This is Part 1 of our coverage on Press’ 2022 learning journey. You can access Part 2 here.
Good food is tough to come by, even in sunny Singapore. After close to two years of being scared to go out and eat with friends, we finally took the plunge — and the opportunity — to review some food places as part of our Prexcursion (our affectionate name for “Press Excursions”).
While some restaurants we went to offered more commonly-found cuisines like Italian food, others were a little harder to come by, like the first restaurant on our review: Restaurant Aisyah.
By Azzahra Osman (22S03P), Sophie Goh (22S07B) and Ting Kaily (22S03P)
We’ll admit, we were primarily drawn to this restaurant because of the exotic-sounding “Saliva Chicken” shown on its menu. Tucked away in a shophouse on 176 Telok Ayer Street, Restaurant Aisyah sells 100% halal Xinjiang cuisine, with dishes such as la mian, fried rice, dumplings, and skewers.
Spoilers: Sadly, Saliva Chicken did not make it into our review.
Big Plate Chicken
Despite the name “Big Plate Chicken” and being labelled as a main dish on the menu, it is not necessarily meant for sharing as the portion was far smaller than we had expected it to be — in fact, the serving was only large enough to feed one person.
Nevertheless, what the dish lacked in serving size, it more than made up for with the generosity of potatoes and huge chunks of chicken given. The restaurant also did a fairly good job with the presentation of the food. The only drawback about the entire dish, though, was that it was salty.
Too salty. Infused with the savoury flavours of the broth, the chicken chunks and potatoes were also far too briny for us to finish, and it felt almost as if we were ingesting an entire packet of fine salt. That said, if you like your food on the saltier side, this dish is certainly meant for you.
Another thing that should be noted is that the dish comes with neither rice nor noodles, so as per the owner’s recommendation, we ordered an additional bowl of wide noodles to go with it. True to his words, the wide noodles, with its chewy texture and bland taste, complemented the salty chicken broth perfectly. Arguably, the noodles were the best part of the dish.
Price: $28.00 (exclusive of the $5.00 wide noodles)
Spicy Sauce Chicken Dumplings
While the menu showed the dumplings mixed in the spicy sauce, we were advised to separate it from the dish, as it was apparently very, very spicy (the uncle serving us claimed that he himself could not handle it himself). The menacing bright red hues of the sauce left us too intimidated to try the dumplings with it, but we eventually caved in.
Disappointingly, although we expected the sauce to be Korean fire noodles-level spicy, it was nothing of the sort. Even the most spice intolerant people could handle it without hyperventilating.
Thankfully, the chicken made up for the lack of spice—it was the main contributor to the dish’s taste. Nevertheless, the main star of the dish, Spicy Sauce, failed to impress us, relegating itself from the A-List to the B-List in the world of show-stopping ingredients that are in Restaurant Aisyah’s menu. We were truly robbed of a Hot Girl Summer.
Butterfly Brisket Noodles and Sliced Beef Noodles
Unlike the previous two dishes which had brighter colours and stronger flavours, the noodle dishes both looked and tasted relatively milder. Besides the beef slices and springy hand-pulled la mian noodles, it also featured a radish-based clear soup, adding slight notes of sweetness to the dish.
Between the Beef Brisket and the Sliced Beef, we marginally preferred the latter as it was more tender.
As a whole, we liked how this dish complemented the saltier flavours of the other dishes, and helped cleanse our palate in between bites of spicy sauce. Despite being a lighter-tasting dish, the flavours still came through very well.
Supply and Demand
By Lim Yong Le (22S03M) and Mirella Ang (22A01C)
The name might strike fear into the hearts of many Rafflesians, especially those reliving the trauma of scoring painfully low on the Economics Common Test we just had. Fortunately for us, Supply and Demand (the restaurant) didn’t seem to be suffering from scarcity or opportunity cost.
Unfortunately for us, there was a surplus of unsatisfied stomachs as quantity demanded for good food far exceeded quantity supplied.
Four Cheese Pizza
Living up to its name, Four Cheese Pizza was extremely cheesy (no doubt thanks to the four distinct cheeses: scamorza, gorgonzola, taleggio, and grana padano). Cheesiness aside, the sprinkling of tomatoes completed the meal, adding a burst of sourness to an otherwise rather salty dish.
Absence is supposed to make the heart grow fonder, but sadly that wasn’t the case for this pizza and us. Upon reflection, the pizza could have tasted so good because we were hungry — the restaurant was swarmed with customers, and we were left waiting for 40 minutes for the dishes to arrive.
Two of us even ordered extra sandwiches and finished them before the main dishes even appeared on the table.
Carbonara Cremoso is by no means the authentic Italian dish (which shockingly does not have cream in it) but it was sufficiently hearty. While we wished there would’ve been more protein apart from simply cheese, cream, and pasta, the meal was palatable enough (especially to the taste buds of hangry teenagers).
Like the Four Cheese Pizza, the Carbonara Cremoso is practically a staple for any Italian-inspired restaurant, so it was definitely not a bad dish. However, that was probably part of its downfall — Supply and Demand’s carbonara cannot really compete with other more filling recipes.
The dish promised chicken and indeed it was delivered. There was a generous amount of chicken, a vast improvement from the carbonara, and the sauce was nicely tangy.
Alas, the dish also promised arrabbiata: which is Italian for “angry”. The tomato sauce didn’t have nearly enough kick in it, considering its metaphorical name—one would expect an arrabbiata pasta to be a little bit spicier.
Overall, the arrabbiata falls prey to the same misfortune as the previous two dishes: it was nice, but there wasn’t anything really special about it.
The main feature of this dish was its saltiness. That being said, we could also taste the earthy, umami flavour of the truffle, which was good news for our wallets.
Ingredients-wise, there was a lot of mushroom (with the occasional flash of red tomato brightening up the dish). The generous topping of rucola counteracted some of the saltiness, but the addition of grana padano and pork sausage just intensified it again.
Grilled Chicken Leg
The best part of this dish was that it offered more bang for our buck, thanks to several side dishes accompanying the main item. However, they were also bang average in terms of taste. The “chef’s selection” of sides consisted of sauteed long beans, mixed greens in a balsamic vinaigrette, and a chilled pasta salad. The long beans were limp and rather bland, despite having a rather oily exterior. The vinaigrette was overly acidic, stinging the insides of our mouths and causing puckering all around.
Thankfully, the fusilli pasta salad was more redeeming, with the coldness of each pasta spiral a refreshing mouthful in the sweltering weather posed by our al fresco seating arrangement (to accommodate all of us at the same table).
Overall, our experience at Supply and Demand was ironically not an economical one. While the food was sold at price points commonly seen at upmarket restaurants, the food didn’t quite deliver, leaving the bunch of us rather disappointed. Perhaps our expectations were unreasonably high, or the lunch rush had simply overworked the kitchen. Nonetheless, the relatively-inaccessible location and not so student-friendly prices makes it more favourable to patronise other restaurants.
Harry’s @ CHIJMES
By Jason Sutio (22S06U) and Shermaine Lim (22S03N)
Even though Harry’s is a popular nightspot, we decided to patronise it during lunch hours. As food lovers on a student’s budget, how could we miss their 1-for-1 lunch special? With such a generous price reduction, Harry’s seemed to offer a refined Western dining experience that was also highly-accessible.
The al fresco dining experience provided a relaxed atmosphere with fresh air and indirect sunlight. As advertised on their website, “Harry’s brings together everyone with its sense of comfort and familiarity for a stylish escape in the urban jungle.” While the lush greenery hanging down and the cosy vibes of the outdoor seating did bring comfort, our main gripe lay with the cramped layout of the tables. Despite being amongst the few patrons there, we still felt somewhat constrained.
However, their alluring 1-for-1 lunch deal was too good of a deal to pass. Did it hold up to lunch standards? Read on to find out. (And no, we did not order beer).
As the first arrival, the Meatball Bolognese intrigued us with the vibrant red and green that lay delectably on the gleaming plate. The dish consisted of meatballs and spaghetti coated with a tomato beef bolognese sauce, with rocket greens heaped onto the pile. The aromatic punch of the tomato melded with the fresh arugula tempted us — our resolve to wait for the other dishes before eating cracked.
Let’s (spa)GET(ti) down to it:
The meatballs tasted like the usual IKEA meatballs, with a well-seasoned inside, and on the outside a pan sear provided decent bite.
As for the beef bolognese, its sauce came with just the right touch of acidity coupled with savoury umami. Impressively, for such a strong dish, the flavours did not overpower one another. Overall, we enjoyed this dish.
Bacon and Mushroom Carbonara
What arrived next genuinely blew us away. It appeared to be spaghetti tossed in cream sauce with button mushroom, crispy bacon and egg shavings. What we got was a culinary wonder: a concoction of savoury elements which were extremely well-balanced and that brought out the nuance of each respective ingredient.
Highly lauded by all of us at the table, the cream sauce was nothing short of outstanding: its creamy texture coated the noodles perfectly, while its sublime flavour balanced out the saltiness of the bacon. It was the perfect binder for all the other ingredients.
When we finished, not a drop of sauce was found on the plate.
Baked Lemon Spiced Fish
It’s funny that the fish was advertised as the main feature, as we felt that the fries were the mains and the fish was the side! To start with the main attention grabber, the fries were amazing. Unanimously agreed upon as one of the most well-seasoned fries we’ve tasted, these fries sported a perfectly crispy exterior with fluffy inside, dusted with a generous coating of a spice blend. Every bite was an explosion of flavour.
Sadly, on the other hand was the fish that was, at best, mediocre. The two slivers of white fish did little to impress. We expected a well-seasoned, moist fillet; but what we got was a somewhat flavoured fish that was extremely dry at some parts and adequately moist at others. It was like a game of texture roulette: either escape with a satisfying bite or have your mouth and throat dried out with the coarse fibres of the fillet.
With a name like Harry’s Parma, the next dish seemed to be a specialty menu that we simply had to get a taste of. Similar to the Spiced Fish, the fries deserved a Golden Globe award while the salad was, at best, part of the audience. But how did the chicken parma fare?
The breaded chicken thigh was too dry and the honey baked ham did little to help. Perhaps due to the overpowering cheese and the underwhelming umami from the chicken and ham, no coherent taste was found in this dish.
Unfortunately, it seems Harry’s Parma will have to join the salad in standing and clapping for the fries.
All in all, we did enjoy the dining experience, which was a true breath of fresh air away from the bustling city. Where some tanked, other dishes more than atoned for the flaws. Taking into consideration the generous discount provided, it is safe to say that the members of Raffles Press relished in this gastronomic journey.