Review Detail

Chinese Restaurants B bojio June 04, 2013 422
A few excellent dishes, but don't waste your time.
(Updated: July 18, 2013)
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To have to wait for up to three hours or so just to get a seat in any restaurant is, I think, preposterous, regardless of the quality of the food. After my first visit, I am pretty sure that if I ever do return for a second, I will not wait for more than three minutes. The food is generally mediocre, and you can definitely get better dimsum elsewhere, with the exception of one or two items on their two-page, A5-sized menu.

One of Tim Ho Wan's reputed best-sellers and signature items is its barbequed pork bun, or 'char siew bao'. It is apparently selling like hotcakes that the restaurant decided that no more than one order (three buns) is allowed per head. Whereas the traditional char siew bao is purely white bread on the outside, and prepared by steaming, Tim Ho Wan's rendition is baked, and has a tougher, crusty exterior more reminiscent of pastry than ordinary bread. One might think of it as the regular pork bun masquerading as the Chinese pineapple bun, or 'bo luo bao'. Or perhaps as some sort of savoury pork puff. It felt light when I picked it up, which attested to an airy, semi-filled interior. Texture-wise, Tim Ho Wan's offering fared better than the usual kind, the crispness and crumbliness of the bun giving textural contrast to the meaty filling. But that did not at all wow my palate because, as far as taste and flavour is concerned, barring the very slight buttery flavour of the crust, there wasn't much that differentiated Tim Ho Wan's creation from the usual kind. I was not the least bit delighted by the scant filling, which was surprisingly sweeter than I expected (and than I would have liked). And while it wasn't bad enough as to cloy after the first bun, it certainly wasn't good enough either as to leave me craving for a second.

The steamed egg cake and pan-fried carrot cake fared much better and at least, in my opinion, are worthier as the restaurant's signature dishes. The former is potentially my favourite -- a spongy, piping hot, wondrously fluffy slab of honeyed, caramelised goodness that tears apart like cotton candy. Yet, the taste is still closer to that of Chinese steamed cakes than Japanese sponge cakes; one might describe it as a super-airy 'kueh neng ko', a much lighter, sweeter version of the traditional Chinese steamed cake. The pan-fried carrot cake was no less stellar, extremely smooth on the tongue. It was excellent, texture-wise, simply as good as good carrot cake gets. And so, it's best eaten on its own rather than with chilli or other condiments because those only distract you from the wonderful texture of the cake.

The other dishes are really just so-so, so you won't miss anything if you pass on them. The pork dumplings were succulent, as it should be, but badly needed fat and flavour. The other dumplings wrapped in bean-curd skin, whether steamed or deep-fried, were too greasy and yet not quite flavoursome enough that they needed chilli to be more palatable.

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