Sik Wai Sin is a stalwart of Cantonese cze-char (literally "cook and fry", denoting all-rounder cooked food usually served with rice or noodles) and is famous for its small but supposedly impressive repertoire of homestyle cooking. It's one of the few local cuisines that got listed in the Straits Times poll of Singapore's Top 50 Restaurants. Definitely one place I had been wanting to try.
Hubby and I bumped into a friend at Swee Lee's warehouse sale and we all adjourned here for dinner. Wow, this place looked like it got trapped in the sands of time, like it hasn't changed since the 70's. I kinda liked the retro decor although I noticed the dim lighting cast a slight greyish blue pallor on the food (fortunately my camera flash eliminated that). This place is also notorious for long waiting times for seats. But since we came quite late (past 8.30pm), we managed to get a table without waiting.
We ordered three dishes - kailan simply stir-fried with garlic (they are known for the version with beef), tofu prawns and sweet-and-sour pork. As we did not take their signature dish of steamed fish head, the rather feisty order-taking woman told us there were only "large" portions available for our dishes, no small ones. I guess that was to maximise the revenue from our table. Anyway, the vegetable arrived first. It was drenched in some slightly savoury sauce but overall it wasn't impressive.
It was awhile before the next dish arrived. The tofu was very thoroughly deep-fried and had a lot of wok hei (breath of wok) heat but had absorbed none of the flavour of the stock/gravy. Prawns were large and fresh (nicely deveined too!) but they too, didn't really taste that great. Lots of egg in the gravy, which went okay with rice.
We waited an even longer time for the final dish. The thing with this place is - they consolidate orders and cook in large batches, so there tends to be a wait for some dishes. Now, I had heard about the sweet-and-sour pork being one of the best in Singapore. That it was really crispy on the outside and with a more unusual tamarind-laced sauce. Well it certainly must have been fried under tremendously high heat, as the batter and meat surface formed a hardened shell. Hubby found it too tough and chewy. Still, I thought it was the best out of the three dishes. The other problem was - there was just too much of it. You can get a bit tired of it if you eat too much.
These three dishes plus a bottle of beer cost nearly $60. Pricey for a no-frills, non-airconditioned eatery. All in all, this first experience was a bit of a letdown given its reputation. I don't know, maybe we didn't get its better dishes? Pork patty with salted fish, steamed fish head (which looked better than I imagined) and such adorned almost every table there. But I'm not sure I'll be coming back all too soon.
SIK WAI SIN EATING HOUSE
287 Geylang Road
Open daily: 11.45am - 2.30pm, 6pm -10.30pm