Red Star Restaurant
The gaudy interiors – complete with a dinky stage – have not changed in decades, and that’s the charm of the Red Star. The food, too, has not been updated so it’s all a little less refined than, say, Crystal Jade, but no one cares. Most of the regulars – over three generations – come for the weekend dim sum feast where trolleys of siew mai, braised chicken feet, char siew tarts, roast pork and century egg congee are wheeled around by loud, scowling aunties with hearts of gold.
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Unlike other Dim Sum eateries, Red Star was pretty much like a high class restaurant and I really loved how the entire hall was furnished such that it was suitable for a wedding anytime.
My family and I ordered quite a number of dishes and one of the best food that I would name would be none other than its century egg porridge.
However, other dim sums tasted average and did not meet my expectations as I have always read articles commending its dim sum. I was a little disappointed but overall, it was an enjoyable meal as the food were still acceptable.
Unless you are looking to have dim sum in a noisy, 1970s looking place, don't bother visiting. If you are looking for yummy dim sum, the little dim sum shops along Geylang road can beat Red Star easily and won't have you burning a hole in the wallet.
I come here just because it is an old shop and my grandma likes the roasted duck noodles.
My first impression of the place was that it was traditional and a little dim. Perhaps it was due to the slow crowd, the food that arrived in the carts was lukewarm and generally lacked appeal.
I left disappointed because I genuinely thought that the dimsum was average. Furthermore, the basic expectation of serving HOT food was not met.
We were sat down at a table after awhile, and I quickly learned how food was served here - on pushcarts. My parents who were with me told me that this was how they usually served Dim Sum in ancient times. It was an interesting experience for me to see waitresses pushing carts of dim sum around the restaurant and stopping to serve customers who raise their hands.
The food there was okay, nothing really great, but not bad either. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and might come here again if it wasn't so packed.
The cute part was only my grandaunt knew all of us, the others didn't know everyone, so what happened was three of us arrived early, had no idea we did not know one another, and opened up 3 separate tables, with one ordering Pu'er tea, the second one ordering Pu'er tea with Chrysanthemum, and the third ordering Jasmine tea. It was only when my grandaunt arrived that the misunderstanding was sorted out, and our table ended up with 3 teapots of different teas.
As we were ordering our dim sum dishes from time to time, I began to have a strange feeling. In the past, all the aunties and uncles who took our orders spoke Cantonese--without fail. This time, there were some China people who served us, and we had to give our orders in Mandarin. It felt really strange, because I always had the innate feeling that people who run and serve in dim sum restaurants MUST know Cantonese. Maybe I should move with the times. My grandaunt, who always seem to know everything, told me that according to the grapevine, the older staff who knew Cantonese were unhappy with one or two of the owners, and left the restaurant, hence the owners had to hire new staff, who hailed from China. The plus point was the China staff were very cheerful and enthusiastic.
Another issue was the food quality had become erratic quite recently. Sometimes the food tasted nice, sometimes it did not. One example was the egg tarts. One batch was delicious, the next batch we ordered were not so good. The presentation of the food was also not of restaurant quality--they looked like they were prepared in food courts. Fortunately for us, the food in general was edible, so no one complained.
Sometimes, the owners will come to our table to chit-chat with us, and on this recent visit, one of the owners, a very nice man, came and 'lo hei'ed' with us.
I am in general not a fussy eater, hence the food at Red Star was acceptable to me. But what I did not like was paying the bill--the price was high and definitely not worth it, for the quality of food that were served.
There is nothing really remarkable about Red Star especially the Dim Sum. The food was slightly above average, and the service terrible. When we asked some of the aunties for items, especially Char Siew Sou and Har Gao, we were told to wait for the correct lady with the trolley. Yet, somehow or the other, she'll always miss out our table and go in other directions or she'll finally make it to our table and there is no longer any more of the items that we want.
The staff ignore us regularly and seems to be irritated when we asked them to refill the teapot with hot water.
I'll really understand if we went on a weekend. But the fact was that we went on a weekday and the service was so poor! The staff to table ratio is spectacular yet they would always seem to be busy doing things like filling soya sauce bottles laying tables etc. Their congee is their saving grace but even it was a tad cold.
Probably will not return unless an elder family member specifically request to go or when there is news that the service improved.
Personally, I was still okay with the renovations and utensils but I was disappointed with the food. I came here expecting good food and the best I could say about the food was that they were only slightly above average. If I had not come with such high expectations, the food may have tasted better and I would have gone away with better memories of this restaurant.
The food was not bad, and pricing though not cheap, was still affordable. However, I expected the pricing to be cheaper for an old restaurant.
The second time my friend and I headed down, we made it for dim sum (we were there at about 10 am). We had to queue for a short while and were brought to a table at a corner of the room. This made ordering difficult. The ladies will push the carts carrying the dim sum and because the restaurant is so big and the corner tables are all jam-packed together, they will just avoid pushing between the corner tables. In the end, we had to go to them and get the dim sum that we wanted to eat. And we were not alone; others were doing it too.
The dim sum was alright, pricing was not cheap either.
All in all, taking into account the lack of service, the slightly pricey food for that food quality, and the stressful feeling I felt while eating dim sum, I doubt I will be back.
The only saving grace is the vintage Chinese restaurant setting. I have never been to a Chinese restaurant in Singapore with a setting as vintage as this one.
First up, we had the Chee Cheong Fun. The texture of the flour is rough and it is rather dry. Disappointing. Next, we had some fried food which were not bad. Their liu sha bao also known as custard buns was disappointing too. The filling in the bun was too little and it wasn't oozing out like how most liu sha baos should be. The other dim sum dishes were ok, nothing to shout about.
Though the price for lunch that day was not to expensive, we were slightly disappointed with our meal that day.
Don't, don't ever try their ma lai koh. Being one of the cheapest item on the menu, I was keen to try it. It came in a UFO like shape. First bite- wrong texture. Second bite- wrong taste. Third - hopeless. I'm not the picky type but this cake was simply too horrible for me to swallow down anymore. There was a siu ish aftertaste, characteristic of too much leavening agent present. The texture was dense and wet through, unlike the soft and fluffy interior which can be found in even mass produced packets.
On to their plus points. Once you step in, you'll be greeted with throngs of people, tables spread across the whole room. It reminded me of the eating places of the past, there was a rustic feel to the whole place. Their signature pulling factor would have to be that their dim sum is not ordered from a menu, but are placed on push carts. Once the pushcarts leave the kitchen, be sure to be quick if you want the best items, hot.
Their Liu sha pao did not disappoint too. Hot and flowy salted egg yolk custard on the inside, it burst and flowed out as I pinch the little floury bun open.
Come early and remember, ladies, don't wear a belt.