Established in 1947. Over 200 outlets in Japan. One of Osaka’s most famous udon restaurant chains. Boasting of such eminent pedigree on their website, how was Kazokutei in Bugis Junction wallowing at 2.9 stars on Google?
“Food for ants, with restaurant prices to match,” declared one review, “Paid $19 for my set meal, sat in hunger for 30 minutes amidst an average crowd… finished this serving… within 3 mouthfuls.”
“One of the worst things I’ve ever eaten. Their omurice is not fit to be named omurice,” said another and I dutifully added omurice to the list of things to try. I read a complaint of “Very salty soup base”, so soup would be on my menu, too.
This series on the worst-rated stalls in Singapore has so far covered 2 establishments and they have both over-performed when I visited to see for myself. Would Kazokutei make it a trifecta of pleasant surprises? My colleague and I certainly hoped so as we made our way down to Bugis last week.
Kazokutei was virtually deserted. A gentleman dined by himself at the table next to ours while a trio of older ladies occupied another table further away. Always wearing my optimist’s hat for this series, I concluded this meant fast service and the seats of our choice. Great start, right?
What I tried at Kazokutei
I was indeed happy with the service— our orders were taken promptly and the dishes arrived within 10 minutes. It contradicted the “Service was bad – claimed after 20 mins that the kitchen was slow” warning in one of 1-star reviews that aligned with several of the others.
Our first dish was the Seafood Tom Yam Nabeyaki Udon (S$14.90), which came in an oversized bowl. I would suggest to management that they substitute the current bowls for smaller ones— the serving was moderate at best but the vast unoccupied space in the bowl made it seem especially meagre.
In the bowl with the udon were 3 cockles, 1 large prawn, 2 tofu pieces, a clump of enoki mushrooms and a lot of cabbage.
To me, the soup was salty but my dining companion found it acceptable. We both agreed that it was diluted, lacking the richness we associate with tom yum. Perhaps it was this dilution and lack of other ingredients that made it especially sour, too.
I instantly regret tasting the udon. It had the weirdest texture of any noodles I have ever eaten. This dish was a disappointment and we paid S$1 for bottled water, too.
We were really hoping that the Pork Cutlet Omu Rice (S$12.90) would be better, partly to be able to say that the food was average, at least, but also to remove the taste of the tom yum udon from our mouths.
It was not to be.
The omu rice was a shocker. What was sold to us as tomato rice tasted like regular wet rice tossed in some Heinz tomato ketchup (which is probably an insult to Heinz).
Taking a closer look at the cutlet, we could see a thin layer of uncooked batter under the crispy skin. One bite confirmed that it was indeed frozen meat, possibly thawed improperly. When we brought this to the attention of the waitress, she said that it was normal.
This really was getting worse by the minute.
Really, how can you get french fries wrong? I’d understand if the place was bustling, with the chef overlooking the cook time because orders are flying in by the second. When we visited, the place was almost empty and the fries were still semi-cooked.
The thin omelette was acceptable, making it the best thing on the plate.
In finding and trying Singapore’s worst-rated places to eat, my aim has always been to try and see the silver lining. Both the first and second worst-rated places I visited worked out exactly that way. I cannot tell if that was because they had been unfairly rated or whether the operators had listened to feedback and turned things around.
I’m sorry to say that the winning streak has come to an end at Kazokutei. Besides the much-maligned service, which proved to be somewhat better than the reviews had suggested, all our worst fears were confirmed during our visit.
Perhaps most disappointing was the nonchalant response to our feedback. Rather than express contrition or ask if we would like to have the dish replaced, the staff’s response was to say that the dishes were meant to be prepared that way. Unfortunate.
I’d read the opposite but, to be fair, I will add that every staff member was polite throughout the process. If management at Kazokutei can invest in some further training for their cook staff, perhaps they may be able to turn things around. Fingers crossed.
Expected damage: S$12.90 – S$25 per pax
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