregious in itself.
safer, and perhaps more tactful, to speculate that the cooking here is pretty average-going – and based on this meal, certainly not good enough to venture a revisit.
’tis not to say that the food is bad, which would be both unfair and untrue. but good food in this genre – cze char, which refers to homestyle casual chinese dining – abounds in this tiny island, with even your humble corner eatery usually dishing up quite decently; and so travelling for this sort of food requires proper good reason.
not here, not (enough) for me (to bother travelling here).
there was an air of run-of-the-millness in the dishes – properly executed if not spectacularly so – though there wasn’t anything necessarily wrong in them (hang the technicalities): the har cheong gai (chicken wings marinated in fermented prawn paste) were well-browned and plump, and the prawns in salted yolk sauce were properly coated.
but it was tough to get excited.
the otak (steamed spicy fish paste) and fish head curry were similarly common items – the latter had rather dry fish but a good, thick gravy (which makes me doubt the claim that it has less coconut milk, but what do I know).
but the prize of most disappointing goes to their signature dish of crabs steamed atop rice in a peppery claypot style. it was lacklustre, without any of that sweetness or fragrance you’d expect. the pepper certainly did its best to perk things up – but only just so much so.
according to this article,
The rice grains are fried with bacon before being boiled in stock. When most of the water has been soaked up by the rice, the crabs are added with pieces of fried dried sole. As the crabs cook, their juices flow into the rice, infusing the grains with their sweetness. The result is a pot of tasty, fragrant rice best eaten on its own. The rice is, in fact, tastier than the crabs, which become rather bland after losing their juices.
it certainly was right about the crabs becoming bland – but the other steps didn’t actually result in anything nearly as positive as described.
and just to finish what seems to have been a litany of whines posing as a review, the best dishes we had are the ones not actually on the menu. this restaurant trick is often a double-edged sword: your regulars/ best customers get to try the best things, almost as a sort of reward for positive patronage, but the other customers who wouldn’t know to order such often leave unimpressed.
in any case, we had this pork trotter braised in a honey sauce – not nearly as sickly as it sounds, with a tender, satisfyingly-stringy/ muscly hunk of meat braised in a savory sauce just tinged slightly with sweetness. it was a replacement for their dish of trotter with pumpkin sauce (which sounds just as exotic as this one), and it was delicious.
the other great dish was a very simply pan-seared slab of kurobuta pork seasoned with salt and pepper – unanimously the best dish of the night, but also a rather special not-of-the-menu gift from the kitchen. pity.
but my point is: there is some solidly-decently cooking here if you’re in the area – dishes are technically executed without flaw – but it’s not a standard that renders travelling out your way to get to, and nothing you couldn’t have at a half-decent coffee-shop corner store. good for family gatherings and the like.
Da Shi Xi
19 Sims Way
tel +65 6744 6728
$$.5: about 30 a person
thanks for the suggestion and invite to join you for dinner, nat!