I saw the cutest baos ever on a Facebook from the Tung Lok Restaurants group: they are shiitake mushroom clones, down to even the stems, but made of steamed bread! Working near Novena, I took the opportunity one lunch hour to check it out.
As its name suggests, Tung Lok Teahouse was designed to echo the retro ambience of an old teahouse in Singapore during the 1950s-1970s, adorned with Peranakan furniture to match. The one at Novena had no windows, with a yellow tinted lighting, so it unfortunately didn’t really replicate that experience, but I could appreciate the concept displayed through its decor. They serve top-notch traditional Teochew/Pernakan-style food with a modern innovative twist; thus prices here are slightly steeper than your typical restaurant. It was a rather quiet day as there weren’t that many other patrons. Service is warmly genuine, and the waiters made an effort to find a comfortable seat for me (yep I was a brave lone diner!) when I expressed the table I was at was too cold, and they proactively offered to refill my warm water cup.
The Wild Mushroom with Black Truffle Baos (S$4.80++) is a triplet of adorable steamed buns that have a soft fluffy interior with a beautiful mottled pattern of a mushroom. The crusty exterior is an ever-so-thin layer that seems to resemble the texture of tiger bread, which is made painting on rice paste and sesame oil, which dries and cracks into a crust during the baking process. I’m not sure if that’s how they made the pattern but doesn’t it look uncannily like the tiger bread: perhaps with some soy sauce to give it the black/brown hues? Nevertheless it’s quite a work of art and Tung Lok reports it took the chefs 6 months to perfect the recipe!
I was a bit let down by the presentation as the other food bloggers (and the display outside the restaurant) had posted gorgeous photos of the buns complete with peanut /fried shallot garnishings on a pretty ceramic plate, but mine came out looking plain in a bamboo steamer. Nevertheless, one bite into the bun and all qualms were set aside; the fillings had king oyster mushrooms, shiitake, tea tree mushrooms, wood ear fungus, black truffle oil, and truffle abalone sauce). It was bursting with umami magical mushroom-y goodness (the abalone sauce gives it a great kick in what would otherwise be too monotonous in fungi); mushroom lovers will love this! Supply is limited to 50 baskets everyday, so the manager suggested that if you want to come back for dinner (yep the dim sum menu is available then, and LOL yes I love them that much) you can always call in to reserve it before you come in so that you can make sure you get your hands on these adorable fungi imposters.
I also had their Steamed Glutinous Rice with Diced Chicken wrapped in Lotus Leaf (S$4.80++). This was very good, as I am usually very picky with lor mai gai and this hit the spot. Well-cooked (but not soggy) grains of rice (with specks of red rice) with morsels of salted egg yolk and succulent lean chicken. I’m glad that unlike many restaurants, Tung Lok did not seem to use fat as fillers for the dumplings.
I’ve always liked the restaurants under the Tung Lok group (did you know Slappy Cakes is under them as well?), and Tung Lok Teahouse definitely hit the mark for good quality dim sum. I will do a re-post here of the second visit I have coming up 😉
The dim sum menu is below. You can find their set menus online though, (including items like the Braised House Special Beancurd with Fried Conpoy, and Fried Assorted Vegetables served in Yam Ring).
#01-73/79 Square 2, 10 Sinaran Drive, Singapore 307506
Tel: +65 6893 1123
Opening hours: Monday-Sunday, 11:00am – 02:30pm & 6:00pm – 10:00pm
Nearest MRT: Novena
Reprise for second dinner visit on 24/8/15 at the outlet at Far East Square
Far East Square is like a maze of various buildings and the restaurant was not easy to find. This outlet seems to have a slightly more yesteryear ambience than the one at Novena.
They served an appetiser at each table, and these blissful bites of crunchy sesame seed praline walnuts were very addictive; too bad they are a hefty $4.00++.
The Sweet and Sour Chrysanthemum Fish ($26++) was done well with a lighter, crispier batter than the typical economic rice fare combined with some extra pine nuts and capsicum, but I couldn’t really taste the chrysanthemum. Guess what I just realised: the term ‘chrysanthemum fish’ means the fish is cut into the shape of a chrysanthemum flower, not that it has chrysanthemum inside! I can’t help but think it’s similar to the ones you can get at the Tze Char stalls though.
The Fried Assorted Vegetables served in Yam Ring ($24.00++). I didn’t really like the yam ring here: it was too thin (not enough yam), too oily, not crispy enough, and has a ngoh-hiang spice taste that doesn’t match the yam well. The fillings inside though, including the prawns, were fresh and juicy.
The Braised House Special Beancurd with Conpoy Crisps was good, with generous servings of soft tofu within leathery, crispy spinach skin at the top and mushrooms, atop a bed of green spinach. This was the better of the main dishes we ordered, and although the sauce tempered the taste, I felt it was doused in too much oyster sauce and there weren’t many mushrooms.
I also couldn’t help but order a second mushroom bao. They’re that good haha. But this time it looks a bit less realistic (more whites showing) and one of the buns was slightly torn, but still tasted awesome. RX picked up that there was a subtle chocolate flavour in the dark crust too.
Coconut and dessert fans will love the Chilled Snow Lotus Pudding With Ice-Cream Served in Young Coconut ($8++): an ever-so-light, melt-in-mouth, smooth and slippery (my tongue was floating on coconut water cloud nine) snow lotus pudding, vanilla ice cream, mango cubes, drizzle of evaporated milk. The young tender coconut meat was easily scraped off the shell for a highly commendable dessert. I have no idea what snow lotus is and it seems very elusive in my Google search as it looks more like a herb than any kind of pudding ingredient, but they do this pudding so right.
The restaurant was nicely spaced out without much crowd. I’m not sure if it were just the dishes we chose, but I thought the food was a bit hit-and-miss for the price you’re paying, but the coconut dessert is absolutely out of this world.
Prices stated are not inclusive of GST and service charge.
Far East Square, 9-13 Amoy Street, #01-01, Singapore 049949
Nearest MRT: Telok Ayer
Tel: +65 6877 1123
Opening Hours: 11:30am – 3pm (Mon – Sat), 10am – 2:30pm (Sun & PH), 6pm – 10:30pm (Daily)