647 343 4698 | $6-$9 Snacks, $9-$12 Plates
Fun new concept: Someone tells you there’s a new spot opening up serving Singaporean street food! Sounds really interesting right? We thought so. For a little Dish Duel reunion, Stella, Amy, Jess and I met up at Hawker Bar in hopes of getting through the vast majority of the menu. We succeeded…in record time too. Read on…
Photo Credit: Karolyne Ellacott, Toronto Life
So let’s put it this way, we figured we could take down most of the menu here between the four of us. That ended up not being too tough, but at the lightning pace the dishes were flying out of the kitchen, the whole thing’s a bit of a blur. We were constantly trying to get plates off the table to make room for new ones, so let’s just say this won’t be the most detailed review ever.
We started with the Son in Law Eggs (above), basically soft boiled eggs that are deep fried and glued to a leaf with chili jam. The yolks explode in your mouth - WARNING: if you don’t eat this in one bite it’s going to get all over you - the texture-mix is cool, and the chili jam is yummy.
Next up were pork skewers with peanut sauce. The pork was moist, the peanut sauce was a bit mild in flavour, but I like the larger nut pieces for texture.
These chicken wings were also pretty good, but I wanted them to be punchier. The chicken was moist, but I kept wanting them to be the wings from Foxley. If not saucy, be crispy or spicy. I didn’t find they were either.
I was disappointed by the chicken laksa (above). I’ve never been to Singapore, but I thought it was supposed to be spicy or pack a really nice flavour punch. To me, it was a bit muted and reminiscent of a lot of OK curries I’ve had before.
The chili crab had more of the chili flavour from the son in law eggs and the chicken wings. Even though it was a familiar taste, it was more intense and I’m a sucker for crab so I liked it.
The whole sea bream with lime, ginger and soy was OK. I liked the crispy outside, but I thought the fish might have been a bit over for my taste. The sauce on the plate was pretty tasty though.
This was probably my second favourite. The rendang curry was nice, but the ultra tender oxtail stole the dish. It literally melted. You could complain that it all sort of became mush, but that would be over-analyzing the whole thing.
This was another dish that I just didn’t get. By this point in the meal, there had been a lot of chili, ginger, and soy. This dish is essentially plain rice and plain (albeit juicy) chicken with three sauces: chili, ginger, and soy. It tasted like everything else we’d eaten so far. The puree of ginger needed a different delivery device too: the squeeze bottle doesn’t really work.
Then we moved onto dessert. This one was a shaved ice kacang (above) that had some sort of red bean paste on the top that was pretty much all you could taste. I had no idea what it should have been, but looking at the Wikipedia picture left me wanting more.
The meal did end on a good note though. These banana fritters had great, hot crispy shells, with ooey-gooey banana stuffed inside. Couldn’t place the ice cream flavour (red bean again?), but the cold-to-hot contrast did the job.
Service and Ambience
This place is little. I think I counted roughly 23 seats including those at the bar, so you’ll likely be waiting if you don’t go early. That said, it’s cozy and the big windows typical of these new Ossington spots are always welcome on sunny days.
Photo Credit: Karolyne Ellacott, Toronto Life
On the service, I’ll say two things: (1) our server was friendly, hospitable, and attentive, and (2) the speed at which the food came out was ridiculous. When a group of four orders ten dishes, there’s no way it’s all going on the table with tea cups, water glasses, and side plates. Add that to the fact that we’re all blatantly taking pictures of the food, and there’s just no way all ten of those dishes should come out that quickly.
I think we all enjoyed the food significantly less because we were very rushed, to the point of it being uncomfortable. We wanted to taste the food at its best, but it’s hard when dishes are sitting out in a culinary traffic jam.
The food’s not bad here at all. And some dishes (crab, eggs, rendang, fritters) were actually quite good. I’d have liked a little more variety in the flavours, since a group of four can eat most of the dishes in one sitting. All said, the dining experience just didn’t work for us and the enjoyment of it all suffered as a result. I can’t recommend it based on that.
Posted by: Jacob, Visited May 11, 2012