A suburban restaurant in Toa Payoh wows the masses
First published on . Updated on 23 Mar 2012.
The walk up the flight of garish, red-carpeted stairs from the Shop n’ Save at Toa Payoh Central to the Swatow Teochew Seafood Restaurant provoked an acid flashback to the glory days of Lucky Restaurant. Until recently, Lucky was the de rigueur dim sum restaurant in this part of town, and after it shut, nothing quite replaced it. For better or for worse, its eerily dark and drab interior has now been replaced by Swatow’s brightly lit, spiffed-up dining space bathed in classic champagne tones.
Despite the glitzy makeover, the crowd at Swatow continues to be a mix of heartland families and Chinese blue-collar workers. On the night of our visit, the latter had booked a dozen tables for a private function. Booming, KTV-style entertainment served as the restaurant’s background music.
Part of Swatow’s buzz comes from its heartland location and affordable pricing. A nine-course set lunch for a group of ten people is priced at a mere $268++, while set dinners are available from $48++ for two to $138++ for a party of six. After our recent visit on a busy Sunday night where we feasted on one of the set dinners, we realised that Swatow’s MO is to wow the masses with affordable, well-executed Teochew.
Standouts from our seven-course set dinner included tiles of cilantro-topped braised goose sitting on a bed of tofu and a dark, savoury broth; a generous platter of ‘Eight Treasures’ vegetables brimming with black moss, napa cabbage, dried scallops and a variety of mushrooms; gargantuan oysters fried to near-perfection in a crisp, fluffy omelette; and a whole steamed sea bass served with shredded spring onions in a light soya sauce.
We paid an extra $6++ to opt out of the set-dinner desserts of mango sago in favour of the Teochew classic orh nee (yam paste). In hindsight, it wasn’t a wise decision given its lacklustre taste. Next time, we’ll stick with the set. And yes, there will be a next time.