Ho-ho-ho! Honolulu Café is here in Singapore!
Yes, it's that famed 'Cha Chaan Teng' 茶餐厅 from Hong Kong. Founded since 1940s, the casual eatery is best-known for its baked goods including egg tarts and pineapple buns, as well as Hong Kong milk tea.
Officially opened today (10 May) at Centrepoint in Orchard Road, this is Honolulu Café's first international outlet. We were told that the Singapore kitchen will be helmed by carefully selected chefs from Hong Kong's Honolulu Café to ensure the taste remains as similar as possible.
As I've not been to Honolulu Café in Hong Kong, I can't tell you if standards are comparable. This review will be based on the products' merits itself.....
..... or demerits, when it comes to disappointing Milk Tea (hot $3/cold $3.20), Coffee (hot $3/cold $3.20) and Yuan Yang (hot $3.30/cold $3.50) which all tasted a tad sourish for our liking. The hot versions seemed to be generally more diluted than the cold ones.
Fortunately, the delicious Egg Tarts ($1.70) were there to save the day.
With golden brown pastry and custard center in a vibrant shade of yellow, the look of the egg tart itself was already promising.
We love how crispy and flaky the shell was, all 192 layers of it! Haha I didn't count lah, but according to Honolulu Café, the multiple layers is achievable by using a time-tested method of freezing the dough overnight before folding.
Coupled that with soft and velvety smooth custard, the flavors and contrasting textures undoubtedly made the egg tart a winner.
I guess the challenge would be in keeping consistency, as the experience from my second visit was less memorable.
Other items on the menu are similar to what you will find in most Hong Kong-style cafés, which includes Pineapple Bun ($1.50), BBQ Pork Pastry ($1.70), Toast with Condensed Milk ($2), Luncheon Meat Sandwich ($3), Scrambled Egg ($2), Pork Chop Macaroni ($5), Baked Pork Chop Rice ($7.80), Beef Brisket Curry Rice ($8.50).
We were not too fond of the Deep-fried Egg Puff ($2) and Pineapple Bun with Butter ($2), especially the latter as it was dry and could be fluffier in texture.
My dining companion said the Pork Chop Bun ($5) tasted similar to a certain fast-food chain burger. Haha but I don't think he meant it in a bad way. It could due to the combination of lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise with a hint of pickles added.
What was good, was really good! Our recommendations would be the Curry Fish Ball ($3) and Chicken Wings with Swiss Sauce ($6).
It is common to see street vendors selling curry fish balls in Hong Kong, but alas the popular snack is not that readily available in Singapore. Happy to see that Honolulu offer it on the menu, and even more so when the fishballs were delightfully QQ bouncy in each bite. The curry sauce was utterly addictive.
Another dish which has us hooked was the Swiss wings. The dish has nothing to do with nationality, but simply refers to chicken wings simmered in a sweetish sesame soy sauce. The meat can be more moist (oops I'm picky), but it was fall-off-the-bone tender and sauce was well-balanced. Definitely better than average and worth a thumbs up from this chicken wings lover.
Stir-fried Flat Rice Noodle with Beef ($7) was lackluster with unevenly tossed kway teow and flat taste with no wok hei. Skip that and go for the Instant Noodles ($5 with choice of one topping, additional topping at $1.50 each)!
The instant noodles was cooked to a springy crunch that was utterly enjoyable with flavorsome broth. Add in some lightly-seared ham and a sunny-side-up, it's the kind of ultimate comfort food you would hanker for after a long day at work and dragging a sick body around.
Why would I pay for this when we can easily cook in our kitchen? Because I'm lazy and tired and a cha chaan teng experience wouldn't be completed without instant noodles or macaroni soup hehee :p
Could it be opening jitters? We had expected better execution of some of the signature items. I will still go back for the egg tarts, Swiss wings, curry fishballs and macaroni if it's available (this and quite a number of other items were already sold out by dinner time on my return visit).
I can't say everything that I've tried at Honolulu Café was good, and I can't guarantee what was good will be good every day. If your experience differed from what's being shared here, we can agree to disagree, but you cannot say I bluff people.
Thank you very much.
Honolulu Café Singapore
Address: The Centrepoint #01-33F/G, 176 Orchard Road, Singapore 238843
Contact: +65 6734 6609
Opening Hours: Mon-Sun 11am-10pm
Prices stated are in Singapore dollars and subject to 10% service charge & 7% GST.