I remember The Hungry Cow's previous birthday so vividly as it was such a last minute affair which sent the league ditching their plans, and me on an extended mrt ride so that we can make it for a celebration. Thankfully this year, Cow made advanced plan... erm well, one day in advance to be exact lol! But it's only on the day itself when he told us to meet at Kok Sen Restaurant located along Keong Saik Street in Chinatown for dinner. Woohoo good choice! We heard many positive reviews about this popular old-school eatery which was established more than 50 years ago. It is said to serve one of the best Cantonese-style zhi char in Singapore.
(Read: NamNam Noodle Bar @ Raffles City ~ A Moo-licious Pho Night for the Cow's Birthday)
We can believe what has been said to be true as soon as we started digging into the luscious pot of Big Prawn Bee Hoon Soup ($15/$30/$45), one of Kok Sen's signature dishes. The broth was of thick and grainy texture, wonderfully robust with fresh crustacean flavor tinged with slight spiciness of sambal chilli. Hugely-sized prawns were sliced in half, making it convenient to eat though it wasn't de-shelled. Together with the smooth rice vermicelli, it was indeed a slurpilicous start!
The Big Prawn Hor Fun ($15/$30/$45) was another winner with its thick flat rice noodle's smokey wok hei aroma and delish starchy gravy laced with ribbons of raw egg.
One of the more unusual dish which you don't normally see at a zhi char place is the Claypot Yong Tau Fu ($13/$19/$26). Assorted pieces of homemade beancurd, eggplant, bell pepper stuffed with fish and prawn paste were serving bubbling hot in a utterly lip-smacking saltish braising sauce. Flavors were bold and tasty. I like!
We also ordered some home-style favorites like the soupy 3-Eggs Chinese Spinach ($11/$17). The stock was a tad watered-down and only came with preserved century egg and salted duck egg; we wondered where is the chicken egg to make up the egg trio typical of this dish. Strange as it may sound, the best thing were the whole cloves of garlic, cooked to addictive nuggets of delectable softness, sans the raw pungency smell. Still, we tried to scare Cow by joking that we should all eat the garlic and give Cow a garlicky birthday kiss each haha! :p
Fu Rong (Meat) Omelette ($8/$10) was another seemingly simple dish of fried eggs with char siew and onions, but executed to outstanding yumminess. It was a tad greasy, but amazingly not the repulsive kind of greasiness. I actually enjoyed it very much. BFF said, "they must have used some pork lard". Haha I wondered if he has guessed correctly.
Though the Prawn Paste Chicken ($12/$18/$24) was crispy with nice shrimpy aroma, I'm disappointed it used different parts of the chicken instead of the usual chicken wings. I will skip the chicken next time, but will definitely again go for the Bittergourd with Pork Rib ($13/$20/$26) which really captured my heart the moment I bite into it. Love the pork ribs which were tender and infused with the delicious bitter-sweetness of bittergourd and rich flavors of black bean sauce. Very memorable.
Be prepared to wait for a table, especially on weekends when it can get really crowded. The eating house doesn't seem to have a systematic queuing system in place, so don't hesitate in grabbing the servers' attention and make your request known to them as soon you've arrived .
We hanged around for 30 minutes, enduring the pain of growling tummies and mental torture of seeing other diners attacking their food, before we were offered a outside table behind the restaurant. It turned out to be a fantastic one! We indulged in our sumptuous spread leisurely without the pressure of having other waiting customers staring down at us haha! Thank God for the breezy evening too.
Dining under the stars doesn't need to be romantic all the time. It can be hearty, rustic with lots of merriment. What a thoroughly satisfying back alley dining experience at Kok Sen Restaurant. Definitely one of my favorite zhi char places now!
Kok Sen Restaurant
Address: 30-32 Keong Saik Road, Singapore 089137
Contact: +65 6223 2005
Opening Hours: Daily 11.30am-10.30pm