Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Hawker Bar

No doubt in my mind that the hearts of most Asians in Toronto skipped a beat when news of a Singaporean restaurant was set to open in downtown. Heck, I was pretty ecstatic myself given that when it comes to legit Singaporean or Malaysian food, the place I fall back on is always Restoran Malaysia in Richmond Hill. Meh, the thought of not having to drive uptown for a nice, heart-warming bowl of laksa was enticing enough to make me lose sleep. OK. Not really. But close enough. 

Hawker Bar (@HawkerBar), its name stemming from hawkers or hawker centres (i.e. open-air complexes in Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia housing stalls that sell a variety of inexpensive food), is tiny. I went early at 6pm to grab a table for four as Hawker Bar doesn't take reservations. Evidently nobody was there yet but hey, better safe than sorry (FYI it was slammed by the time we left).

A nod to street grub, the vibe at Hawker Bar is casual and simple (nothing says casual more than tree stump stools!)

Hawker Bar's menu written on cardboard.


The four of us did not order the whole menu, but close enough :)

Son In Law Eggs - Soft boiled then fried, chili jam, Prik Nam Pla ($6)

Curry Pork Satay - with peanut sauce & pickled cucumber ($6)

Singapore Chicken Wings (1 lb) - with chili soy ($9)


Laksa (with chicken) - Coconut curry soup, rice noodles, tofu puffs, snow peas, red pepper, eggplant (large, $12)


Hainanese Chicken Rice - Poached breast, fragrant rice with chili sauce, ginger puree, dark soy ($12)

Soy, ginger and chili sauces for the Hainanese Rice

Rendang Curry - Braised ox cheek, coconut rice ($12)


Hawker Bar Chili Crab - Soft shell crab with young coconut salad ($24)

Whole Fried Sea Bream - Ginger lime sticky soy sauce with banana blossom salad ($24)


Ice Kacang ($4)

Banana Fritter ($4)

Nothing stood out nor knocked my socks off at Hawker Bar. The most disappointing dish for me was the laksa; it was bland, had no punch, was too thin and watery, just really really lackluster in general. The chicken wings were not bad but I couldn't say the same for the Hainanese chicken, which was another big disappointment. Hainanese chicken, often considered as the national dish of Singapore, was dry at Hawker Bar; not surprised since they only served the breast (I've had Hainanese chicken rice many times where other parts of the chicken were used as well). The rice, which is supposed to be a bit oily with an abundant of flavours from chicken stock, garlic and ginger, was plain and tasteless at Hawker Bar. If I had to pick something, my favourite of the evening would be the sea bream, which had the most Singaporean flare relative to the other dishes. 

Besides the food, I have to comment on the service as well. Although our server was fabulous, I cannot say the same for the overall dining experience at Hawker Bar. We were all so rushed to the point where I felt like I was eating at a cafeteria and had to rush back to class. Why? Well besides the desserts, our dishes came out all at once. So ridiculous. With a table that was just big enough for four sets of tea cups, water glasses, chopsticks, forks, spoons and side plates, the four of us had to speed eat just to make room for the plates coming out. It became really stressful to tell you the truth. And in case you are wondering, we did ask our server whether the kitchen could slow down a bit. She came back after checking with the kitchen and told us that no, the kitchen cannot accommodate that request.

Next time I'm craving Singaporean food I will trek up to Restoran Malaysia

Hawker Bar on Urbanspoon

Hawker Bar at RestaurantGuideBook.com