Sunday, 6 May 2007

What A Difference A Chef Makes

One of my favourite eating places in Singapore is Zi Yean Restaurant in Redhill. It has both and indoor (air-conditioned) and outdoor eating spaces and provides a very good Yum Cha lunch at reasonable prices. They have an excellent reputation built up over many years.

It was therefore with great interest that we learnt that Zi Yean were opening a restaurant in the Hotel Grand Central behind Le Meridien, off Orchard Road. Full page advertising in the Straits Times announced that there would be a 50% reduction in prices for High Tea (after 2:30pm.

So today being a Sunday we dutifully took the 111 bus into town and paid them a visit for lunch.

The experience was salutory. After an auspicious and hi-tech beginning, where our Dim Sum order was entered into a hand held PDA and "wirelessed" to the kitchen, matters deteriorated. I hope in the future they revert to writing the orders down on paper, as they still do at their Redhill operation.

Half of our order arrived in reasonable time. The rest dribbled out of the kitchen over an hour as we sat expectantly. Orders were misplaced and re-ordered. A neighbouring table had ordered the "special hotpot" (picture) and we watched bemused as the head waiter scalded himself with the broth. Staff attempted to move the dish from the at-table flaming gas ring to the table, with a pair of spoons rather than using heat resistant tongs or gloves.

Our Cheong Fun was anything but 'fun'. The dish had been forgotten about in the kitchen over steamed to a point that the wrapper resembled a mushy porridge.

At the conclusion of the meal one of the staff politely asked us what we thought of the food and we felt obliged to tell her. In justification she responded that it was a "different chef" to that in Redhill. That was no doubt the case and proves just how important it is in the food business to employ the right staff. This chef's control of his kitchen was shambolic and food quality control as it was plated clearly did not exist.

A great pity really as bad news travels quicker than good. I suspect they will have lost a lot of future business based on the experience that we and our fellow diners had.

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