Swatow Seafood Restaurant Review

When it comes to food in Singapore, one will be spoilt for choice. Chinese, Indian, Malay, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, you name it, we have it. In recent years, there was an influx of foreigners (especially from India, China and Philippines) and as a result, I am seeing a lot of food stalls/restaurants selling authentic Chinese food from China, pinoy food from Philippines, etc. On the contrary, I am also seeing a lot of traditional local Chinese restaurants closing down. It’s sad but it’s true.

Swatow Seafood Restaurant

So I said we are spoilt for choice for good food in Singapore, right? Well, not really. It’s quite a headache when you have big requirements; requirements such as table for 21 people, reasonably priced, good quality food and more importantly it must be authentic Teochew cuisine.

With these criteria in mind, we started our research for a good restaurant to celebrate my grandmother-in-law’s 91st Birthday. The few usual “suspects” (Liang Kee, Guan Hin and Swa Garden) came to our mind but we were hoping to try a different restaurant. We found and decided on a new Teochew restaurant “Swatow Seafood” which seems to meet most of our criteria. ◕ิ‿◕ิ

Swatow Seafood restaurant is located at Toa Payoh Central, next to the National Library. Location-wise, it’s superb; easily accessible via MRT, bus or car. However, there is one problem. It doesn’t have a sheltered cover-way from the car park. Do take note of this on rainy days.

Elevator for the needy

Although the restaurant is on level 2, there is a simple elevator for the needy. However, this frangible elevator can only take upto 3 people and it’s very slow. According to my 91 year-old grandmother, the lift is very unstable during motion and she would rather take the stairs than to use it.  Thus, please use it with caution and do not abuse it nor let the kids play with it.

Decoration at the reception

Cozy corner to learn more about Chinese culture

The restaurant

Being a relative new restaurant (established on 6th Aug 2010), the restaurant is quite clean and new. The restaurant also employs quite a few retirees, who are generally more patient. I like their service as there is a “grandmotherly” kind of kindness; be it refilling your glass of warm water, or serving us the food.

The Setting

As it was my grandmother-in-law’s 91st Birthday celebration, the restaurant management was very kind to offer us a complimentary dish of longevity buns (寿桃). The buns were freshly made in the kitchen and the taste was excellent. Best 寿桃 ever.

The longevity buns (Compliments from the restaurant)

Ah Ma enjoying her longevity bun

Remember that one of our search criteria was a table for 21 people? Well, I doubt if there is any Chinese restaurant in Singapore with a table for 21 people and we settled for 2 tables instead. That requirement was meant to be a joke, really. 🙂

Swatow Cold Dish Combination

Anyway, our first dish was the “Swatow Cold Dish”. As the name implies, the platter comprises all the popular Teochew dishes from Swatow. I believe the dark slices on the right edge of the plate are made of pigs’ ears, or at least the taste is similar to it. The jelly-like ones at the top-left corner are frozen pig skin, I think. We finished everything on the plate except for these two items, which are an acquired taste if you asked me; they taste better after two or three helpings. Even then, I realised that I was the only one at my table eating them and I, too, couldn’t finish all of them. Generally, the food is very nice, especially the braised goose in the middle of the plate. The braised goose is very authentic Teochew-style; tender and “smooth”.

Braised Shark’s Fin with Bamboo Pith

Next we had the “Braised Shark’s Fin with Bamboo Pith”. This is a huge disappointment and I had better ones.

Steamed Grouper in Teochew Style

Our third dish was “Steamed Grouper in Teochew Style” and again this was another disappointment. The grouper was what we say “Lou Gou” in Teochew, which means the fish was injured when it was hiding in the rocks. As a result, the flesh was very tough. We feedback to the manager who confirmed it (he tasted it himself) and as a goodwill gesture, he changed our grouper to the “Steamed Pomfret in “Teochew” Style”. 🙂

The Replacement – Steamed Pomfret in “Teochew” Style

If I am being picky, I would say that steamed pomfret is probably not their speciality. I think the steamed pomfret from Liang Kee is still the best. Anyway, we were very impressed with the manager’s service and we couldn’t ask for more when the replacement dish is much more expensive. 😉

Herbal Drunken Prawns with Wolfberries

After the saga with the steamed fish, we had the “Herbal Drunken Prawns with Wolfberries” and this is good. The prawns were very fresh and tasty.  Thumbs up for this dish.

Crispy Roasted Chicken with Chef’s Sauce

Then came the best dish for the night, “Crispy Roasted Chicken with Chef’s Sauce”. The chicken was very tender, the fried cod-fish strips were very crispy and lastly, the sauce was out of this world.

If the waitress had not cleared the table in time, we might have polished off the plate

Stir-Fried Teochew Vegetable Deluxe

You can’t really go wrong with this dish (stir-fried vegetables). It’s simple and nice.

Fried Teochew ”Mee Swa”with Seafood

Now, this is not bee hoon but “mee swa”. Looks easy to prepare but takes a lot of skills actually. The chef has to be careful as the “mee swa” breaks easily. This dish is good.

Sweet Yam Paste with Pumpkin

Last but not least is the famous Teochew dessert “Or Nee” / 金瓜芋泥 / “Sweet Yam Paste with Pumpkin”. Although I am a Teochew, I never had a liking for “Or Nee”. But according to my wife, who loves “Or Nee”, this is one of the best she ever had.

A group photo

Another reason why the dinner was so enjoyable was that the restaurant manager was a jovial guy. First, he gave us a fright when he told us outside food (he was referring to the cake) was not allowed. Then he stopped us when we were singing the birthday song … cos he wanted to play the song via the sound system instead. He also offered to take this group photo for us.

Happy Birthday, Ah Ma!

The dinner was a very enjoyable one. I am sure we will be back again.

Conclusion? I would give their service full marks and probably 8/10 for their food. But on the whole, we had an enjoyable dinner and I am sure we will be back again. 🙂

Useful Information – Swatow Seafood Restaurant (汕頭海鮮):

Opening Hours:

  • 08:00-22:30 daily

Address and Contact Information:

General:

  • It’s just beside Toa Payoh National Library
  • There is no sheltered car park and the nearest car park is the Chung Hwa Free Clinic
  • The restaurant is at level 2 and there is a simple elevator for the old / needy.

Highly Recommended Dishes:

  • Braised Goose
  • Crispy Roasted Chicken with Chef’s Sauce
  • Fried Teochew ”Mee Swa”with Seafood
  • Sweet Yam Paste with Pumpkin
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Birthday Celebration at Lawry’s The Prime Rib

Dinner at Lawry's The Prime Rib

Lawry’s The Prime Rib restaurant has an interesting pledge of being pro-family and providing good service. Did they live up to the reputation? That’s definitely a “YES”. I must say that I was very pleasantly surprised when they presented a birthday cake to me towards the end of our dinner, took a photo for us and even printed it on the spot. It was really very sweet of them. But will I celebrate my special occasion there again? Hmmm … maybe not. Why not? Read on …

Lawry’s is priced at a “higher-end market”. It’s definitely not a place that I would patronize for my daily meals as the lowest price of a main course steak is about S$80. However, the set dinner was very reasonably priced at S$99. I guess it’s no brainer that we chose the set. 😉

Our starter: Homemade Limpa and Sourdough Bread

As we were quite early (5.30pm), our food was served at an amazing speed. Even before I had finished my bread, they served me my appetizer (Tiger Prawn with Pomelo & Mango Salsa in Watermelon) and this was also the start of the whole series of disappointment. Firstly, the prawn wasn’t fresh as you can see from the photo below. The tail was black and it was tasteless. We were actually quite disappointed as we had very high expectations of this restaurant. Then we were served the “Lawry’s Famous Original Spinning Bowl Salad”. The showmanship was fantastic for this dish as the waitress prepared the salad right beside our table. There was basically this big salad bowl on a pile of ice and the waitress would spin it while pouring the dressing from a height. The dressing was house-made but it tasted very much like the common thousand island. Chris was very disgusted that they served iceberg lettuce, which is probably the cheapest lettuce.

After two disappointing dishes came our Italians Tomato Seafood Stew, which tasted surprisingly good. If you pay attention to the spoon in the photo, you will notice that the soup was so little. The depth was barely 5mm …. Oh my god! Do they really have to scrimp on the food in order to offer the set dinner at $99? At this point in time, we were already utterly disappointed with Lawry’s. 😦

Italians Tomato Seafood Stew

The next dish was the signature Lawry’s Anniversary Cut, which is slow roasted USDA Prime Ribs of Beef (200mg) served in the famous “Silver” cart (designed by the owner Lawrence). The beef was carved at our tableside. As it was roasted, the outer layer of meat was more cooked than the inner layer. Depending on your choice (medium, medium-well, well-done, etc), the chef will cut the right gradation for you.

So how did the beef taste? It’s fantastic!  The beef was succulent and tender. I would rate it easily 8/10. So it’s true that Lawry’s make good steaks. 😉

Medium well

Medium

After the main course was dessert (Californian Port Wine Pear). And then followed by the surprise birthday cake ..

Lawry's Birthday Cake - The one that saved the day!

Ok … I exaggerated when I said the birthday cake saved the day. The gesture was nice; the feeling was warm and the beef was also good. On the whole, I think the experience was good. Will I go back again? Seriously, I don’t know… But I guess I will. 😉