Makan smackdown: ‘Atas’ fancy eats vs. traditional faves

We pit local classic foods against their fancy incarnations and deliver our verdict 

Ya Kun vs Antoinette
Ya Kun vs Antoinette
12 Aug 2015

Ya Kun vs Antoinette

Left: Ya Kun's Kaya Toast

$2.40 for two slices.

Dependable and comforting, like that sweet but slightly boring girl-next-door. It’s not the most divine traditional kaya in Singapore (that title possibly goes to Chin Mee Chin or Coffee & Toast). And yes, it’s a bit too sugary and could do with a stronger pandan kick. But the kaya and cold butter, slathered on airy, wafer-thin, shatteringly crisp toast is fairly rich, eggy and satisfying. More importantly, it can be found in almost every mall.

Right: Antoinette’s The Queen’s Kaya Toast

$10 for three slices; $15 for takeaway pack (includes medium baguette, 200g jar kaya, 100g Echiré butter, fleur de sel).

Voluptuous, coconutty and smooth like edible silk. Its creation is inspired not only by Singapore’s 50th birthday, but by the patisserie’s namesake, Queen Antoinette. So all the ingredients are luxed up. The chewy-crusty levain baguette is a hearty vehicle for the premium Echiré French butter that’s more cream than butter, and the kaya, an elegant love child of Thai sangkaya and French custard made using the French crème pâtissière method. The pandan fragrance extracted from fresh leaves is a bit muted at first. But it gradually blossoms like an expensive perfume. You could sprinkle on some of the hand-harvested French salt, but we prefer it sans embellishments.

And the winner is… ANTOINETTE’S ATAS KAYA! It’s so smooth and lemak, we can’t stop fantasising about the things we’ll do to it (like lick it straight from the jar lah).

Three Buns by Potato Head vs Tian Tian Chicken Rice
Three Buns by Potato Head vs Tian Tian Chicken Rice
12 Aug 2015

Three Buns by Potato Head vs Tian Tian Chicken Rice

Left: Three Buns by Potato Head - Folk’s Chick In Rice Burger
36 KEONG SAIK RD, S089143. TEL: 6327-1939

$25 for a burger, chicken broth, and fries smothered with star anise mayonnaise and sliced chillies.

At first bite, the burger tastes pretty much like chicken rice... but with bread. Tender chunks of slow-roasted chicken thigh and poached breast in a ginger and garlic rub with house-made chilli sauce nestle between fluffy rice flour buns. A refreshingly hip take on the iconic hawker dish. But we wish there was more of the intensely flavourful chicken broth (it came in a small tea cup) and less of the so-so fries.

Right: Tian Tian Chicken Rice
#01-10/11 MAXWELL FOOD CENTRE, 1 KADAYANALLUR ST, S069184. TEL: 9691-4852

$3.50 a plate.

Succulent Hainanese-style white chicken with slightly fatty skin and soft, succulent meat. We like the sinfully oily, flavour-packed al dente rice slicked with chicken juices. It goes so well with lashings of crushed ginger, soy sauce and chilli sauce perked up with lime juice.

And the winner is… TIAN TIAN CHICKEN RICE! For its irreplaceable 'soul' of the dish that is the fragrant rice. While the ang moh version is quite clever, nothing beats wolfing down a greasy plate of gway png and saying, "Uncle, add rice."

Honey Creme vs Jin Jin Hot/Cold Dessert
Honey Creme vs Jin Jin Hot/Cold Dessert
12 Aug 2015

Honey Creme vs Jin Jin Hot/Cold Dessert

Left: Honey Creme’s Pandan Gula Melaka Soft Serve

$6 a cup.

This Honey Creme SG50 offering is an Insta-darling, thanks to the pretty mint green pandan soft serve and newfangled gula melaka-filled pipette planted into it. We like the smooth texture of the ice cream, but not so much the artificial-tasting pandan flavour (even though the shop says it uses only the juice of fresh pandan leaves). The pipette is also more style than substance, as the gula melaka, while decent, isn’t adequately aromatic. The other elements of this limited edition flavour (available till mid-August) fare better. The toasted coconut chips give the dessert crunch, while tiny attap seed bits and fun puffed rice add more bite.

Right: Jin Jin Hot/Cold Dessert’s Power Chendol

$2 a bowl.

One of the better chendols in Singapore, thanks to its caramelly, salty-sweet gula melaka drowning a fresh coconut milk-splashed shaved ice ball. The top-notch palm sugar, which is personally sourced by its co-owner from Indonesia and cooked daily, is more intense than most found at other stalls. The gooey syrup slicks the generous toppings within, namely the sweet red bean, artificially-green chendol jelly (which was sadly a little mushy) and lots of attap chee.

And the winner is… JIN JIN’S POWER CHENDOL! Hands-down the better dessert to blow your calories on. Its power gula melaka makes us go gila.

Casuarina Curry’s Roti Prata vs Violet Oon Singapore’s Tau Yu Bak Roti Violet
Casuarina Curry’s Roti Prata vs Violet Oon Singapore’s Tau Yu Bak Roti Violet
12 Aug 2015

Casuarina Curry’s Roti Prata vs Violet Oon Singapore’s Tau Yu Bak Roti Violet

Left: Casuarina Curry’s Roti Prata
138 CASUARINA RD, S579526. TEL: 6455-9093.

$1 for Roti Prata Kosong (with regular chicken or fish curry); $4 for Masala Chicken.

One of our island’s prata stalwarts, if you prefer the thin, ultra crispy, flaky sort. The ghee-and-margarine-fried specimens are shiok drenched in the accompanying smooth and thick chicken or fish curry. Another must-order for us here is the Masala Chicken, which comes with a generous serving of meaty hunks coated in a chunky sauce speckled with plenty of onions. Breakfast of champions.

Right: Violet Oon Singapore’s Tau Yu Bak Roti Violet
881 BUKIT TIMAH RD, S279893. TEL: 6468-5430.

$12 per piece.

This Hokkien-Peranakan dish of aromatic dark soy sauce-braised pork is shredded, and piled atop a supplier-sourced fluffy roti prata, like a chic open-faced sandwich. Served on a hipster wooden board, it also comes with refreshing pickled green papaya shreds, which lifts the dish wonderfully. Pity the well-cooked, slightly crusty prata isn’t house-made, so it didn’t have much character. But it’s still delicious paired with the nicely fatty, juicy pork, one of Violet’s signature dishes. However, the price is steep for just one prata; and we were still hungry even after polishing off the plate.

And the winner is… IT’S A TIE! Yes, the Peranakan-fusion prata is creative and tasty, but we sorely miss dunking the crusty flatbread into spicy curry gravy.

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