Chinatown is one of the places in Singapore that I frequent the most. With famous hawker centres and Chinese restaurants being aplenty in this part of the country, food choices seem almost endless. Despite the number of stalls and eateries that are out in the open, I decided to visit a shop that was hidden in plain sight instead — Kopi Xpress.
Kopi Xpress is located within Chinatown MRT Station, and bears a nondescript appearance. It is tucked away in a corner of the station near one of the exits, making it hard to spot — the only things that gives away its location are the large signboards outside, clueing passersby of its existence.
Stepping within the shop reveals a surprisingly roomy dining area. Customers placed their orders at the counter and would have to collect it at the front by themselves.
Unfortunately, Kopi Xpress did not have a proper collection system. The staff would merely shout out the dish name, which left me and some others scrambling to figure out whether the dish called was ours — this led to multiple people taking my orders, and I ended up having to wait 30 minutes for all my food to be recooked and served. Thankfully, the staff were nice and apologetic about it, and even gave me a free iced coffee. How sweet!
What I tried at Kopi Xpress
The first dish I tried was Kopi Xpress’ Mee Rebus (S$4.50), a pretty standard noodle dish topped with saucy gravy, bean sprouts, shallots, tau pok and half of a hard-boiled egg.
The sauce coated each strand of noodle nicely, giving the dish a savoury and slightly sweet flavour. I enjoyed how the sauce wasn’t too starchy or thick, and the liberal amount of beansprouts provided a nice amount of crunch.
Though the portion didn’t look very big, I figured that it must have been because of the large plate that it was served on. I was left very satisfied after finishing the Mee Rebus. Overall, the dish was pretty average both in taste and price, which makes it a great dish to try.
Kopi Xpress’ most popular item is their Curry Chicken w/ Rice (S$5.50). In my dish, there were 2 chicken drumsticks and a piece of potato floating within a vibrant orange curry concoction.
For anyone looking to enjoy a comforting curry chicken dish, Kopi Xpress’ take is pretty solid. The curry had a strong coconut milk aroma, and I loved how tender the chicken pieces were. It wasn’t too spicy, yet packed enough heat to satisfy my mild spice cravings.
In terms of appearance, the Chicken Cutlet Fried Rice (S$6.50) didn’t look like much — this dish contained rice fried with egg, garlic and shallots, topped with chopped chicken pieces. I had initially expected for the chicken on top to be crispy and fried, but found that it was more similar to a grilled chicken chop.
The chicken was tender and had a nice smokey flavour permeating throughout. Though the skin was not crispy, the meat had been well-marinated, and I found it really pleasant to devour.
The fried rice itself was a huge surprise, as it tasted super homemade and comforting — while most fried rice from other hawker stalls are liberally cooked with soy sauce and assorted ingredients, Kopi Xpress’ version reminded me of a dish my mom would cook at home. It was light and not as salty as most fried rice, yet was still tasty and incredibly homely.
The Braised Meat Rice (S$5.90) was similarly homely. The dish came with a few pieces of braised pork belly, a whole egg and some vegetables, with its contrasting colours giving it a vibrant and appetising appearance.
The braised meat was so tender that it broke apart when I tried to lift it. I liked how balanced the ratio of meat to fat was, with the soft and gelatinous fatty portions melting in my mouth. The braised sauce had also seeped deep into the meat, ensuring that every bite was full of flavour.
For a savoury and comforting dish, Kopi Xpress’ Braised Meat Rice is a nice option.
I decided to try the Pork Chop Spaghetti (S$7.90) from Kopi Express’ Western menu. The dish came with a pork chop coated in brown sauce, a serving of spaghetti in light tomato sauce and chopped cabbage.
I’ve had my fair share of tough and overly chewy pork chops, so I was pleasantly surprised at how tender Kopi Xpress’ version was. The brown sauce had a sweet and savoury quality to it, with the nostalgic flavours of old-school Western hawker stalls.
The spaghetti was pretty tasteless, unfortunately, as it had been scantily coated in a really watery and diluted tomato sauce.
I would have preferred for the spaghetti to have more flavour to justify its S$7.90 price. I’d recommend trying their Asian dishes instead.
For a light bite, I tried the Char Siew Bao (S$1), which surprised me with its large size, around the same dimensions as my palm. Though the amount of char siew within wasn’t very generous, I loved how soft and fluffy the bao itself was. It was like biting into a cloud! Despite that, the fillings were very average and nothing to shout about.
If you’re looking to grab a quick bite in Chinatown, Kopi Xpress offers a nice variety of classic local dishes to enjoy at affordable prices. Though the dishes weren’t outstanding and were largely comparable to those of average hawker stalls and coffee shops, I must say that I really loved the homely element of each dish, which all tasted super home-cooked.
During lunch hours, the store does get pretty crowded with CBD workers looking for an affordable bite, so I’d advise for diners to avoid visiting then.
Expected damage: S$4.50 – S$10 per pax