I’ve had a pretty toxic relationship with Western food in the past. Fish & Chips and Chicken Cutlets were among the leading causes of my obesity during my secondary and tertiary years, which has made shedding those pounds an arduous journey. While I’ve become somewhat grizzled with Western food in general, there’s a certain draw to 90’s Fusion Food that keeps images of their
Seizing this opportunity to review my first Western hawker stall, I headed for Macpherson Lane, where a sharp turn away from the busy road led me to an unassuming coffeeshop under Block 83.
The logo does a pretty good job of summarising their menu: Grill, Don and Pasta. Running the stall with his partner is a young 27-year-old hawker with multiple years of experience in the kitchens of renowned Western franchise COLLIN’s.
What I tried at 90’s Fusion Food
My first sampling was from the plate of Chicken Karaage Curry (S$7) to test the waters. The gravy took presentation up a notch, coating the chunks of karaage and rice in a thick, luscious brown. A serving of lettuce came on the side, topped with half a cherry tomato.
We struck the karaage first, biting through crackly-thick skin that had been concealing juicy globules of meat within. Each piece was nicely seasoned to be amply salty with moist meat that just barely oozed with oil. The curry brought its own depth in scent and as a somewhat thicker condiment — a great pairing with the crunchy karaage.
Like most Japanese dishes, the short-grain rice was soft and fluffy. The curry drizzled on top didn’t make it too deep between the crevices, but some mixing was enough to spread the flavours around.
Elsewhere though, the ‘curry’ situation was dire. It took only a few scoops to collect most of the gravy on a single spoon. Had I mismanaged my expectations? Most places offer much better curry portions to the point of forming a pool around their mounds of rice. Thankfully, through sheer flavour and density, 90’s Fusion Food’s meagre curry serving managed to tide me over this hurdle.
Perhaps I’m far too accustomed to eating at stalls with overly generous portions.
The cherry tomato was oddly a high point of the dish, bursting like a grape into a slightly sour cascade of flavour that would make a great palate cleanser. As a big eater, though, the portions hadn’t demanded much of my taste buds — yet.
Unlike other places that skimp out on ingredients, 90’s Fusion Food’s complimentary miso soup was heavy on the miso paste, making the entire solution extremely cloudy. As expected, it had a strong umami flavour that went down well with the seaweed.
We took on the Fish & Chips (S$6.90) next. The slab of battered fish came resting on a pile of salad and mashed potato, the latter’s enormous crater filled by a lake of dark potato gravy.
Practically shattering with a slice through the middle, the batter was thin, yet held firm against the fork. Its rigid crust was contrasted by flakey, moist insides that made each mouthful a delight in texture.
I’ve had my fair share of generic, store-bought tartar sauce served with fried dory, and I can assure you that a single dab on the tongue is all I need to identify Fairprice’s Tartar Sauce. 90’s Fusion Food had none of the familiar sourness and smell. Its profile was heavily reminiscent of mayonnaise with a hint of acidity and, according to Sam, it’s an original mix. This, I heavily favoured.
The gravy in the craterous mashed potato had a deeply smokey scent that brought my senses to heel. I had bitten down on a few bits of pepper and could feel the hard crunch. This momentarily overpowering blow soon tapered off. The darker colour definitely isn’t just cosmetic.
I’d almost finished the whole plate of Fish & Chips before realising there had been no shots of the smooth, buttery mashed potatoes. What little can be conveyed through the photo here is only a fragment of the enjoyment it delivered to my taste buds. They’ve gone the extra mile with it and the creaminess was complemented by a marvellous aroma. I just wish they had been more generous.
The coleslaw appeared house-made as well. I appreciated the effort, but the dressing on the shredded cabbage, carrot and corn was way too light to make an impact, especially against the lingering tartar sauce. Less a palate cleanser and more of an actually healthy side that I could stomach.
Then came the Mentaiko Beef Donburi (S$8), a bowl of rice packed with corn, sliced cucumber, more cherry tomato halves and beef drizzled with lightly torched mentaiko sauce.
In retrospect, the Wagyu Donburi (S$9.90) would have made for a better pick. Sam had later assured me that they use actual wagyu, to which I (mentally) kicked myself for doubting in the first place. A wasted opportunity, and for less than S$10 at that.
The beef itself was nothing to write home about. The pieces didn’t have an impressively tender or fatty texture. Thanks to the mentaiko sauce’s umami and sweet-savoury contribution, these perfectly average chunks were given life where little taste could be derived.
Constant ‘pop’ sensations from both the cherry tomatoes and corn added a fair bit of texture.
The faint brown colouration in the rice had little to no taste whatsoever, proving my initial assumption that it was some soy sauce-based liquid possibly wrong. Perhaps it was tempura sauce that had been drastically diluted. Even without any discernible flavour, it added a crucial element of moisture; not too much and not too little.
The addition of cucumbers tipped the nutritional balance in the fibre’s favour for once. Too bad I avoided them completely.
90’s Fusion Food’s Chicken Cutlet (S$7.60) is a simple plate of fries and a chicken cutlet with the same house-made tartar sauce.
The cutlet skin turned out to have a slight herb-ly note, possibly of thyme, that my friend was quick to point out. Meanwhile, I was enjoying the superbly juicy chicken meat sandwiched between a delightfully coarse batter. The skin was stretchy and crumbly in different areas, producing an excellent mouthfeel.
As a mayonnaise enjoyer, I found that their sauce also worked well with the chicken cutlet.
I’m sure you’ve encountered it before – a singular fry possessing the perfect balance of crisp and a soft inner length of potato, perhaps in a pack of upsized McDonald’s fries or some other fast food joint, before it disappears down the hatch. Let’s just say 90’s Fusion Food surprised me with this done-to-death side dish. Each stick had that elusive combination, though at the cost of being a touch more oily. Dipped in that tartar sauce, it was a chef’s kiss of sinful indulgence.
Most of the dishes are served with Cream of Mushroom soup on the side. Ours were swimming with a healthy amount of sliced mushrooms, which was a wonderful end to a worryingly unhealthy meal.
Shockingly, I had room left after purging all 4 plates with the minor aid of a friend. Overall, 90’s Fusion Food definitely executes Western dishes better than most of their peers. The Chicken Karaage Curry would have been a winner had they been more generous.
Otherwise, I have no gripes of note with this Western stall and would definitely return for more if I stayed in the area.
Give the Wagyu Donburi a try on my behalf, would you?
Expected damage: S$7 – S$11 per pax
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