SINGAPORE (THE BUSINESS TIMES) - What a difference a duck makes.
If you're ever in a shopping mall that has languished in anonymity without an anchor tenant, just reach out to a famous bird and be guaranteed of overnight fame.
After years of being known as the mall opposite Shaw Centre that blasted free music from the CD shop on the ground floor, Pacific Plaza dabbled with hipster dining some time back with Bruno Menard's gourmet burger joint &Made. That didn't last, but now the mall has scored with a hat trick of crowd-pleasing Michelin-starred Hong Kong eateries transplanted into a one-stop destination.
Apart from stalwart Tim Ho Wan which sits on the second floor - this one has no queue and it still bakes its famous bo lo buns to order, which are still good. But if you're up for some exercise, then enjoy the leg workout from lining up at the newest imports on the ground level - the one Michelin-starred Kam's Roast Goose and the similarly acclaimed Tsuta Ramen from Tokyo.
Kam's Roast Singapore
#01-04/05/06/07 Pacific Plaza
9 Scotts Road
Tel: 6836 7788
Opening daily: 11am - 10pm (Mon to Fri); 10am - 10pm (Sat to Sun and public holiday)
Expecting to do our professional duty and take our place behind the velvet ropes, we pick our battles and decide on Kam's with a relatively small crowd in place just before its 11am opening time on a weekday. The queue at Tsuta is slightly more than twice as long at 10.45am but building fast, so we leave that for another day.
Given the timing, it's a breeze to get into Kam's Roast - so named because the titular fowl has been banned from entering our sensitive no-Chinese-goose zone. Instead, you have to make do with duck, chicken and various cuts of pork - origin not verified.
The odd-shaped space gives you little wiggle room between the display of glistening roast birds and the cash counter, as you're led into the crammed dining area, although it opens into a wider space at the back. This place is built for packing as many humans as possible in a space without violating any human rights conventions. If you're a lone diner, expect to share your table with another one.
The menu leaves little to the imagination. Roast meats, alone or with rice/noodles. A couple of appetisers such as honey glazed soya beans and jelly fish. We read through two or three times before we finally accept there are no wontons on the menu.
Duck legs are at a premium (priced at S$14.80 with rice or S$15.80 with noodle) and deservedly so because it really is the only cut worth ordering. They're large, with roasted skin that lifts off easily but is more papery than crisp, but it's the smooth-textured, juicy meat that makes it worth the high price. For some reason they leave the duck leg whole if you order it as part of a quarter plate (S$19.80) but is chopped up nicely if you get the noodle version.
While we enjoy the texture of the meat, the flavour is surprisingly bland. The lack of marinade is more obvious in the breast meat which is satisfyingly thick but devoid of taste. The task instead lies with the all-purpose murky gravy that's ladled on both the duck and soya sauce chicken. Never mind the off-putting pale chalky hue, it's really quite delicious mixed in with the thin, springy noodles, masking the latter's alkaline aftertaste.
The soya sauce chicken is salty compared to the duck, and unless you order the half-bird portion, there's no chance of getting any drumstick or thigh meat. The regular portion (S$14.80) gets you a wing and some breast meat swimming in gravy and is pretty nondescript, although the ginger-green onion oil it comes with gives it a much-needed oomph.
A small plate of crispy pork and so-called "toro" char siew sets us back a cool S$27.80 for a small plate of rough roast pork that's dry with a thick hard crust, and fatty chunks of char siew which are nicely marbled and juicy in parts, pure fat or hard in others. There's no faulting the sweet, sticky, caramel-like marinade, but the inconsistency of texture is part air-conditioning and part uneven charring.
There's only one dessert - thin, watery red bean soup (S$5.80) which otherwise has a pleasant citrus accent from the aged peel used, and pert beans that are tender but still keep their shape.
To the main question - to queue or not to queue - the answer is: a noodle house is a noodle house. A Michelin star doesn't come with fireworks. It comes with a certain dependability and minimum standard. If you want more then go queue someplace else.
WHAT OUR RATINGS MEAN
10: The ultimate dining experience
7-7.5: Good to very good
Our review policy: BT pays for all meals at restaurants reviewed on this page. Unless specified, the writer does not accept hosted meals prior to the review's publication.