Monday, 16 December 2013

Two Chefs Eating Place, Commonwealth, Singapore (Alissa and Don Eat Asia Day 22, Part 2)

When talking about Singapore as a candidate for a Michelin Guide, places like Iggy’s make a strong case for the guide’s prestigious stars being dished out to the best to the city’s finest restaurants . However just as important for a balanced guide are the Bib Gourmands – the cheap eateries that provide good food and great value, and Singapore’s hawker centres are as overflowing with talented zi char specialists who would seem destined for such recognition. Two Chefs Eating Place is one such example.

Located on the ground floor of Block 116 Commonwealth Crescent, its plastic chairs and food court tables give the outdoor eatery and unassuming character, with only the ubiquitous orderly queue giving away its popularity. The restaurant is obviously used to this, and they were impressively organised as they gave us a menu to peruse during our short wait so we could order immediately as we were seated. Gotta love that Singaporean efficiency.

Wanting to try a few dishes, we ordered four plates of food to share, including their famous signature dish of Butter Pork Ribs. When I described a dish of pork covered in what appears to be milk powder to Alissa she seemed highly sceptical. However upon tasting the melt in your mouth creaminess of the powdery coating and the pork (actually pork chops), its salty-sweet deliciousness won her over.  Apparently the milk powder is a bit more complicated than just off-the-shelf milk powder, using butter and milk, as well as requiring a lot of work and secret ingredients to produce. I’m not sure if this delicious powder is produced by the molecular gastronomy additive of maltodextrin or by a more straightforward traditional method, but the result is a truly unique and interesting dish that at once seems part of the Singaporean culinary tradition (where pantry items like luncheon meat and corn flakes are common ingredients) while being innovative at the same time (possibly creating a milk powder from scratch through molecular gastronomy methods).

As delicious as the pork was another of their signature dishes - the equally unusual Fried Buttered Prawns with Pork Floss. Thinking back to the horribly stingy prawns we’d eaten just days ago at Copper Castle, we couldn’t help but be very impressed with the large, succulent prawns and the generous size of the medium portion. And the taste was delicious - the prawns were cooked perfectly with a nice crunchy outer coating, and the intense flavour of the melt-in-your mouth pork floss proved yet again that swine and seafood make such great friends.

The remaining two dishes were, as they say in Singpoare, ‘okay lah’.  The fried hor fun was tasty enough in terms of flavour and seasoning, however was somewhat stingy in its noodle quotient and seemingly waterlogged with way too much sauce considering. I’ve had better in Singapore and even Australia.

Sizzling Tofu is one of our favourites, and while it fared better than the fried hor fun it was again not an outstanding version of this dish. This time the problem was to do with the flavour, as it was not as flavoursome as the best versions I've eaten of this dish in Hong Kong, as well as some of the better Chinese restaurants in Perth where the um ami richness of the sauce combined with the texture of the tofu gives the dish that real ‘wow’ factor.

The Verdict: Excellent
In spite of the two lesser dishes, the combination of flavours and inventiveness demonstrated in the Butter Pork Ribs and the Fried Butter Prawns dishes more than makes up it – this is food that would be difficult to find in Australia, and shows how local Singaporean cuisine is still developing and innovating in the 21st Century in parallel to the waves of the latest international trends that have graced the island nation’s shores. I’d definitely be more than happy to go for another round of Two Chefs Eating Place next time I’m in Singapore, even if it was just an extra large serve of those two delicious signature dishes. 

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