Monday, December 10, 2007

Lunch at Merlion Singapore Cuisine

Hi everyone, Shirley here. I'll be guestblogging while Alex deals with finals. A couple of days ago, Alex and I were hungry for something new. So we decided to try out Merlion Singapore Cuisine.

Location: On 13th street south of campus, across from the IHOP.

Now believe me when I say it may look like a total dive hiding behind some bushes, but it's actually impressive.

Atmosphere: Very clean look. We were surprised by the large amount of seating and the decor, which was simple yet elegant. There was definitely a struggle between the restaurant's ability to seat large parties and the desire to remain intimate. There were many 4-top tables in a large central area, lined by more spacious booths along one side and extra chairs and bar stools against another. There were beautiful candles and wall decorations around the room, but none were lit. I'm assuming this is because we went for lunch. Hopefully, they light the candles for dinner. I'm sure this place looks great, although too large to be romantic, at night. There also seemed to be a separate area to the left with curtains and 2 or 3 very large tables behind it. I wonder if this is a more private space for large parties, or an eating area for the people who work there?

Menu: I was personally impressed by their Afternoon Tea menu. Yes, Afternoon... Tea... MENU. If you decided to bypass a complete meal, you could pay anywhere from 7 to 15 dollars per person and enjoy a pot of delicious tea (they had at least 20 varieties listed) along with some traditional tea cakes and snacks. Great for the person who likes to eat out, but can't stand the huge portions offered in popular restaurants. I would check on the times for this before you go, I didn't note when it was available.

Alex and I ordered a pot of Rose Petal Green Tea, but went with full meals instead of the afternoon tea menu. The tea was delicious and served in a clear pot, decorated by what looked like hand-painted flowers. Rose buds floated in our green tea, which really makes you feel fancy. It was kept warm on a matching clear tea light holder. Food presentation itself was nice. Nothing too creative, but elegant nonetheless. Alex started off with the Communist Soup. Who can look at a menu, see Communist Soup, and not order it out of curiosity? It is described as a curry beef and potato soup. It tasted like a stew, but had the consistency of beef broth. It seemed like a flavorful, but light start to a meal. I had the Nyonya Veggie Soup. I was thrown off by the texture, which felt a bit like gelatin. Turns out it was textured soy protein. It tasted pretty good, but I think I'll steer clear of it next time. There was too much of an eggy taste to it, which I wasn't expecting. Not bad, but be prepared.

For his main dish, Alex had the Java Fried Rice. I had the Kung Pao Seafood. There were lots of options, even though it was the lunch menu. I would definitely go back to see their dinner menu selections. The menu was organized as multiple flavor combinations and sauces, and you could choose to put it on chicken, beef, shrimp, tofu, combination (chicken and beef) or seafood (shrimp, scallops, and octopus). I chose the Kung Pao Seafood. It was a spicy sauce with crunchy peanuts, red and green bell peppers, and of course, my seafood. The seafood seemed perfectly cooked (even the scallops), and you could tell they actually cooked it all together as opposed to just pouring sauce on a precooked seafood medley. Alex seemed to enjoy his fried rice. Our meals came with a spring roll (Alex loved it, my sentiments were "eh", so he ate mine), crab rangoon (fried wontons with crab and cream cheese), and white rice. The crab rangoon was especially good. There were plenty of other selections, including curry dishes, vegetarian dishes, appetizers, pad thai, and noodle dishes. It looks like their dinner menu even includes more "americanized" dishes (such as a Merlion burger).

Price: Great price. Keep in mind we were there for lunch, but Alex and I both ate filling meals and a great pot of tea for under $25 total. I would definitely go back. I also want to go back and try their dessert. I heard the guy in the booth next to us raving about a fried banana with ice cream. I also see fried ice cream on an online menu... mmmmm.

Service: Fast, professional. Don't expect your server to smile too much or make jokes, but you'll get your food/drinks. They're pretty attentive without being annoying (I dislike servers who ignore you, but I dislike the ones that check on you every 2 minutes more). I think they almost gave my plate to another table, but a woman came out and corrected the server before he handed it to anyone. Again, it was such fast service that this didn't even matter.

Score: Hmm, I feel like it's not my place to do scores on Alex's blog. I mean, it would be hard to compare to the other scores he's posted since we have different palettes. I would venture an 8/10 for lunch.