Sunday, October 29, 2006

Ray of Hope

Rong Guang Seafood BBQ
Blk 120 Bukit Merah Lane 1 #01-07/08 Singapore 150120
Time: 1630 - 2230, Off on Tuesday
Main Outlet: 62787579
301 Ulu Pandan Road Singapore 596469
Time: Daily 1700 - 0000
2nd Outlet: 64688290

While the west part if this tiny red dot island lacks a variety of better and more sophisticated restaurants, there are still many down to earth places with good food except you must be prepared to sweat it out most of the time. Some of the my favourites like Bak Chor Mee, Braised Pig Trotters, Satay Bee Hoon, Hand made Curry Puffs and Tze Char can be found on this part of the island.I have been patronizing Rong Guang Seafood BBQ long before they were discovered by the media and subsequent hub. They started off as a single stall offering the usual standard fared of BBQ Stingray and other seafood plus some simple side dishes like sambal kang kong and fried rice. While the menu wasn’t big then and most customers already know what they wanted before finding their own seats, the food speaks for itself. The special chili paste for the grilled fish and seafood, the wonderful sambal that comes with the fried rice and the generous portions help the business grew quickly by word of mouth.I have had both great experiences and some disappointments for the countless times I have been there but I must say that they always try to do better during setbacks which occurs mainly in transitional periods like new menu extension, new outlet opening, slam night (culinary jargon for full house). Most of their recipes were perfected through trial and error and I am happy to share with all reading this post what are their best signature dishes.

Their Seafood Fried Rice is one of their signature staples. I have never been a fan of fried rice by Tze Char Stalls because other than some wok flavour (hei), nothing else is interesting. Rong Guang’s Seafood Fried Rice is the only one I go for because they make it has always been tasty since I tried it the first time. Besides the nice seafood (prawns and squid rings), they also add in a generous amount of egg, spring onions and cabbage, which are also the essential elements of good fried rice. The accompanying sambal chili was a big booster to the already fragrant fried rice and you can taste the flavours of dried shrimp and belachan. Mixed with the fried rice, it’s absolutely fantastic.

The house signature which is their BBQ Stingray on Banana Leaf is the dish that propelled them to their current level of fame. The lip smacking sambal chili is one of the best that I have tasted around, well balanced with chilies and other fragrant spices. You can’t really go wrong with stingray and its quite a fatty fish so even when slightly overcooked, you end up with crispy edges and the bones being naturally soft are great to chew on and a good source of calcium. Given a squeeze of calamansi lime and some onion chinchialok relish on the side with a good dose of fresh coriander leaves, its absolutely “Shiok!” till you sweat in your scalp. My ultimate fantasy is to serve this sambal with my favourite pickled fennel which I cure freshly sliced fennel with lemon juice, sugar and fresh dill. This can only happen when I pack the fish home instead of having it there.

Rong Guang has since expanded in the last two years, taking on a new outlet at the junction of Clement and Ulu Pandan Roads. The location had been a failure for most previous restaurant ventures and so far RG has not only survived, they have also managed to pack in the crowds on weekends. Parking is ample and the food does the talking.New items on the menu include Guinness Stout Pork Ribs which was very done very well on my second visit than the first when they just opened. I was disappointed on the first round but had decided to give it a second chance. This time round, the meat was tender and not mushy due to an overdose of sodium bicarbonate. The Stout sauce had its winey character with nice sweetness and sesame fragrance. Most important it was just enough to coat the meat and nothing excess like the last round that made us feel that the meat had been drowned by the sauce.

Mee Goreng Seafood Style was well fried and fragrant, the wok hei being a important factor for this dish. My wife N, who is not a fan of Hokkien Noodles found this version going down well with her palate. Noodles were well fried yet moist and the seafood condiments like prawns and cuttlefish were generous. She was tempted to order another plate but I preferred to try other dishes.

Their yam pot still needs improvement on both the yam ring and sauce for the seafood and meat filling. Though the portion was big, the yam ring lacks a five spice fragrance and the pastry was not fluffy at all. Too dense, I would prefer more shortening and flour. The filing could also do better with a little more sauce since the yam was too dense.Most day, sambal kang kong is their staple and sometimes they offer sweet potato leaves as well. The vegetables are consistently well fried but sometimes I prefer them to add a little more dried prawns. One thing though, if u are going to order this, skip the fried rice or the flavours would be too confusing.Another item that I like is their Prawn Rolls or Hae Chor as it is commonly known locally. This time round they were a let down and it was over fried and somewhat a little bitter due to the burnt edges. Other times I have eaten, they came out pretty well, crispy on the outside, nice and moist interior with crunchy bits of water chestnuts. Somehow, there will always be a lousy day for the kitchen and I guess this was one.RG has other interesting items on their menus on a daily basis. Other good recomendations include their Steamed Herbal Chicken, Crispy Baby Squids and Sweet and Sour Pork Ribs (Pai Kuat Wong).

No comments: