red star restaurant, chinatown
My post-stomach flu weight loss was for naught since I spent all of last weekend indulging in some of the tastiest food I’ve had in awhile. From beer spiked with kalamansi and pandan to a late night supper of marmite pork ribs and moon hor fun (boo I forgot my camera, guess I’ll have to go again) to a Sunday brunch of dim sum, I was living the Singapore life last weekend.
I have to say, it was pretty nice.
Sunday brunch was not what I had initially intended. In fact, I told Sarah that I was down for lunch as long as it included pancakes or waffles. But theeeeeen, in between bites of pork ribs, I asked Vinny’s buddy, Anand, (he of butter crab fame) where I should have brunch the next day and he said Red Star Restaurant. And seriously. If someone takes you to butter crab and then introduces you to shrimp paste fried chicken, you’re gonna take his brunch suggestion to heart and throw those darn pancakes right out the window.
If you read the reviews about Red Star you’ll see that this place is a Singapore institution. It’s been around since like the 60s or 70s! Why have I not heard of it before?
You can walk here from the Chinatown MRT station. It will take you about 10-15 minutes depending on how fast your hooves can take you. The place is on the 7th floor of an old HDB.
Just follow the signs. Be careful of the elevator which has probably not been serviced since the 1960s. The thing coughs and shudders like an old uncle after a pack of ciggies. Put it this way, Sarah and I took the stairs on our way out.
It was recommended that we arrive there after 1:00pm (or before 11:30am) to avoid the mad rush and long wait. We got there shortly after 1pm and had a 5 minute short but sorta confusing wait. The auntie-hostess just sorta looks at you crazy and you tell her you want a table for 2 and then she points to the seats for you wait in. Then you’re left there wondering whether or not you’ll ever be seated.
Anyhow, the place is super old school in a fun kind of way. It’s entirely decked out in red and gold. Let’s call it kitschy Chinese. I can see this place being used for those big Chinese wedding banquets that are, like, 15 courses and feature a lot of cheongsams.
The shot above is of the porridge station where they dole out bowl after bowl of porridge complete with bits of you taio and green onion. This place has carts like the traditional dim sum joints but most of the time people are walking up to the carts rather than waiting for them to swing by. The xiao long bao cart lady was swarmed with people as soon as she popped out of the kitchen. Stay on your toes here, people.
We had this after those big, juicy shrimp wontons pictured in the beginning. Rice cake-y wrapper on the outside, big chunks of shrimp on the inside, swimming in a pond of soy sauce and sesame oil. Slurp, slurp.
The xiao long bao was not as pretty as DTF’s but…
Check out that filling! Very meaty with generous bits of shrimp and lots of green onion. They are not stingy with the fillings around these parts.
We were warned by other folks about things being too greasy at Red Star. This was the only dish that fell into that category – the fish paste filled you tiao. Not that surprising given that this kind of you tiao is twice fried.
Sarah was coming from a morning of tennis so had to show some real restraint while I took pictures.
These were the standard char siew baos that were airy and light on the outside and porky and saucy on the inside.
By this time, the carts were getting sparse and only the jellyfish salad lady was making rounds. While I kept an eye out for the egg tart lady, I snagged this plate of red bean and coconut milk jelly-cake-stuff. If you know what maja blanca is, this is the same thing except without the corn. It’s light, sorta creamy, softer than jello, and just a lil sweet.
So Sarah has this thing. She’s obsessed with red beans. She would not rest until she had a red bean bun. We had to special order these from the kitchen via the only auntie on the floor who could speak English.
You’ll notice that the stuff we had was pretty standard dim sum fare. Apparently, on Sundays (and esp as the dim sum run draws to a close) they only serve the standard stuff. Everything else you’ll need to order from the kitchen. We didn’t notice/think of asking for/consider the menu until we paid our bill at the counter. The damage was an easy SGD30.