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

The Playdome at National Museum of Singapore

National Museum of Singapore

The PlayDome is a new creative platform by the National Museum of Singapore (partnered with Playeum, The Play Museum) for children aged 3 and above. It encourages children to express their unique voices through meaningful and fun play activities based on their visual inspirations and experiences drawn from the galleries and objects found in the museum.

This inaugural event was held from 14 May to 26 June 2011, which happened to be the last day of the Mid-Year holidays. Surprisingly, it wasn’t too crowded when we were there at around 11am. I guess most people may have already visited the place and we were probably one of the last few? LOL.

This exploratory space consists of dedicated zones, where children get to play with props, materials and get really hands-on in creating original art works inspired by the collection in the museum’s Living Galleries and its iconic Dome.

First, we went to the “Gardens @ The PlayDome”, which was an open field at the back of the Museum (facing Fort Canning Road). Here, the participants were encouraged to exercise their creativity by drawing on a transparent disc with a pre-drawn arc. Below are 2 photos of my children exercising their creativity … 😉

20_DSC9123 20_DSC9110

Alycia and her creation

Be prepared to dirty your hands

Next, we went to the “Black Box” where the children were introduced to the traditional practices in films, wayang and fashion. Here, the children learned about Singapore’s culture and history. There was also a giant kaleidoscope where my kids had a lot of fun creating beautiful patterns with props such as clothes, sharps and even their own bodies.

At the Wayang Play Stage, the children got to colour the wayang face masks. They were supposed to understand the meanings of the colors, shapes and lines on the wayang faces. But I guess they were so excited that they just wanted to have fun and ignored all these painting guidelines. Well, kids are kids, right?

The kids had a go at the traditional puppet show

Finally before we left the Black Box, the children got to play and interact with historical footage of how our ancestors spent their childhood. The children would interact with the film and their interactions were recorded and played back on a TV 30 seconds later. Seeing themselves on TV was probably more amusing than watching the footage itself.

2 and 1/2 D Cinema

Of all the exhibition halls, my kids were especially interested in “Happy Hawker @ Sensory Studio”. Here, children can make their own pretend food and peddle them in makeshift stalls. My kids spent almost 2 hours in this hall alone, making roti prata, satay, tok tok mee, etc. It’s definitely a new experience for them to learn how Singapore in the 70s was like.

Enjoying a sumptuous tok tok mee prepared by the kids

The Sun Deck was a small outdoor space on Level 3 and parents were encouraged to use this reflective space to relax, recharge and even engage in some quiet activities such as reading. There were many dome-inspired shapes in this space. The installation with the wheels was one of them. The wheels could be gently spun around by children. Unfortunately, my children didn’t really enjoy the Sun Deck and we were out of this area in less than 10 minutes. ;-(

Sun Deck Reflective Space

Just outside the blackbox was an area where you could draw freely on a blank paper your wishes for the museum. The paper was then pasted on the glass wall and the kids were very satisfied when they pasted their creation on the wall personally. LOL!

Clarissa drawing her wishes for Singapore

Since the PlayDome was created as an exploratory space for children’s voices, naturally there were a lot of drawing opportunities for them to express their imagination. Level 2 of the museum was another area where the children could put down their wishes for Singapore and then fold it into a box. These boxes were then stacked onto a huge Singapore map.