Awesome Canteen – operating in the less travelled constituency of Taman Paramount – has had booming success since its opening late last year, mostly down to simultaneous gushing from food bloggers and its penchant for displaying vintage paraphernalia. I love a restaurant that milks my buckling weakness for nostalgia, and Awesome Canteen does it all too well. Restaurant fill-ins are meticulously salvaged and reworked from memories of yesteryear; brass lampshades, an old typewriter, canteen-style metal stools and wooden displays are common sightings. Indoor plants add a flush of brightness to the browns.
Alas, I am not just here to take a sepia-filtered photo of old Chinese medicine drawers (believe me, I wish I was), but to try the restaurant’s much-talked-about paleo menu. A little education for us rice-eating lot: The paleo diet emulates that of our Paleolithic ancestors and eliminates processed food like grains, dairy and legumes. Believer or sceptic, it’s bold for a restaurant like Awesome Canteen to dedicate a large chunk of their resources to fine-tuning a paleo menu. And for the large part, it looks good on paper.
The pucuk ubi kayu salad is an exhilarating prospect (if only because tapioca shoots are severely underrated) but the leaves are shamefully overcooked into lumps while the egg yolk in the centre only adds slime. The chunks of tapioca beneath the leaves are left cold, an odd kitchen decision that is present a few too many times throughout dinner. The fried coconut-crumbed chicken is hopeful in theory, but the grated coconut in the batter adds roughness (and often, dryness) that fails to highlight either the chicken or the coconut.
It’s the signature paleo burger that truly lets us down: Buns are swapped out for Portobello mushrooms while the beef patty alone is decent, but the accompanying sides (of which there are too many components) are poorly executed. The paleo-friendly side of scrambled eggs are a peculiar accompaniment to a burger, especially when they’re rubbery and under-seasoned. Wedges of mayo-drizzled lettuce and a rather wet guacamole can only sit around the burger in gloopy misery. The best thing on the table is the butterfish with grilled Japanese sweet potato; the fish is both fresh and firm and the potato comforting, but the dish begs for a sauce.
At this point, I am in desperate hopes to eat something that sticks true to the restaurant’s title, but neither the walnut caramel pie nor the marble cake provides it. In the former, the pie crust isn’t pie crust at all but more a dry cakey bottom while the latter suffers from an unpleasing elasticity. I leave Awesome Canteen with a cheery goodbye from the staff, feeling akin to watching a terrible Christopher Nolan film – like I wanted to like it more than I actually did. But even as I come away disenchanted, I’m still rooting for it.
|Venue name:||Awesome Canteen||Contact:|
19 Jalan 20/13
|Opening hours:||Tue–Sun, 11am–3pm; 6–10pm|