RESTAURANT REVIEW

Chinese food from the West

Lokkee serves up dishes from cities such as London and Sydney

Lokkee, a new restaurant by the TungLok Group, offers Chinese dishes found in Western countries - which is a bit like bringing coal to Newcastle. Except that Singaporeans are so well-travelled and some are quite familiar with the strange hybrid Chinese dishes they encounter abroad.

And Lokkee can find encouragement in the successful Chopsuey Cafe in Dempsey Road, which has been serving American-Chinese dishes such as General Tso's chicken and egg drop soup since 2013. In fact, it has done so well that a second outlet opened in Martin Road last year.

Lokkee, however, looks beyond the United States to include cities such as London and Sydney for inspiration - although surprisingly, there is no General Tso's chicken, that popular American-Chinese dish of deep-fried chicken with a spicy-and-sweet sauce named after a Qing dynasty general.

But there is a Lokkee Egg Drop Soup ($6 for single serving). And to my surprise, it is my favourite dish at a dinner there last week. This is not the egg drop soup I know - which is usually just starchy chicken stock with an egg beaten in - but a corn soup packed with shredded chicken and crabmeat.

  • LOKKEE

  • 03-01 Plaza Singapura, 68 Orchard Road, tel: 6884-4566

    Open: 11.30am to 3pm, 5 to 10.30pm daily

    Food: 3/5 stars

    Service: 3/5 stars

    Ambience: 3/5 stars

    Price: Budget from $50 a person

I do not like corn soup as it is too sweet for me, but the generous amount of crabmeat here makes a strong case for this being much more than a corn soup. Then, there are the streams of egg that thicken the broth, enrich the flavour and tone down the sweetness of the corn.

On the menu are also a number of Sichuan dishes, and those I order are not as good as what you would find in a Sichuan restaurant, but they are much better than what you would find in a Western city.

The spice level of the Mouthwatering Chicken ($10) is low, but since this version is supposed to be transported from the West, I guess it is authentic. And low does not mean no spice; the sting of Sichuan pepper is still evident in the sauce, so it is not a total washout.

I like the Firecracker Chicken Nest ($24), though this version of the popular Sichuan dish of diced chicken tossed with dried chilli and cashew nuts needs a bit of tweaking.

The dish comes out too salty at first, so I send it back. The replacement has the salt level right, but it is also less fiery, which takes the kick out of the dish.

But the chicken is well-marinated and fragrant with chilli-infused oil and cooked just right with the meat still moist in the middle.

The dish comes with what looks like egg yolks in half shells, but are actually molecular blobs of mango puree. They are supposed to neutralise the fire from the chillies, but since there is no fire to speak of, they serve little purpose besides injecting a bit of fun to the dish.

The Awesome Flaming Pineapple Beef ($28) is another example of gimmickry. A Thai beef and pineapple curry is served in a hollowedout pineapple and, at the table, the fruit is set aflame. Perhaps it helps to heat up the curry a little, but I think the real reason is to provide a good Instagram moment.

Gimmick or not, the dish does not taste too bad. The pineapple tenderises the beef so the meat is really soft, but that is not a bad thing in a curry.

What I object to is having the meat in the 5 Spice Crispy Pork Belly ($12) turn soft too. The pork is slow-cooked before it is roasted, so while the crackling is amazingly crisp, the meat is soft when it should be tender. Without bite or meat juices, this is a letdown.

The Singapore Noodles ($16) is the more localised Sing Chew beehoon and not the curry powderheavy version you get overseas. There is a fleeting hint of spice, which you detect only if you focus really hard. Otherwise, it is a boring plate of rather dry noodles that is little better than what I get at my office cafeteria.

The desserts I try are decent at best. The Banana Egg Roll ($10) is a banana springroll served with coconut sorbet, which is fine, but not very exciting.

The Bacon Delight ($12) has too much going on, with butterscotch bacon ice cream stuffed into a bread bowl and strips of candied bacon sticking out on top. And scattered around the plate are cubes of bread. But they are too hard and the bacon too chewy, and the whole thing looks a mess.

In terms of ambience, Lokkee goes a little funky with a hip-hop soundtrack and an eclectic collection of artworks, including a bizarre series of Star Wars and Alien characters drawn in Chinese ink.

The kitschy mix of Chinese and Western cultures goes with the theme and would have worked, except that the service staff dress and behave like they are in a traditional Chinese restaurant.

Something a bit more offbeat would fit in so much better.

• Follow Wong Ah Yoke on Twitter @STahyoke

• Life paid for its meals at the eateries reviewed here.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 30, 2015, with the headline 'Chinese food from the West'. Print Edition | Subscribe