BEST & WORST 2016

Best and worst 2016: Dishes

BEST

• Roti Kirai Beef Ribs

The Malayan Council, 22 Dunlop Street, tel: 9002-4414; open: 11.30am to 11pm (weekdays), 11am to 11pm (weekends)

As if turning out good food is not enough, chefs now have to make sure their plates are Instagram- worthy too.

This has been a year of spectacular-looking food, but not all of them have passed the taste test. However, The Malayan Council, a halal restaurant in Dunlop Street, has got everything right with its Roti Kirai Beef Ribs.

Picture-perfect? For sure. The big, bone-in rib, with two lacy pancakes folded neatly into triangles leaning on it, looks instantly appetising and not just to caveman types.

Taste perfect? Definitely. The rendang-like gravy, nuanced and perfectly spiced, makes me go back again and again with my spoon, to try and figure out what is in it.

Of course, I also mop it up with the roti kirai, which is roti jala by another name. All of that complexity is thoroughly infused into the beef too, which falls away from the bone with no resistance. It is a substantial portion that is good for two. But one bite and I find it difficult to share.
 

• Shirayaki Unagi

Man Man Japanese Unagi Restaurant, 01-01, 1 Keong Saik Road; tel: 6222-0678; open: 11.30am to 3pm, 6 to 10.30pm (Mondays to Saturdays), closed on Sundays and public holidays

It has been a long time coming, but finally, Singapore has a restaurant that serves just eel.

The unagi or freshwater eels at Man Man Japanese Unagi Restaurant are live too, which is what makes this restaurant worth repeated visits.

With eels this fresh, it seems a shame to have it kabayaki-style, where the fillets are dipped in a sweet soya-based sauce before being grilled.

Order it shirayaki-style, grilled without sauce. At Man Man, the eel is sprinkled with pink Himalayan salt.

Without the distraction of sauce, the springy texture of the unagi and its freshness all come to the fore.
 

• Crispy Sweet And Sour Noodle In Teochew Style

Paradise Teochew Restaurant, 03-04 Scotts Square, 6 Scotts Road, tel: 6538-0644; open: 11.30am to 3pm (Mondays to Fridays), 10.30am to 3.30pm (Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays), 6 to 10.30pm daily

Restrained is not a word I would use to describe myself, but that is what I have to be when dining at Paradise Teochew at Scotts Square.

I pick at the braised Irish duck with the lovely layer of fat under the skin. I serve generous portions of steamed pomfret to dining companions. I have one wedge, maybe two, of the crisp oyster omelette.

But when Crispy Sweet And Sour Noodle In Teochew Style arrives at the end of the meal, I pounce.

It is a deceptively simple dish - a thin layer of egg noodles pan-fried until crisp, with caster sugar and black vinegar on the side to sprinkle on the noodles.

It has been perfectly done every time I have had it - crisp all the way through, with a hint of smokiness. There is no space in between for sog to set in.

The crunch of the noodles, the light sweetness and the mellow vinegar all make for a mighty magnificent mouthful.
 

WORST

• American Ginseng Soup With Black Chicken

Souper Tang, 02-52 The Centrepoint, 176 Orchard Road, tel: 6737-6772; open: 11.30am to 10pm daily

It says something that I ate at Souper Tang in June and still remember it months later - with a shudder.

The Malaysian chain, which opened its first Singapore restaurant at The Centrepoint, is known for its herbal soups. The photographs on the menu look enticing, but none of the soups I ordered live up to those pictures.

Tian Qi Nourishing Soup, which should have the distinctive taste of the herb, does not taste of it at all. Ning Shen Remedying Soup is similarly lacklustre. I strain to find any ginseng flavour in American Ginseng Soup With Black Chicken. Like the other soups, all I taste is salt.

There are better-tasting herbal soups to be had in hawker centres and foodcourts.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 18, 2016, with the headline 'Dishes'. Print Edition | Subscribe