The essential Hong Kong Central stopover comes to us here in Singapore at The Centrepoint. Brought here by the Asia Gourmet restaurant group after some convincing, Mak's local outpost is said to be staffed by the main branch's head chef, who aims to replicate the slurp experience here by cooking with ingredients flown in from Hong Kong suppliers. Favourites from the Wellington Street original available here include their shrimp wonton mee, beef tendon and beef brisket noodles, and prices range from $6.90 to $16, which isn’t quite a steal as the bowls are tiny. It's a way of keeping the noodles QQ (toothsome), but it'll mean you might want to order more than one.
|Venue name:||Mak's Noodles|
#01-63/64 The Centerpoint
176 Orchard Rd
|Opening hours:||Daily 11am-10pm|
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Yes. It’s true – the famous Mak’s Noodles from Hong Kong has arrived in Singapore, full of fanfare and publicity.
To many in Hong Kong, the name Mak’s (not to be confused with Macs) resonates strongly. A winner of Michelin Stars, the once tiny and understated restaurant now dots the island of Hong Kong. Step back into one of the original stores and you’ll be amazed by the wave of awards and reviews plastered over the entrance. Epicurean Anthony Bourdain has even acknowledged the quality of the shop and its famous wonton noodles.
I do stop by Mak’s in Hong Kong, at either Jardine’s Bazaar or Wellington Street. When I heard that the chef from Wellington Street was working at the Singapore branch for a 2-year stint, I felt compelled to satiate my nostalgia for the aura of Hong Kong.
Which brings me back to this.
Enter the shop and you’ll notice that it retains a traditional charm. I daresay an Oriental touch permeates the atmosphere with the use of faux-antique furniture and soup bowls as lights. Perhaps the most authentic touch was the unceasing flow of Cantonese as waiters, chefs and customers conversed with each other over a unifying element of Asian heritage – a bowl of noodles.
I was fortunate to claim (or “chope” as they say here in Singapore) a seat, for the lunch lines soon began to snake around the shop. I opted for the classic bowl of prawn wonton noodles ($6.90), a side of stewed beef brisket ($14.70), and a dry noodle with dumplings in oyster sauce ($9.00).
Here’s where the drawbacks began.
Service wise, the staff was polite albeit disorganized. From the kitchen to the customer, orders were mixed up, leaving some in a disgruntled disposition. Perhaps, the overwhelming demand was much more than they had expected to receive in such a short period of time.
Thankfully, none of my orders were left out, with each dish coming one after another. First to arrive was the dry noodle dish. Unfortunately, the noodles lacked the spring and lightness to which I had experienced in Hong Kong. As for the dumplings, they still shone as the star of the dish with their fullness and relative flavor all around. More exciting was the wonton noodles however.
Small in size and filled to the brim, the presentation was exactly what I was looking for. Not only was the broth flavourful, certain sweetness attainable only after hours of boiling could be detected, pairing well with the dash of black pepper mixed in. Sadly, the shrimp wontons though tasty had skins thicker than I could remember and a heavy bundling of dough at their tips. Nevertheless, copious amounts of quality shrimp filled each wonton, with the crunch a surety of freshness. As with the dry noodle dish, soaking the strands of thin, yellow-noodles in broth had done nothing to alleviate the ���wrongness” of it all. As opposed to the light and springy texture I had expected, each stab of my chopsticks funneled a clump of noodles into my mouth instead. While two-thirds of the dish was in-line with the original, the noodles had rained on the whole parade.
Ironically, the winner of the day was neither of Mak’s famous noodles. Instead, it was the stewed beef brisket, served without much plating but with a host of aroma and vibrancy to it. Slathered in gravy, it was clear that hours of stewing had gone into the dish. A simple prodding reduced the meat to shreds. Indeed, a positive and tantalizing sign. As is with traditional Hong Kong flair, bits of dried orange peel could be seen alongside the beef, complementing the savory side of the meal. Taking my first bite sealed the deal.
Compared to many Cantonese restaurants around Singapore, Mak’s comes out as a more “meh” contender. While the shop has its roots dabbled in Michelin appraisal, I find it safe to say that this branch has yet to earn such accord.
Perhaps with a bit of time, they’ll polish the rough edges and work it all out.
After all, they’ve been around since 1920.