The Famous Kitchen : A Well Hidden Gem

Jumbo Seafood, No Signboard Seafood, Red House Seafood are all the big names in the Singapore seafood scene but have you been searching hard enough for the hidden gems scattered around the island? I must admit I haven't, but here's what's worth celebrating : I'm sharing one with you today.(: But before we get to the beef of the matter, how does one classify a seafood restaurant under the 'must-try' category? Certainly it must be the taste of the dishes, then as consumers it's only right that we ask for quality ingredients and lastly the creativity of the dishes. It was easy classifying The Famous Kitchen as 'must-try' simply because it possesses all three criteria. It's no wonder The Famous Kitchen is enjoying such good business. 

Ah... So let's cut the 'crab' and let's get on with the dishes, shall we?! Haha. 
Nigel Ate : 4/5
The Pumpkin Chicken is a newly formulated dish and we were fortunately enough to be among the first few to taste it that night. I was expecting for more pumpkin taste in the sauce but it was the taste of curry that came through, they must have used curry as a seasoning but it overpowered the pumpkin taste, it wasn't necessarily a bad thing though. The fried cuttlefish strips made up for the lack of crunch from the fried chicken. An innovative dish that still needs refinement.
 Nigel Ate : 4.4/5
The Coconut Spiced Prawns were fragrant and well fried. The curry flavour accentuated the whole dish and I enjoyed the prawns that were succulent. It might be a little spicy for some but it's the little spiciness that makes it even more addictive.
Nigel Ate : 4.7/5
Vegetables during a dinner are, more often than not, ordered just for the sake of having some greens on the table. However, I highly recommend you ordering the Shrimp Paste Kang Kong because as simple as it is, sometimes the simplest things in life are the hardest to get them right, was absolutely mouthwatering. This dish has already been altered so that the amount of shrimp paste is reduced and the dish is not that thirst inducing. The amount of shrimp paste was just right, you should try it even if shrimp paste isn't your thing, you might just be a convert after trying this!
Nigel Ate : 4.5/5
Nothing beats a freshly steamed fish because freshness is crucial here. The Sour Vegetable Steamed Fish was something new, since I'm used to our tradition Teochew-styled steamed fish. The meat of the fish was firm and tender, while the sour vegetables, peanuts and saltiness of the gravy complimented the fish very well, great dish to go with a bowl of steaming white rice.  
Nigel Ate : 3.8/5
The boss was frank and honest with us and declared the Plum Sauce Spare Ribs a failure because he could see that the spare ribs were fried too long, resulting in a loss of moisture and slightly tough and dry meat. He was spot on and I couldn't really taste the plum sauce either.
Nigel Ate : 4.4/5
One of their speciality here, Kumpong Chicken, you can hardly find restaurants preparing this anymore and over here it was well prepared with the meat remaining tender and moist.  
Nigel Ate : 4.2/5
Lobster fans would dig this. Looks flavourful and promising right? Yes and no, the Lobster Beehoon was one of the 2 dishes that the boss self declared as failed because the amount of bee hoon was too much and so the stock wasn't as flavourful as they had wanted it to be. Many of us didn't seem to think so, but of course agreed that if the flavours were more concentrated and sweeter, it might have left us in awe.

We also had the Black Pepper Crab (Nigel Ate : 4.4/5) and Salt Baked Flower Crabs (first photo) (Nigel Ate : 4.5/5). I have always preferred chilli crab to black pepper crab because the taste of the black pepper is always so overwhelming and spicy that I don't get the to taste the crab properly. But the pepper used here are said to be top notch and are triple the price of the normal pepper! Indeed, the black pepper wasn't as overwhelming as the others I've tried previously and it was spreads around your whole mouth gradually, weird but interesting experience. The latter is yet another speciality of the restaurant, the flower crabs were very fresh and meaty and don't forget to lick the shell because that's where all the flavours are!
Nigel Ate : 4.85/5
Oh, and here's one of those of you who love pork lard. The KL Fujian Mee was dark, fragrant and glistening with pork lard. I've been missing out too much - trying all the mediocre KL hokkien mee locally - and this just made me a convert. The noodles coated with quality dark sauce sauce that gave it the sweet and savouriness while the pork lard gave the dish its fragrance and oophm. It was so heavenly, it's a must-try when you dine here!  
Lastly, we ended with desserts that were equally good! We tried their homemade Mango Pudding (Nigel Ate : 4.6/5) which was evidently made with fresh mango and make you feel that it's worth paying for. Their Yam Paste a.k.a Orh Nee (Nigel Ate : 4.7/5) is the best I've eaten so far. I dig these traditional desserts but far too often, their too oily, or not smooth enough but here they do it right; The Orh Nee isn't oily at all and it was smooth with a slight sandiness to it that felt really nice. I loved it.

Dishes here are prepared with simple, fresh and unpretentious ingredients and condiments that many would not think of piecing together to form great dishes. They have succeeded in doing so here, and surprisingly it's the seemingly simple dishes which have won my heart. And so, I forsee myself returning with my family for a hearty dinner again.

Much thanks to Haren from Streetdirectory for the invite, his colleagues for hosting the dinner and also the boss for the very delicious dinner!

The Famous KitchenHong Heng Mansions #01-01 
54 Sembawang Road (S) 779085 
Tel: 6257 1843

Wheat Baumkuchen : Healthy, Refreshing & Tasty!

'Healthy food ain't all sucky food.' Wheat Baumkuchen  is yet another eatery that justifies this point. Having read about them, I've been wanting to have a taste of their dishes and, they didn't disappoint.
Nigel Ate : 4.5/5
I ordered the penguin set which came with a drink. The green soba noodle alongside with shredded carrots, cucumber was tossed with roasted sesame sauce topped with shredded chicken and fried eggs. The noodles can be a little sticky and it's a little struggle to mix up the different ingredients but after a little effort of incorporating the different components of the dish into one, every mouthful was flavourful and refreshing. There was crunch from the vegetables, lovely flavour from the roasted sesame sauce and chew from the noodles and the chicken; the different components of the dish was orchestrated into a beautiful melody. Leaving the place feeling satisfied and well fed, I'll be back again to try out their other dishes and their baumkuchen cake.

Wheat Baumkuchen
Blk 190, HDB Hub, Toa Payoh Lorong 6 #01-530

Tel: 6356 5529

Opening Hours: Mon to Sun, 9am to 9pm

Hard Rock Cafe : The Classics And The New

Hard Rock Cafe has been around for the longest time in Singapore, and worldwide for that matter. Finally opening up a new outlet at Resorts World Sentosa some time back, they have also try to keep up the edge with the introduction of more seafood dishes into their current menu. 
Nigel Ate : 3.3/5
We tested all the 4 new seafood dishes on the menu alongside with some Hard Rock Cafe specialities. First up was the  Crispy Sea Bass ($26++). The seabass fillet was unfortunately too dry and has a slightly fishy taste to it. I reckon it would have been much better if it is well seasoned with some herbs to musk the fishy taste.
Nigel Ate : 3.8/5
My favourite was the breaded calamari rings among the other fritters on the Seafood Platter ($28++) . Overall it's a little too greasy for me. Maybe it's a good accompaniment with a can of beer but sadly I'm not legal to drink yet. 
Nigel Ate : 3.5/5
The  Chilli Crab Spaghetti ($26++), which came next, had most of us commenting that it had an uncanny resemblance to one of our local delights - mee goreng. The Chilli Crab dip at Hard Rock Cafe is raved by many but maybe the idea of incorporating it with pasta just didn't work too well for me. It's a little too dry and sticky while someone commented that the lack of cheese in it didn't seem fitting to the image of a pasta dish. I can see why and agree that maybe a generous shaving of parmesan might score some additional points for this dish. Oh, and if you're wondering about the two slices of garlic bread, it's a American thing; I was told that in American, all pasta dishes are served alongside with bread.
Nigel Ate : 4/5
The last seafood dish of the night was the  Crab Fried Rice ($20++). Fluffy and fragrant grains of olive rice, the dish came very pleasantly presented in an omelette box with 4 prawns hidden inside. This was probably my favourite seafood dish of the night. Olive rice, seafood, lime and some chilli with soya sauce, this was Asian on a plate. 
Nigel Ate : 4.2/5
One of the favourites at Hard Rock Cafe was their Hickory Smoked BBQ Ribs ($32). Slathered in homemade BBQ sauce, the ribs were well marinated and fell off the bone good. Their baked beans in BBQ sauce was also homemade, a plus point.

Macaroni and Cheese's (Nigel Ate : 4.4/5) a American diner's classic and a popular choice here. It was creamy and cheesy just like how a good old Mac and Cheese is, I would have appreciated a more pronounced cheese flavor though. But I must admit, I'm impressed by the chicken fillet, for it was moist and tender. I would recommend trying their Mac and cheese if you do dine here.
Nigel Ate : 4/5
Stuffed and well fed, we were not done with the night yet heh. There's always room for desserts, no? With mud pie and brownie, tell who can resist? Their Hot Fudge Brownie Sundae  was delicious though not blow-off-your-socks good. Call me a food nazi, but ice cream on top of a brownie is mandatory. 

The Mud Pie (Nigel Ate : 4.2/5) was two layers of coffee and chocolate ice cream was some hot fudge over the top and sprinkled with toasted almond flakes. Simple and unpretentious, I like it that way. 

Thank you Natalie and Andy for hosting us and Rui Ting for the invite!

Hard Rock Cafe Singapore
HPL House
50 Cuscaden Road
Singapore 249724
Tel:             +65 62355232      
Nearest MRT: Orchard (NS line)

Opening Hours:
Tue-Thu & Sun: 11am - 1am
Fri-Sat & Mon: 11am - 3am
(*1st Sunday of the month: 11am - 3am)

Bedok Chwee Kueh

Nigel Ate : 4/5
A local favourite amongst many, Chwee Kueh, would evoke thoughts of the oily, sweet and salty chye poh almost immediately. 

Having feature so many foods on my blog, it must be a little surprising I haven't feature this particular one. I must admit it's because it's not available everywhere and also times when I don't feeling a calling towards it so I let it pass until a craving hit me last week and I satisfied it last weekend. 

Being at Bedok Interchange Food Centre, how can one miss out on the opportunity to try the famous Bedok Chwee Kueh? I wanted to order it after queuing up for the popiah but my dad beat me to it, and came back with a packet of it. All nicely topped with the oh-so delicious chye poh alongside with a  generous scoop of chilli. 

Made of rice flour and steamed in small cupcake-like moulds, Mr Chwee Kueh is often defined by its faithful companion, Mrs Chye Poh. Mr Chwee Kueh is thus often neglected and only treated as a medium to balance out the sweet and saltiness of Mrs Chye Poh. Having said that, there's not much complains to be heard here - the chye poh was nicely balanced and complemented well with the chwee kueh. 

Where are some of your favourite or being regarded by you as the best chwee kueh stores?
Bedok Chwee Kueh
207 New Upper Changi Road,
#01-53 Bedok Interchange Food Centre (aka New Upper Changi Road Food Centre)
Singapore 460207
Operating Hours: Daily from 6.30 am to 10.30 pm

Qing Tian Niang Dou Fu (Popiah)

Located next to the bus interchange and above the mrt, Bedok Interchange Food Centre's constantly bustling with people and with a wide array of food, you'll be spoilt for choice. 

Touring the hawker centre I spotted popiah, and being on the quest to search for the best popiah, I jumped at the opportunity to taste it. This stall is located under the signboard of Qian Tian Niang Dou Fu so make no mistakes, it should be small signboards underneath stating a queue for popiah only or rojak and popiah!
Nigel Ate : 4/5
It's tasty but not out of this world so. The mung guang filling was too wet and though the rather thick popiah skin stayed resilient and held its content well, I would have preferred a thinner skin with a well drained filling. The taste of the crushed peanut was more evident in this one not the crunchy bits (which I'm not sure if they have it), not necessarily a bad thing but it's all about balance and I still prefer Ann Chin's popiah at Chinatown.

Qing Tian Niang Dou Fu

Blk 207 New Upper Changi Road 
#01-58 Bedok Interchange Food Centre S460207

Hong Kong Chun Kee Street Restaurant (香港街珍记)

Nigel Ate : 4.25/5
Having dined at Hong Kong Chun Kee Street Restaurant every once in awhile, my family usually orders the usual suspects for dinner : Sam Lor Hor Fun, Sliced Fish with Spring Onion, Prawn Paste Chicken and their famous fish soup; Hardly varying from these few dishes, we never had the chance to try anything else that was exciting. I'm so glad we made the impromptu decision to try their Steamed Fish Head with Fermented Black Bean Sauce last weekend, it was so good. I was savouring each mouthful of the delicate flesh and the tender fish skin.  The sauce was savoury and slightly spicy from the chopped red chillies thrown in. Very flavourful indeed, however the sauce lacked a fragrance that could have came in the form of some fried garlic that would have made it over the top.  
Just another photo for you to drool at haha. I'm now on the hunt for the best Steamed Fish Head with Fermented Black Bean Sauce, any recommendations?

Hong Kong Chun Kee Street Restaurant
Blk 151, Ang Mo Kio Ave 5 
#01-3030, (S) 560157
Opening Hours: 11am - 2pm, 5pm - 11pm.

E.Clat Gourmet Canteen

Nigel Ate : 3.5/5
You might have just walked right on by if you didn't know there's a gourmet canteen inside Sultan-Link Building.

Residing in the vicinity of Robertson Quay, E.Clat Gourmet Canteen is a relatively new concept which came up from Mr Ng, a property agent cum foodie. His reason? That he had a hard time finding fresh food around the area; premixes were used so fervently for cooking and conjuring all of kinds sauces that he believes he can provide fresh food just as quick and at the same prices as well, giving birth to E.Clat Gourmet.

Self proclaimed to be 'fine dining for the masses', E.Clat Gourmet does indeed serve up reasonably priced items for the office crowd. We started off with a simple Tomato Bruschetta (4pcs) ($6.90) - hand made focaccia bread and diced tomatoes, drizzled with olive oil - which could use with a stronger tasting extra virgin. Nonetheless, it was a refreshing start.
Nigel Ate 3.5/5
Next up was the E.Clat Cheesy Onion Fries ($9.90) which was calling out for us to dive in. The amount of cheese used was too little to have any wow factor on us, more cheese please.
Nigel Ate : 4/5
Encrusted in a thick coat of beer batter and deep fried, the Beer Battered Fish & Chips ($16.90) was fried to a crisp and came with homemade tar tar sauce. I reckon this was the highlight for me. Fish and chips with homemade tar tar sauce, what could possibly go wrong?
Nigel Ate : 3.5/5
Thin crusted, with a swig of truffle mayonnaise in each slice, the Smoked Duck Pizza (12 inch) ($18.90) was sadly not as flavourful as it looked. 
Nigel Ate : 3.25/5
The Seafood Baked Rice in Tomato sauce ($10.90) would have scored much better in my books if it has been generously layered with cheese and the rice had been infused with more tomato and seafood flavour.
Nigel Ate : 3/5
Serving up Egg Benedict ($10.90) here as well, the poached egg yolk flowed beautifully but I detected some uncooked white. The Hollandaise sauce was too thin and watery, could have been more full-bodied and robust. 
Nigel Ate : 3.5/5
This was your run-out-of-mill Black Pepper Beef Pasta ($12.00). The pasta was passable and the beef slices were tender but I have always found black pepper sauce not to be the best sauce to paired with beef as it overwhelms the beef's natural flavour. 
Nigel Ate 3.75/5
Last but not least, desserts. We had Rum & Raisin Panna Cotta ($8.80), freshly made daily. I couldn't taste any rum inside it, just panna cotta with freshly whipped cream. Delightful nonetheless. 

It's a relatively new restaurant so do stop by to have a try if you're in the area. Maybe the prices will keep you coming back, maybe the food will, I'll let you be the judge. 

E.Clat Gourmet Canteen
Address: 63 Mohamed Sultan Road #03-14 Sultan-Link Building
Tel: 6604 7998
Opening Hours: 9am – 8pm (Mon-Fri), 10am – 3pm (Sat), 10am – 3pm (Sun, from September 2012)

Lek Lim Nonya Cake Confectionery : A Kueh Lover's Paradise

Born in the 1960s and having been in its current compound since the 1970s, Lek Lim Confectionary have been around for a long time surviving on long standing customers and by word of mouth.

Time seems to have come to a standstill here where culture and tradition is preserved; The laborious task of hand making kuehs and other yummy products and waking up in the wee hours of the morning still goes on here. Well, to be honest I've never heard of Lek Lim confectionary before personally and though it might not be a household name, you may have tasted their products unknowingly because they supply to caterers who would make a loss of profits and time if they have to make their own kuehs.
Gavan, the third generation, who will be taking over from his dad hopes to reach to customers that they have lost over the years because of their obscurity in location and even dreams for the Y generation to appreciate these traditional snacks as much as he does. So the big question is : can the popular snacks of Gen X continue on for Gen Y as well? Or will it be lost in transition and under the influence of the West? I can't predict and I'm sure no one can give you a definite answer but Gavan assures us that quality is the emphasis here not quantity. Lacking in manpower, there's only so much he can do to reach out and to innovate. 

As he shares with me his ideas and stories, I was given a walk-about the shop while orders were rushed out for the seventh month ceremonies. 
Nigel Ate : 4.5/5
The highlight of the day : I made my own ang ku kueh! Shaping the soft and pliable dough can be liken to playing with play dough, it's quite fun. The auntie next to me has been doing this for many years and of course my final products didn't match hers but the experience was enjoyable nonetheless.

Here's my ang ku kuehs and yup, the skin was too much and too thick at some parts and too thin and the others but.. Ah well, I had fun haha. Ang Ku Kueh's ($0.50/piece) their signature kueh around here and living up to its claim, the skin was delicate with some bite to it while the filling was nice and fragrant, not too moist.
Nigel Ate : 4.25/5
They also have other flavours such as the mung bean ($0.50/piece) and gula melaka ($0.50/piece) one. The mung bean was sweet and savory, very smooth too. But I'm a peanut fan so I can't tell you exactly how good the mung bean filling is. Lovers of gula melaka will love the green ang ku kueh where there encased a filling of gula melaka coconut.
Nigel Ate : 4.2/5
Not limited to chinese traditional kueh, malay kuehs are sold here as well. I tried my hands at doing some Pulut Inti ($0.40/piece) and it was pretty simple. Traditionally, blue dye was taken from the clitoria flower but there wouldn't enough to go around for large scale productions so they have resorted to using minimum blue dye. The glutinous rice is slightly savoury, going very well with the sweet gula melaka coconut topping. 
Nigel Ate : 4.5/5
This is simplicity at its best, mashed tapioca with gula melaka ($1.20/pkt). Two simple ingredient combined and you have a delicious and wonderful final product. 
Nigel Ate : 3/5
The Ubi Bengka ($1.20/pkt) was rather bland and gummy, disappointing. 
Nigel Ate : 4/5
Another snack for the gula melaka fans, mashed tapioca with a layer of gula melaka coconut on top. Delicious in its own way, but not on par with the one with gula melaka mixed in together.
Nigel Ate : 4/5
Kueh Salat ($0.40/piece), bottom half a layer of glutinous rice with top half layer of green pandan custard. The slight sweetness of the custard complimented the savoury glutinous well and the fragrant of the pandan was evident.
 Nigel Ate : 4.25/5
This is one of my childhood snacks as well, the Kueh Lapis ($1.20/pkt) should have 9 layers and the correct way of eating it is by peeling off layer by layer. Taking time to savour your food - one of the simple joys of life.
Nigel Ate : 4.2/5
Diverging into further types of kueh, they do do soon kueh and peng kueh as well. Packed full of mushrooms and mung guang, each soon kueh only goes for $0.70 while the peng kueh was likewise generously filled with glutinous rice, peanuts, dried shrimps and more, also going for $0.70.
Nigel Ate : 4.25/5
I'll recommend trying their fried food items while you're at the shop. They sell several fried items such as  fried yam cake ($0.80/piece), sardine puffs ($1/piece) and spring rolls. I couldn't resist and sneaked a bite into the sardine puff even though I was having sore throat and it still remained crispy after a 40mins journey home. Not a particular fan of sardine because they often prove too fishy to me but this sardine puff surprisingly found my approval for it. 

Being in the neighborhood with a small shop front and a lot of manual labour, Lek Lim Nonya Cake Confectionery has managed to keep prices low in the midst of inflation while retaining quality all these while. So what are you waiting for? Come on down and try their kuehs and other products for yourself and you might just find new born appreciation for these traditional snacks. Don't forget to spread the word around because you wouldn't want an important part of your heritage to be lost!

Thank you Gavan for the invite and the interesting insights!

Lek Lim Nonya Cake Confectionery
Address: Blk 84 Bedok Nth St 4 #01-21 
Tel:             +65 64490815       
Opening Hours: Mon - Sat 4am-6pm; Sun 4am-2pm

Cai Li Fish Head Steamboat @ Whampoa Drive Food Centre

Nigel Ate : 3/5
Having been to Whampoa Drive Hawker Centre for so many times, I've always seen others eating the fish head steamboat and it seems like a big thing here where everyone seems to be enjoying their bowl of soup and picking at the contents of their steamboat but I have never tasted it personally. 

Travelling to Whampoa over the weekend for dinner, my dad decided to give it a try. We tried the nearest store to us, Cai Li Fish Head Steamboat. 
Nigel Ate : 3.5/5
Their fried Hei Zhou had a very crispy exterior and came looking very appetizing but it failed to deliver. Just your run-out-the-mill hei zhou, too floury, not enough crunch from the bits of water chestnuts. 

Then came the star of the night, the red grouper fish head steamboat. A few thick chunks of meat on top, but that's kind of all there is to it. The bottom was all layered with vegetables and fish roe. The soup lacked the robust unagmi flavour, only the diluted taste of fried sole fish and dried shrimp. 

My only consolation was to realise, after doing some research online later on, that the truly famous fish head steamboat stall wasn't opened that night. We'll be back!

Cai Li Fish Head Steamboat
Blk 90 Whampoa Drive
Whampoa Drive Food Centre

Mei Heong Yuen Dessert 味香园 (Temple Street)

It won't surprise many to know that a store selling good Chinese desserts is nestled in Chinatown at temple Street. Yup, if you're a fan you'll probably know I'm talking at Mei Heong Yuen Dessert stall at Temple Street.
Nigel Ate : 4/5
There's always room for desserts and I was craving for some sesame paste dessert since it was awhile ago since I had it. Happened to pass by, I ended up trying their peanut paste whose consistence was a little too thin for me and would be better it had stronger peanuty taste. I would have much preferred the peanut paste to be more vicious and coat the back of my throat but it glided smoothly through the esophagus instead. Personal preference there but the sweet was just right though, not sickeningly so. 

I've tried their mango pomelo dessert in the past and it's really good, I'll be back soon to try it again and let you guys know if the standard is lost or not. Stay tuned! 

Mei Heong Yuen Dessert  (味香园)
63 - 67 Temple street, S(058608)
            (+65) 6221 1156      
Mon - Fri: 10.30am - 8pm
Sat - Sun: 10.30am - 10pm

Ann Chin Popiah (安珍薄饼) : Good Old Popiah

Ann Chin Popiah has been around for a long time now, since it was brought here in the 1940s. Retaining all its flavorful goodness, it was very satisfying to savour each mouthful of popiah indeed.
Nigel Ate : 4.25/5
There are no huge makeovers since the day Ann Chin popiah started; It's still the good old same ingredients that make the popiah so wonderful. Starting with 2 own their handmade popiah skins, the lady then puts a little sweet sauce, pieces of lettuce, crushed peanuts, fried bits, hard boiled egg and finally the star ingredient mung guang aka yam bean. Really simple ingredients, but it hits right at the g-spot. The homemade popiah skin has just the right thickness to stay resilient against the dampness of the mang guang and won't threaten break apart anytime soon. 

However, it's sad to say, I've never truly appreciated popiah till now, so where are some of your popiah recommendations? I would love to try them out!

Ann Chin Popiah 安珍薄饼
Blk 335
Chinatown Complex Market
Smith Street
Weekdays 10am - 9pm (Off on Thursday)
Weekends and public holiday 9am - 9pm
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