Southernoise shared with us a gem of a little eatery called "2nd Kitchen" on the ground floor of Value Hotel at Balestier. It's cosy, tiny (seats less than 20 inside) and spartan, but serves pretty good food to a steady stream of customers. Reservations are advised if you prefer to sit inside the air-conditioned section (lots of al fresco seating too, for smokers, presumably).
I was intrigued by their menu and how they specialize in the giant garoupa - 12 different parts of the fish, each done differently. Would you try the esophagus, caudal fin, fish rib, gullet or head?
We decided to be brave. We picked the garoupa's "Photophores". To me, that sounded like the bioluminescent bits of fish. The waiter had a different explanation. This is a soup made of fish bones and scales, boiled to the point of disintegration. Might sound disgusting but it's kind of like shark cartilage soup.
Well, the rich, milky broth turned out to be delicious! It came in a claypot with some Chinese herbs and ginseng. The red dates seem to have been thrown in at the last minute though. There were large slices of fish as well, so it was quite hearty.
This was superb. Signature Winged Bean with Cuttlefish and Chili. I love winged beans or four-angled beans, and the spicy chili was incredibly umami with the cured cuttlefish. The vegetables here are organic, by the way, and come from the restaurant's own farm in Singapore.
When we asked for this dish (not on the menu), the waiter turned secretive. He said it's only for regulars or people in the know, due to limited supply. So we're not going to divulge what this meat is (don't worry, it's not some endangered animal). It was more tender and less gamey than similar dishes I've tried in the past. The "dry curry" is not exactly dry but I enjoyed how the spices packed a punch. I reckon it'd go just as well with regular beef or pork.
Fried Bee Hoon in Lala Soup - another one of their most popular dishes. The piping hot seafood stock is gingery, and laced with a bit of wine. Look at how it's chockful of la la clams too.
I knew the la la beehoon was good from a previous visit, but the Sliced Giant Garoupa Hor Fun turned out to be even better! This is the most flavourful hor fun I've had. Oh yes, it's very savoury (perhaps a tad too salty for some) but I just love the strong flavours! Perhaps there's quite a bit of MSG but I didn't suffer much effects.
Well, I enjoyed the dinner and the marvellous company. The six of us paid about S$14 each for this meal. Portions are quite small (or perhaps our gluttony is boundless), so we adjourned for bak kut teh as well as traditional Chinese desserts and cooling tea further down the road.
Check out Keropokman's review of this meal.
592 Balestier Rd #01-03,