Every now and then I crave Hainanese chicken. That silky, flavoursome and ghostly white chicken served de-boned and with fragrant rice, a bowl of chicken broth and condiments.
Conceptually, while it’s a relatively simple recipe – whole chicken slowly poached (and not steamed as some places try to get away with!) at a sub-boiling temperature in a big pot of water, seasoned with ginger, garlic, spring onions – I find that it’s the simple recipes that are the hardest to perfect. Not convinced? Think bruschetta (it’s just bread, tomatoes and basil), tortilla de patatas (potatoes, eggs and onion), congee (rice) or even a great steak.... so many places do them but not many make me do a happy dance in excitement over the quality of the produce and the expertise of the cook/chef who prepared them.
As it had been a while since my last craving, I asked the self-proclaimed Hainanese connoisseur at work as to where I should go. Mr A suggested China Bar on Russell Street as his go-to place for Hainanese chicken – according to him, it’s cheap and tasty. I was sceptical because, well, China Bar is a chain restaurant and I wasn’t expecting to find great Hainanese chicken from such places.
But in the interest of research, I wandered into China Bar for lunch one day. This particular CB has seen better days – a little squishy inside and it has a slightly worn/aged look to the place. Without needing to look at the menu, I placed my order for Hainanese chicken rice.
Soon after, said dish appeared ($10.80). First impression was that this was promising. A nice plate with a reasonable amount of chicken, sitting in a pool of golden-brown soy sauce with freshly made ginger/spring onion condiment (I’m not a chilli fan, so I can’t provide a view on that)....
...and a big mound of rice with a bowl of chicken broth.
Judgement time! First taste of the chicken....it pasts muster! Silky, tender and oh-so-yummy. The soy sauce is subtle and not in-your-face (as some lesser quality soy sauces can be). Nice depth of flavour and no MSG (big tick!). The skin is also slippery and silky and not rubbery. I like to eat my rice with the broth spooned over it. The broth was aromatic from the chicken and marinade. Propz for it not being oily (as some can be) and the crisp cucumber slices. I was so pleased with the dish that I've come back a few times just to eat it again.
Food – 8
Ambience – 6.5
Service – 7
Price – 7.5
Okay, so I'm basing my review on just one dish. In the subsequent times that I've had it, each time it's been consistently good - the reliability of the quality is a big plus for me. I don't think I'll ever order anything else from here because I like the chicken so much.
However, as much as I like it, I am interested to hear your thoughts on the best Hainanese chicken around town. Big Fil has suggested EC Pot in QV. Share your suggestions in the comments below :)
China Bar235 Russell St
Telephone: 9639 1633