Friday, May 30, 2008

Fancy being a triad boss?

The name of the restaurant Hei She Hui is certainly reflected by the dark black panels with modern lighting. It is a contrast from seedy red and garishly yellow lightings against white walls shown in gangster movies but then again, it IS a restaurant at VivoCity. It is reasonable to say that the restaurants are mostly(if not all), nicely decorated with a sea-view for most. Hei She Hui falls into the category perfectly. While they have inner segregations only seperated by stylish holey partitions, it provides the seperation you need from the rest of the crowd for a family gathering or even a power lunch with your associates.

Hei She Hui offers diners snacks like typical Chinese restaurants offering peanuts or pickles before meals except Hei She Hui did it Hei She Hui-style. I've been there several times and they vary their snacks apparently. I've tried vegetable sticks (carrot, white radish and cucumber) with fried springroll skins, and the sesame-coated honey walnuts Hong-Kong style. The former had little impact on me but I loved the walnuts. The aroma of the sesame and walnuts, taste of the slight bitterness from the sesame against the sweet honey with the texture of the walnuts simply transported me into my memories of eating them in Hong Kong. That aside, the snack is included in the bill and be prepared. They cost around $3-$4, not like the cheaper prices you get for peanuts or pickles.

Hei She Hui opens for Dim Sum, lunch and dinner. The Dim Sum includes the normal Dim Sum fare and some specialties not found in most restaurants. You can order a la carte from the menu as well. Special praise goes to the xiao long baos which were good overall. The skin on top was a tad hard but the very tasty broth and fillings won me over. A little tweaking with the dish will make it perfect. It was also tastier and slightly bigger than those offered at Din Tai Fung. My companions ordered the frog leg porridge. It had lettuce in it which gave the somewhat bland tasting porridge the lettuce taste. The dried fish in it which overwhelmed the tasteless frog leg. Two thumbs up for the cook who put sesame oil in the porridge before serving. The sesame oil did wonders for the porridge.

I like their custard buns ("Liu Sha Bao"). The buns are orange in colour with a hot oozing yellow liquid in the middle. Think chocolate fondant but Oriental-style with a bun with salted egg yolk liquid instead. It is savoury-sweet liquid that has got me hooked. It was strange the first time eating it but it settled really well with me. Seconds or thirds please? The prices are again, steep, with one steamer containing 3 buns costing around $6 if my memory serves me well. They have durian specialties namely the durian mochi and "gao li mao shan wang". The durian mochi ($6 for 3) had a thin glutinous skin that is unique from the ones normally served in other places. The melt-in-your-mouth skin and the filling of D24 durian pulp mixed with cream gives it the oomph in making it truly satisfying. As the durian mochi is served cold, the "gao li mao shan wang" is served hot. The fried exterior was supposedly made of egg whites for it to be soft and fluffy but it tasted more like bread. It was too thick and the interior didn't taste fantastic either. I expected the filling to be either the durian filling for the mochi or standard durian pulp but that day, it tasted like liquidified durian. Pretty hefty at a price of $9 for 3 too.

Fried Unagi with Honey

Fried Udon KL Hokkien Mee Style

Fried Rice with Stewed Pork and Radish

Dinner was more down to earth but more lacklustre. Dishes come in small portions and well. I was not impressed. The fried unagi (eel) in honey sauce was average but the fried udon KL Hokkien mee-style, fried rice served with stewed pork and white radish didn't pass muster. The only saving grace? The custard buns (mentioned above) which were on the dinner menu as desserts.

For lunch, a couple of Dim Sum choices, a la carte dish, tea and snack, adding GST and service tax can easily hit $60 for a party of 2-3. While the prices are steeper than other Chinese restaurants, remember that you are paying for the ambience, view and service besides the food. Stylish decorations do not come cheap. Service needs fine-tuning as the service varied vastly on the different days and time I visited the restaurant. The place can be a tad too noisy during lunch hours that you'd strain your ears trying to listen to what your companions say but it's great for a family setting. When I next returned to the restaurant, dinner was served in a pristinely peaceful atmosphere that somehow seemed more refined. Kudos to the extensive selection of teas available such as the less common White Chrysanthenum and Rose tea which are offered besides the normal selections.

They have half-priced Dim Sum after 2.30pm on weekdays on selected items only.

Hei She Hui
1 Harbourfront Walk
Telephone: (65) 6376-9740

Ambience: 3.5-4/5
Service: 3/5
Food: 3.5/5 (Custard buns and durian mochi are must-tries!)
Price: A tad steep for an average Chinese restaurant fare but it is not an everyday affair. Still affordable.

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