Restaurant Home at The Rail Mall, Bukit Timah


It’s the holidays and Jeff was in town. He quickly organized a dinner at Restaurant Home because he read about it in the papers and wanted to give it a try.

For those who’ve lost track of Executive Chef Tan Yong Hua, he was last in Joo Chiat’s Chudao (which has since moved to Rivervale Walk, Sengkang). He’s supposed to be a celebrity chef but we didn’t hold that against him. ๐Ÿ™‚


James Beard once commented that Chinese cuisine is cooked to the minute, that is, they start cooking only after you’ve ordered. This saying holds true for Restaurant Home. So my advice is to also order the Roast Pork and the Char Siew while you’re waiting for the food to be cooked.

In all the world there are only two really great cuisines: the Chinese and the French. Chinaโ€™s was created first, untold centuries ago, and is judged to be the greater โ€“ when executed by superb chefs. It is the most complicated cuisine; it uses ingredients no other employs, and if is distinctive in that, for the most part, it is cuisine a la minute.
– James Beard, 1973

The Roast Pork and the Char Siew seems to be cooked via Sous Vide, it was tender and juicy but lacked that special “charred” flavor and crisp texture that you get from traditional roasting. Opinions were divided on whether this was a good thing or not. I didn’t really care because it’s merely a question of style and I was hungry.


A great filler came in the form of a Seafood Mee Sua. I liked it, not because of my Hokkien roots, but because it had absorbed the stock and was flavorful; delicious if you add the cut red chili padi to the noodles to balance the sweetness of the noodles.

The Clay Pot Soon Hock is a carry-over from Chudao days and I didn’t like it. There was an unpleasant aroma emanating from the fish which led a few of us to question the freshness of the fish. The texture of the fish was quite unlike what we expect of Soon Hock, rather than a firm meaty flesh, the Soon Hock we got was soft and mushy.

Upon questioning, Chef Tan revealed that the Soon Hock is due to the locality of the fish. The Malaysian Soon Hock is superior but because of demand, sometimes Soon Hock from other countries is used. Luck of the draw, really.


The Braised Chicken in Hot Stone made a better showing. The portion was inadequate for our table, so we ordered a second one. Bubbling with a rich creamy stock and tender slices of chicken, this excellent dish screams out for a generous helping of white rice.

The Pippa Tofu with crab roe and prawn paste came out lukewarm. The texture of the tofu was grainy but the flavor was good. I’m not quite sure about the crab roe sauce over it because it didn’t really pull the dish together as much as smother it to death.

Likewise, the Black Pepper Beef was spicy with a thick black pepper sauce that smothered everything. The beef was a little chewy for me but I prefer it over the over-tenderized version. Still, I could only taste black pepper sauce. Alas.


The Roast Duck smoked with Lychee Wood was a surprise. It’s served in 3 courses. The first course of crispy skin was met with groans of dismay. We ordered a whole duck only to get 1 piece of skin per person. Questions arose: surely a duck has more skin than that? What if there were more than 11 of us? Will they cut the skin into smaller pieces if there are?

Nevertheless, the skin was served with a Chinese Red Sugar dip and left us wanting more.

Then came the sliced duck in a presentation worthy of Hannibal Lector in it’s artistry. I was pleased to see that Leeks were served because it has a milder peppery flavor as opposed to the stronger, more intrusive Scallion. But the magic that ties all of it together would have to be the fermented bean sauce, there is a lavish background of orange peel that lingers on the tongue long after you’ve finished the duck. Excellent.

The usual practice, with the leftover bits of duck, is to stir-fry them in noodles or in lettuce wraps (which (only) Australians like to call “San Choy Bau”). There is also the option to batter and deep-fry them with Sichuan Pepper, Chili and Garlic. This is the winning option.


The final dish of the night was the Braised Pork Trotter Bee Hoon. I’ve never been impressed with the use of Opeh Leaf (a frond of the Betel Nut Palm). It’s supposed to impart a subtle woodsy aroma to the food that it’s wrapped in but it doesn’t really work if you don’t give it time for the heat to release the woodsy aroma.

Restaurant Home treats the Opeh Leaf differently by heating it up first (steam probably) and thus you get the aroma of the Opeh Leaf. Whether or not it imparts the flavor to the food is another question: I find that it only works if you eat with the Opeh Leaf in front of you so that the aroma complements the overall experience. Served from far, it’s just a visual gimmick.

Heston Blumenthal was not the first to use external complementary aromas to enhance the dining experience.

The Bee Hoon is mixed with Tang Hoon (Mung Bean Vermicelli) to give different textures in the bite. The Tang Hoon absorbed so much of the stock that it because very sweet. Some found to be too sweet but I liked the mix.

Restaurant Home braises it’s own pork trotters for this dish, however, they do add some of the canned version to the mix. Chef Tan says it make the dish more “acceptable” to the customers. I’m quite happy to hear that because there is something special about the canned version that makes it quite irreplaceable, probably because it reminds me of mum’s cooking.


Restaurant Home is a classy restaurant. A surprising find in suburbia filled with bars, coffee shops and whatnot. To their credit, when we exceeded closing time, the staff didn’t stand around the table with their arms folded while we were eating to “hurry us up”. Service is inconsistent as it is dependent upon whom you requested service from. Prices are reasonable although the Soon Hock contributed to almost half of our total bill.

I am half-hearted about Restaurant Home. As mentioned, I’ve discounted the fact that he’s supposed to be a celebrity chef that won an international cooking competition, but that night, despite ordering the “signature dishes” recommended by others, it was underwhelming. The “Wow” factor that others wrote about was absent for us. To paraphrase a famous poem: it is excellent, but is it art?

To be sure, we started dinner very late and perhaps that may have affected the cooking. Nevertheless, Restaurant Home is a place I will definitely go back to. For the smoked duck.

Restaurant Home is at 392 Upper Bukit Timah Road, The Rail Mall. Tel: 6465 1698 Open Daily: 12pm โ€“ 3 pm (last order, 2.15 pm), 6pmโ€“ 11pm (Two Dinner Seatings: 6pm and 8pm, last order, 10.15pm). Corkage is at $20/btl









Posted on 16th Oct 2013 in Cantonese, Food and Drink, Makankaki


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