Having read the many reviews of Cafe de Hong Kong recently, I decided to take the plunge and try it despite the fact that I generally avoid Hong Kong style food when I am in Singapore. I tend to unfairly compare it with the cuisine available back in Hong Kong and inevitably leave unsatisfied, especially in the cafe-style eateries popping up ceaselessly over the island.
The repertoire at Cafe de Hong Kong is broader than the usual cafe. It serves Cantonese favourites like home style food or "small fries" - the type of food served in family style smaller eateries in Hong Kong. And if Grandma and Mom like the fare, and it is the week culminating in Mother's Day, why not indulge them a little.
I made reservations in the morning and was pleasantly surprised at being asked if I would like to reserve any dishes for dinner. Despite the reviews, I asked for recommendations and ended up reserving the Roast Chicken and Claypot Waxed Meat Rice.
When we got there, we started our dinner with the soup of the day - Old Cucumber and Pork Rib soup. In my opinion, the standard of the soup for a Cantonese restaurant was sorely lacking - quite tasteless and was little more than salt water.
Pre-ordering was advantageous in that we did not have to wait - our Claypot rice followed our soup almost immediately. A little strange since this is usually served last but I wasn't complaining since I was dying for some rice. The waxed meats were already taken out of the claypot and served separately while the rice was dished at the table straight from the piping claypot. The rice was impressively aromatic and not very oily and just the way I like it - grainy and not soft. The meats cooked well over the rice although the quality of the meats were not not up to the standards of its HK counterparts - the duck was a tad too sallty and overall the meats were just not flavourful. Grandma says that since the waxed meats are done in-house in Singapore, they will never be as good because we lack the North winds required for drying them.
As we finished most of the rice, we requested for a little hot soup to pour over the remnants so as to get the best and burnt bits (fan chiew) off. They kindly offered to do it for us in the kitchen where they can bring it to a quick boil over the fire. The result is a nice rice soup - very comforting to the soul.
The roast chicken was the piece de resistance of the evening - very well roasted with hints of Nam Yue (red fermented beancurd). The Nam Yue based serving sauce added to the experience. The chicken was well roasted - light crispy skin with not a hint of grease/fat with very moist flesh - even the breast meat did not lose its juices in the process - very hard to accomplish. Kudos to the chef!
The other recommended dish of braised garouper fillets with tofu was pretty decent even if unspectacular. The fish was very fresh and was almost wasted in a braised dish - very soft but firm flesh. The tofu tasted home made and was very smooth in texture. The main ingredients braised together with mushrooms did not come together as I had hoped but the sauce was tasty enough and good with rice.
Our compulsory fibre which came in the form of Chinese spinach served with superior stock was also decent - sweetened with roast garlic pieces and wolfberries.
Being a cafe, I skipped the limited dessert menu and instead, settled for a milk tea - which was quite impressive as HK milk teas in Singapore go. Pretty smooth down the palate with the taste and fragrance of the tea coming through the milkiness.
Our shared sweet of French toast served with peanut butter inside was also well done - crisply deep fried but soft on the inside, and drizzled with honey, it made for a good alternative to the usual Chinese desserts. And definitely one of the better ones around.
It's certainly nice to see cafe foods of Hong Kong becoming more readily available on our sunny shores and hopefully over time, with growing and keen competition, the standards do go even further up! In the meantime, Cafe de Hong Kong is certainly one of the better ones to hit in Singapore to satisfy those cravings.
586 Balestier Road
#01-01 Eastpac Building
Tel: +65-6255 3865