Text and Images by Lorraine Koh @ Makansutra
“I have a Singapore allergy,” says Chris Ho, as we made our way to our supper destination, Oriental Chinese Restaurant, a Northeastern Chinese eatery. It was Saturday, 2am and he had just finished spinning at KPO. Never one to shy away from talking about politics and society, Chris (or X’ho as he is sometimes called) keeps himself busy as a deejay at Sonar (http://facebook.sonar.sg/), an internet radio platform. He is also a radio deejay for Lush 99.5FM and sometimes makes short films which are “too sexually explicit to be shown in Singapore”.
We arrive at the restaurant, which was packed with non-Singaporeans and charged with a bustling vibe contrary to the timing. Chris says, “The reason why I like to come here is because you don’t feel like you are in Singapore.” It was his mainland Chinese friends who introduced him to this place. “The Chinese have huge appetites. There were eight of us and they ordered 12 dishes at one go, and two dozen beers! Rice is almost an afterthought.”
He usually comes here for the dumplings and they serve it with five different types of stuffing. He likes the ones that come with pork and leek. The dumpling’s skin is on the thick side with a chewy texture and is generous with the pork stuffing. It is also one of the milder-tasting dishes served here. He remarks, “I come from a Cantonese background and our food does not have the strong flavours like here. The only thing about Chinese food I am not used to, is that they doused everything with loads of oil.”
He also recommends the grilled meats available here. Grilled on-the-spot, we had the skewered lamb meat and mushrooms. The skewered lamb meat was lightly salted and nicely crispy on the outside, while one bite revealed the tender meat inside. It usually comes with generous dashes of chilli powder, which Chris prefers to opt out of. We also had the Tofu Skin with Green Chilli which comes stir-fried with pork. You could taste the wok-hei in the dish, although it tends to be on the salty side, and taste better with white rice. The Wu Xiang Jiang Niu Rou (Chilled Beef with Spicy Sauce) came with drops of chilli oil. Its texture was chewy while the beef was flavourful.
Generally, we found the dishes served to be on the salty side. However, a Chinese friend (who hails from Shantou) who ate with us, remarked that the dishes are even saltier in the mainland.
Besides Oriental Chinese Restaurant, the deejay’s other late night haunts includes Jane Thai at Orchard Towers. Chris says, “I always believed Thailand is my spiritual home, but China is my new current obsession. I find their accents so alluring.”
Oriental Chinese Restaurant 195 New Bridge Road Opens 11am-6.30am