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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Review: Straits Chinese Nonya Restaurant

"You know you're getting old when you stoop to tie your shoelaces and wonder what else you could do while you're down there." - George Burns


Straits Chinese Nonya Restaurant (Tan Chong Towers)
15 Queen Street #01-03 Tan Chong Tower Singapore
(cross-posted review from HGW)

Had the Ala Carte Nonya Buffet (it ends end November).

Dishes sampled (spelling as per menu):
1) Appertizer set: Kuih Pie Tee, Popiah Goreng, Nogh Hiang, Sambal Timun
2) Itek Tim
3) Ban Wan (Soup)
4) Ayam Buak Keluak
5) Ayam Goreng
6) Ayam Curry
7) Ayam Tempra
8) Babi Pong Tay
9) Satay Babi
10) Ikan Assam Pedas
11) Ikan Manis (Chinese-style Sweet & Sour Fish)
12) Otah Otah
13) Udang Sambal Petai
14) Udang Mentaga (Chinese-style Butter Prawns)
15) Sayor Lodeh
16) Chap Chye
17) Terung Sambal
18) Stir Fried Green (we got kai lan)
19) Beef Rendang
20) Sotong Tumis
21) Chinchalok Telur
22) Durian Pengat
23) Pulut Hitam
24) Chen Dool

Not tried:
1) Chin Chow
2) Cut Fruits

Although it's Nonya food it's not too spicy, so those with thermophobia can be somewhat reassured, although chili lovers might want to look somewhere else (at The Arch Restaurant, which used to be at Seah Street, chili was free - but it seems to have closed down)

Also, they serve pork. There are an annoying number of so-called Peranakan places (some of which dare to brand themselves as authentic) which are "no pork, no lard". Whether this is more of a travesty than Delifrance branding itself an "authentic French Cafe Bakery" (a French cafe which doesn't serve wine?!) depends on your judgment. Outstanding dishes:

i) Ayam Goreng: the Peranakan blend is noticeably different from the Malay one. The one here was juicy
ii) Ayam Tempra: chicken was unbelievably tender, and the sour sauce refreshed the palette and was novel
iii) Chap Chye: most chap chyes taste quite plain. This one was robustly flavoured
iv) Sambal Timum: it's a bit like kimchi but made with cucumber instead. Very refreshing
v) Chinchalok Telur: You can't see the chinchalok but you can definitely taste it. It's like little flavour explosions are buried in the omelette. And it's not too salty.

Some of the good dishes:

i) Itek Tim: Flavourful and not too sour, though some said the duck was too tough
ii) Ayam Curry: the curry was quite flavourful
iii) Sayor Lodeh: smooth and the vegetables were not overcooked like most Sayor Lodehs
iv) Stir Fried Green (good wok hei, though a bit of fried garlic would've improved it)

Special note: Udang Sambal Petai is an acquired taste. The bean is extremely smelly, though the dish tasted alright. I couldn't bear to eat more than one prawn - more because of the smell than the taste. Perhaps it's like Chou Doufu (Smelly Toufu), and one should cover one's nose and just tuck in.

Most of the other dishes were not bad or alright, except:

i) Satay Babi: it tasted a bit weird. Not all satay babis I've had literally use satay sauce, but this sauce tasted off
ii) Sotong Tumis: overcooked: too dry and like chewing rubber
iii) Durian Pengat: there not enough durian - I mostly tasted the coconut and durian strands could not be discerned in the mix, and it wasn't thick enough like a good Durian Pengat should be. Namely almost thick enough to do a Dairy Queen "Served upside down or it's free" Blizzard.

Service was also quite bad. Dishes took a while to come, while people who came in after us got served their food earlier. As we were a large group and we'd ordered the ala carte buffet, perhaps this had something to do with it. We also had to change our plates ourselves, and tea refills were slow in coming. And I think I espied a waitress topping up someone else's rice from ours...

The policy of one appetizer set and one durian pengat per person was also a little annoying.

The restaurant also has Chinese food, but I didn't really try it.
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