Food Picks: The Hainan Story Coffee House opens at Nex, premium hotpot at Black Knight Hotpot

The Hainan Story Coffee House at Nex is a casual eatery offering different styles of Hainanese cooking. PHOTO: THE HAINAN STORY

Hainan Story Coffee House

Opened about two weeks ago at Nex mall, this eatery is a spin-off from The Hainan Story chain of restaurants, which feature different styles of Hainanese cooking. Items on their menus range from bread toast and curry rice to pork chop and lamb stew.

The new joint offers a smaller menu than the three older outlets at Hillion Mall, Hotel Boss and Jewel Changi Airport. And diners collect the food from the counter instead of having it served at the table.

But like the other eateries, it offers outlet-exclusive dishes. The most interesting ones are those listed under the section Hainanese Delights, such as Hainanese Ah Mai’s Chee Cheong Fun ($7.80) and Hainanese Pork Patty Noodle Soup ($7.80).

According to one of the owners, whose mother is Hainanese, these are not exactly traditional fare, but his interpretation of family dishes he grew up with.

The pork patty noodle soup, which comes with a choice of yellow noodle or thick beehoon, is a wholesome dish with a tasty broth and toppings of vegetables, slices of fish cake and a generous piece of steamed pork patty.

Hainanese Ah Mai’s Chee Cheong Fun is a new dish that is exclusive to The Hainan Story Coffee House at Nex. PHOTO: THE HAINAN STORY

But my favourite is the chee cheong fun, drenched in a sauce that tastes like a tangy curry. It comes with a fishball and two fried wonton.

Another new dish is Baked Hainanese Rice Cake Lasagna ($8.80), a hybrid of Italian lasagna where the pasta sheets are replaced with Hainanese rice cake. The idea may sound a bit odd, but the pieces of smooth rice cake, which remind me of chwee kueh, work well with the parmesan white sauce. Buried under the cheese are pieces of stewed eggplant and tomatoes – classic lasagna ingredients.

The Hainanese Hae Bee Hiam Spaghetti With Soft Boiled Egg ($9.90) is another winner that should appeal to local palates. The spice level is balanced enough to excite but not burn. You can have the dish with toppings like fried chicken cutlet, fried pork cutlet or chicken chop for $12.80.

Other sections of the menu feature waffles with fillings like gula melaka kaya ($2.30) or avocado egg mayo ($6.90). Newspaper curry rice is available, too, with selections of braised pork belly ($11.80) and curry chicken drumstick ($10.80).

Where: The Hainan Story Coffee House, 02-17 Nex, 23 Serangoon Central
MRT: Serangoon
Open: 8am to 10pm daily
Info: Go to

Black Knight Hotpot

Black Knight Hotpot’s combo of Fish Maw and Spicy Pots is a great choice for those who want both spicy and savoury broths. PHOTO: BLACK KNIGHT HOTPOT

I had dined at Black Knight Hotpot a number of times at its old location at Marina Bay Sands. It was not until recently that I visited its current premises at Millenia Walk, where it moved to about half a year ago.

Not only is the food just as good, but the ambience is also much nicer.

Sitting at the end of the mall’s row of Japanese eateries called Nihon Street, the interiors are spacious and neat, with tables set comfortably apart. There is a choice of square and round booth tables, as well as five private rooms that can accommodate six to 16 people.

What has always impressed me about Black Knight are its full-bodied broths. According to the restaurant, the brews made with herbs and meat are simmered for 16 hours and can be drunk on their own. There are seven to choose from and, while they are not cheap, many come with chunks of meat.

For example, the Spicy Pot (from $38) is not your typical mala hotpot, but a spicy beef broth that contains tendon and tripe. You can have it on its own or pair it with another broth for a combo pot.

I love to match it with the Fish Maw Chicken Pot (from $48), which has pieces of fish maw and kampung chicken, or the Nourishing Beauty Pot (from $48), which comes with pork tripe and trotter.

If you feel like splurging, order premium ingredients such as Japanese A5 wagyu and live seafood to add to the pot. These are marked as market price and can cost more than $100 a platter.

Those with a tighter budget can take their pick from many reasonably priced items. For example, you can get Snowflake Wagyu Beef for $48 and Okinawa Black Pork Belly for $26, which is pretty good value to me. Items like meat balls and pork dumplings are $8.

Where: Black Knight Hotpot, 02-02/05 Millenia Walk, 9 Raffles Boulevard
MRT: Promenade
Open: 11.30am to 4pm, 5.30 to 10.30pm daily
Info: Go to

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