So once again I found myself in Causeway Bay racking my brain for a dinner spot with a buddy. Take it from me – if you have worked around the same area long enough, your brain will always go back to the same place for the same food.
Which was my excuse for going back to Hainan Shaoye. I have been there at least three times in the past for a quick meal, but for one reason or another, I have never blogged about it. So this time round I decided to really take note of what I am eating, look at it with a balanced eye of someone who have lived in Singapore long enough to (hopefully) know the bad and the good (the chef of Hainan Shaoye was apparently recruited from Chatterbox at Mandarin Orchard in Singapore, famous for their great chicken rice), and of someone who has his expectation, well, moderated, according to the local foodie taste.
The buddy wasn’t in the mood to have a large meal (there was this set meal with six dishes to share between two person for some $400, a good deal I must say), so once again I ordered some crowd favorite.
Without fail, my favorite Singapore rojak always draws the same reaction among my local friends. A grimace, that is. I guess this signature dish – cut fruits mixed with shrimp & belacan paste with cut tofu and deep fried dough, somewhat like a fruit salad with a spicy twist – is quite an acquired taste. I had always enjoyed my rojak, ordering it wherever I could. The version at Hainan Shaoye, though far from being on par with the original stuff, was more than adequate to scratch that foodie itch. I scooped up everything, peanuts and beansprouts and everything else. Something about that shrimp paste just evoke that Singapore glutton in me la.
Hainanese Chicken Rice Set (HK$88)
Elaborately presented (read: slowly served), the Hainanese chicken rice is the dish to order when you come to Hainan Shaoye. I will skip introducing dish by dish, but just focus on the good stuff. Top of my list is not the chicken but the rice itself. Fragrant, rich in taste but (surprise surprise!) not oily, the delicious rice was purportedly fried with garlic before cooked with ginger, shallot and lemon grass. The sliced, skillfully deboned chicken was served
cold at room temperature, the way Hainanese chicken usually is, though to be honest I would have preferred it warm. Probably that’s why it came with a serving of piping hot vegetables and a bowl of herbal broth. The whole platter came served with three sauces – the way Hainanese do – a ginger puree, sweet & sour chilli and dark soy. The health-conscious few might consider stripping off the chicken skin, though you would be missing the good part; with that thin layer of fat, the skin was exceptionally good. I know, I took two (from my buddy’s plate).
Char Kway Teow (HK$88)
After having the best char kway teow (fried rice noodle, Singapore style) at Gurney Drive a few months back, my expectation of this particular dish was high. Alas, I was disappointed. Missing was the crucial wok hei, the sign of a well seasoned pan used to cook the dish. The prawns used were crunchy, the way frozen ones usually are. It was one oily mess which took the better of half an hour to finish only half of it. Missing as well is the oh-so-important belacan (or chilli) sauce to go with it.
A word about the restaurant. I am not being mean here, but considering the level of details that went into the design of this place – from the bird cages on the ceiling to the intricate murals on the wall – it was wasted effort. The tables were cramped, the service level mediocre and the price… well, it is not exactly char chan teng‘s level, yes?
Verdict? Great to scratch that itch for Singaporean food, but only if you are on a loose end in Causeway Bay on a weekday night.