Always on the lookout for restaurants that serve Asian food, we had a rather late lunch at Boon Tong Kee in U.P. Town Center last Saturday. Alex had to be in U.P. by 3.00 p.m. for a play (she was Stage Manager) which wouldn’t start until 6.00 p.m. so we decided to kill three hours at U.P. Town Center.
I had already chosen the restaurant before we left the house. Boon Tong Kee serves Singaporean food with what could be vegetarian items in the menu — the vegetarian food was, of course, a must because Sam was with us.
We searched for Boon Tong Kee and found it tucked on the second floor. The restaurant was spacious, clean and, except for the presence of a flat-screen TV playing some basketball game, it looked like we were going to have a good meal. Speedy and I chose wonton noodle soup but since I wasn’t sure how large the serving would be, I ordered baked buns with pork filling too.
Sam took a while ordering her food but finally agreed to my suggestions — crispy bean curd and fried eggplants. Both dishes were served with pork floss on top so I asked the waiter if the pork floss could be served separately, on the side, instead. He said it could be done.
Because we had nothing but a light breakfast, Sam was famished. She wanted rice, there was no single-serve rice on the menu so we ordered fried rice to serve three. At that point, it still seemed to me that we ordered just enough for everyone.
The crispy tofu and fried eggplants were served, I waited for the pork floss to follow but it never came. It wasn’t exactly a big deal but the price of those two dishes included the pork floss and whether or not we intended to eat the pork floss, it should have been served because we were going to pay for it anyway.
Both the tofu and the eggplants were perfectly cooked — light, crisp and not greasy at all. Anyone who has tried frying soft tofu would know that it isn’t a simple technique (see my agedashi tofu recipe) so the evenly cooked tofu cubes in all their golden glory was quite impressive. The batter that coated the eggplant slices was light like a lace with the eggplant flesh peeping through. Even after the eggplant slices had cooled to room temperature, they did not turn soggy.
The tofu and eggplant dishes came with a green-colored dipping sauce that tasted like sweet mayonnaise. Why it was green, I have no idea. I doubt if wasabi made the dipping sauce green because it didn’t taste of wasabi at all. Considering that both the tofu and eggplants were very lightly salted, a less sweet dipping sauce would have been much nicer. Something with heaps of bold flavors — it’s Singaporean food, after all, and Singaporean food is not characterized by blandness.
As for the missing pork floss, I might have made an issue out of it were I not stupefied by the size of the wonton noodle soup.
Speedy and I were expecting medium-sized bowls of noodle soup with a few wontons and slices of pork. But what arrived were humongous bowls with A LOT of wontons and pork slices. I have to admit that the delicious wonton noodle soup made me forget about the pork floss but did not distract me from the truly disastrous part of our meal.
The baked buns with pork filling looked, well… let me describe it in detail. The underside of the buns were way too brown but the tops and sides were much too pale. For someone who bakes bread, I know that that is the result of too-high baking temperature. Yes, the bread gets cooked through that way but the texture and coloring are never even.
But that’s not all. The bread was so sweet that it made no contrast with the equally sweet pork filling. Eating Boon Tong Kee’s baked bun with pork filling is like eating a cloying dessert.
The bill amounted to PHP1,111.00 — not bad since, for the most part, we weren’t unhappy with our meal. And we had so much leftover fried rice to bring home. But there’s more to the Boon Tong Kee story. We reserved one piece of baked pork bun for Alex to try and that epilogue should be told to make the story complete.
So, after the Boon Tong Kee meal, we bought coffee to go and drove to U.P. We watched the play (oh, it was great but that’s another story), waited until Alex was free to go then we drove Sam to where she was meeting a friend to go to a party. While waiting for Sam’s friend, we suggested to Alex to go ahead and eat the bun. She was quite hungry by that time but we promised we’d have dinner at U.P. Maginhawa after dropping off Sam. Surely, one bun won’t make Alex feel too full. We didn’t say anything about the bun — in short, we didn’t pass on our bias. Alex took one bite of baked bun, smirked then stretched her arm to hand it to whoever would take it. As hungry as she was, she couldn’t eat Boon Tong Kee’s baked bun with pork filling. Speedy and I ended up eating it with lots of water to wash down the monotonous sweetness.