68-70 Johnston Street, Collingwood (map)
9419 3092 (take away) / 9417 4450 (bookings)
This afternoon I caught up with Jess (yes, That Jess Ho) for lunch in Fitzroy/Collingwood. Feeling under the weather due to a respiratory infection and in need of comfort food, she suggested we head on down to The Old Raffles Place, on the corner of Johnston Street and Wellington Street.
The Old Raffles Place is one of those standbys that I'd always been aware of and vaguely intended to visit, but never had. It promises the "unforgettable heritage flavours of the Singaporean cuisine". In terms of fitout and decor, the Raffles Hotel it certainly ain't (plus you have to practically walk through the kitchen in order to reach the tables)... but hawker food isn't meant to be consumed in a posh setting, and the timeworn dining room retains a certain low-budget charm.
Something on the specials board caught my eye and so intrigued me that I had to double-check with Jess that I was reading it right: crispy fried banana prawn roll with plum sauce ($9.50). "Banana as in banana leaf, or banana banana, d'you reckon?"
Our apron-clad waiter confirmed that it was indeed banana as in banana banana. It sounded so bizarre, we *had* to order it! As you can see, the roll of minced prawn had a golden strip of banana down its centre and was wrapped in crispy beancurd skin. Somewhat surprisingly, we rather liked it.
Jess ordered another special, the skate Assam Curry ($19.50). It arrived smelling wonderfully sour and spicy, and scored bonus points for containing okra. Pungent, authentic and delicious.
After much deliberation I'd skipped my usual hawker noodle order of Mee Goreng and ordered the Racecourse Char Kway Teow ($12) instead. As well as yellow Hokkien noodles AND flat rice noodles, the dish also contained prawns, fish cakes, pak choy, tons of bean shoots and Chinese sausage. The sauce was lovely and rich. Jess dubbed it the best char kway teow she'd tried in ages.
Other stuff on the ORP menu that I want to try (note this is not an exhaustive list):
- Hainanese Chicken Rice;
- Little India Mee Goreng;
- Old Tanglin Combination Laksa (particularly keen to see how they do these three standards);
- People's Park Chee Cheong Fun;
- Nonya Fish;
- Sambal Kangkung;
- Old Chinatown Salted Fish Fried Rice; and
- Eunos Sambal Kway Teow Goreng.
In case that list doesn't make it clear, did I mention I love Singaporean food?